Published On: Mon, Jul 8th, 2024
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How to spend 48 hours in Blackpool – attractions, hotels, food and drink | Travel News | Travel

Sam Ormiston in Blackpool

I didn’t want to go back home to London after 48 hours in Blackpool (Image: Express – Getty)

While it may have been named the UK’s friendliest seaside town earlier this year, it’s certain that Blackpool sometimes gets a bad rep – usually from people who have never visited.

But having spent some holidays there as a child creating lots of fond memories, as well as visiting with some of my best friends during my early 20s, I was keen to return to find out whether the places was still as magical as I remembered it, with help from Visit Blackpool.

With £2bn worth of investment set to transform the town, including a recently opened Holiday Inn, tramline extension and a brand new tourist attraction, there’s something new for tourists – even those like me who have visited many times before.

From the best places to eat, drink, and some top tips from experts at Visit Blackpool, there are plenty of fabulous hidden gems that some people walk past without a second thought.

So if you’re looking for your next UK holiday, we’ll talk you through a step-by-step guide on how best to spend 48 hours in the iconic seaside resort, which is the home of ballroom dancing, as well as boasting one of the UK’s “best value” theme parks.

Where to stay

The new Holiday Inn in Blackpool opened in May 2024

The new Holiday Inn in Blackpool opened in May 2024 (Image: Holiday Inn)

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Blackpool, the new 144-bed hotel and Marco Pierre White New York Italian restaurant which opened its doors on May 1, 2024. My room had a comfy king-size bed, with incredible views of the Blackpool Tower and the seaside, as well as a nice corner sofa, TV, kettle and Nespresso coffee machine. The hotel is council owned and is part of the city’s wider regeneration project, Talbot Gateway,

It goes withot saying that there are, of course, a great number of independent hotels and hostels, as well as chains, for tourists and visitors on all budgets, with some of the top rated ones including the King’s Boutique Hotel Blackpool and the New Oaklea Hotel

But, with just a couple of days to see and do as much of Blackpool as possible, the Holiday Inn was definitely the best bet for me, because it is conveniently located just a one-minute walk from Blackpool North train station.

What’s more, the handy new £23.4m tram extension, which opened earlier this month, departs from just underneath the hotel – with direct links to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and other iconic landmarks, bars and restaurants along the famous seafront.

The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool

The Imperial Hotel Blackpool is a 4-star hotel on the Promenade boasting sea views (Image: Getty)

Other hotel options include:

The Imperial Hotel: A historic and luxurious hotel located on the North Promenade, The Imperial Hotel is renowned for its Victorian elegance, stunning sea views, and excellent service. It offers a range of amenities including a health club and spa.

Big Blue Hotel: Located next to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the Big Blue Hotel is a modern and stylish option, perfect for families and thrill-seekers.

Number One South Beach: A boutique hotel located on South Beach, offering stylish decor, comfortable rooms, and high-quality breakfast.

The Carousel Hotel: Located on the South Promenade, The Carousel Hotel is a good mid-range option with easy access to the beach and tram service.

The Fossil Tree Hotel: An adults-only hotel located on the North Shore, The Fossil Tree Hotel offers sea views and free parking.

How to get to Blackpool

Visit Blackpool says: “Blackpool is well-connected to the national railway network. Superfast Avanti trains bring passengers to Preston and there are two services an hour for the onward journey to Blackpool North provided by Northern Rail – we advise you to check with Northern Rail before travelling as this may change. Preston Station has direct services to all major cities including: London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Northern Rail has resumed their Manchester Airport to Blackpool North service and there are also direct services to Blackpool North from Liverpool Lime Street.”

With Blackpool being so well connected by rail, I travelled up from London Euston, via Preston (Lancs), on a quiet Monday morning and it took around three hours in total.

