If you love vibrant seaside towns full of nostalgia and tradition, Blackpool will be right up your promenade. Look beyond the kiss-me-quick hats and flashing arcades and you’ll find fabulous art deco buildings, beautifully preserved ballrooms and vintage trams - features that will take you back in time to the town's heyday of the early 20th century, when Blackpool was filled with holidaying factory workers in their thousands. Whether you’re here for a big event or a fun-filled break, you’ll find a curious mix of old-fashioned charm and glitzy modernity - for example, the donkey rides now take contactless payment. Incredible theme parks and countless attractions make this a utopia for the young, but there are natural wonders here too. Seven miles of golden sands and a clean shoreline make it a great location, whatever brings you to Blackpool.
With grand theatres and music venues, Blackpool is a town dedicated to entertainment in all its forms. The home of variety, its reputation as a comedy hub has been carved into the town’s own infrastructure with the Comedy Carpet (above) - a huge art installation embedded with the names of famous comedians - and their jokes.
With high street stores rubbing fashionable shoulders with quirky little independents, there’s more to the Blackpool shopping scene than just souvenirs and sticks of rock. If you love to shop, a retail heaven awaits, and it’s one that’s full of choice - from gleaming city centre shopping malls to street markets and quirky antiques emporiums.
A year-round calendar of exciting events keep Blackpool buzzing with life, whenever you visit. Be dazzled by the Illuminations, enjoy the exuberance of the best fireworks displays you’ll ever see, or watch vintage aircraft take to the air over the sea. Will your visit coincide with one of the festivals Blackpool is famous for? Find out here.
The Tangerines may have their ups and downs, but Blackpool Football Club still draws loyal crowds to their Bloomfield Road venue. Even if you don’t like to watch the beautiful game, there’s plenty of hands-on activities to try your hand at, from adrenaline-filled adventure sports to a sedate round of golf.
Blackpool may look brash, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find this vibrant seaside town has a thriving art scene. There’s an art gallery in the town, as well as public art installations. Museum lovers will find hundreds of fascinating items on display in the entertaining Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, too.
Blackpool is in the beautiful county of Lancashire, which has two areas of outstanding natural beauty waiting to be explored on foot, or by bike. Go for a walk up the majestic Pendle Hill - and scare the kids with the tale of the Pendle Witches. Or if you’ve not fully had a seaside fix, take a trip to nearby Lytham and St Annes.
Blackpool does fish and chips exceptionally well, but can also cater for more stylish tastes. Enjoy a cocktail and fine dining as you watch the sun go down from the terrace at the Beach House Bistro and Bar. Then, once you’ve eaten, it’s on to sample Blackpool’s nightlife - but will you choose a bar, club, or late night entertainment venue?
No trip to Blackpool would be complete without a ride on one of the town’s famous trams. Today the system has been brought bang up to date, but you can still ride on the vintage variety at weekends. Apart from that, there are buses, great parking if you’ve brought the car and plenty of opportunities to explore the town by bike.
As you might expect from a town hailed as the Las Vegas of the North, Blackpool has a history of glitzy entertainment. This showbiz town has a long heritage as the home of variety, hosting everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bob Hope in the 1950s, through to One Direction and Peter Kay today. And if you love to dance, you’re in the right place. Blackpool is a ballroom mecca - and even if you’re not a die-hard Strictly Come Dancing fan there can’t be a better place to take a turn around the floor than in front of the Wurlitzer organ at the grand Tower Ballrooms.
This fabulous, art deco entertainment complex in the heart of Blackpool is so huge, it consists of 12 venues, including the 3,000 seater Opera House - one of the largest theatres in Europe. The Opera House is the place to go to watch top name comedians, with Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand both performing here recently. Dance lovers should head to the Empress Ballroom - it’s the venue of the popular annual Dance Festival where dancers twirl in front of the last Wurlitzer to be installed in the UK. The Empress Ballroom is also famous as a live music venue, with the likes of Radiohead, Stone Roses, the Pet Shop Boys and the White Stripes playing here in the past.
