Blackpool pleasure beach oddly enough sits inside the town of Blackpool, and as its name suggests is right by beach. Predating the first world war it is a classic "amusement" park (rather than a theme park) predating the disney reinvention of the genre. With modern rides in this classical surrounding, it offers a hint of what the past looked like.
Blackpool itself seems caught in a bit of a time warp, and the pleasure beach is no exception. Old style seaside ride attractions, as well as a pier with "Amusements" and rides can be found right nearby, with another pier and Eiffel inspired Blackpool tower just to the north in central Blackpool.
Blackpool has a small international airport with limited european destinations, Manchester airport has a wider selection of fights (including intercontinental) and has direct train service to Blackpool North station.
Intercontinental travellers who are not hiring a car are likely best served by train - Blackpool hosts 3 named stations (aptly named North, South, and Pleasure Beach) as well as other stations supporting nearby towns. Blackpool pleasure beach and blackpool south are on a separate line to Blackpool north. There seem to be more trains to the North station than the southern two, but if you're coming for the pleasure beach (or the water park) South is the one you probably want (if you're staying at the on site hotel or just coming for the day, Pleasure Beach is the stop for you).
However, none of these stations sit on any of the major mainline routes - taking a train on the West Coast Main line (Serviced by Virgin Trains, First Transpennine, Cross Country, and others) to Preston and then changing onto a Northern train into Blackpool will get you into the heart of the city - or direct to the pleasure beach if you're just coming for the day - this means from many of the major cities in the UK (including London, Glasgow, Edinburgh Birmingham and more) you're likely to only face one change in train. Manchester travellers may even be able to avoid that change.
Don't get worried about the mishmash of companies offering train service, British Railway tickets are usually issued irrespective of the actual carrier and a journey can involve multiple carriers on a single ticket - you may actually buy your ticket from another train company again making things even more baffling for the outsider.
Blackpool is also served by national express coaches.
Whilst Blackpool Pleasure Beach does offer an "on site" hotel, it is pricey - for my stay the hotel was looking for £400 for one persons 3 nights including 2 park and rides access…. Did I say pricey? I meant extortionate.
It is however right on the southern boundary of the park, with rooms overlooking the Big Dipper, Blackpool Pleasure Beach Express, and Steeplechase coasters.
A quick visit to Expedia will reveal countless hotels starting at around £20 per night (for 1) for 3 star accommodation in the middle of summer, and walking around town I saw hotels on the beachfront offering walk up prices from £12 per night. To put this in perspective, you could pay £15-20 or even more more for dorm room bed in a youth hostel in some parts of the country - its dirt cheap. Most of these Hotels are small family run affairs. I'm reliably informed that there are more hotel beds in Blackpool than all of Portugal!
Blackpool has a tram (I believe you Americans call it a trolley) running down most of the road by the beach, offering quick and easy connections to the park through most of the city's seaside/tourist areas. Its also the oldest currently operating tram system in the UK. From the central area (where Blackpool North station and the tower is) you're looking at £1.50-£2 each way.
If you're looking for some beach-time, there's a nice sandy beach but only when the tides out. When the tides in, the waves will be bashing against the sea wall, so if you have kids who are eagerly looking forward to some sandcastle time, make sure you check the tide times before letting them see the sea to avoid disappointment.
Sadly my phone gave out charge half way through the day, despite my efforts to be light use (I forgot to put on charge overnight), so I have some picutres, but not as many as I'd like - also of course meant I had to make do with some shots rather than waiting around for the right one. The images from outside the park were taken the day before.
Ticketing and upgrades taken for this visit
For this visit, I purchased online an "unlimited" wristband offering unlimited rides and entry to the park. The "gate price" of this is £29.99, but in the UK gate price is for overseas tourists who cant get online (and even then, as you'll discover later they don't have much of an excuse either).
