Visiting Blackpool with a toddler can be daunting, and we were apprehensive initially as to what it would be like. When I was a child, I used to visit the seaside town every year – I would have been around eleven the last time I visited, and I still stand by the fact that it was one of the best places in my childhood. I lived for the hours (yes, hours) spent playing Bingo, hanging out of the window to see the Illuminations every October and the the spending every penny of my holiday pocket money on the pier amusements. Although Blackpool was my favourite place as a child, I always wondered if it would still feel the same when I returned with a child of my own. Traveling with a toddler is a completely different ball game to traveling without, but having visited the seaside town now as a family of three, I can confidently stay Blackpool is still my guilty-pleasure UK break, both with and without a toddler tow. With so many attractions and options for accommodation, it’s a minefield deciding what is worth your while to make the most of a short few days, so I’ve shared our favorites below.
THINGS TO SEE
The Piers There are three piers in Blackpool: North Pier, Central Pier and South Pier. Each are more or less replicas of each other (with differences that others may notice but I certainly don’t) and are absolutely packed in more way than one. They are packed with amusements, fairground rides and other ways to throw away your money (no judgement, I throw away my money here every year) – but they are also packed with people. The piers are extremely busy at the weekend, so if possible visit on a weekday. Rides can work out expensive as there is a ticket system in place whereby each ride costs 2, 3 or 4 tickets rather than a flat price. It’s a sneaky way to put the prices of the rides up, but it is what it is. They have a few great family friendly pubs, plenty of food outlets and some fun evening entertainment, but for us with a little one it’s a few hours well spent even just going for a walk along.
The Illumination Tram The Blackpool Illuminations are switched on between the 1st September and the 5th November every year. Forgive me for saying so, but I don’t think I’d ever visit outwith this period. Blackpool is tacky, it really is, but the illuminations make that tackiness just about acceptable (and very fun for toddlers). The Illumination Tram is an amazing themed tram that is completely lit up and travels the length of the sea front. It’s extremely busy, a hefty wait but it’s pretty affordable and can be great fun for little ones.
The Tower I’ve added this to the my list of things to see because I personally would not bother actually ‘doing’ it. The Blackpool Tower is one of the biggest attractions in Blackpool, but it is also one of the quickest ways to spend money. Within the tower, there is the Tower Eye, the Circus, the Dungeon, and Jungle Jims (a play area). For an adult, this will set you back £30 if you book online (significantly more if you buy on the day) and nearly £10 for a toddler. For access to all of the attractions within the circus it doesn’t sound like too bad a deal, but when you take into account what you’ll be able to do with a toddler, it becomes less of a bargain. I’m not sure how my one year old would feel about a dungeon, and I’m not too sure how I’d feel about taking my one year to a sit down circus show…. If it were me, I’d snap my picture outside the tower and be done with it, or failing that I’d do the ‘Tower Eye’ as a single attraction.
THINGS TO DO
Blackpool Zoo Blackpool Zoo is an amazing day out: it has all of your standard animals, the lions, elephants, and orangoutangs are among some of the favorites. It also has the added bonus the Sea-Lions who do a regular show, a miniature train and plenty of play parks, so you really do get your moneys worth. Speaking of money, adult tickets are only £13.50 if booked online seven days in advance, and the best part is that children under three go free. Sold!
Blackpool Aquarium Sea Life in Blackpool is less of a day out and more of a quick stop, but it’s something that can be nice to see while you are there. Visiting on a Saturday with a toddler in peak season is a no-go, it can get so busy that it’s difficult to see anything for people in front of you, any other day will make for a much better experience. There is not much in the way of exhibits at ‘toddler level’ and there is only one small lift which can make buggies a bit of a nightmare but regardless it’s still a fun way to fill your time on holiday. Again, children under three go free (win) and there is the added bonus of a parent and toddler ticket for £11 if you book online, so there are definitely ways to grab a discount.
Stanley Park Stanley Park is so much more than just your run of the mill country park. We stumbled across it as we noticed the play area, but they really do have something for everything. It’s completely free to enter, but they also then have a ride on train, bumper boats, tennis, trampolines or even mini golf to name but a few that you can pay a few pounds to use. When I say a few pounds, everything is somewhere in the region of £2-£5, which means you can spend a full day milling around and not spend a lot at all.
