B is for Blackpool: A thrilling weekend in the illuminating city
What the kids enjoyed:
Looking at the Illuminations, meeting Paw Patrol, watching Daddy swim with the sharks in the aquarium and walking over the glass floor at the top of the tower.
Blackpool is on the North western side of England and is renowned for its Illuminations, Tower, Big dipper and its Golden mile. We headed up to check this famed old fashioned British seaside resort to see what the kids made of it and to see for ourselves some of the sights that have graced our televisions over the years.
How long will we need?:
We underestimated the time needed for this trip as we planned on a weekend (and managed to cram a lot in!) but in all honesty, we could have done with a long weekend with the amount of travel that was involved. It depends on how much you like all the fun of the fair as it can take a while to get through it all.
We went at the start of October and were quite lucky with the weather. The illuminations run typically between the start of September and the end of October so check online to make sure you catch them. Other than that, British summertime is the best bet to enjoy the beach and the outdoor activities.
What to expect:
Blackpool is a British seaside resort through and through, with its three piers and amusement arcades and fun fairs galore, plenty for little people to get excited about. It’s a little tired around the edges but ones thing is for sure, you won’t be stuck for things to do as at every turn you’re drawn in by the bright lights of the next attraction.
Dependent on where you come from, the drive might be a long one so buckle up and get an early start. We did not anticipate the situation on a Friday evening when you get to the M5/M6 where it seems like half the population of the UK like to hang out. Bring on Disney soundtracks and numerous snacks to keep the kids amused whilst trying to overtake a snail. Seven hours from Cardiff and we finally arrive. The kids have already had a decent sized nap so are wide awake and rearing to go. Rather than hunker down after a long drive, we know we haven’t got a chance of getting the kids to bed, so we jump back into the car after checking into our accommodation and having a quick refresh and head out to see the Illuminations.
For those like myself who haven’t seen the illuminations, you can be forgiven for imagining that these are just some pretty fairy lights that brighten up the tower and the promenade and make the whole place look shiny. Oh no, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of bling that we got from these lights. The sheer fact that you had to drive to see them all properly (a fact with wired toddlers in tow, you can walk it if you desire but it’s a long old walk) may give you a sense of proportion. Google tells me that its ten kilometres long and uses over 1 million bulbs, it certainly is a spectacle to behold. It’s walls upon walls of lights with a different theme for each one. If the car seats weren’t restricting the kids, they would have had their noses pressed up against the windows oohing and aahing. Impressive stuff culminating in the spectacular tower in its multi-coloured glory. The photos don’t do it justice but it’s worth a visit just for these. The arcades and shops are open late too for the lights so if you want to make a night of it you can.
Time to see the promenade stripped naked of all its lights in the daytime and see if there was more to see. I think the size of the place overwhelmed us at first, after parking quite centrally by the tower (or so we thought), we thought it would be an easy walk from there to everywhere else but we were wrong. The scale of the beach is huge and should not be underestimated when travelling with little ones. It’s well worth getting a pass to travel on the trams that pass up and down the main street as it will save you a lot of time so you can use that wisely elsewhere – there is a lot to see!
Our first stop of the day had to be the vast beach. It was not a summer’s day so the beach was pretty deserted apart from the donkeys, ready for the children to have a ride. Millie was not so keen however to go near them and the kids were both happy jumping from the steps onto the sand and then writing with sticks. it’s the little things! I imagine on a nice day it would be a roomy beach to hang out on with tons of nearby facilities, but we had it pretty much to ourselves. Once our beach art was complete, we caught the tram to the Pleasure beach.
Coming from a place where Barry Island is the main theme park, we were expecting the pleasure beach to have a few seaside rides set amongst the amusements all centred around the one we’ve all heard about – the Big Dipper. Size once again proved to be the surprise here. You could have a full day at this park and not get round all the rides.
There are coasters galore if that is your thing but there are loads of other things to try if they’re not. The kids’ favourite laid in Nickelodeon Land where you could meet Paw Patrol, ride on Dora the Explorers balloons and soak each other with water guns on a SpongeBob themed ride.
