Why should a little thing like the end of the summer spoil Blackpool’s fun? As soon as the autumn leaves appear, so do the Illuminations, and the six miles of lights strung along the promenade breathe fresh life into an already very lively town. The colourful, cartoon-like displays are split into different themes, with old favourites like nursery rhyme tableaux mingling with modern street art and celebrity caricatures. If you’re thinking of seeing this spectacular festival of lights for yourself, why not book into one of the Premier Inn hotels in Blackpool? That way you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep after your visit to the town’s dreamy wonderland.
Want to beat the crowds? Visit mid-week. Weekends, especially during school holidays, can be so busy that you’re sat in gridlocked traffic for hours. Another great tip is to drive along the route the other way (from north to south) - you’ll still get to see everything, and avoid the queues.
Whether you stroll along the promenade, gazing at the lights with a bag of chips in your hand, or make like the locals and drive through them in a car (with a bag of chips on your lap), you’re in for a treat. First time visitor? Start here.
The Illuminations run from the Friday night following the Bank Holiday at the end of August, and last for 66 days, meaning they finish in early November each year. At the start of the season, the lights go on at 8pm, but as the nights get longer they are turned on earlier and earlier - at 5pm by the end of the 66 days. They're turned off at some point between 10.30pm and midnight.
Every year, some 20,000 people flock to the Promenade to watch pop stars perform before the Illuminations are switched on for another season. The musical extravaganza is free to attend, but you need to apply for a wristband in advance by registering at the Visit Blackpool website. It’s worth it, though - past performers have included the likes of The Vamps and Diversity.
As well as the traditional displays along the Promenade, there are now 3D projection shows that are mapped onto the front of the Blackpool Tower, transforming the iconic building into a sea of light, colour and sound. It’s best to get out of your car to really enjoy the Lightpool experience to the full - the Comedy Carpet just outside the Tower makes an ideal vantage point.
Planning to come to the Blackpool Illuminations? Expect it to be busy! The most common way to enjoy the festival is by driving the route from South to North, but you can park up and get out to see some of the displays up close.
From the M55, your most direct route is along Squires Gate Lane. Turn right at the traffic lights and keep the sea on your left, then start your journey through six miles of Illuminations! Expect to drive through very slowly - it’s all part of the experience. Bring snacks!
Make your Illuminations experience even more magical by jumping on an equally glitzy tram car. You can book a ride on one of the illuminated trams at the Blackpool Transport website. Tours depart from the Pleasure Beach Loop stop each evening at dusk.
If you fancied a preview of the Illuminations before the Big Switch On, why not take part in the free Ride the Lights event? Saddle up and join the procession of cyclists enjoying the displays - you can ride as much or a little of the six mile route as you want to.
Snaffling fish and chips on the move while watching the Illuminations really is the done thing. But if you fancy something different, here are your best eating and drinking options around the town.
There’s a fair few street vendors and fast food outlets to tempt you while you’re watching the Illuminations. But if you’re searching for a hidden gem, a trip to McHalls Bistro is a must. Don’t be fooled by the nondescript exterior. Once inside, you’ll find out why it wins such rave reviews from tourists and locals alike. Exceptional service, a homely decor, a menu which caters from everybody from vegetarians to coeliacs - and the fact that everything is homemade, down to the bread and the ice cream. It’s so popular that reserving a table is a must.
Blackpool is packed with bars and pubs, but for something extra special, try the pop-up bar at the top of the Tower. Bar 380 (so-called because you’re a heart-stopping 380 feet above the ground) serves delicious cocktails and bottled beers with unrivalled views of the lights stretching out beneath you. You may need more than one drink to settle your nerves, though, because the bar is installed in the SkyWalk area of the Tower. The bar opens at 6pm every day that the Illuminations are on, apart from October half term, and you need to book in advance.
Get your trip to the Illuminations off to the best possible start by booking into one of the Premier Inn hotels in Blackpool. You’ll be guaranteed great access to the six mile route - and a comfy bed to come home to afterwards.