Blackpool is what it is. A little rough around the edges, but unashamedly fun. A city of dated glory, think garish amusements, ballrooms and beach accompanied by the sound of the ice cream van. With three piers, 42 acres of rides and 6 km of illumination, Blackpool is not lacking in traditional holiday-by-the-sea attractions. Although the famous seaside city is often thought of as tainted, and could probably do with a lick of paint and a little investment, it is the second most visited city in the UK (after London), welcoming nearly as many tourists annually as the altogether completely different Barcelona. Not all fish and chips and fake tan, Blackpool is certainly cheap and cheerful. Embrace its optimism, which makes Las Vegas look dull in comparison.
Blackpool has architectural icons, but not a lot of architectural character. It's impossible to miss the city's tower - a poor man's version of the Eiffel tower, complete with ballroom and museum at its base. The iconic 158-metre (518ft) wrought-iron structure opened in 1894, and September 2011 will see the opening of the brand new Tower Eye observation platform and 4D cinemas. Plenty to see, therefore! Don't miss Blackpool illuminations, which shine for 60 days of each year starting from the beginning of September. Blackpool was the first municipality in the world to have electric street lighting back in 1879, and the legacy lives on today with 5 miles of The Promenade illuminated with thousands of electric and neon lights each year. The big Switch On of the lights is a major event in the Blackpool calendar, broadcast live by BBC radio 2!
Boasting 6 million visitors annually, Pleasure Beach is Blackpool's ultimate attraction. 42 acres of rides plus the all new Nickelodeon Land, ice show, a skate park, a golf course and even a luxury hotel, Pleasure Beach is a city within a city - a concentrated version of what makes Blackpool great! Walk along the Promenade alongside Blackpool's long, sandy beach or rent a bike from the city's bike share system and fight the coastal gusts. If visiting with kids, check out the city's SEA LIFE Centre or Blackpool Zoo. Sandcastle Waterpark is the UK's largest indoor waterpark, complete with wave machines, slides and rides. Last but not least, Blackpool is home to England's second Madame Tussauds - the famous waxwork museum!
September is the perfect time of year to visit Blackpool. Main attractions will be less busy, and you'll also be able to make the most of the city's illuminations. Trains from London take around 3 hours and can be expensive, so think about booking in advance. You can get cheaper fares to Blackpool's Northern neighbours, with direct trains to Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds.
Avoid spending too long in Blackpool, which is better as a daytrip destination. If you want to stay nearby, consider basing yourself in Liverpool.
You will undoubtedly find a host of good restaurants and cafes to try, but better off sticking to the classic British beachside holiday diet of fish and chips and candy floss. Alternatively visit the art deco café in Stanley Park, which serves light bites and sandwiches throughout the day.
To bring back
Bring back candy floss and sand in your shoes, a wind-swept, sea-spray perm and good old-fashioned memories of a classic British beachside holiday.