Blackpool

Blackpool

Britain’s biggest, brashest and most famous resort manages to be both saucy and sophisticated – and offers one heck of a surprise for first-time and regular visitors alike. Many of the attractions are so well known they hardly need enumerating –­ seven miles of wide sandy beach, an iconic tower to rival Eiffel’s in Paris, Europe’s best collection of thrill-rides at the Pleasure Beach, a trio of classic Victorian piers and the autumn-night spectacle that is the Illuminations. But Blackpool has more to it than mere resort antics, from chic boutique accommodation to Edwardian dance halls, and fine art to fine dining. Whether it’s a ride on a vintage seafront tram, oysters and champagne under the amusement park’s original Big Dipper or a day with the family in Britain’s largest indoor water park, there’s always something exciting to do. And when night falls, there’s no mistaking the unique Blackpool vibe – raucous and racy, yes indeed, but also fun and flamboyant, as befits the UK’s most boisterous resort.

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Eat and Drink

Yes, all right, you can have fish and chips, and very good fish and chips at that – actually, if you stacked all the fish and chip shops in Blackpool one on top of each other they would reach to Mars, and that's a scientific fact. And there are pizzas, burgers, kebabs, roast dinners and all-day breakfasts galore, much as you might imagine. But Blackpool also does real cuisine in some rather fancy places, and if you're looking for good food you no longer have to leave town. The resort is in Lancashire – not everyone knows that – and many local restaurants are passionate about sourcing regional stuff, whether it's crumbly traditional cheese, Fleetwood fish, Goosnargh ducks and chickens, Bury black pudding or just good old Lancashire potatoes (best in Britain according to those who know). Blackpool's pubs and bars meanwhile are legendary and – effete southerners beware – often take a bit of getting used to. It's a land of "lads" and "ladies", bouncers and banter, with karaoke, dancing and industrial-strength drinking pretty much compulsory. There are quieter, more sophisticated venues, and champagne and oysters for those who want them, though frankly why bother, when any right-thinking partygoer could be clutching a distressingly empty alcopop and bellowing "A-ga-doo-doo-doo", minus most of their clothes, at four in the afternoon.

Shop

Ukelele-strumming, double-entendre master George Formby had something else on his mind when he sang of his "little stick of Blackpoool rock", but he sure picked an emblematic souvenir of this greatest of traditional seaside resorts. Rock-candy in its myriad guises is everywhere, and not always shaped into sticks either – George could go straight into single-entendres were he alive today. Add candyfloss, Kiss-Me-Quick hats, scarves, buckets and spades, beach balls, windmills and novelty key-rings and you've covered most of the shopping possibilities along the famous Golden Mile. Main shopping centre is Houndshill on Victoria Street, with all the major retailers and a food court. Other than that, there are a few boutiques and speciality stores around, but Blackpool at heart – minus the seaside – is basically a small Lancashire town with limited fancy shopping.

Things to Do

You'll not be bored in Blackpool, we can promise you that. It's a bit like Vegas, in that everything to see and do is the biggest or the best in the country, sometimes the world (and, like Vegas, what happens in Blackpool stays in Blackpool). The beach, for example – not just a bit of sand, but seven miles of it, backed by a sparkling promenade. Or the Pleasure Beach amusement park, with its best-in-the-UK rides and attractions. Or the iconic Blackpool Tower, or the six-mile stretch of over-the-top Illuminations. You get the picture. Many of the attractions are unashamedly populist and popular, waxworks to waterparks, and families are well catered for, whether it's a traditional end-of-the-pier arcade or a high-tech rollercoaster ride you're after. Entertainment is in a similar vein – not necessarily low-brow (there are some fantastically sophisticated seasonal shows and concerts) but definitely for the masses who are out for a good time. Venues range from the historic – like the dramatic Winter Gardens or the vintage pier theatres – to the rambunctious, with perception-challenging shows like Funny Girls just as much Blackpool as the stag and hen antics along the Golden Mile.