There are also loads of fairground stalls enticing you to win various oversized toys that you never need in your life but for some reason seem quite appealing at the time. Mike got particularly obsessed with a basketball game which we played too many times and still came away with nothing. We spent most of the time on the kid themed rides but it would have been pretty remiss not to visit the big dipper (or the Pepsi Max big one).
As it was too big to bring the kids on with us, Mike was the brave one that ventured onto the ride nervously. With a drop of 62 metres and speeds of up to 75mph it was no wonder but he conquered it. I might have used a nappy change as an excuse to dodge that particular ride. My motion sickness doesn’t mix well with coasters!
We spent the rest of the day in the park and wandered back amongst the shops and arcades – this is a great place for people watching!
We started off here, it dominates the promenade and looks very much like the Eiffel Tower in red. Not so surprising that it was inspired by it. It stands at an impressive 518 ft tall and we decided it was time to scale it. Now the tower doesn’t start on the ground, it rises up from a tall building and housed within that building are a number of other attractions that it takes a day to get around so you may have to pick and choose what suits you and your family. As well as being able to go to the top on the Blackpool eye, you can go down to the depths in the Tower Dungeon, waltz yourself around the infamous ballroom, gaze in awe at the acrobats in the circus and let the kids run free in jungle Jim’s play centre.
If you haven’t got a head for heights then you might struggle with the lift that takes you 380ft up into the sky. Before you do that, you get a walk-through of a little of the history of the tower which includes a 4D experience. You get to sit down with 3D glasses and watch a short firm and have sound effects/water sprinkled on you. It was a bit of a sensory overload for Millie so we had to remove her early from this one – might be a better one for the older kids. The views from the top of the tower are of course spectacular but the cherry on top is the glass viewing platform that you can walk over. Surprisingly, Millie had no problem doing this and loved it. Me who usually is fine with heights had a brain block and could not venture out on it – Austin was the same. I wonder if that was motherly instincts?! Was a lovely place to see the whole promenade.
I don’t think we’d taken Millie to the circus before so we thought we’d try her out with the oldest permanent circus in the world. The show was split into two halves and we thought it might be a little long for her but thought we’d give it a shot. Austin started snoozing in our carrier when we sat down so it was all eyes on her. Pre-show she had her face painted at the front and then it began. She was a little taken aback by how loud it was (she’s a little averse to loud noises and we usually bring her ear defenders but hadn’t on this occasion). She laughed at the clowns and was completely floored by the amazing acrobats performing. We did leave at the intermission as it was getting a bit long for her but we were really glad we went. I would have happily stayed and watched the end of the show as it was incredible.
Rather than go and find a restaurant, we thought after keeping the kids penned in, that we’d have lunch in the jungle Jim play centre on site. Gave the a chance to run around and we had a sandwich. Efficient use of a lunch break! It’s handy if you’re doing a day at the tower.
We chose to miss out the dungeon as it would have been too scary for our kids at the time and also the ballroom as again, the appeal is not quite there for a four-year old, although we did manage a peek in to have a look at the infamous boards. Instead, we headed down the road for one of Millie’s favourite things to do.
An aquarium is always hot on our list of places to go. The sea life in Blackpool had an exciting difference, you could pay a little extra and swim with the sharks. I signed Mike up in a flash! The aquarium is bigger that it looks on the outside so well worth a visit by itself. Paying for the swimming session was the icing on the cake however, we got a little behind the scenes tour of the aquarium, then as Mike got changed, the guide talked to Millie and Austin about the different sharks and then we got to go up to the top of the walk-though tunnel and watch mike get into the water (almost a private viewing moment). We then walked downstairs and watched him swim from the tunnel. Whilst other kids were saying – look at that man swimming with them, Millie was beaming proudly telling everyone that it was her Dad. This was a fantastic way to end our Blackpool experience.
Where to stay:
The golden mile probably has the widest range of accommodation you could find and the number of places is vast. You want to make sure you can get a parking space with any accommodation you book though as street parking will be hard to come by. We chose an Air BnB apartment set away from the main strip, it was nearer the zoo which we sadly didn’t get time to explore.
Our B finds
We continued our alphabet journey taking our B letter around with Millie trying to find as many things as she could starting with a B….here’s what we found: