When most people think of Blackpool, they think of towers, flashing lights, sticks of rocks, and penny arcades. How can you not? The Blackpool tourism industry is largely dependent on the region’s image as the Las Vegas of the North West, and has based much of its advertising on the numerous casinos the town has to offer, the bright lights of the Illuminations, and the thrills and spills of the Pleasure Beach, with the occasional mention of the Zoo on the outskirts of the town. While this has succeeded in making Blackpool one of the most important tourist venues in the country, it’s far from all the town has to offer; the town of Blackpool itself has much more entertainment for the casual visitor than just the Tower and Pleasure Beach. Whatever it is, Blackpool is certainly doing something right; the town is the fourth largest settlement in the North West (behind Manchester, Liverpool and Warrington), and is one of the oldest, the towns that would later come together to be known as Blackpool being listed in the Domesday book. Named after the fact that the peaty ground nearby turned the water in local streams black, the town has a rich history stretching back hundreds of years.
However, Blackpool wouldn’t become well-known as a tourist hotspot until the nineteenth century, when Lancashire millworkers would take their holidays there. The holiday industry rapidly became Blackpool’s strong point, boosting its economy and allowing for a massive amount of growth and development that has allowed the town to near-constantly reinvent itself for the past hundred or more years. It’s no coincidence that the town itself reputedly has more hotel and B&B beds than the whole of Portugal. As such, it’s also a popular choice for business delegations, meetings and conferences; a number of political Party Conferences have been held at Blackpool, as well as the meetings of the NUS and other Union organisations.
Most people view the tram system as an antiquated novelty, useful only as a quick way of hopping between the piers. However, the town’s tram network is a full 12 miles long, and stretches from Starr Gate to the nearby resort of Cleveleys, ending up in Fleetwood, should Blackpool itself not offer enough for you. For the nostalgic among you, there are restored vehicles doing the rounds alongside new, fast and streamlined models designed to offer the fastest and most efficient service possible. During the Illuminations season, extra novelty trams are added, offering you the chance to see the light show in a new (or rather, an old) and quirkily original way.
Away from the beach, there’s a whole world of family-friendly fun that harks back to the old days of Blackpool. The Zoo, for example, is located only a few miles outside of town and plays home to over 1,500 animals (one of the largest collections in the country). Similarly, it can be fun to have a wander around the local Stanley Park, have a picnic, or enjoy one of the town’s many tea-rooms. While this might be a little too sedate for a lot of people, it can be a very entertaining (and cheap) way to while away an afternoon or so.
However, Blackpool has a lot in common with less old-fashioned coastal towns too. Like Brighton in the south of the country, Blackpool is known for being extremely gay-friendly, a reputation that many coastal towns share. While this has been the case historically since at least World War II, in recent years a number of LGBT nightclubs and bars have sprung up all over the town, as well as gay-targeted radio stations. As such, it’s become rather a hotspot for hen-nights and other such events, and its nightlife is widely regarded as being one of the town’s major selling points. At the end of it all, and no matter why you come to the town, it’s impossible to get away from the fact that Blackpool is a coastal town at heart, and even if you took away the things that make it famous – the tower, the lights, and all the shine and glitter that goes with them – you’d still be left with great views of the sea, and a nice, nostalgic experience that harks back to the glory days of British holidaymaking.