Take a breather from all the madness going on outside and step into the Tower Ballroom. Full of elegant, old-world charm, it’s magnificently decorated in gold, complete with chandeliers and the bounciest sprung floor made of mahogany, oak and walnut. Come on a tea and dancing afternoon and you’ll find the atmosphere is just incredible, helped along by the sound of the Wurlitzer which fills the historical gem with music. Don’t want to join the whirling throng? It costs around £4 to sit on the balcony and gaze at a ballroom still in its full glory. And, thanks to Strictly, there’s a younger audience of dancers which should keep the Ballroom going strong for years.
This ornate, Grade II-listed venue is also known as the National Theatre of Variety - and it’s easy to see why. It shows a wonderfully diverse mix of dance, opera, comedy and panto, alongside serious dramas. But you may find it hard to look at the action on the stage at all - the theatre’s interior is dazzling. Dating back to 1894 and built by leading Victorian architect Frank Matcham, it’s been lovingly preserved.
The balconies have Baroque plasterwork and there’s an oval ceiling opulently decorated with painted composers. If you don’t have tickets to a show, the theatre has open days where you can take a tour and soak up some of its history instead.
Firmly planted beneath the four legs of the Blackpool Tower is the Tower Circus - the oldest permanent circus in the world. It’s opened every summer season since 1894 - an impressive achievement considering there were two world wars in between. Everything about it looks and feels traditional, from the ornate gold stalls to the red velvet seats. The ring hides a surprise - it’s suspended over a huge tank of water complete with fountains, which makes for a thrilling water finale. But while the circus has the nostalgia factor, the acts have moved with the times - expect an adrenaline-filled show full of death-defying stunts. It opens from April to early November.
Yes, it’s a bit saucy, but Funny Girls is consistently voted Tripadvisor’s number one night out in Blackpool. This burlesque cabaret show has been held in the art deco splendour of the former Blackpool Odeon since 1994, but it’s still on top of its games. World-class drag acts perform high energy, acrobatic dance routines in sky-scraping heels, with a wise-cracking, acerbic host to hold everything together. Even if you go early in the season when it’s quiet, these ‘girls’ give it their all - and the costumes and head dresses are works of art in their own right. Make a night of it by getting a ticket that includes a restaurant meal along with the show. You won’t regret it!
If only all art installations were this funny. Right in front of the Blackpool Tower you’ll find the Comedy Carpet, a giant pavement piece by artist Gordon Young. A homage to all those who have made Britain laugh, the names, catchphrases and jokes of over a thousand comedians are written in granite and embedded in the concrete using a wealth of different typefaces. This huge undertaking cost £2.6 million to produce and the sheer scale of it is amazing - some of the quotes can even be read from the top of the Tower. Taking a stroll down Britain’s comedy past is free - and makes for a great giggle alongside a massive helping of nostalgia.
While Blackpool is a great place to buy souvenirs, it’s not all tourist tat. In the centre of town there’s a shopping mall crammed with all your high street favourites. Head further afield and you’ll find out-of-town designer outlets that are great for grabbing a bargain, while foodies will love the Abingdon Street Market full of tasty local produce just waiting to be sampled.
A leisurely 50-minute tram ride (or a 20-minute drive in the car) takes you to Freeport Fleetwood, an outlet village with 45 clothing and lifestyle stores. Set in a beautiful marina, expect big high street names such as Marks & Spencer, Gap and Next, offering huge discounts - some as much as 60% off what you’d pay in the normal store. When you’ve grabbed enough bargains, there’s a nautical-themed outdoor play area so the kids can let off steam and plenty of places to sit and watch the boats and get a bit of fresh sea air. Food and drinks-wise, there’s a McDonald’s, a Costa or the outlet’s own Bay Tearooms to refresh you ready for some more shopping.
