Church Street Blackpool FY1 1HL 01253 625 252
First opened in 1878, Blackpool's famous Winter Gardens was the most ambitious indoor amusement complex of its time, intended to entertain and inspire in equal part. A glorious confection of Victorian stained glass, decorated tiles, chandeliers and plasterwork, and featuring ballroom, opera house, ornate halls, conservatories, bars and restaurants, the Winter Gardens remained a much-loved destination for visitors and locals throughout the twentieth century. It's suffered its up and downs over recent years, but was acquired by the local council in 2010 and has subsequently seen a fair amount of restoration, especially the Church Street entrance, Rotunda and dramatic Floral Hall, with other parts to follow. To walk through it is an extraordinary step back in time – witness the over-the-top Spanish Hall Suite and Victoria Bar, or the barrel-vaulted Empress Ballrooom which has formed the backdrop to many party political conferences down the years. The 3000-seater Opera House, opened in 1939, forms part of the Gardens too – over the decades, showbiz stars of the era have queued up to perform here, as recorded on the Opera House 'Roll of Honour', from the likes of George Formby, Arthur Askey and Judy Garland to Shirley Bassey, Bob Hope and Ken Dodd (no, we're not quite sure how Peter Andre merits a place on the board either . . . ), and the eclectic shows and events programme is still going strong, whether it's wrestling bouts, musicals, Northern Soul all-nighters, rock gigs or stand-up comedy shows. You can learn more about the history on occasional guided tours (details on the website or ask at the tourist information office).
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