Things to Do in Blackpool
If you choose to visit Lancashire, Blackpool might be one of the places you decide to go to and if you're looking for things to do in Blackpool, you're in luck - there is loads to do in the town. It would be scarily easy to spend a lot of money on holiday there going in to attractions like the pleasure beach, the aquarium and tower. I shall include some of these in the list, but happily there is enjoyment to be had from some of the free activities and places to visit as well. As you read my review perhaps you might decide which things you'd like to do if you visit Blackpool.
Cost - Adult ticket from £15.90 (from £12.95 online) Car Parking £2.50. If you shop at Tescos and get clubcard vouchers you can exchange £2.50 for a £10.00 zoo voucher which means your adult ticket costs you ££8.40. That is what I did.
Was it Worth it?
In brief - yes!
I went to Blackpool Zoo with fairly low expectations. The website was ok, but didn't especially pique my interest and the zoo doesn't claim to be at the forefront of any breeding programs for rare species, so no brownie points there. But, no matter how great the natural history footage on television is I still like to see exotic animals in the flesh and with a minimal travel budget, the zoo is my chance to do this.
I was pleasantly surprised by Blackpool Zoo. It's fairly small at only 35 acres, but the animals didn't feel crammed in. The enclosures are a good size and considerable effort is made to make the animals' lives more interesting by offering their meals in stimulating and varied ways. For example, the gorillas get 6 small meals per day, some of the food is scattered from the roof of the enclosure and some is hidden amongst the trees on gorilla island.
I can recommend the keeper talks, which are informative with a mix on facts about he species in the wild and quirks of the individuals at the zoo for example, I would never have guessed that the gorillas enjoy 'Marmite'. The keepers were friendly, knowledgeable and helpful through my visit.
Animal Species at Blackpool Zoo
If you like to see 'headline' animals they have gorillas, orangutans, tigers, lions, meercats Iberian wolves and giraffes. If you like to see species which you've never seen before, which rarely make it onto TV, there are guan, speckled pigeons, Yacare caiman, tree porcupines, tapirs and the surprise winner for me - giant anteaters. The giant anteaters epitomise the value of a zoo visit. I've seen them on TV occasionally and not thought much about them one way or another - I've been underwhelmed. In person (or in anteater) they were charismatic and engaging, smaller than I'd imagined but much more active and a joy to spend time with. So now if giant anteaters need me on their side, I'm in!
As well as the anteaters I enjoyed watching the sea lions and the Magellanic penguins. It is really good being able to actually walk through three of the enclosures - the lemurs, the wallabies and the Amazon enclosure which contains lots of birds such as the blue crowned conures, squirrel monkeys and agoutis. Walk through that quickly and you miss a lot, stop and watch a while and you spot various bird species you hadn't realised were there.
Not so Good
The poorest section was the reptile/amphibian/invertebrate house by a long chalk. Uninspired enclosures, an unremarkable range of species and limited written information.
Other down sides are a few badly worn information boards and a lack of obvious information on some species. There were also a lot of collection boxes suggesting that you might want to contribute financially to this or that species' conservation, which was mildly irksome, but perhaps worthwhile if it does garner funds for some of the lesser known endangered species.
Paying for the car park could be avoided if you opted to park a few roads away and walk 1/2 a mile to the zoo.
Listen to the Tidal Organ
Cost - free
I was very excited to find out that Blackpool had a tidal organ because, like the Ringing Singing Tree in Burnley, it is an example of an instrument which is played by nature rather than by humans.
How the tidal organ works is that some pipes come out in to the sea and as the waves swish into them it pushes air through into something which I understand is a little like church organ pipes. This makes a sonorous usually harmonic chord.
When to Go?
It plays best 1 to 2 hours or so on either side of high tide, so if you go check the tide times. Best playing time depends on how high the tide was to. If it's a low high tide you need to go nearer the highest tide time.
Where is it?
First I had to find it. I read that it was near the south pier (Blackpool has three piers). Pictures online showed amusement park rides in the background. I'm a little wary of driving in towns and worry about not finding anywhere to park, so I parked right on the edge of town. I had my dogs with me and we walked to the seafront together. This was about 3 miles. You may want to park a bit closer. There is lots of parking, I am just slightly nuts! I nearly got misdirected when I spotted some rides in the opposite direction to which I was going. This is because there are rides on two of the piers as well as at the pleasure beach. Confusing.
If you want to find it, just follow signs for the south pier and the Pleasure Beach.
Was it Worth it?
Yes; even with the walk through town there and back. I really loved the tidal organ, it makes mostly pleasant sounds, occasionally discordant ones and it is great to watch the waves at the same time and know that they are making the sound which comes out of the rather strange looking mental tubey tower.
Unfortunately my efforts to record the sound for you failed due to my camera recording the sound of the strong wind that day instead of the tidal organ.
Walk along the Promenade
Cost - Free
There is so much to see in Blackpool that it is possible to walk along the promenade looking at the crazy things that people are spending money on without spending any yourself. There are some amazingly bad souvenirs for example and an awful lot of Blackpool rock - a type of candy best avoided. There are amusement arcades with slot machines and so on to eat your money and people screaming on various rollar coasters and rides.
Quirkily there are also shopfronts in a wide variety or colours and at least 30 well cared ponies with carriages which you can hire for a carriage ride along the front or just watch for a while and be impressed by their manners. The ponies are all amazingly steady, trotting away sensibly through the noise of trams, cars and humans.
When you get to the 'comedy carpet', which is a paved collection of humour, you can entertain yourself trying to find the funniest joke. I chuckled over several of them. It should really be called the 'joke pavement', but I guess they wanted alliteration.