Luckily, a spot of wet weather doesn’t need to spoil your retail therapy. With a good variety of shops all under one gleaming roof, the Houndshill Shopping Centre is in the centre of Blackpool - just a few minutes’ walk from the Tower. Although it’s nothing like on the scale of the Trafford Centre, it’s bright, modern and a very decent size for a town centre. There’s parking onsite for 700 cars and once inside you’ll find big brands including Debenhams, Primark, Next, H&M and River Island. When you’re all shopped out, head upstairs to the food court and you’ll find plenty of fast food options, plus sit-down meals at Bella Italia and Prezzo. Phone addicts will be pleased to learn there’s free WiFi throughout.
With a magical atmosphere, this Aladdin’s cave is full to the rafters with antiques, craft, collectibles and all things vintage. Located in a grade II-listed former cinema (and one of Blackpool’s oldest buildings) it’s great for a rummage through all the kitsch memorabilia on offer - and hipsters will love the selection of vintage clothes and vinyl. If a trip to the tea room with its china plates, cups and saucers doesn’t take you back in time, head upstairs to the refurbished cinema to really scratch that retro itch. It’s recently opened and shows a fabulous programme of black and white favourites. The Regent is open seven days a week from 10 am.
Make like the locals and do a spot of shopping at Abingdon Street Market - a popular indoor market that’s been held in the same, beautiful building since 1928. Great if you’re a foodie, there are some delicious local delights to sample, from yummy deli food, fresh bread, local meat and whole foods, all under one roof. The cafes in the market are well-known for their fantastic breakfasts and great coffee. Best buys here are the scones from the bakery stall - but it’s not just food on offer. There are leather goods, jewellery, make-up and clothes - and even a tattoo parlour. It’s open Monday to Saturday each week, and even on Sundays in autumn when the Illuminations are on.
Don’t worry if you miss the summer season, because Blackpool doesn’t just come to life when the sun is out. Just when you think the town is winding down for the winter, the Illuminations come on, drawing visitors in their thousands and turning the Promenade into the North’s version of the Las Vegas Strip. And while the festival of lights really is a must-see, there’s also a fireworks festival and an airshow - and all these fantastic events won’t cost you a penny, either. More money to spend on candy floss!
The end of the summer season is usually a sad time in seaside towns - not so in Blackpool, thanks to the town’s version of the Northern Lights. For 66 days every autumn, three million visitors descend upon the town to view the six mile stretch of lights. The Big Switch On weekend is one of the biggest dates in Blackpool’s calendar and sees performances from some of the UK’s chart-topping stars. Hailed as the biggest free light show on Earth and costing nearly £2 million to stage, the Blackpool Illuminations were recently listed by Visit England as one of the top 101 things to do before you go abroad. It’s free to be dazzled, but donations are welcomed.
There’s been an airshow held in Blackpool since 1909 - it was the first of its kind in the UK and is now one of the most long-running in the world. The August event is free, just head to the promenade and join thousands of excited plane spotters, both young and old, to watch classic and modern aircraft do their acrobatics over your heads. The Red Arrows always perform, and there’s even the chance to watch daredevils doing a wing walk. When you’re tired of craning your necks, you’ll find stalls, bands and plenty of entertainment laid on for the kids in the games zone. It’s a great day out - even if you don’t know your Harrier from your Hurricane - but get there early as it gets busy.
If you thought the Illuminations were dazzling, just wait until the Fireworks Championships blast into town. For four days every September, the world’s firework elite try to outdo each other with night after night of incredible displays - with the winning team chosen at the end of the event by a panel of local judges. The competition’s rockets are let off from the Tower Festival Headland, but there’s great views to be had along the whole of the seafront. It’s free to stand and ooh and ahh, and even if fireworks aren’t normally your thing, the sheer artistry involved can’t fail to impress you. The build-up starts at 7.30pm, with the first rockets fired at 8.30pm.