The same pass is available for £25 online, and you can book as recently as the day before your visit for this price, or on the day through a mobile app. It includes entry to all rides except the go karts, a selection of shows, and the park itself
For those not riding, you can purchase just an entry "Pleasure pass" wristband for £6 - this does allow you to access a handful of rides including the blackpool beach express (mini train) and some mazes. This is perfect if someone in your company definitely will not be riding and is only escorting someone else (say a parent with a heart condition bringing some kids). There's also a seniors wristband that allows only entry to those rides where smaller kids can only ride with an adult.
If you want to experience how it was in "the good old days" of ride tickets, the Entry only "option is for you - you can purchase individual tickets to ride the rides after buying admission - its not a million miles away from the original disneyland system. However, if you're going to really ride, you'd have to be insane to do it this way - "tickets" for rides go for £1 each, the cheapest ride I saw was 2 tickets. Headline attractions like the pepsi max big one are 8 tickets.
If you change your mind you can upgrade to the full wristband inside the park, as well as buy tickets. I didn't see anyone without a wristband all day.
Blackpool has also come to the enlightened understanding that multiple tourist destinations in the same area don't actually compete with each other, but instead help complement and enhance the value of the city as a tourist destination. The Pleasure Beach, Merlin Amusements, and other tourist destinations have clubbed together to offer a "Blackpool resort" pass which allows entry into many attractions around the city - and good on them for showing this level of maturity.
When I visited Blackpool Tower the next day I was handed a voucher for a free "Pleasurepass" or £5 off a full wristband. Equally, the Blackpool guys handed me a voucher for a discount at the tower, as well as some other nearby attractions (Such as Ripley's believe it or not)
In addition, I also decided to try out their fast pass system which works on Qbot technology., just at the basic level this allows you to not stand in the queue (and instead go off and ride something else) for selected attractions, for £10. You can pay more to either half, or reduce to 10% your wait time (some rides are only available at the higher levels). You'll either need to leave £50 deposit, or a charge slip with your credit card number as a deposit - they'll give you the slip as you leave to make sure they cant charge you. I'll talk about my experiences with this later.
And seeing the "All you can eat all day" at selected food outlets for £14.50 I figured I couldn't go too wrong with this - given the park closes at 8pm I'd expect to pay more for 2 meals at theme park prices as it is, never mind the snacking in the meantime. I couldn't quite make 8pm, but I did manage a good sampling of what is available.
Right, on with the show
Hoping to miss the 10am charge for ticket collection, I arrived at the park at 10:30. Although the ticketing hall, when I found it (the "ticketing centre" sign leads to an information desk, from there there is no immediate sign as to where tickets are, they're around a couple of corners) I found the ticket hall packed. Not to worry as I was waiting for maybe 10-15 mins, and given my days jewellery, a pair of bright orange bracelets - left for food and drinks, right for the rides. I then headed over to the entrance where there was n a lot of confusion, despite banks of metal detectors I could only see a pair of guards on duty, making everyone go through just 2 detectors… annoying. Around to the right (passed it a couple of times due to limited signage) to grab the Qbot/speedie pass thingie I decided it was Bacon O'clock and entered the first of the days all you can eat, eateries - Embertons, who offer sandwiches, Soup and cake.
its right by a number of "sideshows" with skill games and video game arcades… I'm going to skip over these but there are a lot in the park.
The All you can eat pamphlet (and page on the website) is reasonably good at telling you where you can redeem your wristband - Embertons, Coasters, The Alpine Kiosk, Plaice, and the Big Pizza Kitchen), but not what its good for - it mentions "meal deals" and "cake" and whilst Embertons has some meal deals listed, I decided it was best to check "You can have anything you like" says the nice chap "Except the Neon (souvenir) Cups", So a hot bacon and cheese baguette it is, washed down with Pepsi.
At the end of the day, its a roll and meat. Its pretty hard to mess that up, and they don't. Basically, its subway with cake. Nothing wrong with that, but hard to make that stand out.
