Embrace the British seaside tradition: why Blackpool is so much more than chips and stag parties.

“So where is it this half term?” I was asked several times “Vegas…Egypt…Dubai?”

“Blackpool” I answered with some trepidation in my voice, prompted by preemptive thoughts of neon lights, run down souvenir shops and rowdy stag parties (fyi I saw just the one stag party and was quite impressed by the groom’s Colonel Kentucky outfit). Oh and that freezing northern climate 🥶

Dusk on the North Pier #nofilterneeded

Give Blackpool a well-deserved chance folks. A lot of money has been spent on its regeneration over the last few years, and Blackpool has managed to give itself a facelift whilst preserving a lot of its Victorian seaside charm. The promenade is immaculate, following a £100 million regeneration project, and the town itself is an awful lot smarter than many other UK beach resorts that we have visited over the years.

My favourite part about Blackpool is how it retains its authenticity as a traditional British beach resort. Wooden Victorian piers with family show bars, copious fish and chip shops, donkey rides and traditional fairgrounds still stand loud and proud, all under the watchful eye of the iconic Blackpool Tower.

The Tower complex is a great slice of history in itself, and is like stepping back 125 years in time. In a world of modernity and innovation, we genuinely enjoyed embracing tradition as we visited the circus, the ballroom, and of course the top of the tower itself (each of which is worthy of a potential blog post in its own right).

At the top of the tower

We were blessed with dry, clear weather, and the nippy temperatures were easily combatted with hats, scarves and gloves (there was the odd hardcore pair of shorts spotted at times😱-clearly not on the bottom half of a southerner!). And whilst the temperatures were cold, the reception was consistently warm. Blackpoolians are a friendly bunch who are proud of their town (a positivity which disguises the fact that Blackpool has 8/10 of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods: a valuable lesson for those of us who are often negative about our own, more affluent towns).

So thumbs up to an autumn visit to Blackpool from The Griffalo trail. Absorb the bustling atmosphere under the evening illuminations, eat fish and chips with a wooden fork on the seafront and get sucked into the hypnotic effect of the arcade 2p machine 😂

Braving the ‘Skywalk’ at the top of the tower!

More information can be found at Visit Blackpool, Visit Lancashire, Visit England, Blackpool Piers and the Family Adventure Project. For accommodation we always use AirBnB and managed to secure a great caravan at the local Haven Marton Mere park. All of our activities at the Tower (and also Madame Tussauds and the Sealife Centre) were included as part of our Merlin Annual Pass, and was one of the primary reasons for our visit.

Legoland Windsor: military planning, amazing theming and dirt cheap hotdogs…

We visit theme parks on an almost monthly basis due to having Merlin Passes, and our six year old son’s favourite is Legoland Windsor. I will be truthful: out of all of the places that we visit, Legoland is the one that is the most consistently packed, so I thought that I would give you a few insider tips to help you to maximise your enjoyment of the day.

Friendly Lego family

I am renowned for my military approach to days out, and if there is anywhere that needs a ‘military style’ early start, then it is Legoland. First and foremost, you need to be there for 9:35 (I did warn you!). The front gates actually open at 9:30am as opposed to the advertised 10am, so whilst there are no rides open, you can find your bearings, have a peruse around mini land (which is the centrepiece Lego display that features Lego tributes to famous places) and place yourself at the gate nearest to the rides that you are aiming for. Oh, and 9:35 means that you miss the initial stampede in-there’s nothing to gain by being part of that one.

Outside the Haunted House Monster Party

Before you visit, make a note of the rides that are your ‘must dos’ and head towards those first. Ninjago and The Dragon are two that we tend to head for first, and the haunted house ride is quite fun (it’s not scary at all: it rocks and gives the illusion of going upside down along to an addictive soundtrack). You can get the app which gives you all of the queue times, however, we have found these to be inaccurate at times, with some estimates being up to 30 minutes longer than reality. We particularly find this with Laser Raiders and Fire Academy. In essence, spend a busy morning doing as many rides as you can, then as the park fills up (and it will!) use the time to admire the exhibits and fantastic theming. The 4D cinema is great and always easy to get a seat-they have a rotation of different films (Lego City 4D is the best), so you could even go in two or three times during the day. And if you sit in a seat that looks wet when you enter..don’t expect to stay dry (although our kids moan if they don’t get the full water spray experience!).

Land of Ningago, our son’s favourite theming

Very important: the hot dog trick! We always take a flask of boiling water filled with hot dogs and then make them up for lunch. It’s best to rinse the flask with hot water once before filling it up, and then fill it up again with the boiling water and hot dogs. We take sachets of ketchup and serviettes too, and whilst this sounds slightly overkill, there is something extremely satisfying about getting a hot lunch and saving in excess of £20 each time (and to keep mentioning our savings to each other in a smug way!).

If you have the endurance and really want to get on a lot of rides, waterproof up and go on a wet day. When we went a couple of weeks ago; a sunny Saturday meant that all of the theme parks were full to the brim and we got on a mere two rides in an afternoon at Legoland, yet when we went to Chessington on a showery Sunday, we must have easily got on 25 rides.

Finally, if you have the time, join one of the numerous park Facebook groups, I use the Merlin Annual Passholders group, and the advice that you can get is amazing. I would also recommend that the rides in the park are suitable for children up to the age of ten; all of the theming is suitable for all ages, but I have seen a couple of bored moaning teenagers on one or two occasions! So there you go: if you brave it, at least you are now armed with a little extra advice. We have genuinely had some great days at the park, but the best days are the best planned….!

My favourite ride!

#legoland #legolandwindsor #merlinannualpass #merlin #merlinattractions #familydayout #themepark #daysoutwiththekids