OK, so it’s football club may not be in the Premier League, but that doesn’t mean the locals are any less passionate about their support for the orange-clad Tangerines. If the beautiful game has brought you to Blackpool, we have all the information you need about the Bloomfield Road Stadium. And while you’re here for your footie mad weekend, why not try some adventure sports, or perhaps even a round of golf?
If you’re in town to watch a big match, you’re in for a treat. Bloomfield Road rocks to the sound of nearly 18,000 loud, passionate football fans every home game, and is known for having a great atmosphere and fantastic facilities. Even if you’re not lucky enough to be watching the Tangerines play, you could always book a stadium tour. Lasting two hours, you’ll learn about the club’s 100-year history, peek into their trophy cabinet and poke your nose into the dressing rooms. Led by a professional tour guide, the best bit is at the end when you get to go down the tunnel and out onto the pitch. Magical!
Both your head for heights and your thirst for adventure will be tested to the max at the Blackpool High Ropes obstacle course. This adventure-lover’s dream in Blackpool’s leafy Stanley Park costs £12 per adult and £8 per child over five, with all safety equipment included. Once you’ve got your hard hat on, friendly staff will help you scale a rock climbing wall, perch on top of a tower of crates and attempt a heart-stopping leap of faith. There are two ropes courses to tackle, both low and high, and while the high course may look a little scary, the zip ride down at the end make it worth a go. Wheee!
It’s just three miles from the centre of Blackpool, but with its 160-acre rural setting and views that stretch to the Pennines, you’ll feel you’re playing a round deep in the countryside.
This pay and play golf course has some easy fairways that are great for beginners, alongside some trickier holes that will prove a great test for experienced golfers. The other big draw at Staining is the fantastic Club House. Its bar and restaurant are incredibly popular with Blackpool residents who give it rave reviews for its breakfasts - and the fantastic views over the rolling, well-kept golf course.
When you think of Blackpool, it may not be cultural pursuits that immediately spring to mind. But the town has a vibrant art scene, with a gorgeous little gallery that focuses on Blackpool’s colourful heritage, not to mention some fantastic art installations on the Promenade.
You’ll find this contemporary art gallery next to Blackpool’s Central Library - and it’s a little gem. The Grundy has been the centre for art and culture in the town for over 100 years, and it regularly celebrates Blackpool’s heritage as a seaside resort loved by millions.
Free to enter, this small but beautiful gallery has four display galleries showcasing local artists, but regularly welcomes touring exhibits by celebrated international artists, such as David Hockney and Matt Stokes. The Grundy Art Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.
While true culture lovers may raise an eyebrow at some of the exhibits on offer at this ‘Odditorium’ on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is great fun. Like a museum with no boring bits, there are moving floors, mind-blowing optical illusions and even a thrilling ride at the end. But it is educational too (honest!). There are eight themed galleries full of interesting exhibits, such as a two-headed calf and the world’s smallest car. Just be careful if you’re a woman of child-bearing age - the African fertility statue has caused over a thousand confirmed pregnancies.
If the weather’s nice, grab a coffee and croissant and take a morning stroll to Blackpool’s South Shore where you’ll find an impressive collection of huge art installations set on 2km of sea defences. The works are by both established and up and coming artists and each portray a different aspect of the town’s character. All the works are impressive thanks to their huge scale, but one of the best known is a 4.5 tonne, rotating mirrorball designed by Michael Trainor. It really comes into its own when the lights from the Illuminations turn it into a funky light show.
Blackpool’s huge range of year-round tourist attractions turn the town into a magnet for both young and old. The town does them so well - theme parks with some of the best rides in the world, incredible water parks, a zoo and not to mention a certain tower with stunning views across the North West. Find out more about what makes Blackpool Britain’s most popular holiday destination here.