As I'm eating the Qbot buzzes a few times "Ride XYZ is now open"… I was a bit of a skeptic on these things, but thats a nice touch. Decide to go for the parks biggest attraction first - the Pepsi Max big one.
Its a bit of a walk away, but with 20 mins to go on the qbot thing until my time I start to head over: however Blackpool Pleasure beach is very compact, and I arrive a few minutes early, not that it would matter if you're late, the qbot just holds you at the top of the queue with no expiriy time.
The Big one
The recorded voice over in the station promises that we are about to become acquainted with "Vertical Reality"… A cheesy if dated pun that helps really sum up the Blackpool experience - cheesy and dated, but in the best possible way.
I found the ride operation choices rather strange. One train was used for the "regular customers", and "Speedy pass" customers had their own train with all but the first car sandbagged out… Seems like a missed opportunity to get the throughput up.
The ride itself I found rather dull. Its a Hypercoaster with both lap bars and a seat belt… Seemed a bit superflous to have both, but it was a feature that appeared on other rides in the park.
Although the Ride is indeed tall, Europes Tallest apparently, I found the experience rather… Dull. Its tall, its fast, but left wanting…. more.
Completed the coaster I look across the "Steeplechase". This looks interesting, thinks I.
Steeplechase is one of the park's classic rides contingent - remember the park is close to 100 years old now - this racing monorail horse coaster has three separate tracks to allow the horses to "race".
You (and potentially a partner - think about the possibilities for a classic romantic pose) Ride up and down several bumps. An operator helps you place the seat belt (didn't know horses had seatbelts…). Sadly today the middle lane was out of order, and strangely you are required to take your bag on the ride…
But other than the hard stop at the end (where your ankle is pushed into a steel bar, although padded its still quite discompfotable, so might be best to take your feet out of their resting place just before the station hits). The racing element of course makes it more fun.
Taking a look at the Qbot I book a spot on the Big Dipper, and head over to "infusion".
Infusion is a compact inverted coaster thats marketing gumpf promotes as being "the worlds only coaster completely over water"…. Now reading this on the website I was rather intrigued - knowing this place is across the road from the beach I was hopeful of some sort of coaster over the beach… Hardly… It just means that the ride is sitting over a former raft/flume ride's pond - this is an old park in a small compressed area, its only natural that stuff gets reused, and throughout the park there is pretty much no attempt to hide backstage or formerly operating areas - and probably no way they could given the limited space options.
This is also where I noticed something else that would begin to bother me throughout the rest of the day… although the Qbot was giving a 20-30 min wait for this ride, I waited a whole one cycle.
But back to the ride. like most inverted coasters this coaster gets more of its fair share of half loops and twists in its small space… It seems to excel at having the most impact in the least amount of space.
Its 12 O'clock and I'm hungry again. Time to for meal 2 and I'm headed to "Coasters" which promises an american Diner experience.
From the outside, coasters looks fun, if half finished. There are numerous booths that look like they've been salvaged and converted from old classic coasters… but thats where the theming ends. I think what has happened is the restaurant started outside the park (and remains of it can be seen on ocean boulevard) and they never finished the job.
Starting as I would everywhere "What can I get with the food wristband" "Oh everything but the sharing ribs" I begin to place my order only for the server to interrupt me - the boss is changing the TV channel and she's asking him to leave it on Eastenders (Soap). I hate for this to be a complete downer, but it didn't get any better. The meal sat in the window for a while whilst the server chatted away, and really wasn't worth waiting for - over salty in the frank and rather boring.
But the Qbot is buzzing, time to catch the Big dipper
This is for me where my day started to turn around as I began to understand the strengths of this park (but have to wonder if the park owners do). With the Qbot its straight on (although looking at the queue there's only 4-5 trains worth in the queue, not the 30 mins wait). Big Dipper is a classic wooden coaster all the way, from its Art Deco station to simple lap bar restraints. Although its not even the biggest woody in the park, it is the host for a guiness world record (1000 hours) and by the time you read this is 90 years old.
