Next up on our tour of the UK's theme parks is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, one of the country's most iconic and long-established amusement park resorts. This year Blackpool Pleasure Beach celebrates the anniversary of four flagship rides - Derby Racer's 60, Revolution's 40, Icon is one and The Big One's still terrifying everybody at 25 (I remember going on it as a teenager).
Incidentally, the 60 year old turbo-charged carousel Derby Racer currently has its own Daddy & Dad horse! We're SO honoured. Speaking of which, if you do visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach after reading this, please take a piccy with our horse and tag us in on Instagram or Facebook!.
Blackpool is in Lancashire, up on the north-west coast, about an hour north-west of Manchester and Liverpool.
The Pleasure Beach is known for its ten huge rollercoasters and unique thrill rides. But it's also a nostalgic time-machine - a living museum of historic amusement rides, some still in operation and looking as good as new after almost 125 years.
Before we take a look at the rides and accommodation, we were lucky enough to meet Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Director of PR, Robert Owen for a fascinating chat (over a doughnut and a cuppa, of course) about the amusement park's 125 year history and achievements. He's very passionate about the park and its record-breaking attractions...
"Blackpool Pleasure Beach was established in 1896 and has been managed by descendants of the Thompson family for 123 years. It's home to some of the UK's most innovative rides and rollercoasters, not least The Big One, which after 25 years still stands as the tallest and one of the fastest rollercoasters in the country, and Icon, Britain's first 'double-launch' rollercoaster, made by German engineers Mack Rides." (more about Icon later, by the way - it's amazing!)
Without further ado, here's how we got on...
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a traditional seaside amusement park - surrounded by residential streets and hotels. Unlike other theme parks we've visited this year, it's relatively modest in size at 42 acres (Disneyland Paris spans 5,500 acres) but despite its size, Pleasure Beach packs in hundreds of attractions and several restaurants and theatres like nowhere else we've ever seen. It's a mixture of old and new and it's multi-level - walkways cross above and beneath rides and rollercoasters - all intertwined and weaving around one another. It's very immersive... prepare to spend a lot of time looking up in awe!
I should also mention, the park's modest size means zero complaining about achy legs! We found we could walk right from one end of the park to the other in about 15 minutes.
Believe it or not, this (above) was the incredible view from our hotel window at the Big Blue Hotel. It's spectacular. We'll tell you about the hotel a bit later.
In addition to the thrill rides and big rollercoasters there's also a large area dedicated to family-friendly rides and characters called Nickelodeon Land. It's home to two (arguably three) rollercoasters of its own, several family rides, a log flume and a character theatre. The park also has the world's only Wallace and Gromit indoor ride - Thrill-o-matic - clearly aimed at grown-up kids in their 30s as Tom and I went on twice without the kids. It's brilliant!
It would take me all day to mention every ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach - there are so many! So, I'll talk about our favourite four!
Lyall - The Big One
The scariest rollercoaster we've ever been on (quite an accolade), The Big One is so high and fast, there's nothing else like it. The Big One celebrates its 25th anniversary this year - I was 14 when it first opened and it's just as insanely huge and fast today.
After the initial climb and enormous first drop (65m almost straight into the sea) it's a lot of fun, whizzing carelessly through the sky at 85 mph with huge grins on our faces. We sat right at the front - nothing prepares you for 85 mph horizontal rain and the coastal wind at 65m in the air! Honestly it makes you wonder why seagulls bother! #SOAKED
Dad - The Grand National
Dad's favourite ride is The Grand National. It's actually a grade 2 listed building, built in 1935 - just before WW2! The Grand National is the UK's only racing rollercoaster. For something as old as Grandma Audrey it is admirably fast and thrilling.
Tom's a massive woody fan (oi, naughty) or actually a huge fan of anything constructed from wood and he is always amazed at the planning and shear amount of wood that goes into a structure like this.
Interesting fact - despite appearances The Grand National is actually one single track that loops around twice. The train leaves one station, does a circuit and arrives at the neighbouring station, then does another circuit and arrives back at the original station, giving the illusion of two neighbouring tracks. It's called a Mobius loop. Anyway Tom and the boys LOVED it but I personally found it a little too bumpy - Richard's elbow decided to collide with my head at least twice during our race. Enormous fun, none-the-less!
Richard - Icon
'The Gold One', as Richard calls it - Blackpool Pleasure Beach's proud new (giant) baby is Icon - the UK's first 'double-launch' rollercoaster, made by renowned German rollercoaster engineers Mack Rides. By 'double-launch', I mean the train launches out of the station at 85 kph, loops and whizzes around 600m of track, then launches back up to full speed for another 600m. It's a long ride!