PLACES TO STAY
Cheap and Cheerful For me, Blackpool wouldn’t be Blackpool if we didn’t stay in a caravan. It’s the perfect cheap addition to a cheap and cheerful weekend. This time around we stayed in Marton Mere Caravan Park, which is very much your standard Haven holiday park, a short ten minute drive outside of Blackpool. With taxis allowed in and out of the park and a bus route running more or less every twenty minutes from the front door of the complex into Blackpool centre in high season it’s the perfect location for getting in and out. If your going in the Autumn months when the Illuminations are lit, driving in town can be a nightmare. Although a simple enough drive, if you don’t know the roads it’s easy to find yourself in the middle of the sea front procession that runs through the Illuminations. If you have older kids this is absolutely brilliant and I’d thoroughly recommend it, but if you happen to have a toddler who is slightly crabbit/hungry/hates sitting in a stationary car the last thing you want to do is get stuck in the middle of the crawling traffic with no way out. We avoided driving into Blackpool for this very reason and so welcomed the bus route from the caravan site. Marton Mere is one of the best Havens’ we’ve stayed at yet – great facilities, a newly upgraded restaurant and the option of the club at night. We jumped on to the Sun Holidays deal in Summer, and a two bedroom caravan for four days along with passes set us back £75 or so, but my own parents and brother came down for two of those nights and shared our caravan comfortably, so for four adults, one twelve year old and a one year old this was an absolute steal.
Think Quality If Haven is not your thing, Ribby Hall is still a holiday village, but more luxury than last minute booking. Rather than caravans’ Ribby Hall has holiday cottages and pine lodges, which are perfect if your looking for a bit more space or happy to a little more for a relaxing break. The spa and outdoor facilities along with endless activities mean your never lost for something to do, but it will set you back more than a Haven break will. You get what you pay for, and there is no faulting the quality here, but it completely depends on the type of holiday your looking for. For us, we were looking for a cheap and cheerful and we didn’t actually make much use of the facilities we had around us anyway, so paying more for these would have probably been a waste. Again, it’s very close to Blackpool and transport in and out is very easy, albeit not quite as convenient as a provided bus every twenty minutes, but then again that’s probably a little excessive. These cottages are all five star, and the price reflects that – for our dates we would have been looking at around £450, which is obviously a fair bit more than our cheap and cheerful Sun deal, but having stayed here before I’d still gladly go back if I was to visit Blackpool again.
A Good Old Hotel If holiday villages, caravan parks and public transport aren’t your thing, the The Royal Carlton Hotel is a perfect alternative. It’s on the sea front, so quite literally a stone throw away from the centre of Blackpool, and it’s also lovely to look out on to the Illuminations without having to even leave the comfort of your room. In terms of convenience, there is no denying the fact that not having to rely on transport is a selling point, and for those who like the catered for feel of a hotel it can be nice to have everything done for you. We often found ourselves having to hurry home in the night as the temperature drops quickly next to the sea and you’ll never know how long you’ll be waiting for a taxi or a bus – with everything being on the doorstep of your accommodation there is a lot more flexibility with how you spend your time. With a toddler, I wasn’t chancing booking a hotel with 10 floors, no lift and a pram to heave up and down daily, but if I was to take the risk The Royal Carlton are extremely accommodating with lower level room requests and there is an lift (albeit a small one).
Blackpool can be as expensive as you want it to be. We spent our weekend eating in the local Wetherspoons, making the most of the free activities available and in budget accommodation. If our son was a little older, then we would have made more of an effort perhaps to go up the tower, or to Madame Taussauds, or into Pleasure Beach – but with a child who won’t remember any of them, those are probably the last things I wanted to spend my weekend doing. Expect to spend more than you take if you are remotely competitive – fair-ground style games and teddy grabbing machines are everywhere, and I’d dread to think of the amount of money we spent to walk away with the ugly stuffed mouse we walked away with. Food and drink on the front is relatively cheap, but if your looking for even more of a budget alternative the prices change drastically even one or two streets back from the hussle and bussle of the main street.
BLACKPOOL WITH A TODDLER – DO-ABLE?
We had a brilliant time, don’t get me wrong, but I did want to weigh up the positives and negatives of taking a toddler to Blackpool. Depending on the time of year, the Blackpool attractions are BUSY, which is the main thing that would make me reconsider when we visited. We visited in the weekend before October week, which was a silly move in the first place. The piers’ were absolutely stowd and navigating these with a pram was very difficult. On these piers we couldn’t let Harrison out to walk and were very restricted in what we could do with him. The Light Up Tram may as well have been pier-to-pier (a bit of an exaggeration) and the major attractions were queued out. Despite this, the main walkways were easily navigatable, the parks were fine and we had no problem getting a seat in restaurants, even as a big group. If possible, travel mid-week and try and have a look at the attractions that your actually interested in before you go. There is so much in Blackpool that itis easy to walk by something and get drawn in. We had a great weekend, Harrison had a great time and we’ll be back next year. So in short, yes – Blackpool with a toddler is completely doable and completely worth it.