Big Dipper offers a long ride with dips and fast corners (right by the hotel - hope those windows are soundproofed), and although with all wooden coasters theres a few shakes in all the wrong places, it made me wonder that if in the race for the tallest/faster/shiniest we've lost something in coaster design - keep your loops, twists and vertical drops, nothing beats a classic woody.
With the widest smile I've worn in so long, I booked a spot on Avalanche on the Qbot, and headed to "The River Caves"
The River Caves
This is one of the granddadies of the modern Dark ride (an "Old Mill" ride as the nearby historic mark calls it). It offers riders a boat journey through china, The Land of the Dinosaurs, The depths of the Ocean, The jungles of Africa, the iNcas, the Blue Grotto, Egytpt, and Angkor wat. It dates back to 1905, so the images are an interesting throwback to a time when the passenger, and likely the designer, had never seen a single one of the places, and perhaps not even a photograph (of course this definitely applies to the dinosaurs).
The ride is quite pleasing, if not exactly thrilling - even in this modern world where Egypt and Capri (for the blue grotto) are a mere cheap flight away. Its particularly notable if you're here to be a bit of a "Ride Acheologist" as this is a ride that definitely wouldn't be constructed this way today - particularly some of the character features that would be considered racist today.
Time to head to Avalanche, although on the way I passed what had to be the smallest chair swing ride I've ever seen (this is coin operated).
Avalanche is one of the better themed rides in the park - Blackpool Pleasure beach is definitely an "amusement" park rather than a "theme" park - a theme is usually limited to a single ride or two with the exception of Nickelodean land. Avalanche has a wonderfully cheesy Swiss Alps themed station… and good news for QBot users - it seems SOP for those who have booked in to get the front seat.
(The monorail in the shot is SBNO)
The ride itself is a Boblsed coaster, the trains run down a half-pipe allowing the trains to find a natural run rather than a fixed track. This is like steeplechase a ride for lovers with riders riding 2 per car in a spoon-cuddle position.
Avalanche runs through several tight turns at high speed, with the low profile of the train/car design allowing a lot of wind in your face. with the lack of dips and inversions due to the design, this is a great ride for speed fans, and perhaps a good choice to introduce those who are a little unsure about coasters, or getting the kids into their first adult coaster (especially cos of the seating arrangements).
The only problem - too short!
Disney fans may also be interested in looking at the Alice ride, and may be amused that there are balloon sellers offering both Mickey Mouse and Spongebob balloons from the same bunch.
Spotting the Revolution nearby, I book in for that, and head into Nickelodeon land, having spotted a Disc-o-Coaster, a type I'd never tried before.
I'd never been on a Disc-o before, so wasn't too sure what to expect, You straddle onto a stool, with a fixed front, and then a back restraint raises up to hold you in place. For those of you who haven't tried one, add a spinning motion onto a non inverting pirate ship, and you're most of the way there. Quite enjoyable.
Looking for another classic woody I walked over to the Nickelodeon streak but seeing it had a huge queue I instead decided it was time to make up for the crappy hot dog and try Big Pizza Kitchen.
Big Pizza Kitchen
BPK offers an all you can eat pizza buffet, and is one of the eateries offering a full bar service (most of the others either offer beer, or none). A Food wristband will get you soft drinks and access to the buffet, which at £8 isn't exacty unfairly priced (mains at coasters were £6-7, and thats about what you'd pay for the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut outside the park plus drinks).
The food itself was quite nice, although service was confusing - it wasn't obvious where to collect your plate, and I had to get staffs attention to get it.
Given I've got all you can eat in the selected eateries anywhere, I felt no need to have more than just one overloaded plate, and headed over to the Revolution.