You don’t need to travel for miles to an out-of-town theme park to experience world-beating rides, as Blackpool has some of the UK’s best rollercoasters and they’re right in the heart of the action. With a mix of traditional wooden coasters and top of the range thrills you’ll get plenty of air time here. Most famous of all is the Big One. Once the tallest in Europe it’s still one of the scariest, with a 235ft climb and speeds of up to 87mph. If you feel hungry after that, you’ll find some surprisingly varied food and drink options too (and some mighty good fish and chips).
Even if you don’t go on any rides, you’ll have to pay a small fee to get into the theme park, but it’s worth it for the carnival atmosphere once you’re inside.
A short drive from the city centre takes you to this multi-award winning attraction. While Blackpool Zoo itself isn’t huge at 32 acres, it’s well set out so there’s plenty of room for the animals to move around in their large, natural enclosures. And it’s been cleverly designed with walking platforms and viewing places so everyone gets a good view. Younger members of the family will love the dinosaur walk-through adventure, while you’ll all enjoy the amazing variety of wildlife on offer, including elephants, tigers, lions and some very entertaining penguins. A particular highlight here is the chance to get close to the animals, whether by holding Colin the cockroach, stroking a giant rabbit or taking a stroll in the popular walk-through monkey enclosure.
Visible from hundreds of miles across the North West coast, Blackpool Tower is the resort’s most iconic landmark. And if you think it looks suspiciously like a certain Parisian monument, you’d be right. In 1887 the Mayor of Blackpool visited Paris and liked the Eiffel Tower so much he built a replica. Although at 158 metres it’s half the size of its French inspiration, what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for in fun - you wouldn’t find a circus and ballroom in the Champ de Mars, would you? Your trip to the top starts with a 4D cinema experience to build up the anticipation. Then a lift takes you up to the viewing platform where you can brave the glass skywalk. But will you dare take the narrow staircase right to the top?
If you’ve been to the Madame Tussauds in London, you may be tempted to give this one a miss. But, particularly if it’s a rainy day, the Blackpool waxworks are well worth a visit - it’s no less impressive and if you buy your tickets online, it’s just a fraction of the cost of the capital’s attraction. Fans of Coronation Street will be in heaven - all the stars are here and you can even buy a drink in the Rover’s Return. Apart from all the selfie opportunities with your favourite celebs, there’s the chance to get your own hand cast in wax, and an interactive sports section where you can test your skills against your heroes.
Forget taking a dip in the freezing sea and take a trip to Sandcastle instead. Just opposite the Pleasure Beach, it’s the UK’s largest indoor waterpark and boasts some beautifully tropical temperatures inside. There are 18 attractions, including a wave machine, lazy river, the world’s longest water slide and a spa for the adults. There’s so much to do that you could easily spend a day, here, plus it’s so warm that you don’t even need a towel to dry off. You’ll think you’re on a tropical island as you watch the swimmers from the bar or cafe - it’s fine to sit there in your cossie, too. The best rides are in the Hyperzone which require a separate (more expensive) wristband.
If your visit doesn’t coincide with the six-week long Illuminations festival, a trip to Illuminasia is the next best thing. The world’s largest indoor light show, Illuminasia blends traditional Chinese lantern crafts (think silks welded and stitched on to metal frames) with the latest in technology. Part of the Winter Gardens entertainment complex, the exhibits are huge in scale - there’s even a 45 feet high replica of Blackpool Tower. There are six magical zones in all to explore, from the Mysteries of China and the Blackpool Experience to a planetarium that lets you marvel at the vastness of space. Children will love the lights - and the quest to find 20 hidden Chinese coins.
While there’s plenty to do in Blackpool, if you fancy a day trip out of town, a world of outstanding natural beauty awaits. Pretty mill towns, quaint seaside villages and stunning walks are right on its doorstep! You’re spoilt for choice, but our pick of the bunch is below.
A 30-minute drive from Blackpool takes you to the Forest of Bowland, a stunning Area of Natural Beauty. Besides all the great walking and mountain biking opportunities, you’ll get to combine your love of the countryside with a chance to brush up on your history if you visit Pendle Hill and learn the tale of the Pendle Witches. Some 400 years ago, the land was notorious for being wild and lawless leading to ten people being tried and executed for sorcery. While in the area, visit the mill towns of Barnoldswick, Nelson, Barrowford and Colne.
