When you think of Blackpool it conjures up many images, but is Blackpool a Family Friendly Destination?
You may have fond memories of day trips with Grandparents if you were brought up in the region, blurred memories if you’ve ever been there on a stag/hen do, or indeed no memories at all. I fall into the latter, having only visited once, a trip to the rock factory, when I was a brownie (so more than, ahem, 30 years ago). So, is Blackpool a family-friendly destination for a weekend?
We jumped at the chance to find out when Visit Blackpool (www.visitblackpool.com) invited us to experience Blackpool as a family (8 and 5-year-old). We were looking forward to seeing how the resort faired for a family weekend away.
The Blackpool Resort Pass was the starting point for our weekend. It includes entry to Merlin Entertainment’s Blackpool attractions: Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Nickelodeon Land, The Blackpool Tower Eye and 4D Experience, The Blackpool Tower Dungeon, SEA LIFE Blackpool and Madam Tussauds Blackpool. Unless you only want to specifically visit one of these attractions it became clear very quickly that the Resort Pass was by far the best value way to experience Blackpool. We decided that with the recommended minimum age for the Dungeon being 8, we would not visit, however, we’d try to squeeze everything else in! That’s the joy of the Pass, you can try everything without fear that you’ll be wasting your money if it does not suit your family.
We spent just under an hour wandering around. There are some nice interactive displays for the children, including a football game a karaoke stage. However, it was fair to say that our children didn’t recognise any of the celebrity models so moved pretty quickly, looking for the interactive areas without having any interest in the celebrity models in between.
SEA LIFE Blackpool
Another venue where you will spend an hour or so. If your children prefer interactive displays then this might not be one for them, but if they can spend hours staring at sharks, turtles, stingrays and seahorses, they will love it here. There were staff members wandering around the facility on hand to answer any questions or to simply engage in conversation with anyone looking particularly interested in a particular tank’s content. There is a small soft play area for under 4’s too, which we didn’t utilise but would extend your stay. All in all, we had a lovely time here.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach (incorporating Nickelodeon Land)
We hadn’t planned to visit the Pleasure Beach; as a family, we are not really into the thrills and spills of fast rides (oh, ok, the children love going fast by Mummy and Daddy are completely adrenalin wimps!). However, there were signs everywhere in the town for the Paw Patrol ride at Nickelodeon Land, and our little boy is a big Paw Patrol fan. So we jumped on the tram (which is such an easy way to get up and down the Promenade, buy the travel passes through, as singles fares work out expensive) and headed to the Pleasure Beach.
There are lockers to store your bags for the day (£4.50-£5.50) which was great as we had been lugging around raincoats and hoodies which it turned out we were not going to need as the sun came out to play! The Pleasure Beach itself is quite compact, so unlike a lot of theme parks, your little ones will not be struggling to engage in the long walk between rides. In the main park, we did not find many rides that the 5-year-old could go on without an adult. In fact, most of them he could not go on at all. The Alice in Wonderland and River Caves rides were enjoyed by the whole family though. We headed to the back of the park where Nickelodeon Land is situated. Here you’ll find 12 rides for all children to enjoy (although younger children might need to be accompanied by an adult on some of the rides). An alarming number of these rides involve getting wet though, so take spare clothes or invest in the ponchos the park sells.
Like all theme parks, there is a lot of queuing for rides, which is not fun with children. A days entrance (Family £98) would have precluded us from the Pleasure Beach, but having admission included as part of the Resort Pass meant that it was perfectly doable to only spend a few hours here. A few hours which we really enjoyed.
The Blackpool Tower Eye and 4D Experience
The Tower. The icon of Blackpool. It loomed over us everywhere we went. Day and night (it looks quite magnificent when illuminated at night!). We were all very excited to take a trip to the top (my husband was in denial about the lift he would be forced to ride to the top!). The first thing that struck us was just how big and beautiful the building at the base is. Glorious Victorian architecture and decoration, especially on the stairs. A baby sling is a must if you want to go up the Tower.
We started at the 4D cinema (which appears to be compulsory) watching a film where we soared over Blackpool. We were then moved to the lift queue. Eventually, we entered the lift and positioned ourselves next to a window so we could watch the ride up the tower (ok, not my husband, he stood in the corner looking a bit ashen). At the top, we moved onto the Tower Eye. We stood on glass platforms and looked down at floor over 400ft away. You then slowly move up to 2 different viewing platforms to take in the beautiful views, before coming back down and rejoicing the queue for the lift back down. There’s a lot of queuing and some steep metal steps if you choose to do the 2 higher levels but it really is worth it. The views are fab and It’s what Blackpool is all about after all.
The Tower Circus can be added as a bolt on to the Report Pass. Do it. Just do. It was the highlight of our stay. The Circus has been running from the Tower since 1894, so they clearly know a thing or 2 about keeping families entertained! The clowns, the acrobats, the trapeze artists, the surprise at the end.….all of the performers are fantastic and we all had the most wonderfully entertaining evening. Including interval, it lasts 2 hours though so a daytime might be advisable if you have little ones.
Illuminasia (at the Winter Gardens)
A recent addition to Blackpool, based at the quite beautiful Winter Gardens (worth a wander around even if you decide not to go to Illuminasia). Huge rooms full of the most enormous and beautiful silk lanterns. My son particularly liked the dinosaurs and my daughter the giant gardens. There is also a laser show at 3D film at the end of the exhibition. It will take you about half an hour or so to get around, so worth the £5 per person.
We did not know what to expect from Blackpool, however, we were pleasantly surprised. I am certain that the nice weather made a real difference to our experience (although, to be fair, there are lots of inside attractions so a family could easily stay entertained in bad weather). I am also sure that the fact we visited in mid-September, rather than during stag/hen do season, impacted positively on our experience. Being slightly out of season also meant that although there was quite a bit of queuing at the attractions, I have no doubt that we got off very lightly compared to the queues during high season. Most of the attractions take every opportunity to take a family photograph for you to purchase at the end of your visit; this became a little iterating after a while. So, if you are not interested, quickly learn to politely refuse of you will lose precious hours.
All the above attractions were nice and close together, so other than using the tram for fun, there was no need to utilise the car. We had considered driving the illuminations to save tired 5-year-old legs, however, we were quite correctly advised that the Promenade is bumper to bumper in the evenings. So walk, or get the tram if you have little ones who are tired at the end of the day. We stayed at a hotel a 10-minute walk from the Promenade, although we did look at places further out of town. Undoubtedly staying close to the Promenade means you will be in a street full of hotels/B&B’s, which come with associated noise. Some have car parks (for which you will usually pay a charge ours was £4 a day but I did see some for up to £15) but many require you to park in local Council car parks. So this is a consideration if you would prefer your car to be secure. Taxis are understandably very busy in the evening traffic, so it was great only having to rely on our legs (or Daddy’s shoulders!) to get about.
It became obvious very quickly that Blackpool is a young child’s paradise. That first glimpse of the Tower, sea, sand, sharks, clowns, donkeys, fairground rides, illuminations, trams, sugar-filled snacks on every corner…….what’s not to love?! Our children really did have the most wonderful time and because they did, we did too. Blackpool has been entertaining families since its Victorian heyday, so they have had quite a bit of time to perfect British seaside fun, and perfect if they have; dummy shaped rock, tower-shaped fridge magnets and flashing headbands included!
With thanks to Visit Blackpool, Merlin Entertainments, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach who provided us with the experiences detailed in this review.