My heart is beating a thousand times a minute. My knuckles are turning white I’m gripping on so tightly. I try to keep my eyes open to take in the scene all around me, and then… the release of pure adrenaline, as we drop down from over 200 feet at close to 80 mph!
The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach has been one of the star attractions of the seaside town for almost 30 years. Once being the tallest rollercoaster in the world, along with the famous Blackpool Tower and annual Illuminations, they attract over 6 million visitors a year to the town.
But with a reputation for being run-down, rough, and full of stag and hen parties, is Blackpool worth visiting?
We decided to go there and find out, and timed our visit to not only take in the Blackpool Illuminations which run each year from early Autumn up to the New Year (the exact dates change each year so check ahead https://www.visitblackpool.com/things-to-do/blackpool-illuminations/), but also during the Lightpool Festival which runs for 2 weeks in late October.
With not much of a plan made, we discuss options for the day in the car with the group of friends we’re going with. We want to see the Lightpool Festival and the Illuminations after dark, we obviously need to get some fish and chips and see the Tower, but what else should we do?
We contemplate the Pleasure Beach, but with a mixed group of likes and dislikes (Paul loves fast rollercoasters but is scared of heights, Sneha hates fast rollercoasters but has a head for heights!), we wonder if the expensive entry ticket is worth it (the pricing model is quite complicated, it’s all based on the day you go, but expect to pay between £32 and £44 for a single adult ticket). https://www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/
We can’t come to Blackpool and not go to the Pleasure Beach though, so decision made, we make that our first stop for the day.
We start in a house of crazy mirrors and curiosities, before the likes and dislikes come to the fore with the first ride we come across… the Ghost Train. Most of us want to go on, but Sneha isn’t keen, so while we queue to scare ourselves, she heads off to the more sedate Alice in Wonderland ride instead!
The dodgems are next, fun for everyone, and then talk of going on the Big One. It’s a definite no from Sneha, she’s not going on a rollercoaster that goes 80mph! Paul wants to… but what about the height??
We’re only here once, so let’s do it! Sneha heads off on her own again, first on the Pleasure Beach Express Train and then into Dora’s World in the kids’ section, while we strap ourselves in and start the climb high into the sky on The Big One.
It’s the slow climb which is the worst part… as we creep higher and higher and signs show which famous landmarks we’re passing in height as we go, there are far reaching views of Blackpool Tower, the promenade and piers, and over the beach and out to sea… if you can brave keeping your eyes open to look!
After what feels like an age, we finally reach the top, pause for a brief second, and then the fun starts as we hurtle around the track which extends pretty much the full length of the park. The thrill instantly replaces the fear, and we all disembark slightly jelly-legged with smiles etched into our faces (although this could just be a result of the wind in our face!)
Before and after pics…
The Express Train and kids’ section is slightly less adrenaline inducing, but the train takes you around the whole park so you can see a unique angle of all the different rides there are.
And the kids section offers a huge variety of rides and fun, some with water features, some slow-paced rollercoaster types.
When we meet up again we get some food to try and recover from the adrenaline crash some of us are now suffering from, trying the seafood salads on offer. And over lunch we decide to spend the rest of the day together rather than going off in our own directions, so pick some more gentle rides to go on next.
The best is probably the Kentucky Derby, not really a ride at all, but where we get to compete against each other in a horse race by having to throw balls into holes to move our horse forward. Paul is shockingly bad at it, but Sneha is the surprise package picking up a win in one of the rounds!
With it now starting to get dark we head out of the Pleasure Beach to check out the Lightpool Festival and the Illuminations along the promenade.
With an art trail around the city, live performances, and light projections on some of the most famous landmarks, there is lots to explore and see. However, with the daylight fading and the wind picking up coming from the Irish Sea, our first stop is to go shopping for some hats and scarves to wrap up against the cold night!
We make our best effort to see everything following the map we’ve downloaded to our phones, following the art trail around the city and exploring some buildings to find hidden exhibits and events.
On the promenade the highlights are a house of cards, a glowing ball of lights in front of the Tower, and a fantastic lightshow set to music projected onto the Tower itself.
Further into town we see the “Nature Takeover” projection onto St. John’s Church, we find Dr Who’s Tardis, and Sneha has a go at “Powering the Tower” by pedalling a bike inside the Winter Gardens building. A full list of exhibitions and events are shown on the website… https://www.visitblackpool.com/lightpoolfestival/
With most of the sights we wanted to see ticked off there’s one last stop we need to make… we can’t come to the English seaside and not have fish and chips!
After a couple of hours walking around the town in the cold, we want a nice warm comfortable restaurant rather than takeaway eaten on the beach though, so we head to Papas Fish and Chips, Blackpool’s largest fish and chips shop and named Britain’s Best Fish and Chips by the BBC.
It’s the perfect place to relax and have a traditional “chippy tea”, and it’s interesting to see how Papas has transformed it into an almost fine dining experience. We don’t think we’ve ever had fish and chips along with a pint of Peroni and a glass of white wine before, but it works. And the menus being printed to look like the newspapers in which fish and chips were traditionally served in is a nice touch too.
So, is Blackpool worth visiting?
The Pleasure Beach has loads to offer thrill-seekers and families alike, Blackpool Tower and the Illuminations are the famous sights you just have to see and they don’t disappoint, and the Lightpool Festival was a nice addition we’d recommend timing your trip to include. And if you want fish and chips (and who doesn’t??), then Papa’s comes highly recommended from us!
If you want serenity, luxury and relaxation, then Blackpool isn’t the place for you. But if you want a traditional, bright and brash English seaside town for a (not so) cheap and cheerful break, then Blackpool could be the perfect place for you…
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