When you think of Blackpool, it may not be cultural pursuits that immediately spring to mind. But look beyond the stripy deck chairs and sticks of rock and you’ll find the town has a vibrant art scene, kept fresh with a new influx of university students each September. Step out of your Blackpool hotel to discover some fantastic art installations as you stroll along the Promenade. Duck into a gorgeous little gallery or head to a museum. While the museums here are more dedicated to entertainment than education, we challenge you not to find something of interest among the curiosities on display in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Culture in Blackpool
If you thought visual arts in Blackpool were just of the flashing neon light variety, you’d be wrong. The town has an exciting local art scene, and the centre point of it all is the contemporary art gallery next to Blackpool’s Central Library.
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 spaces 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 and it’s near to our Blackpool Beach hotel.
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.
Right in front of the Blackpool Tower you’ll find the Comedy Carpet, a giant pavement art 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.
Museums in Blackpool may be more fun than educational. But there’s still some mind-blowing exhibits to be enjoyed, including optical illusions and some very lifelike statues.
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 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.
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 the 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.
Did you know that Blackpool has its own university delivering over 60 employer-focused courses? If you’re coming here for a graduation or open day, you’re in luck - all of Blackpool’s attractions are within easy walking distance.
Originally a nautical college for fishermen, Blackpool and the Fylde College was founded in Fleetwood in 1892. Today the college has 49 buildings dotted across the scenic Fylde coast with a major campus in central Blackpool. It offers a variety of full- and part-time degree courses awarded by Lancaster University. And, if you’re coming here for an open day, you’ll be pleased to find that our Premier Inn hotel near to Blackpool and the Fylde College puts you in pole position for all of the city’s nightlife, restaurants and shopping options.
Blackpool certainly knows how to put on a good show, making it an extremely popular location for one-off exhibitions, trade shows and events.
The Winter Gardens is one of the leading exhibition, fair, and conference destinations in the UK. All year round it hosts popular music, food, and art exhibitions, including annual conferences of British political parties and trade unions. Its stunning Empress Ballroom been home to the Blackpool Dance Festival since 1920, while lovers of the arrows flock here each year to watch the PDC World Matchplay darts.