If you travel to Blackpool via train, the approximate journey times are:

  • Manchester: 1h 27m
  • Liverpool: 1h 17m
  • Leeds: 2h 36m
  • Sheffield: 3h 9m
  • Carlisle: 2h 4m
  • York: 3h 2m
  • Birmingham: 2h 36m
  • Newcastle: 4h 7m
  • Edinburgh: 3h 40m
  • Glasgow: 3h 14
  • Bristol: 4h 12m
  • Cardiff: 5h 6m

Day 1

On Monday afternoon, after dropping of my bags at the hotel, I wasted no time in heading straight out to Blackpool’s “best” fish and chip shop, which according to TripAdvisor is Yorkshire Fisheries on Topping Street, a short stroll from the seafront near Blackpool North train station.

The portion sizes were decent, and it was a little on the pricy side, however, the fish was cooked to perfection and the chips were delicious. The staff were chatty and friendly, and it felt really cosy on what was a relatively quiet Monday lunch service. I chose to sit in, but there’s a takeaway option, too.

Although I could have taken the tram all the way along to the Pleasure Beach, I instead decided to walk around 35 minutes along to the theme park in a desperate attempt to burn off some calories. The Pleasure Beach was recently named one of the top 10 “best value” theme parks in the UK.

I was able to get on to all the big rides in around two hours thanks to the incredible VIP pass, before spending some time enjoying some doughnuts and people watching. The only ride I didn’t go on was the Valhalla, because I saw a group of schoolchildren leaving it absolutely drenched, and I made the mistake of wearing jeans as temperatures soared to a gorgeous 24C.

Blackpool Tower

Blackpool is beautiful by day and night (Image: Express)

I have incredible memories of coming to the Pleasure Beach as a child, and the magic is very much still alive. Despite going solo on the rides including the Big One, Icon and Infusion, I still experienced the thrill of the steep drops and loop-the-loops.

After a few hours at the Pleasure Beach, I took a sunny walk along the beach, stopping off at Notarianni’s, a third-generation ice-cream parlour for a simple but sweet vanilla sundae, which first opened its doors back in 1928.

I then stopped off at the Beach House Bistro & Bar at Festival House on the Promenade, and I was completely blown away. You might think I’m overreacting (or perhaps have a blurry memory after a couple of cocktails), but on a beautiful summer’s day – one of the hottest of the year so far – I genuinely felt like I was in Marbella.

With peaceful views of the sea, as well as bouncing music and a classy atmosphere, this restaurant did an incredible job of creating a Meditteranean vibe. I enjoyed a calamari tapas starter (£9) and the Prawn Pappardelle (£22) for main course, washed down with a couple of ice-cold mojitos. The service here was speedy, but still personal, and looking around, you could tell that everyone was genuinely enjoying themselves.

The Ardwick pub in Blackpool

The Ardwick serves £1.80 pints of Fosters, John Smith’s and Strongbow cider (Image: Dave Nelson)

After this, I headed to Blackpool’s “cheapest” pub, The Ardwick on Foxhall Road, as it had been recommended to me by a number of locals. Boasting £1.80 pints of the “big three” – Fosters, John Smith’s or Strongbow, it’s a real local hangout – and I was made to feel very welcome by the locals. During my two hours there, there was prize bingo, as well as a raffle – and the staff were all in extremely high spirits.

One of the bartenders told me that it’s the best job they’ve ever had, while a regular standing at the bar said the community feel is incredible.

Even stopping off for a milkshake on the way home, I had people asking me if I was lost and needed help because I was struggling slightly to make my way back. When it comes to being named the friendliest seaside town in the UK, I have no doubt in my mind that Blackpool deserves the crown.

Day 2

Blackpool Madame Tussaud's

A trip to Blackpool wouldn’t be completed without a visit to Madame Tussaud’s (Image: Express)

I woke up early in the morning, taking a long walk up past North Pier to enjoy the peace and quiet of Blackpool on a Tuesday morning, before the tourists come out. It’s quite enjoyable walking up and down the Promenade, and it felt so relaxing being away from the hustle and bustle of London – if only for a couple of days.

