When should we go
The nights may be drawing closer, but autumn finds copper-colored Blackpool bathed in “artificial sun”. The world-famous Blackpool illuminations along the promenade (1) have been extended this year until January 3, building on a tradition that began in 1879, when arc lamps replaced gas lamps for bring the joy of winter. In this context, the Lightpool Festival returns for the next two weeks with large-scale light installations and screenings in various venues.
Illuminations aside, the kiss-me-quick seaside resort continues to reinvent itself, shaking up its image of debauchery with new places to eat, stay and party. To learn more, visit visitblackpool.com.
Where to stay
The North Pier is a good base and there are options to suit all budgets. The Premier Inn North Pier (2) boasts a central location, accessible, family rooms, and an all-day restaurant. Doubles from £ 79 room only (premierinn.com).
An interesting new mid-range option is Art B&B (3) (artbb.org), a boutique hotel near North Pier, where artists from across the UK have designed bespoke in-room fixtures.
For example, neon “Now You See It” is inspired by magical illusions, while “Carnesk” tells the story of Blackpool’s showgirls through instants. Doubles from £ 100 room only (new breakfast café-bar will open in 2022).
To work out, the Boulevard Hotel (4) (boulevardhotel.co.uk) is part of the Pleasure Beach complex and offers contemporary rooms overlooking the seafront or Pleasure Beach. Doubles from £ 175 B&B.
How to get around
The central district is very accessible on foot with train connections arriving at the twin stations, north (5) and south (6) at either end of town, or secure parking at the central West Street car park (7). It’s best to explore the entire length of the 12-mile streetcar ride; a one-way ticket costs £ 2.10. Best value is a day pass for unlimited travel with adult / child prices £ 5.20 / £ 2.50 (blackpooltransport.com/saver-tickets). Buy in advance online for discounts.
Start the day
Upside Down café (8) (upsidedown blackpool.com) is an independent cafe open from 10am with hipster beers, houseplants for sale, and a vegan or gluten-free menu, including chickpea pancakes and heaps leaven.
Do not miss
Illuminations dominate the waterfront in autumn, but public art flourishes in Blackpool all year round, with Call of the Sea (9), a tanned mermaid with a message on climate change, now installed in Talbot Square, as well as pop-up installations in the market.
The city’s artistic hub is the Grundy Art Gallery (10) (thegrundy.org), which this fall celebrates 110 years of contemporary art exhibitions.
His latest is Not Without My Ghosts, a touring exhibition from the Hayward Gallery that explores art inspired by the spirit world; open Tue-Sat, 11 am-4pm, free entry. Blackpool channels a thrill of Las Vegas glamor with crowd-pleasing shows. The hot ticket remains Funny Girls, the burlesque drag show at Funny Girls bar (11) (funnygirlsshow.co.uk, Wednesday-Sunday from £ 12).
The Historic Winter Gardens (12) (wintergardensblackpool.co.uk) also host regular events. Look for the statue of comedians Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in the foyer, and a tribute to the Rolling Stones, who were long banned from Blackpool in 1964 after their concert at the venue’s Empress Ballroom ended in a riot.
The Old Electric (13) (theoldelectric.co.uk) is the city’s new community art space for quirky events and creative gatherings.
Time for a drink
The all new Spyglass Bar (14) (spyglassblackpool.com) has the right to thrill for aperitifs. It’s part of the Sands Venue Resort Hotel, Blackpool’s first five-star hotel, slated to open in fall 2022, and features spy memorabilia, showing classic Bond films across the bar. For a more laid-back vibe, The Beach House near North Pier (15) (beachhouseblackpool.co.uk) offers sunset cocktails with sea views.
Wok Inn (16) (michaelwanswokinn.co.uk) is a lively noodle bar with an excellent pan-Asian menu, ranging from pad thai to chicken katsu curry, all served street market style. The decor of the bathrooms is as interesting as the food. Dinner only, closed on Mondays.
Take a ride
Soak up the atmosphere of the Neon Laser Golden Mile after dark on the Heritage Tram Tour. These 1920s trams glide through the starry night, enjoying the sweep of illuminations as well as other themed excursions. Get on the tram stop in front of Pleasure Beach near South Pier (17) (blackpoolheritage.com) for the hour-long journey. Pre-bookings (weekend) adult / family £ 10/25.
The south promenade, beyond Pleasure Beach, is a quieter section for strolling by the sea. But it is also home to The Great Promenade Show, a 2.5 km public art trail with facilities inspired by the sea. history of Blackpool. It centers on the mirror ball (18) recently restored by artist Michael Trainor. Then visit nearby Notarianni Ices (notarianni.co.uk); he has been serving his vanilla ice cream as a family recipe since 1928.
The Bank Bar & Grill (19) (thebankblackpool.com) is a modern and friendly bistro combining British favorites with an Italian touch. Think pizza, pasta, and seafood favorites like breaded fish and chips. There are also brunches and vegan / vegetarian options. Open Wed-Sun.
The quintessential Blackpool experience is having afternoon tea at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom (20) (theblackpooltower.com), eating cucumber sandwiches under the mirror ball on the dance floor as one see it on tv Come dance strictly. Retirees cut a carpet on the dance floor, calorie-laden pastries are gleefully devoured, and the stage opens to reveal the museum piece Wurlitzer organ. Afternoon tea for two £ 50, served almost daily.
Then brave the Blackpool Tower Eye to climb the all-glass SkyWalk, an observation deck 380 feet above the tower with views of the Lake District and the Isle of Man (from 16, £ 50).
Get out of town
It’s 45 minutes from the M6 to the seaside town of Morecambe, where the new Eden Project North is preparing for its opening in 2024 (edenproject.com/new-edens/eden-project-north-uk). Extend your stay with a night at the Midland Hotel, Morecambe’s restored Art Deco gem.
Ask a local
Richard Williams, Director of Illumination, Blackpool Council
“To make the most of the lights, drive north to south, starting at Bispham. Better yet, take a tram or walk, visiting the interactive sections, such as the Blackpool Tower projections or the Spiro light tunnel near the Comedy Carpet.