OF all the tourist destinations in the world Blackpool is hard to beat for the sheer variety of attractions on offer.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that Morecambe’s old rival has more visitors each year than the Taj Mahal or the Statue of Liberty.
As a lover of seaside resorts of all shapes and forms, I jumped at the chance to spend a few days’ holiday with my sister Leila and her family at Gran Cala caravan park near Blackpool.
My sister lives in Edinburgh and last week it was the Scottish Schools’ half-term break so almost everyone that we met at the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Tower and other attractions hailed from north of the border.
Leila’s children Holly, Jamie and Cameron couldn’t wait to explore the many delights of the resort.
Unfortunately My husband “Sparky” (Mark) was working so he missed out on the fun.
It was hard to know where to start with so many attractions on offer.
We had rain, high winds and the odd spell of sunshine but we went out no matter what the weather threw at us. One night wind was so fierce that it blew over some of the old tableaux illuminations on the promenade!
The Blackpool Tower is home to various attractions including the Tower Eye, Blackpool Dungeon, Tower Circus, Jungle Jim’s, Tower Ballroom and Pirate Adventure Golf. These attractions, as well as Madam Tussaud’s and the Sea Life centre, are promoted by a company called Merlin and the more tickets you buy, the bigger the discounts you can receive.
Our first visit was to the amazing Sea Life Centre. The children were fascinated by the enormous variety of aquatic creatures in the huge tanks but their main aim was to see the sharks.
They chanted “shark, shark, shark!” as we made our way through the vast chambers with their interactive features designed for children.
The kids completed a quiz on the way through and were highly delighted to receive a medal each for correctly answering all of the questions at the end of the visit.
Madam Tussaud’s was also on our list so we spent a couple of hours in this impressive attraction. I had expected to see waxy, unconvincing figures but was stunned at how life-like they were. This modern attraction was huge fun as visitors were allowed to pose with the waxworks and interact with them. It was one of the children’s favourite visits as there was so much variety in the displays. I was also delighted to see the recently made models of Eric and Ernie.
On Monday we decided to see some of the what the Tower had to offer. It was another wild and windy day so we went to the Tower Circus. It was a delight to sit in this sumptuous venue and soak up the atmosphere. A live band played as Mooky the clown, trapeze artists, acrobats, dancers, jugglers and other circus acts entertained the enthusiastic crowd. It was another new experience for the children and they loved it. Mooky the clown was a big hit – even with the adults.
The highlight for me was when the circus ring filled with water and huge jets shot into the air.
At the Tower we also had a look in the famous ballroom with its Wurlitzer organ.
The ballroom was packed with dancers so we stayed out of their way and had a dance in the gods. Another hot favourite with the kids was Jungle Jim’s in the Tower.
This enormous jungle-themed soft play area kept the children entertained for a full hour before our time was up and the next session started. They would have liked to visit the Tower Eye (glass bottomed top of the Tower) but the strong winds prevented this on the day we visited.
One of the most eagerly anticipated visits was to the Pleasure Beach.
We went there last Tuesday and managed to dodge the rain for most of the time.
Before entering the Pleasure Beach we were lucky enough to be shown around by Daniel Thompson who told the children about the brand new attraction – Nickelodeon Land – where they could see Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer and other children’s TV characters. Daniel also showed us some old promotional posters for the now derelict Frontierland site in Morecambe.
Sadly, the Thompson family, who own the Pleasure Beach, had to pull out of Morecambe in the 1980s.
He kindly ensured that we had our wristbands that afforded entry to all of the rides in the Pleasure Beach and Nickelodeon Land.
As we walked into the park the kids spotted Spongebob and were struck dumb. Once they’d got over the shock they chanted “Spongebob, Spongebob”.
From that point on the kids were on a high. They tried out some of the older children’s ride in the main Pleasure Beach area but it was Nickelodeon Land that captured their hearts.
This superb new area covers six of the Pleasure Beach’s 42 acres. It has 12 fantastic rides including Spongebob’s Splash Bash and Dora’s World Voyage.
We had lunch in Nickelodeon Land in The Big Pizza Kitchen. This contemporary restaurant with its all-you-can-eat buffet menu was particularly family friendly and the staff were delightful.
After lunch the children spent more time in Nickelodeon Land and ended the day with numerous rides on the Derby Racer, ghost train, carousels, an Alice in Wonderland ride and many more.
They left the Pleasure Beach with a Spongebob toy each and a rollercoaster carriage-load of happy memories that will hopefully stay with them forever. My sister and her husband John were also highly delighted with all of the visits and are already thinking of next year’s holiday.