Madame Tussauds was next on my list, and it was lovely to see them celebrating Pride Month with some special exhibits. I even stopped off for a midday pint at the Rover’s Return, and came second in a pub quiz against fellow tourists (I was quite pleased with that result, considering I was up against much larger groups).

After a quick poke of chips at Coral Island for lunch, I headed along to Blackpool’s brand new tourist attraction, the brilliant Showtown Museum. Two groups of schoolchildren had left just before I arrived, and I can see why it’s so popular with tourists and locals alike.

The new museum, which opened earlier this year after 10 years of planning, is full of fun and history celebrating the seaside, circus, magic, dance shows and the world-famous illuminations.

Blackpool food

From fish and chips to high end cuisine, Blackpool has it all (Image: Express)

Divided into six gallery spaces, it has separate exhibits that celebrate the seaside, magic, the circus, the Blackpool Illuminations, shows and dance. The museum is full of interactive bits and bobs, and is set to attract more than 200,000 visitors each year.

The Blackpool Tower Eye was sadly shut, so instead I headed to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, also known as the home of dance. As a huge Strictly Come Dancing superfan, I was enthralled to witness first hand the magic, as couples enjoying an afternoon tea danced their hearts out while a well-dressed gentleman played piano on the stage.

For dinner, I stuffed my face at The Mandarin Chinese restaurant, enjoying complimentary prawn crackers, as well as vegetable spring rolls (£6.80) and the Salt and Chilli Chicken Ju Yim (£14.90) for main course.

After dinner, I headed to the brand new Backlot Cinema inside the town’s Houndshill Shopping Centre to watch Bad Boys:Ride or Die. The cinema, according to VisitBlackpool, boasts cutting-edge technology to host live gaming tournaments and corporate conferences. Cinema bosses say there will also be regular events, such as comedy nights, film festivals, diner and movie packages, and local community meet ups, which will ensure that it becomes a cultural focal point for both local residents and Blackpool tourists.

After that, it was back to the hotel for one last blissful night of relaxation before heading back to the busy capital – and Blackpool, I must admit, you’re even better than I remember! I had so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t want to go home – I would’ve happily spent a full week there. I’ll definitely be back, though.

Blackpool’s best attractions

  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach
  • Blackpool Tower
  • Blackpool Illuminations
  • Sandcastle Waterpark
  • SEA LIFE Blackpool
  • Blackpool Zoo
  • North Pier
  • Blackpool Model Village & Gardens
  • Madame Tussauds Blackpool
  • Stanley Park

Top tips on finding Blackpool’s hidden gems

Commenting on the best hidden gems to explore in the town, a VisitBlackpool spokesperson said: “There are so many reasons why millions of people come to Blackpool every year. Award-winning attractions; an incredible range of free events; a year-round programme of top-class shows; great nightlife; a myriad of dining and accommodation offers to suit all tastes and pockets; beautiful beaches; and a wealth of culture and history, including iconic landmarks such as The Blackpool Tower, Pleasure Beach Resort, three piers, the magnificent Winter Gardens and the opulent Grand Theatre.

“Amidst all of that are some real hidden gems including the beautiful Grade II listed Stanley Park, which has been voted England’s favourite park on three occasions; the brand new Backlot cinema, home to one of the largest IMAX cinemas in the country; and the newly-opened Wild Shore outdoor waterpark featuring a thrilling inflatable playground on water.

“We pride ourselves on offering something for everyone and dining is no different. It isn’t just about traditional seaside classics like fish and chips and authentic ice cream; Blackpool also boasts award-winning restaurants serving the best in local and international cuisine, including The Mandarin, Wok Inn, Beach House Bar & Bistro with its spectacular sea views, and contemporary newcomers including Abingdon Street Market and Marco’s New York Italian.”

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