Blackpool Illuminations

Tower Festival Headland, Blackpool, Lancashire FY1 1NE

"Can we go and see the lights?" Generations of families have grown up cherishing a visit to the Blackpool Illuminations, the fabulous fantasy light show that's been an annual fixture for a century now at the end of each summer season, strung into dazzling, kaleidoscopic pictures, celebrity characters, animals, star patterns and theatrical tableaux along six miles of the prom. The big switch-on is all part of the tradition, with a 20,000-strong crowd, plus famous faces and a full roster of entertainment taking place on the Tower Festival Headland on the opening night – which is always the Friday following the August bank holiday Monday. They come on at dusk every day, and stay on until late at night, drawing over three million visitors a year, whether it's for old favourites like the Haunted House or Teddy Bears' Picnic or for new-style attractions, from urban street-art lights to mesmeric strobe displays.. There's a serious amount of dedicated work behind the lights but there's still an innocence here that's hard to beat. Strolling or driving the Golden Mile – or even biking it on the annual Ride the Lights event – you're part of one of the UK's greatest free shows, with a tradition that stretches back to the glory days of Edwardian Blackpool.

The Illuminations  started in earnest in 1912, although “artificial sunshine” lights were first used in the resort as early as 1879, which – by the simple matter of powering-up over a million decorative lamps – cleverly manages to extend its season right into the autumn, attracting another 3.5 million visitors by the time Bonfire Night comes round. The switch-on is a tradition in its own right, with a long list of celebrities called on over the years, from TV casts (Dad's Army, Doctor Who) to pop stars (Geri Halliwell, Robbie Williams) and DJs (Chris Evans, Tony Blackburn);  in 1977, even a horse (Red Rum) got in on the act. Once the lights are on, they stay on every night for a very specific 66 days, which means that you’ve got until 4 November to experience Blackpool’s “Northern Lights” in all their glory.

Image courtesy of Visit Blackpool.

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