Revolution talks a big game, going through 360 degrees of something or other like a loop is a big deal… but all in all the ride is underwelming. The ride heads down a hill to gain speed, through the loop, and then up to a breaking area where the train is then fired back through the loop. Whilst taking a loop backwards was an exhilarating sensation… this ride simply doesn't stack up to other steel looping coasters - even your basic "Boomerang" offers more with its batwing.
Knowing that the queues are long on the streak, I booked it in and headed to the one coaster I've been wanting to ride all day - but isn't on the entry level Qbot system - the Grand National.
There's just one word for this Coaster. Bravo.
Grand National has a new Art Deco station (the last one burned down in 2004) that just makes the ride pop - its a mobius strip wooden racing coaster - mobius strip meaning that those who board the left platform will exit on the right - the design used is about as common as your average hens tooth (theres only 3 left!).
Much like the big dipper, the Grand National offers a great classic wooden coaster experience. Its bigger than the dipper, and also has the added fun of the racing element. Lap bars again ensure that the classic wooden feel is with you through the whole ride - a whole Kilometer (3300 ft) long.
Its worth coming to the park just to ride this…
My time on the streak hasn't yet come, so after wandering past the Wallace and Grommit ride (closed at the time) I spotted what looked like a Carosel, but with an older crowd…
Derby seems to run faster than your average carousel, and has no central pillar. There is a Carosel organ off to the side playing a combination of old classics (Oh how I do like to be beside the seaside) and more modern classics (Pretty Woman - Hearing that by Carosel Organ has got to be one of the weirdest sounds i've ever heard). Again, this is a great ride for couples, as the horses are double-saddled.
Normally the word Family Ride means a kiddy ride that is tough enough to hold a supervising adult.. But given the number of independent teens I saw riding this, It seems they have managed to get the right mix in this… And its not even new, its another one of the historic rides in the park.
I then checked out Valhalla, but sadly this flume is closed for maintenance all day, so now in time for the streak.
Although its painted orange, and named for Nickelodeon, the theming of this coaster really is… sad. Whereas the other rides in Nickelodeon Land have good integration with the Nick TV shows, being full of characters and styles of the show, this is just a classic coaster painted orange - there is no integration with any of the Nick Characters. It might as well be a billboard.
But moving past that, This coaster actually dates back to 1933 - using some elements that are even older, and was actually just called "Roller Coaster" until 2010.
Whilst not as fun as the Grand national, and I'd go as far as to say not even as much fun as the Big Dipper, it still stands as a great example of a classic woody - Dips, turns and lap bars.
Despite the reasonable sized queue not all trains were on the track… this seems again to be an odd choice.
At this point I decided a change in pace was needed as I'd ridden all the open headliners (except the Ice Blast, a launched drop tower - I don't really enjoy drop towers), so trying to decide what to do I booked in again to ride the avalanche. I walked over to the Go Kart track.. £5 to drive Gokarts when I'd paid £25 to get and ride everything else i decided was too much, so I decided to ride the Miniture railway - the Pleasurebeach express
Although I boarded at the sadly named "Burger King Station" (although to be fair, what is supposedly the UK's biggest Burger King is right next door), the Pleasurebeach express offered a nice train, but the fixed statutes need some work - the "natives Canoe" that a pre pc-era African statue was underwater for one. This is one of the few rides that you can ride without a wristband, so if you're escorting a kid, you can take a load off your feet. The "Central" station is right by Avalanche and Nickelodeon Land, so if the kids are being fussy and want something familiar to eat, it serves as a good link.
Still not yet time to ride the Avalanche, I checked out what at first seemed to be a plain spinner nearby - the Teatley tea Cups
Tetley Tea Cups
I figured that this was going to be a basic tea cup spinner - tea cups go round in a circle and then spin on their own axis… but then in the queue I noticed two weird things - first that there were two circles with teacups, and second that one of the circles had 3 cups, the other 4.
Rather odd I thought, but then I realised that he cups were actually being passed from one to the other, in a figure 8 like motion… I'd never seen this on this type of ride before.