Notably for me (as a rollercoaster geek), Icon's track has been meticulously laid out around existing rollercoasters and scenery - it dips under, over and through other rides several times, giving the thrilling illusion you're about to collide with other rides and also making it feel extremely fast.
Daddy - The Ghost Train
Built in 1930 and the first ever ride called 'Ghost Train' in the world - this is the original! Even though it's a little lost on Richard and Lyall (who think 1995 is ancient history, let alone 1930), I love the nostalgia of experiencing the same thrills, twists and bumps as a father and son 90 years ago. I can just imagine them in their suits and hats, smoking a pipe (the father, not the son) on the way round. They must have been amazed.
The layout and some of the 'scenes' inside the Ghost Train have been modernised during its 90 years to include an excellent scene from the Exorcist (again - totally lost on the boys) and quite a frightening boo from a werewolf that took us all by complete surprise.
Forget boring health and safety - you actually do need to keep your hands to yourself on the Ghost Train as your car bashes through big wooden doors at full speed and swerves within inches of walls - it is as exciting as it sounds!
The Big Blue Hotel
Blackpool Pleasure Beach has two hotels, The four star Big Blue Hotel and the brand new Boulevard Hotel (which looks very smart indeed). We stayed at the Big Blue Hotel in a family room. It is EXCEPTIONAL!
If you're a keen Daddy & Dad reader you'll already know we're sceptical about 'family rooms'. In the past we've been treated to two singles and a camp-bed, a small double and a single, even two single beds. Also there's nothing quite like a tiny glass of wine (from a glass from the bathroom) in the pitch dark after the boys have gone 'to sleep'. Sleep? Yeah right. First world problems, as they say!
Well, Big Blue Hotel is a big blue exception! Their family rooms are spacious, fresh and modern with a king bed and bunks in a separate area. There's climate control, a big TV and a contemporary bathroom with an actual bath. Proper wine glasses too. There's even a PlayStation to keep the kids occupied with twin TVs at the foot of each bunk. Here's a video clip of Lyall showing off the room for you 👇🏼
I honestly don't think we could recommend the Big Blue Hotel more - we even extended our stay to a second night (at our own cost, the first night was included in our blog trip) because it was so comfortable and fun. Breakfast was lovely, too - included in the price of a night's stay.
The icing on the cake was the view from the room. From our window we were treated to a spectacular view of at least six enormous rollercoasters, all twizzled and tangled around one another. It was fantastic.
During our visit to Blackpool Pleasure Beach we watched Utopian - the latest production from Hot Ice. Without exaggeration, it's the best show of its kind in the UK. Think River Dance, on ice, with the occasional trapeze artist thrown in for good measure and you'll be close.
Amazingly, tickets start at just £5. We actually think it would be worth a road-trip up to Blackpool just to watch Hot Ice. It's incredible!
Pleasure Beach souvenirs
We love a souvenir. We always come home with something for the fridge, wherever we go! At Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you can create and order your own personlised souvenirs from electronic souvenir points in various locations across the park. Check out our Daddy & Dad fridge magnet (pronounced 'mag-ney' in a dodgy french accent in our house, by the way).
That's about it! We had a brilliant time at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Unlike its big rivals - Alton Towers, Chessington, Thorpe Park and Drayton Manor which are sprawling and full of different themes, Pleasure Beach knows exactly what it is - a big, fun seaside amusement park and it does it REALLY well!
The rides, especially the really old wooden rides are magical. The big, twisted rollercoasters are immersive and thrilling. The hotel is excellent. The Hot Ice show is spectacular. You know, I'm not sure we're allowed to pick favourites from our theme park reviews, but Blackpool Pleasure Beach is going to take some beating! We can't wait to go back.
If you'd like to visit Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you'll find their website over at blackpoolpleasurebeach.com.
Disclaimer time! Here at Daddy & Dad we work with family-friendly brands and businesses to supplement our core content. Park entry, tickets to Hot Ice and our accommodation was provided by Blackpool Pleasure Beach in return for our impartial blog feature. As always, all the opinions expressed in our reviews belong solely to us. We'd like to say a huge thank you to Robert, Alejandra, Richard and the team for making us feel so welcome. x
If you've enjoyed our Blackpool Pleasure Beach review, you can find our other theme park features in our Theme Parks category by clicking here.