Blackpool, the seaside town 40 miles north west of Manchester, is home to some 140,000 residents, including my family. While I was born in South Africa, and live in the United States, all of my family is from Blackpool. My mom and dad met and got married here, so I’ve been visiting Blackpool all of my life. While it does get a certain reputation, Blackpool has many attractions that make it worthy of a weekend getaway in England. Many of these sights have been in existence my entire life, some even longer, and each of them has a personal story or memory behind them. If you are looking for a guide on what to do in Blackpool, this is it!
The Blackpool Tower was built in 1894 and is one of Britain’s most loved attractions. Whenever I travel to England, nothing says that we’ve arrived in Blackpool quite like spotting the tower on the horizon. The tower is 518 feet high, all the way to the top of the flagpole, and is modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Tower contains several more attractions within it, including the Tower Ballroom, and the Tower Circus. The Blackpool Tower Eye at the top of the tower has a 5 cm thick glass floor where you can look to the ground below you, as well as take in the panoramic views. On a clear day, you can look out at the Irish Sea and the promenade, up to the Lake District, and even across to Liverpool and the Isle of Man. There is also a 4D cinema where you can learn about Blackpool’s history.
One of my favorite memories of Blackpool is standing on this glass floor with my sister and my cousin. Of course, we were always so excited about spending time together that we often would end up planning the same shoes, hair accessories, and t-shirts, even when we approached our teen years. My other cousin, Mark, also worked at the Tower at one point. Many happy family memories here!
Blackpool Tower Ballroom
The Blackpool Tower Ballroom was built in 1894, and despite its over one hundred year existence, it still attracts dance fans from across the globe. It is the filming location for Britain’s Strictly Come Dancing Finals. At the ballroom, you can put your dancing shoes on to waltz across the floors or enjoy the Ballroom’s afternoon tea experience. The chandeliers and ornate decorations make this a beautiful setting.
It is still on my bucket list to dance in the ballroom, or see one of the famous dance shows here! I keep missing the dates!
The Tower Circus
Dating back to 1894, Blackpool Tower Circus is the oldest permanent circus arena in the world and has not missed a season since it opened – playing continuously right through two major world wars. The Endresz family has been in charge of the circus since 1991, overseeing everything from acts, talent, lights, shows, costumes and even performers. Mooky, the circus’ resident clown for the past 25 years, is also the director of the circus, along with his brother. The brothers took over from their father last year. Every year, the show ends with a water finale. Hydraulic mechanisms create an onstage lake by lowering the ring floor by 137 cm. This water finale was one of the leading acts of the original circus, more than 100 years ago. The circus stopped using animals in 1990, but the pens and stables are still in existence underneath the arena, due to the building status as a historical site.
When I was younger, my family would often take us to the circus on our visits to Blackpool. Mooky is a familiar face, seeing as he has been the resident clown since I was old enough to remember him. The arena itself is lavish, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, you can watch Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. The arena is featured in a pivotal moment of this Tim Burton movie.
SIDE NOTE: My mom, who reads over my blog before I publish the posts, states that I am wrong about Mooky being Blackpool's famous clown. She says that is in fact Charlie Cairoli. She even said "I just can't! Long live Charlie Cairoli! Look at this Mooky guy, he is just impersonating Charlie Cairoli! Sacrilege!" What I mean by Mooky being famous is that he is famous for the younger generation - in other words he was the clown as long as I was alive.... My parents grew up in Blackpool with Charlie Cairoli who did have beautiful long serving career of forty years at Blackpool Tower Circus. You learn something new every day! Thanks, mom!
Blackpool's Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is one of Britain’s favorite amusement parks and has fun for all ages. The Pleasure Beach was founded in 1896, and over one hundred years later it is still popular, being Britain’s most visited park. The park retains some of its historic rides, such as the Big Dipper, but stays updated with thrilling and modern rides like the Big One and Valhalla. Some of the Pleasure Beach’s most popular rides include:
- The Big One
- The Grand National
- The Big Dipper
- Wild Mouse
We went to the Pleasure Beach when we were little, and I was way too scared to go on the Pepsi Max, now named The Big One. At 235ft it is Britain's tallest roller coaster, and fastest. It runs at speeds up to 85 mph. While I loved roller coasters at that age (not so much anymore), this ride is just humongous, and a little bit too scary looking for me.
The Blackpool Illuminations
Now this attraction is one that you cannot miss. This was one of my favorite things about Blackpool, and every time we have visited it has been one of my priorities to find out whether we are going when they are on. They run from September through to the first week of November and sadly I’ve missed them almost every single time I’ve traveled to Blackpool since I was a little kid.
The Illuminations, like many attractions in Blackpool, has a history of over 100 years, the lights first switching on in 1879. This spectacle of lights is over 10 km long and lights up yearly with the Big Switch On. There are different light displays, decorations and scenes and are a lot of fun for everybody.
Stanley Park is another one of Blackpool’s landmarks, opening as the town’s main park in 1926. Recently, it won the prestigious award of the UK’s best park! Stanley Park has a mixture of everything. The park has lakes and woodlands with wildlife for nature lovers, elegant gardens for plant lovers and art deco buildings for architecture enthusiasts. It offers various sporting facilities as well as recreational activities for tons of family fun. The park also hosts the Blackpool Model Village which has been updated in recent months. My cousin used to take us here when we were younger.
When I was little, my grandmother used to take us here. She would call it the Fairy Garden. My sister and I would get so excited about going, and we would look out for fairy footprints, toadstools, fairy dust, and other signs of the fairies. My grandfather and grandmother used to get us excited and point out signs that they had been there early that morning.
Coral Island was always one of my favorite excursions with my grandparents and cousins. It is a pirate-themed arcade where the lights, sounds, and clinking of coins draw you in immediately. My cousin even works here now! There are tons of amusements, video games, and traditional arcade games in Coral Island, even some casino games. They have a few rides, including the Ghost Train (always a favorite of my sister and I’s). Blackpool does not always have the most fabulous weather, so it’s a perfect spot to stop on a rainy day.
Blackpool's Beaches, Piers and Promenades
Blackpool’s beaches are famous in England and stretch out quite far into the ocean. While the water might be a tad too cold for swimming, they are still a fun experience. The adjacent promenades and piers, North, South, and Central Pier are packed with more carnival games and amusements, including rides and live music. While the whole stretch is shut down in the off-season and Winter, during the summer, it is a hive of activity and fun. The Piers and promenade have also been a fixture in Blackpool since the 19th century and have been the spot for holidaymakers from all over England for decades.
Where to stay in Blackpool
The very best hotel in all of Blackpool is without a doubt, the Number One South Beach, just off Blackpool's South Beach Promenade. I stayed here when I visited England for my cousin's wedding, and it was, without a doubt, one of the best hotels I've stayed at. The staff are friendly and helpful, the breakfast is delicious, and the rooms are luxurious. Each room is tastefully decorated in a unique theme and has the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. It was literally like sleeping on a cloud. The Number One South Beach holds a five gold star review from Visit England and is the only 5-star hotel in all of Blackpool. To read more about my stay at the Number One South Beach, check out my review here: Where to stay in Blackpool: Number One South Beach.
WHEN TO VISIT BLACKPOOL
Majority of Blackpool's attractions like the Pleasure Beach and Illuminations are closed for the off-season. Blackpool is best visited in the Summer, when all the attractions are open and it has the best weather.
The town of Blackpool is perfect for a weekend getaway with the top sights in Blackpool visited easily in 48 hours. I hope that you will visit my family's hometown - it has provided us with many happy memories!
PIN THINGS TO DO IN BLACKPOOL