If you’ve never been to Blackpool, you should. Just to experience it. Like many northern traditional seaside towns, it’s a bit run down and could do with a huge face lift. But there’s the buzz of being at the seaside, and there’s so many traditional experiences that everyone should see at least once in their lives. If you’re pushed for time, a day would do it and might be enough, but there’s a lot to do, so 2-3 days would be good to visit the main Blackpool attractions.
N has been to a lot of seaside towns, including the Lincolnshire coast, so knows some of the old style coastal towns, but this was his first time in Blackpool. He takes places in his stride but there were certainly a lot of new sights to take in.
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Depending on how busy you want to make your stay, you need to be organised. The main attractions are along the seafront miles, clustered near the 3 piers. The trams are easy to use if you don’t want to walk the several miles from north to south piers. Parking is quite pricy and in the summer months (and at key times in the illuminations calendar), can get busy. The Merlin attractions are all based around Central Pier, with only a short walk between them. When we were there, it was the Blackpool Illuminations switch on, so parts of the main roads were closed, but it wasn’t too much hassle as a pedestrian.
Our first day we spent visiting some of the Merlin attractions.
Buying tickets for the Merlin Blackpool attractions
The tourist group Merlin have several attractions in Blackpool. If you don’t have an annual pass and want to visit any number of them there are different ticket options to get discounted entry prices.
- Blackpool Big Ticket which covers all 7 attractions
- The One Ticket which covers 5.
- Buy online in advance will get you discounts
- Look out for discount vouchers on the back of parking tickets as we got £10 off at Sea Life Centre.
- You can also walk up and use 2 for 1 vouchers from food products promotions.
- There are also discounted prices for ticket combinations for 2-3 attractions.
If you buy The One Ticket or Blackpool Big Ticket online, you need to print it out to convert it to the tickets on arrival, which is a bit annoying when having it on a phone is so much easier.
We went to the Sea Life Centre first, and I wasn’t sure about which ticket to buy for the 4 attractions we were doing, but the girl on the desk was really helpful and worked out what the best deal was for us.
Sea Life Centre
We’d already visited the Lakes Aquarium which is much smaller and based on freshwater local fish. But the Sea Life centre is as expected a bit flashier. It has all the favourite fish to see – Nemo Clownfish, sea horses, the rays and sharks. Not forgetting the jellyfish – I can watch them forever in aquariums with the lighting (not so keen seeing them in the sea or beach).
The rock-pooling area was busy – you can touch things there and there’s a guy telling you about the animals and plants. There’s plenty to see whether it’s frogs, turtles, fish, crabs or snakes.
Our favourite place is always watching the sharks. At Sea Life Blackpool they’ve got an enclosure you can sit really close at different sides and see them swim by.
They were feeding the rays when we walked through to that room. It was amazing to be so close and watch them feeding.
We spent an hour or so at Sea Life before heading off down the road to Madame Tussauds.
Madame Tussauds Blackpool
While not as large as the London attraction, Madame Tussauds Blackpool seems to go on forever, room after room. I don’t know it was the best idea to take N. I was surprised at how few of the waxworks he knew, even once I’d told him who they were.
There’s a great Strictly experience, where you can be a judge, and dance down the stairs to Claudia. There’s also some beautiful costumes from the show.
The different rooms take you through ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here’, Doctor Who, and other tv shows and films.
We spent quite a bit of time in the sporting heroes area as N was more aware of those athletes and there was bean bag darts, and some other interactive games to play.
Then it was on to the Marvel Superheroes. These were great because you could pose like Spiderman, life a car like the Incredible Hulk.
The Best of British area took you into members of the Royal Family, Daniel Craig as James Bond etc, and then onto Coronation Street and the Rovers Return. Here you could buy a beer to sit in the pub.
We just headed through to the music area where I became Lady Gaga, N played in The Beatles, and we listened to the ‘juke box’ music of our choice. This area perked N up before we moved on to Festival Fields. We loved the giant wellies and campervan, and I just wanted to be Ariana Grande!
A final area was classic British comics and talk shows. Morecambe and Wise, see your name up on Take Me Out, sit with Alan Carr and others.
We spent around an hour in Madame Tussauds, but if you’re a real fan of screen and stage, and want to get more involved with taking selfies, and taking part in the activities around the site allow another hour. There was a virtual football game, batak wall (which I love but there was a young child and dad who wouldn’t give up), climbing wall and laser maze. N wasn’t fussed about doing any of these. There was quite a long queue for the maze, so if you don’t want to wait either arrive early or late.
After a quick lunch near the tower, it was our turn to head upwards.
Blackpool Tower has been open since 1894, a feat of engineering. Not only is there the Tower Eye, but crazy golf, the tower circus and of course the Tower Ballroom. Unfortunately we couldn’t play the dino golf as planned, because the police were using it for security viewing for the Blackpool Illuminations switch on party below later that evening..
I’ve been up the tower years ago, but now they’ve added a 4D cinema experience around the tower and Blackpool. This is included in your ticket and you do that first. But we were rushed in so quickly along with another family with a younger child, that we weren’t told to pick up the glasses to wear. By the time I realised we should have picked some up before going in, it was too late and the film had started.
We were perched onto too small a seat between us, and it was pointless them telling us to go through. We didn’t get the effect it was meant to show – you add wind and rain effects which just didn’t work for us. They should have just told us to wait rather than rushing us in.
I wanted to stay in there again and this time grab glasses off people leaving, but N had had enough and wanted to go up the tower. I wish I’d told him we were staying to see it properly, but I let it go.
You go up the tower in a lift, which is quite cosy, then emerge into the panoramic viewing level. You can walk up the steps further up the tower, and there’s a bar to relax and enjoy drinks with a view.
As well as looking across Blackpool and the sea, you can look underneath thanks to the glass floor. N wasn’t too keen on going far on that, but it did mean we could have a brief look at the Comedy Carpet. I was gutted I didn’t get to walk on it because the illuminations party was being held on it so it was blocked off. But the views are pretty good up and down the coast, and we managed to spot our car too!
It’s a bit of a wait to get the lift back down, so once at the exit, we chose to take the stairs down to the ballroom.
Tower Ballroom – the home of ballroom dance
I knew N wasn’t going to be excited about going into the ballroom, but it has memories for me. My first ever ceroc dance weekender was held in Blackpool so I’d danced both there and in the Winter Gardens, a short walk away.
If you’re a Strictly Come Dancing fan, then you’ll know of Blackpool ballroom, and it really is spectacular. But it seems a lot smaller than I remember and than I always imagine it to be.
We just sat and took in the atmosphere, listened to the Wurlitzer organ being played, and watched some of the people taking to the floor. There’s music every day for people to dance, and there were plenty of people having afternoon tea or drinks there.
I was surprised how interested N was – he had lots of questions, but thought it was a bit strange that people just got up and danced when the music started.
Doing all 4 attractions in one day was a bit mammoth but it is possible and worth doing if you’ve only a short time in Blackpool. They’re a good contrast to each other as well, so there’s something to enjoy for everyone.
Have you ever been to Blackpool? Which attractions did you visit?
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