This figure 8 motion adds to the car spin effects as you come through either side of the crossover… this was one of the most enjoyable flat spinners I've encountered…
PleasureBeachPass/Entry Only purchases may want to note that this was the cheapest ticketed ride I spotted at 2 tickets (or £2).
After riding the Avalanche again, I decided since I knew I was going to be doing a review, it was worth checking out "Plaice", meaning that there would be only two outlet in the all you can eat plan I hadn't tried - but I figured the Burger Kiosks couldn't be that different to Coasters.
On arrival I was disappointed - whereas I'd just walked past outlets offering brilliant looking shellfish, Plaice offers just fish and chips. Although the menu offers Haddock and Cod, the Cod wasn't available.
However, this all changed when I got my fish and chips… the batter was amazing, and the chips fantastic. The price, whilst high when compared to the rest of ultra-competative blackpool (£4.50-ish) is probably the best value feed in the park, and not a bad price for the UK in general. It was also very filling - I couldn't finish it.
I'd say it was on par with some of the best fish and chips I've had in the UK.
After one last ride of the Big Dipper and the Grand national, my stomach decided it was time to call it quits, so I returned to my hotel room with a massive smile on my face.
I can't help but but wonder if maybe Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a park that forgot what it does well in an attempt to try and keep up with the big boys - the modern rides when compared to Thorpe Park and Alton towers are frankly quite forgettable.
But what the park does do well is its history and historic rides. The Wooden coasters are fantastic examples of their type - especially Grand National being one of the few of its type. The Art Deco used in the older sections, and now being recreated in new areas (Like the new Broad Street eating area) is fantastic.
Should you visit - Absolutely, whilst your here you might as well do the newer coasters, but prioritise the historic rides - you won't regret it.
More work is needed. More signage on what the fast food pass is good for, where to get your plate at the Pizza Kitchen, etc. Coasters menu contradicts the outside menu - the one on the restaurant table says "turkey dog", the one outside just says "Hot Dog" - and that isn't to mention the inattentive staff at this restaurant.
Some rides seemed to be run at less than capacity for no reason at all except to make the queues longer to push people towards a "speedy pass", and speedy pass times were inflated.
However, the choice to include discounts to nearby attractions, even those owned by competitors is very welcome.
The All you can eat wristband is with it - especially if bought outside the park as I noticed signs in the park had an extra £5 tacked on top of the gate price. Picks are Embertons for a light snack, Big Pizza Kitchen when you're really hungry, and the Plaice for a mid size meal.
If you're not buying the wristband, Big Pizza Kitchen and Plaice still offers great value, however you will find a lot of other choices in the park - notable are a couple of "oyster bars" offering a range of cold, cooked shellfish including shrimp, cockles, and Lobster tail.
"Speedy Pass" Qbot system.
Getting notice of the rides opening, and begin able to queue twice (once physically, and once not) is definitely worth £10. However, I do have the awful feeling that the queue times at least one some attractions are being inflated. Now I'd like to believe that maybe this is because its a retrofitted system and relies on user input for times, but I can't shake the feeling its simply to try and upsell the shooter time versions - in fact some rides are only accessible on the upgrade options.
Having the entry only option is a nice addition, but unless you've got someone who isn't going to ride, you want ride wristbands. This does mean there is the annoyance in queuing of having to get it scanned, but if you combine it with the free entry option you can get at other attractions in blackpool, you have an option if late in the day you're thinking about returning and want to send someone in for a quick reconnaissance mission to see if the queues are worth it.
Should you go?
Yes, Yes and Yes.
If you're in the UK already, you don't have much of an excuse. Its easily accessible from most tourist locations, and staying in blackpool is cheap - so is eating. Its also the cheapest of the major parks.
If you want to experience what parks were like before Walt reinvented the industry, then this is the place to go. You get to experience the rides that existed in his day, and can even pay for your trip the same way.
