Travel review: Blackpool just about has it all
From miles of golden beaches and rollercoaster rides to traditional seaside fish and chips and ice cream to end-of-the pier sun and the iconic tower itself, Blackpool just about has it all.
The popular seaside resort has had a bit of a facelift in recent years with Merlin Entertainment - which owns the likes of Alton Towers - now running the iconic Blackpool Tower and other attraction.
The traditional northern holiday destination now even has a hip social media hashtag – #BlackpoolHasItAll.
All-in-all it offers a fun-filled break for all the family, packed with activities and attractions.
Myself, my 15-year-old daughter Martha and six-year-old son Frankie stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Talbot Square.
Occupying the former historic Clifton Hotel, it is situated on the seafront opposite the North Pier.
The location is ideal, and affords a lovely view of the sea and pier from the window.
The continental-style breakfast is great, the staff friendly and its central location provides an ideal place to stay.
The Blackpool Resort Pass gives admission to the Pleasure Beach, Nickelodeon Land, the Blackpool Tower and 4D Experience, Blackpool Tower Dungeon, Sea Life Centre and Madam Tussauds.
The £55 price represents a saving of more than £35 on individual admission prices.
Even better value at £80 is the Resort Pass plus, which adds the zoo, Sandcastle Waterpark and Blackpool model village and gardens – ideal if you’re staying more than a couple of days.
Making our way to the Pleasure Beach, we stopped at the nearby legendary Notarianni Ice Cream Parlour.
No trip to the seaside is complete without an ice cream, and there is no ice cream quite as good as Notarianni.
The kids had tasted nothing like their Oreo Sundaes and Reese milkshakes served in authentic ice cream parlour surroundings with Italian hospitality. Don’t miss a visit here.
The Pleasure Beach is aptly named and is one of the best theme parks in the country - it would be easy to spend all day here.
Rides like The Big One, Avalanche and Valhalla are great for the big kids, including the grown ups, while Nickelodeon Land provides Blue Flyer, Lost River and Avatar Airbender for the little ‘uns, and this particular grown up too!
An afternoon of thrills works up an appetite and we’re booked into the Tex/Mex restaurant chain Las Iguanas on the seafront.
The ambience, staff and food are all excellent, and our enchiladas and beetroot burgers were all top class. Delicious!
The next morning, after our lovely breakfast in our hotel, we strolled along the front to the Sea Life Centre.
The centre is ideal for the kids, both fun and educational, and showcasing more than 50 dazzling displays and 2,000 spectacular aquatic creatures including tropical sharks, colourful reef fish, octopus, rays and sea horses.
Next we were off for afternoon tea at the Tower Ballroom, which is a right treat in itself.
We were treated to freshly-made sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and pots of tea or coffee.
For that added dash of decadence in the salubrious surroundings of the ballroom one can also enjoy a glass of champagne.
It is like being taken back to a bygone age, as couples waltz around the famous dancefloor - and you’ve never heard The Beatles’ Nowhere Man quite like you have when it’s played on the venue’s old Wurlitzer organ - a delightful experience.
We then head up the famous Tower itself for the Tower Eye Experience.
There’s an informative 4D cinema experience first – a virtual tour of the town and the history of the tower with 3D vision, movement and physical effects, before you take the lift to the top.
The tower now has the Skywalk, an enclosed viewing platform with panoramic windows – and a glass floor!
You find yourself looking down 400ft from the top, an amazing feeling and maybe not for the faint-hearted.
There is also a small bar here and you may need a stiff drink - although you can take the narrow stairs further up to get a windy view of the Isle of Man and North Wales. Breathtaking!
After basking in the view we went down for the Tower Circus show.
For someone of my age, who grew up with Charlie Cairoli the clown and the MC Norman Barrett (and his budgies!), this is great - and the kids enjoyed it too!
Mooky the clown is devilishly funny, while the acrobats and trapeze artists provide genuinely heart-in-the mouth thrills.
The traditional water-themed finale is like something out of Busby Berkeley. Fabulous!
You can’t go to the seaside without fish and chips and we visited Harry Ramsden’s for tea on the ground floor corner of the Tower.
But the restaurant has a wide and varied menu and I enjoyed a vegetable pie with chips, gravy and mushy peas, which was excellent.
We ended a marvellous day watching the sun go down which, being from the east coast, is novel seeing it descend into the sea out west.
The next morning, after our hotel breakfast, we visited Madam Tussauds where you can get up close to all the figures for some great souvenir pictures.
We all pose with the likes of Simon Cowell, E.T. and Stanley Matthews before enjoying a swift half in the museum’s mock-up of the Rovers Return among the likes of Deirdre and Ken Barlow.
We then enjoyed lunch at the Viva Vegas Diner on the seafront, which, as the name suggests, offers an authentic American diner experience.
You can enjoy American hot dogs and burgers while seated in a cut up Cadillac and some rare imported Stateside beers.
Next up was a visit to Blackpool Zoo which is just a short bus ride out of town.
The zoo has been established since 1973 and boasts just about every species from the animal kingdom from an elephant to lions, tigers, giraffes, sea lions, gorillas and inquisitive lemurs - a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
We made time to visit Sandcastle Waterpark and you can easily spend all day here.
Sandcastle is the UK’s largest indoor waterpark, boasting more than 18 slides and attractions, including the Master Blaster – the world’s longest indoor roller-coaster waterslide - and Aztec Falls - a drop in complete darkness into the whirling chasm of the Aztec bowl - to name just two!
There are also fun pools, wave machines, water chutes and so much more. It’s well worth a visit, especially if the typical British weather puts a dampener on things.
* We stayed in a family room at the Ibis Hotel. Weekend prices, based on a family of two adults and two children sharing a room for a weekend this month, start at £114 a night. Visit www.ibis.com
For details of all activities and events in the town, go to www.VisitBlackpool.com