Out-of-town theme parks are all well and good. But why not spare yourself the long coach ride to the middle of nowhere, by taking a thrill-seeking city break to Blackpool instead? The town has its own award-winning theme park right in the centre of town with not one but ten rollercoaster rides to strap yourself into - more than any other park in the UK. And while it has all the trappings of a modern attraction, the Pleasure Beach remains firmly rooted in the past (as befitting a theme park that’s been around since 1896). Retro fans will love the nostalgic carousels, wooden coasters and traditional seaside games.
The Pleasure Beach is home to the Big One which, at 213 feet, is still the tallest roller coaster in the UK. It’s incredibly popular so, to avoid spending hours queuing to get on, arrive at the theme park 45 minutes before gates open, then make straight for the Big One as soon as they let you in. It takes 60 to 90 minutes for queues to build up in the morning, so racing there really does save time.
Most famous for its impressive collection of rides, there’s more to do at Blackpool Pleasure Beach than just scream until you’re hoarse - although that’s fun too! Here’s our top five not-to-be-missed things to do.
Pleasingly for a modern attraction, Blackpool Pleasure Beach has resisted the temptation to modernise its classic rides. The oldest in the park are the Flying Machines that date back to 1904 - rocket-shaped boats that swing out over the park. Less gentle, though, are the ‘woodies’ (as they’re known in the coaster world). Pleasure Beach has five of these antique rollercoasters that look like kids’ stuff - until you get on them. Built in the days before health and safety directives, there’s some pretty violent bumping, and they’re not ideal for those with back or neck conditions. The original Big Dipper was invented here in 1923 and still thrills, as does the Grand National that dates back to 1935 - it’s a dual-track racing ride and one of only three Mobius Loop rollercoasters still in existence.
Although everyone raves about the time they went on the Big One, it’s not the only award-winning, record-breaking ride. Get wet on Valhalla, an indoor rollercoaster that takes you on a journey through wind, ice, snow and fire - until 2016 it was the biggest and most expensive indoor dark ride in the world. Or test your nerve on Infusion, the world’s first looping rollercoaster suspended entirely over water.
If you're on a city break to Blackpool with the kids, head to Nickelodeon Land. It has 12 rides aimed at younger visitors, plus a host of familiar faces. Join Dora the Explorer on her World Voyage, journey along the RugRats' Lost River and enjoy a go on Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic. If you’re lucky, you may even get to meet Spongebob Squarepants.
Head to the Pleasure Beach Arena for the Hot Ice Show, which features professional skaters in some very sparkly costumes. Tickets start at just £10 for matinee performances - but no expense has been spared on the special effects. If you don’t want to pay any extra, the Spectacular Dancing Water Show is free and runs every 30 minutes. It features 30 individual jets and a high-powered cannon, all shooting water into the air to music to magical effect.
If the rollercoasters themselves aren’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping, there’s plenty of other attractions here that might. Stumble through the Haunted Crypt, a walkthrough attraction that you’ll find next to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Or take on the Pasaje Del Terror - if you dare! It’s an interactive horror maze, full of spooky twists and turns.
You’ll find the Pleasure Beach on the South Shore, right down the southern end of the Promenade. It’s a bit of a stroll from town, so here are your best options to save your legs.
Take junction 32 of the M6 to get on the M55. Follow the signs for Blackpool, South Shore and then the brown tourist signs. Once there, you’ll find ample parking because the theme park has five car parks - charges do apply.
Bus and tram
The Pleasure Beach has its own tram stop located just outside the entrance. Many buses also stop at the Pleasure Beach. Failing that, jump on the 1, 15, 16 or 21 - all of which stop right outside.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach has its very own mainline rail station which is very handy if you’re coming by train.
Services from Blackpool North, Preston and Colne stop here.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is not only the town’s biggest attraction, it’s one of the most visited in the UK attracting over 5 million people each year. It’s so packed with people and amazing things to do that it’s hard to fit everything into just one day. Luckily, our insider guide is on hand to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun of the fair.