If you're a classic coaster fan or a "theme park archeologist", with 3 woodies (4 if you include the blue streak), a steeplechase coaster and plenty of other historic rides, this is just somewhere that cannot be missed - you've got all of this in one place.
Blackpool contains a number of amusement style attractions, including a couple of mini amusement parks, an Eiffel inspired tower, and an indoor waterpark.
Many of the attractions are now owned by the city to give the city more control and ownership over its image, but then leased to major attraction operators.
This isnt a comprehensive list, just a few items.
Mini Amusement Parks
Blackpool is host to three piers - a rather humble sounding number, but 3 piers is actually a very high number. Two of these contain mini amusement parks which are worth a visit if only to understand what Walt Disney was trying to fix.
Each of these piers are fronted by a massive "Amusement" complex full of play and win games, followed by carnaval sideshow attractions, bars, eateries, etc. All but the northern pier then contain some rides.
South Pier is right by the pleasure beach, whereas North and Central Piers are in the centre of Blackpool - all are of course right by tram stops.
The Central Pier's rides run on a ticket system - £1.10 per ticket, with most rides needing 2 or more tickets.
South Pier is more complicated. The flat/Carnaval rides operate on a ticket system with similar number of tickets required (but only £1 each)... However the thrill rides (A "Skycoaster" giant swing, a bungie ball thing, and a few others) will cost cash, £8-15.
Just between South Pier and The Pleasure Beach you'll find Sandcastle Water Park, which is all indoors, and contains a watercoaster amongst other delights.
The Tower, and Merlin Operated Attractions
Merlin, operators of Legoland, and most of the UK's largest parks have a big presence in Blackpool. Whilst the city owns the attractions themselves, they do operate them.
As you can see Blackpool tower is approaching the end of its repainting job - 5 years into a 7 year project.
The Tower experience contains a forced 4D movie, followed by an elevator to the top. In line with other Merlin attractions its branded as "The Blackpool Eye" - even though it has nothing in common with other Ferris Wheel style "eyes".
The 4D movie can best be described as "Soaring over Blackpool", showcasing a number of sights and attractions in the greater Blackpool area... I kinda resented being pushed into it - you have to go through it to get to the elevator - and saw it as little more than a tourism commercial... which made me double resentful.
After the tower there's a gift shop, and if you've visited any of Merlin's other attractions you'll know exactly what to find - "I Survived" medals, cups with crazy straws, T-shirts, etc. Was disappointed I couldn't find a model of the Tower, seems like an obvious seller to me.
Not included in the ticket is a visit to the Soft Play area, the Blackpool Tower Circus, and the Ballroom. Although I didnt visit these, I did manage to sneak a peek at the theatre space (wasnt sure if it was the ballroom or the Circus space) and if you haven't seen a victorian era theatre before, its worth seeing just for the amazing architecture and fittings.
Also not included in the ticket is a visit to the Blackpool Tower Dungeons. The "Dungeons" concept is replayed in many of Britains' tourist centres. Part haunted house, part comedy show, and with an (optional) thrill ride (a mini drop ride) at the end, its definitely worth a visit (although those who are afraid of audience interaction may want to skip it).
A bit further away, Merlin also operate a branch of Maddame Tousards and Sea Life Aquarium. I'd never visted Tousards before, and was actually rather surprised how lifelike they look.
However, this particular branch is very UK centric, the first few Galeries being dedicated to UK TV stars, and also includes a recreation of the pub from UK Primetime Soap "Coronation Street". There are a handful of International names such as Michael Jackson, Shrek, Tom Jones, and the Beatles, but these are mostly the minority... International visitors will probably do better visiting one of the other waxworks museums in the chain. However it may just be about as close as you can get to the Queen (or Prince William, or his bride)
(to be fair, there's a Sea World on South Pier using the exact same ride system).
You obviously put a lot of work into this report, Chad, so thank you so much for posting, my friend.