Manchester Stories and Tips

Blackpool: Fun, Sun and Donkeys

Blackpool Donkeys Photo, Blackpool, England

We had no particular plans for today but had half a tank of gas in the rental car. Since we'd prepaid for it and could take the car back to Avis empty, there was no sense in wasting it. On impulse I suggested Blackpool. Blackpool is not a place I ever really fancied going. Think a cross between Coney Island and Las Vegas! It was a small village with 7 miles of great beach and in the Victorian era, it's popularity exploded. It's now a very famous and popular vacation resort city filled with amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, and other exhibitions and attractions guaranteed to exhaust both your spirit and your wallet! Still, it is only about an hour's drive and it's a sunny, windy day and hey, it's got a tower to go up! Graham loves the place and never thought it was some place that I would suggest so he was pleased!

I was astonished at the long streets of terrace houses where every single one on both sides of the streets had signs outside advertising that they were hotels and guest houses. There are hundreds of places to stay from small Bed and Breakfasts to 4 star luxury hotels. All the streets are very densely built with houses and shops and there's a pedestrian shopping precinct around the tower which is modeled generally after the Eiffel Tower. We parked near the Tower on the brash and sassy Golden Mile. This part of the miles-long sea front Promenade is probably the tackiest part, lined with souvenir shops, casinos, a pirate themed leisure center and various exhibitions. There's also a Sea Life center with a great shark tank.

Blackpool Tower was built in the late 19th century and the building also houses an elaborate ballroom, a small aquarium, and now, a circus. There are other games and play areas for kids and it offers entertainment at night for the grown ups. The entrance fee is quite steep at £12.50 per adult but is all inclusive. However, we were really only interested in the tower and the ballroom. The viewing platforms for the ower range from 380 - 420 feet depending on the platform you go onto. The outer decks are enclosed with iron railings and mesh wire so no chance of falling off. Views up and down the sea front and around the area can go for miles on a clear day. There is also a section with a glass floor that you can walk on if you have the nerve! Yes, I did! It's a queer feeling though. You know, logically, that it will hold you but your body says uh uh! That's glass and it's going to crack! It doesn't of course.

You can buy certificates in the little shop to declare that you've either walked on it or chickened out. The clerk there seemed to be having some difficulty spelling names and going past any speed over slow motion! The ballroom is very elaborately decorated. There's a big dance floor and the music is provided by a guy on stage playing a large white Wurlitzer organ. Couples both professional and amateur can dance and there's lots of tables to sit and watch with a drink from the bar. The ceilings are ornate to the point of being overdone but it really is something to see!

The main drag along the sea front is the Promenade. It's all lit up at night with neon and lots of lights strung across the roads, the "Illuminations" get even more elaborate in the fall. Down on the beaches, children can go on donkey rides and there are horse and buggy rides for hire and old tram cars that traverse the front from the North to the large South side Pleasure Beach fun fair and amusement park. We didn't go in there but it contains one of the scariest looking roller coasters I've ever seen!

We walked along the windy front and spotted a Doctor Who exhibit. Both of us being fans, we couldn't pass that up and it was very good, too! Lots of costumes and models of the monsters and aliens from across the 40 year history of the BBC series. There was a replica of the original Tardis interior and there were displays of Cybermen and Daleks, two of the most popular and menacing villains in the show's history! There was also a speaker that made your voice sound like a gravely metallic Dalek! There was Bessie, an antique roadster driven by one of the Doctors and a model of K-9 the robotic dog. Fabulous!

More walking, more pictures, and of course, you can't leave Blackpool without a couple of sticks of Blackpool rock, the famous rock candy with "Blackpool" visible right through it! We drove down the whole "golden mile" on the way out to get a closer look by the Pleasure Beach which, by the way, is only open seasonally from March until November. It's got rides, entertainment shows, bowling, skating, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and the water park. The actual beach at that end of the city looked quite nice with high grassy dunes hiding much of it from the road. The seaside is a popular place for holidays and the determined will even sit out on their lounge chairs in a brisk wind or a light rain! Along the beach we saw a huge mirror ball and a replica rocket from the old series the Thunderbirds. There's a large water park on the south end as well. The trams first appeared in the late 1800's and travel along the seafront for about 12 miles from one end to the other. Will i go back again? I suppose I might, even if just to see the Zoo and a bit more of the sights. Never say never!

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