One of my favourite things to do as a child was a trip to Blackpool. Whether it was a trip up the tower to look down through the glass floor, writing our names in the sand after a seagull had nabbed off with half our chips or finally being old (well, tall) enough to ride The Big One on the Pleasure Beach, a trip to Blackpool was always a suggestion met with much excitement. Seven years since I last went, I had to go back.
Blackpool has been a favourite destination in the UK dating back to the Victorian era when a trip to the seaside was the best kind of holiday! For those outside of the UK, the only impression you may have had of the place is from the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (I say film because we’re taking visuals). It has a reputation for being a little tacky, which isn’t a bad thing for the town, but over the past decade it’s clear to see that the town has cleaned up a lot. If you’re planning a trip from afar, autumn is actually the best time to get the full Blackpool experience (and you can finally understand why us Northerners say “it’s like Blackpool illuminations in here” when you’ve left all the lights on!).
It’s easy to assume that the Pleasure Beach is a new fixture before going in, we assume in many ways that high thrills theme parks are something that we have started to enjoy recently, but Blackpool is actually a leader in innovative rides and rollercoasters. Pleasure Beach, Blackpool was founded in 1896 by William George Bean.
We travelled on Sunday 19th March on one of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s “WOW Weekends”, meaning that pre-booking gave us theme park entry for just £16.25.
The Best Rides (for me)
My top 5 rides at Blackpool remain unchanged regardless of when I visit:
- The Big One
- The Avalanche
- The Grand National
When we went this time, The Big One was closed due to high winds. Despite being top of my list of rides to ride, it didn’t spoil the day. The Big One (sometimes referred to as the Pepsi Max) was the tallest and fastest rollercoaster in the world when it first opened in 1994. It is 235 feet (71.63) metres tall and just over 1 mile long and reaches top speeds of 85 mph. It garners one of the biggest queues in the park but is certainly worth queuing!
Similarly, Revolution is a ride we missed this time. Revolution is a 360-loop ride (you experience it forwards and then backwards!) and I had planned to go on it as a solo rider in the afternoon before we left but I’m not convinced that my lunch was fully settled for that level of speed and inversion. Another example of Pleasure Beach being a leader, Revolution was the first 360 rollercoaster to be opened in Europe (1979).
The Avalanche is a ride that we did make it on! It used to terrify me as a child because I couldn’t understand how it worked. For most of the ride, the coaster isn’t on a track. It’s a bobsleigh style ride (prepare to get really close with your travel buddy!) and it is really fun and also slightly terrifying at times because you convince yourself that you’re going fall off and die, but it’s ok: science has your back! Constructed in 1988, the only place in the UK you’ll find a ride like this is in Blackpool!
The Grand National we rode three times in total. Yes, it is that fun! First constructed in 1938, the wooden Grand National was Europe’s first twin-track rollercoaster. The concept of it is that the two carriages race one another around the track (we won 1 out of 3!) but it is completely random which one wins, so expect to lose! If, like me, you are wide-hipped be aware that the seat is quite narrow. I remember struggling as a teenager to squeeze into the seat and with a bit of “extra padding” it’s a tighter squeeze (I may have bruises but the adrenalin high means I still don’t care!). Safety-wise, The Grand National is belt-and-braces. Literally. You wear a lap belt, then pull down your individual bar and finally hold on to the bar in front (unless you enjoy holding your arms up on these things); the seat divider means that you don’t rattle about either like you do on a lot of bench-seat rides like this. If these precautions weren’t in place, you would be out of your seat.
Valhalla is the world’s biggest indoor dark ride. I don’t want to say too much, but those ponchos they sell outside are nothing to be laughed at if you haven’t got a good raincoat! Simply put: You will get wet. You may get soaking wet!
We got soaking wet. My raincoat was better than Caroline’s who was much wetter.
Other Attractions in Pleasure Beach
What was just the Kiddie area of the park was rebranded in 2010 to become Nickelodeon land. We only went on two rides there: the obligatory (Rugrats) log flume and the Nickelodeon Streak (formerly Rollercoaster, they just painted it orange!). I’m a really big fan of this ride, and dipper style rollercoasters in general. If you’re uncertain about rollercoasters in general, a quick nip round this track will make you feel very much at ease!
The next logical one to talk about is another wooden rollercoaster: The Big Dipper. The Big Dipper was first built in 1923, and does what it says on the tin! It hits speeds of 40mph, which makes it quite exhilarating! I personally don’t find it as thrilling as the Grand National in terms of drops and speed, which is why it doesn’t make my top 5 in spite of being such a historical rollercoaster. Richard Rodriguez (whoever he is), set a world record on this rollercoaster in 1988 for riding it for 1000 hours consecutively. If I’m honest, I don’t know why.
Next top mention is a ride that wasn’t there when I last visited: Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-o-Matic! We’re big Aardman fans in our house, so the idea of stepping into one of Wallace’s slippers and heading through the world of Wallace & Gromit was, well, thrilling! This is similar to the Alice ride that Blackpool have, and many of the rides you’d find at Disneyland where you sit in the car and get a tour of scenes from a favourite film (think Peter Pan or Snow White ride at DLP!). The Alice in Wonderland is still pretty fun too!
The last mention is yet another ride of historical significance: The Ghost Train. Most people have been on a ghost train at some point in their life, but how many people have been on the original ghost train? Built in 1930, Blackpool’s Ghost Train is a voyage through the gruesome and ghoulish across two thrilling floors. It’s quite fun to look at children’s faces on this too as they immediately regret their decision.
Food in Pleasure Beach
There’s a number of places to eat on site, but being vegan we decided to opt for a brand where we knew we could be accommodated. We also needed a wee, so it made sense to get out of the weather for lunch and to plan our afternoon, so we headed for Burger King and had a veggie burger meal. Had it been warmer, we’d have just grabbed some chips and sat on a bench somewhere.
Walking Back to the North Pier
Our train home went from Blackpool North station (I say train, it was a Sunday and “Sunday train” is practically synonymous with “rail replacement bus service”), and having got the tram up to Pleasure Beach, we decided to walk back and enjoy the views.
The Promenade at Blackpool is full of little gift shops and places to buy Blackpool Rock and other souvenirs. If you buy one thing here, make it a stick of rock for someone back home! (But be careful of E153 which is used for the black colouring and may be derived from animals, as we’re not sure).
We bought some sticks of rock and enjoyed the fresh sea air as the sun started to think about setting out on the horizon. Before finally heading for dinner at Las Iguanas (not a traditional thing, we just like tapas).
We had had intentions of hitting some arcades, but with it being low season most of them were closed when we’d finished dinner, so we lucked our way onto an earlier train home before collapsing into bed absolutely exhausted!