Although autumn might not seem the obvious time to visit the seaside, the late afternoon light in November when I visited gave some nice silhouettes of the piers and of Blackpool tower with the swaying stalked sculptures nearby. It was also quieter than the summer, which suits me well.
Was it worth it? Yes - it is genuinely entertaining to see everything.
Have you been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach? How did you Rate it?
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Cost - unlimited ride wristbands £30 each. Access to the pleasure beach if you don't want to go on rides is £6.00.
Having confessed earlier to an inclination to avoid driving in towns, it may come as little surprise that Blackpool pleasure beach and the rides therein are not my thing. I therefore haven't been in and am going to rely on any readers who have to rate the experience for me.
Thrill rides include; Revolution, Big Dipper and Avalanche. Family rides include; Dodgems, Impossible and River Caves. There is a sculpture garden and arcades which you have access to with a £6.00 pass.
I will say that I could hear plenty of screaming from the rides whilst standing outside. A strange measure of enjoyment, but seems to be what some people seek!
Go on the Beach
Cost - Free
Blackpool has proper seaside as well as all the other stuff. It is free to go on the beach. But as I discovered, they are quite stern about not letting you on it if the tide is somewhere near the sea wall. Every single entry to the beach was chained across with a do not enter notice. I was very frustrated. I wanted to introduce the dogs to the beach. I walked all along the prom and everyone was obeying the signs. Finally near the North pier I spotted some other renegade dog walkers who had snuck under a chain and were on the beach with their dogs. So law abiding though I normally am, I went under too and Bob and Bruno got to play on the beach.
On a second visit to Blackpool beach I went when the tide was further out and access to the beach was officially permitted. I had an enjoyable time doing a spot of beach combing and found a host of shells such as razor shells and mussels, a couple of crab body shells and a mermaid's purse (shark or dogfish egg case)
Dead Man's Fingers
I also found some very odd looking things which had me puzzled. They were weird and fleshy looking. I later discovered were dead man's fingers (Alcyonium digitatum). Fear not - there aren't bits of dead human on the beach, but bits of soft coral, native to UK waters, washed in by the tide.
Was it Worth it?
No and yes - if I'd gone all that way to Blackpool just for the beach on my first visit, it would have been a disappointment, but as a sideshow to the rest of the day it was quite acceptable. On my second visit when I got onto the beach and did some bird watching and beach combing and the dogs enjoyed running up and down, it was great.
I hear tell of sunnier days in warmer months when sun bathing, sandcastle making and swimming occur. But in those months (May - September) dogs aren't allowed on the beach. If you have kids and all wrap up warm you could even do some sand castle making in the the winter.
Cost - free
Do take your binoculars with you when you go to Blackpool. You have several options for bird watching. For woodland birds Stanley park is quite good, there are plenty of nest boxes up and you might see things like tits, tree creepers and woodpeckers.
Waders and Gulls
For waders walk along the prom as the tide goes out and then down on to the beach as more of the shoreline is exposed.On my visits I saw black backed gulls, herring gulls, oyster catchers, knott, turnstones, lapwings and redshanks.
For waterfowl and reedbed inhabitants such as bittern and rails head to Marton Mere (not to be confused with Martin Mere which is a Wildfowl and Wetland trust site an hour south of here). Marton Mere is a local nature reserve and free to enter. It links to Lawson's wetland which is also a nature reserve. It is just outside Blackpool, slightly hard to locate, but worth a visit. Even in poor light at the end of a November afternoon I was entertained by a flock of long tailed tits and there were plenty of waterfowl on the lake such as mute swans and goosanders.
There are hides around the lake and one hide in front of feeders to attract smaller birds. There were lots of windfall apples which should attract thrushes and plenty of rosehips too, so food for a wide variety of birds through the winter. Dogs are welcome on the lead.
Was it Worth it? Yes - if you enjoy bird watching you should see a fair variety of birds and if you just want a good walk all three venues will provide that too.
Finding Birds in Blackpool
See waterfowl and reed bed wildlife here
See woodland birds here
See waders and gulls here
Blackpool Sea Life Centre
Cost - if brought online Adult ticket £11.25, Child Ticket £9.00. A handy thing though if you shop at Tesco is to use some of your points which means you can get a ticket for the equivalent of £2.50. (This is what I did)
Blackpool Sea Life Centre isn't very large and the entrance to it, up some stairs with some dodgy marine themed wall decoration doesn't inspire. However once in I spent a happy two hours looking at creatures I don't normally get to see at all. Although there are displays of tropical marine fish, these are more familiar because of visits to aquarium shops. It was the native British marine life which really fascinated me.
There were a whole host of flat fish species, beautifully camouflaged and full of character. I'm not sure I want to eat plaice again - they were so pretty and cute looking. There were also lobsters, moray eels, jellyfish, starfish and large anemones - way bigger then the ones I've seen in rock pools. The fish are very active so it's interesting spending time watching them.
There is one very large tank with various small (6ft) shark species and other large fish. You can walk underneath the tank and it is pretty cool having them swimming overhead and looming towards you on both sides.
There is also a small freshwater fish section and reptile and amphibian section with terrapins, frogs and a chameleon, which was slightly random!.
Not so Good - I enjoyed the animals but was thoroughly exasperated by the signage. I really like to know what I am looking at however, to make the fish stand out the tanks were well lit but the walkways dim, so I couldn't read the printed signs at all. There are small TV screens which scroll through a series of species which is ok but still hard to pinpoint who is who in the time that species is showing on screen. Hence I'm afraid my labeling of the species in the photos is vague in places.
I found the background 'atmospheric sea noises' soundtrack irritating too.
Was it worth it? For £2.50 definitely yes, for a full price ticket it is just about worth it if you haven't been to any other sea life centre or been snorkeling or scuba diving. I suspect if you have been to any American or Australian marine life centre you would be especially underwhelmed by this one.