You’ll find Blackpool Pleasure Beach on Ocean Boulevard on the Promenade, FY4 1EZ and the telephone number is 0871 222 1234. It’s usually open from late March to the start of November. In the main summer season, gates open at 10am and the park closes at 8pm, but in the quieter months it can close as early as 5pm. It’s worth checking the park’s website though, as opening times vary due to weather conditions and for certain events - on some days there is late-night riding, for example. If no one in your group volunteers to hold the bags, you’ll be pleased to hear that lockers are available on-site. There are small ones for just your valuables at £3 for all day, or large luggage lockers for £5.
Whereas once entry was free, these days even the coat-holder of your group needs to buy a ticket to enter the site. Entrance-only tickets are called Pleasure Beach Passes. They cost around £6 and allow the holder to come and go all day as many times as they like, as well as take unlimited rides on the Pleasure Beach Express train ride, the Chinese Puzzle Maze, Bradley and Bella’s Learning Garden and the Spectacular Dancing Water Show. If you know you’ll want to go on loads of rides, buy an unlimited wristband. These get you entry to the park and unlimited all-day riding. Buy online at least ten days in advance for the cheapest prices - that way, an adult unlimited wristband will cost you around £20 if you go when it’s off-peak, or £22 for peak season.
Pleasure Beach wins rave reviews for having some of the shortest walking distances between rides - at only 42 acres it’s tiny compared to Alton Towers’ 900 acres! Yet it’s crammed with both attractions and entertainment venues. Out of the ten rollercoasters on offer, the Big One is the most popular - you’ll find the entrance in the middle, although the track is so lengthy that it weaves around most of the park. The children’s theme park, Nickelodeon Land, covers six acres on its own, and there are a number of other activities that can be found round the edges of the park, like the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum, adventure golf, arcades and theatres.
While the theme park itself is accessible, some of the rides will be off-limits to those with access requirements. To ride the Big One, for example, requires full muscular control of the upper body, plus the ability to grip with one arm and climb over obstacles and stairs. But while some rides may be out of bounds, there are no discounted tickets for disabled visitors. Your best bet ticket-wise is to get the Pleasure Beach Pass to gain entry to the site, then buy tickets for the individual rides you’re able to ride on. If you have proof (in the form of a GP’s letter) of a recognised medical condition that stops you being able to wait in a queue, you can get an entry-via-exit wristband. This lets you get straight to the front without the long waits.
Leave the sarnies at home, because picnics are banned at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and will be taken from you at security. Saying that, you can take in bottled drinks, unopened packets of crisps or shop wrapped cake. But that’s not enough for a whole day. So what food options will you find inside - and where should you go if none of those tickle your tastebus? Find out here.
From Italian to American, quick bites and sit-down meals, there’s all manner of food outlets inside the theme park. Prices can be a little higher than the rest of the Promenade, so a great value option is to go for the all-you-can-eat wristband. It costs £25 for an adult online, but if you’re there all day (for breakfast, lunch and dinner) they really are good value. However, if it’s a bit of gourmet sophistication you’re after, why not try the Oyster Bar? Tucked away under the Flying Machines, they even do champagne!
If nothing appeals at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you can leave at any time during your visit (just ensure your hand is stamped for re-entry) and make use of the many eateries close by. There’s a popular Pizza Hut right behind the Big One, but for something special try the Beachcomber Steakhouse (01253 402700). Consistently voted the best steakhouse in Blackpool, the service is speedy (great if you want to race back to enjoy more rides) plus they do a mean T-bone in stilton sauce and a to-die-for sticky toffee pudding.
No visit to Blackpool would be complete without actually going to the beach - or trying out some of the resort’s fantastic nightlife. So why not turn your big day out into a big weekend, by booking into the Premier Inn near Blackpool Pleasure Beach?