If you like your seaside towns to be more sedate, head six miles away to Lytham and St Annes. These dual seaside towns feel a world away from the bright lights and loud music of Blackpool. St Annes is famous for its award-winning luxurious beach huts that are available to hire by the day. With their chic interiors and homely touches, they make the perfect base to explore this picturesque stretch of coastline. The towns themselves are just so pretty, with their perfect lawns, boating lakes and parks. And, if you’re here in September, the Kite Festival at St Annes is not to be missed.
Blow away the cobwebs after some time in Blackpool town, with a long walk along the beautiful Wyre river. This dog-walking favourite is just a 20-minute drive from Blackpool and it’s a complex web of paths that lead around the river and estuary. There’s birds to watch and natural beauty just waiting to be explored - just take wellies if it’s raining as it can get quite muddy. There’s a car park, children’s play area and cafe - and disabled visitors aren’t left out. Many of the paths are made accessible by specially converted, all-terrain wheelchairs that can be hired from the visitor centre.
Synonymous with hedonism, Blackpool is a party town that’s crammed with almost as many bars, restaurants and clubs as there are revellers. Luckily, if you’re staying at the Premier Inn in Blackpool, you’ll be right in the heart of all the action - safe in the knowledge that there’s a comfy bed waiting for you, no matter what time you decide to call it a night.
Yes you can get fish and chips (and very good ones at that), and burgers and kebabs pretty much everywhere. But foodies will be pleased to note that they don’t have to leave town to get locally sourced, well-presented food. Take Kwizeen for example (in the town centre) where Lancashire ingredients, such as fish straight off the boat at Fleetwood and Bury black pudding, have been given a Mediterranean twist on a menu that changes every four to six weeks. The delicious seasonal fare is served in refined surroundings, that still manage to feel fabulously informal.
You’ve got to love a town with bars called Peek-A-Booze, The Tipsy Cow and the Flying Handbag! If you fancied starting the night off in a classier fashion though, head to the Beach House Bistro and Bar. The location can’t be beaten - it’s right on the Promenade overlooking the sea and a perfect spot to watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand.
Grab a table by the waterside and enjoy bubbly by the glass or a perfectly mixed mojito - and if you’re peckish there’s delicious pizza and an extensive tapas menu.
While you can’t walk down a street without tripping over one of Blackpool’s night spots and late night bars, finding one that is clean, comfy and with a more relaxed dress code can be more of a challenge. Luckily, the Bootleg Social has a wonderfully warm and friendly atmosphere. Although its spacious, it feels intimate as you watch live bands, hip hop acts or dance until the small hours at a club night. Forget brash and bold, you’ll feel like you’re in a trendy club in Manchester. Cheap to get in, there’s also food served before 9.30 - rumour has it they do the best burger in Blackpool.
While Blackpool is a great town for walking, there was some artistic license used when they called the main promenade the ‘Golden Mile’. In reality, the distance from the Blackpool Pleasure Beach in the south to The Blackpool Tower is more like three miles long. Luckily, it’s super easy to jump on a bus or tram to save your aching feet.
If you’ve brought the car, you’ll be pleased to hear there are great parking facilities in the town, with a mix of short and long-stay, and even parking for motor homes. Expect to pay around £2.50 for leaving your car for 90 minutes.
Blackpool has a fantastic transport system, with bus services that connect with most of the major hotels and attractions. If you’re planning on doing more than one bus trip a day, it makes sense to buy a day saver online at the Blackpool Transport website.
No trip to Blackpool is complete without a ride on the tram. The town’s tram line is 12 miles long, and runs from Starr Gate to Fleetwood Ferry, stopping near to all the major attractions. Most trams are modern but the vintage variety still run at weekends.