on November 14, 2012
We last visited Blackpool Tower 3 years ago. It closed after that for a 12 month refurbishment when it was taken over by the Merlin Group. It reopened last autumn, so we decided to visit again.Blackpool Tower bears a resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. You can't miss it - right on the promenade, the highest structure (apart from the Big One rollercoaster). It opened in 1894 and is 518 feet high. It opens every day at 10.00am but closing times vary depending on the time of year. You also need to check the website as the attractions inside all have different opening times too. Ticket prices vary depending on what you want to do - e.g. £12.00 to go to the top, £12.00 to see the circus, or if you want to do everything, the cost is £40 for adults and children. I thought this was extremely expensive and highly overpriced. We had annual Merlin passes, so got in free with these.We parked at the other end of the promenade and walked up to the tower. There is lots to see along the way. It doesn't have its own car park, and we found what we did to be the best option.First we went to Jungle Jim's Play Area. This is an indoor children's adventure playground themed loosely around a lost city. They have hourly slots. Get there at least 15 minutes before your slot. People queue up early, when you get inside you can see why. There are tables and chairs for parents to use while the children play, but not nearly enough. Unless you got in first, you had to stand. It was crowded and quite unpleasant. There is a bar where you can buy drinks and food. Again, queue up straightaway - service was extremely slow, people at the end of the line took nearly an hour to be served. Our 9 year old quite liked this play area, it is not very big though and half an hour was long enough for him. Beware of the "souvenirs" for sale in the centre area - very accessible for children to pick up and tempting, the owners use "pester power" a lot here.The Tower Circus was our next stop. There are 3 performances daily, you get a ticket for your chosen performance at the entrance - we picked 4pm. You do not get an allocated seat though, so you need to get there early to make sure of a good spot. Most people were in their seats by 3.15. From this point until the start of the show, they try and sell you programmes, candy floss, ice creams, light up toys etc.. These light up toys cost £7 each - we saw the exact same things outside the Tower on the promenade for £1.50! It really seemed like they would do anything to get more money from you here.The circus itself was very good. They have not missed a season since 1894, the interior with its red velvet dates from the early 1900's and is wonderful. There is a live band, acrobats, clowns and it is a great show. The finale usually involves Dancing Fountains. The ring is lowered into 4 feet of water and a magical finale happens. This circus is only 1 of 4 in the world that can still do this. This was the highlight of our visit last time and we eagerly awaitied it on this trip. It didn't happen. We were so disappointed. They made no mention of it, but we overheard a lady outside saying it was broken.The ballroom was another highlight of our last visit to the Tower. Unfortunately another disappointment here - it too was closed for a private function. I had checked a week before and it was open, so we didn't expect this.We joined the queue for the Tower Top experience. We waited in line here for an hour. First they show you a 4D film about Blackpool. It is very good and very interesting. Then you get inside one of the 2 lifts and go to the top of the Tower. The ride up is great - you can see out - wonderful views! At the top you can walk outside on the viewing gallery and get a 360 degree panoramic view of the town. It was dark when we were up there and the Blackpool Illuminations were on - so the view was really wonderful.There is an area at the top of the Tower with a glass floor and full length glass windows. When you step on there, you can see the ground all the way below. It makes for a bit of a wobbly feeling, but is fun too.We left after this, walked along the Golden Mile and enjoyed all the lights and Illuminations.We did have a nice day out at Blackpool Tower, but there were quite a few negatives. I think the day ticket price for all the attractions is grossly overpriced and definitely not worth the money. The ballroom was shut, the circus finale water feature was broken and I thought the adventure playground was disappointing. There is nowhere to buy decent food or a snack. Everything is burgers or fast food and most of the places looked a little grubby. Apart from the refurbished area at the top of the Tower (which is really good), I'm not quite sure what the 12 month refurbishment involved. Since the Merlin group took over, I also think the whole place has become so much more commercialised and lost lots of its charm. There used to be a charming, old-fashioned aquarium in the basement - this has been replaced by slot machines. The souvenir shop is the tackiest I have ever seen, and they lose no opportunity to try and sell you tacky souvenirs at the circus etc..We will go back again while we have the Merlin passes to see the ballroom, but after that I doubt very much I would return. The charm, nostalgia and old-fashioned fun at the Tower seem to have disappeared.
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