Ten things we love about Blackpool

Tower

Photo by Paul Stevenson on Flickr

By Linda Jones

IT’S that time of year again.

Everyone’s favourite wonky toothed football manager’s son has just flicked the switch on The Illuminations and our thoughts turn to happy days riding The Big One.

Or perhaps that’s just me.

Maybe you’ve never considered going to Blackpool, what with the bad press it has been known to receive.

But, let me assure you, as with Butlins and Disney – preconceptions are there to be smashed. I don’t know how many times I have been to Blackpool. But it’s quite a few. My daughters are aged 10, and they have had three weekends there already, plus a day trip to The Pleasure Beach last year for their birthday.

Here’s 10 things my family love about Blackpool:

1. The circus, especially the ringmaster and Mooky 

Why did Tigger have his head down the toilet? He was looking for Pooh.This is not the best joke in the world, granted. But when you are six, it is pretty good. We love, love, love Mooky. We laughed until we could laugh no more at him the first time we went to see the circus and the second. Absolutely brilliant. A couple of years back ringmaster Harvey Seager read out birthday greetings for our daughters and their cousins – even though one of them wasn’t for another six months. Priceless. The whole spectacle is quite a show with lots of excitement and sharp intakes of breath from the audience thanks to the feats on display. This is a marvellous celebration of variety and talent from all around the world and has been going much longer than Simon Cowell.

2. The Pleasure Beach - the rides and the ice shows

Ride

Photo by Frankie Roberto on Flickr

I only have to look at the benches with the old cowboys striking a pose throughout the park and I am transported back to going with a group of mates as a teenager. The day didn’t start well as I lost the tickets and we had to charm the coach driver to let us on. Once the rest of our group were talking to me, we had a fabulous time – and yes it involved Kiss Me Quick hats. These days my girls are just starting to like rollercoasters.

Our favourite rides are the Derby Racers and the Flying Machines, plus plenty of others. I have a soft spot for The Grand National thanks to fond memories of braving it as a child but it’s a good 10 years since I ventured on.

Do you remember this classic clip? It still cracks me up, as does the memory of my friend Nicky all those years ago screaming for mercy halfway through The Revolution before it goes backwards.

The ice shows are something else. Ever since Dancing on Ice has been on, they have boasted some of the stars of the programme and next month, a previous winner will be no doubt packing the place.

But did you know the shows began in 1937?

Other facts revealed on The Pleasure Beach website:

  • Sir Winston Churchill visited the ice show with Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, following the Second World War.
  • In 1959 Pleasure Beach staff designed and built a great illuminated staircase suspended from the roof. It was used in the finale that year and has remained in the show ever since.
  • Olympic champion Robin Cousins won gold in 1980 and gave a Gala Performance at the Arena in July 4th of that year. He returned in 1994 to choreograph several of the numbers in Amanda Thompson’s first Hot Ice show.
  • Celebrities from stage and screen who have been to see the ice show include Torvill and Dean, Neil and Christine Hamilton, Carol Smillie, Christopher Biggins, Dominic Wood, Jane Horrocks, Rolf Harris, Penny Smith and many more.It’s quite pricey if you buy evening tickets. But we took three little girls to a matinee last October and it was included in the price of our day wristbands for The Pleasure Beach, which we bought off the internet, with a significant saving. You can see prices here – type in when you want to go and they find you the best price.

    3. The Tower, especially its ballroom

    Ballroom

    Photo by Kev Hickey on Flickr

    Beautiful isn’t it? Now The Tower is dear to get into so we haven’t gone every time. But the circus is included and that’s amazing. There’s also good fun entertainment to be had on other levels. Our favourite, after the circus is the ballroom.

    We like to sit and watch the world go by, marvelling at the couples in their finery as they take to the floor, enjoy a cream tea or listen to the organist. Sometimes we have caught a show put on by a local stage school, which has been a nice surprise or taken to the dancefloor ourselves. If you are planning on doing this with children, or if the mood just takes you, they do like you to respect the more accomplished dancers and keep out of their way. Which is fair enough.

    4. The Illuminations

    Illuminations

    Photo by Henry Brett on Flickr

    I think I first went when I was about four. Three generations of my family made the trip and my dad has the hotel keyring photos to prove it. Last year we puzzled over what was so great about the lights designed by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen and on a previous visit we checked out the new Dr Who display.

    There’s a history of the lights here, if you would like to know more. If you’ve heard Blackpool called the Vegas of the North, then this is why! The almost six miles of lights are said to attract more than three million people a year. I hope they all like chips. Be prepared for your journey to take ages if you are going by car and don’t expect to be able to hop on a tram on your first go at night. Funnily enough some of those other three million people seem to have the same idea.

    5. The Sandcastle

    We have been known to spend the best part of the day here. I’m including it as my daughters love it, especially the impressive collection of daredevil features and slides. I content myself with a Maeve Binchy and a stroll along the sea front while they sample its delights. Or if I’m feeling particularly rock and roll, I’ll crack open a puzzle book.

    6. Piers

    Centralpier 

    Photo by Jon’s pics on Flickr

    Oh my what happy memories we have of Blackpool’s piers. We once saw The Krankies and Stu Francis in a show, along with a reincarnation of Bucks Fizz. Yes this is a happy memory in case you are wondering. It was just after Janette recovered from a fall from a beanstalk and she started the show on a motorised scooter. I love the fortune tellers too, even though I am more interested in the black and white pictures of them with soap stars and sportsmen of yesteryear than what they have to say to me. What could they ever confide to a mum from Cannock compared to predictions made for Julie Goodyear, Brian Jacks or the cast of On the Buses?

    7. Trams

    Tram

    Photo by Jon’s pics on Flickr

    Hailed as an icon by many, and arguably still best known for seeing off Corrie baddie Alan Bradley, the trams are a wonderful and nostalgic part of any stay in Blackpool. At Illuminations time, I’d love to ride on one transformed into a lit up ship but have never quite managed it. We also like to guess whether we are going to get a cheerful or miserable driver. Thankfully, it’s usually the first type.

    8. The Imperial Hotel

    I’ve stayed here twice. Once was thanks to a newspaper but I can’t remember why. Two years ago we went back for our daughters’ birthday. It’s a lovely grand hotel, with excellent service. Adding to the excitement last time were Britain’s Got Talent auditions which coincided with our stay. We suggested our children went in as a cutesy girl group but they were having none of it.

    9. Bed and breakfasts

    Fantastic! I’m convinced we have stayed in Blackpool for a weekend as a family of four for less than some couples would pay for one night in a posh hotel. (Not the internet deal we got for The Imperial though!) Blackpool landladies are the stuff of legend of course. Unfortunately the Economy sausage, bacon and warm orange juice served straight from a box on a communal table we experienced are not. But still we loved them – the B&Bs, not the gristle. The carpet may have been older than me in one, and Shake and Vaced within an inch of its life, but the parrot in the lounge who could say: “Hello Darlin’” more than made up for it.

    10. Louis Tussauds.

    One of my first memories is of my nan shrieking ‘heavenly Godfathers’ as a fake spider landed on her in this much maligned waxworks show. These days it’s best known for how hilarious its dummies are to some. Got to be worth a look!

  • Are you a fan of Blackpool or not? Tell us in the comments!
  • And if you would like to share ten things you love about a favourite resort – get in touch…