Spending a weekend in Blackpool

Last weekend was a special one, as we spent Friday to Sunday in one of my favourite places, Blackpool. Blackpool is one of those places that you can visit happily all year around, but in all honesty, it really comes alive once September arrives, as this is when the illuminations are turned on, and the Lancashire seaside town becomes the Las Vegas of Northern England. This post is dedicated to some of the things you can do during a weekend in Blackpool, because, once again, we had a fabulous, family time there.

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The key to Blackpool is to stay somewhere central so that you can enjoy walking around the town. We stayed at the Travelodge Southshore, which is just a short walk from the Central Promenade, and has ample parking, so you can leave the car behind and enjoy the sites on foot.

Here are some key highlights of Blackpool – Tower, Golden Mile and Beyond.

The Illuminations

The lights are what Blackpool is famous for, always unique and beautiful. This year they include a section called Ballroom Glitz, designed by Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, as well as the beautiful sirens who are watching over the Golden Sea. On Friday nights during Illumination season you can also enjoy amazing fireworks displays that are making up the Firework Championships – we enjoyed the French display, and you can get a great viewing point from the Tower.

I'm so proud of this piccie I took!

I’m so proud of this piccie I took!

Irish Sea Sirens

Irish Sea Sirens

A Ballroom Chandalier

A Ballroom Chandelier

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The Blackpool Tower.

I am obsessed with this stunning building, and there is so much to do inside. Jungle Jims is a fantastic play area that I believe is housed in the site of the old zoo, whilst the Circus is fabulous family entertainment which I will be reviewing in a future post. Even if you are not brave enough to go right to the top, you can enjoy a coffee and views over the comedy map, or just take a peep into the Ballroom, made famous once again by Strictly Come Dancing. You can find prices and more information on the attractions here.)

Joe with Mooki and Mr Boo at the Circus

Joe with Mooki and Mr Boo at the Circus

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The Blackpool Dungeon

The Blackpool Dungeon

Brooks Collectables

Whenever we head to Blackpool, we always pay a visit to Brooks Collectables. This is a shop that will appeal to anyone with a love of popular culture, selling Star Wars, Betty Boop, Minions and Marvel Collectables amongst many more. What I really love is the Brooks Memorabilia Museum that is housed upstairs, above the shop, and is filled with so many toys from many eras, including a great range of vintage Barbie Dolls. I also love the vintage Blackpool memorabilia, some of which I can actually remember from childhood visits.

Joe and Pete at Brooks Collectables

Joe and Pete at Brooks Collectables

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Barbie Collectables at Brooks Collectables centre

Barbie Collectables at Brooks Collectables centre

Love the Elizabeth Taylor doll

Love the Elizabeth Taylor doll

Coral Island

The bright lights and bells and buzzers of the amusement arcade are all part of the Blackpool fun, and nowhere is this better illustrated than Coral Island, a huge mega-arcade with a pirates theme. It has so many games, from gambling machines to space invaders (jeez – showing my age there), as well as air hockey, the Arabian Derby and numerous grab machines. We won Anger from Inside Out which really pleased Joe, and had lots of fun on those pesky 2p machines. Coral Island also has a cafe which is great for cheap coffee and milkshakes.

Of course, there are so many other things to do – The Sea Life Centre, Madame Tussauds, the Pleasure Beach, The Sandcastle, and all those piers. A weekend simply isn’t long enough!

 

More Images from Blackpool

On the Central Pier

On the Central Pier

Amazing Bouncy Castle on the Central Pier

Amazing Bouncy Castle on the Central Pier

Joe and Pete on the Golden Mile

Joe and Pete on the Golden Mile

Minion love!

Minion love!

Look at this crazy picture of the Blackpool Tower I took from the Travelodge Window

Look at this crazy picture of the Blackpool Tower I took from the Travelodge Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamma’s Classics at Frankie and Benny’s, Blackpool

When it comes to a great meal that is suitable when the kids are present, Frankie and Benny’s is always a good choice. The menu is wide ranging enough to suit all tastes, and children are catered for and made very welcome. On Saturday we were in Blackpool and went along to the Blackpool branch of the restaurant, which is situated just a short walk from the town centre on Festival Park. There we were well looked after by the manager Dan, and our waiter Lee, and enjoyed savouring some of the delights from the current menu.

When we entered the Blackpool branch, we were impressed with how each table was dressed. Our table had crayons and stickers for Joe, which certainly kept him occupied once food had been ordered. Joe knew exactly what he wanted for his main meal – he’s a big fan of the chicken bites and wanted chips with it. We decided to try a couple of the starters first. Pete opted for Caprese Salad, and myself and Joe decided to share a classic garlic pizza bread.

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The Caprese salad is slightly different that the traditional version with large slices of tomato and mozzarella.  This one is fresh mozzarella, torn and mixed with the smaller cherry tomatoes with added basil, rocket, salsa verde and olive oil. It is also served with freshly baked rosemary bread. The portion size is good and all the elements were really tasty. It’s ultimately a salad – it does what it says on the tin, but this is a particularly good one where the elements work really well together.

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

The garlic pizza bread is perfect for sharing. The bread is nice and lightly toasted with plenty of buttery garlic making it soft and juicy. I shared this with Joe and it certainly got the thumbs up from my boy – I just about managed to grab a couple of slices!

Garlic Pizza Bread

Garlic Pizza Bread

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For our mains, myself and Peter had opted for the traditional Italian American dishes of the Mamma’s classics menu. My husband Pete is Italian, so these are the sorts of dishes he grew up with. This makes him a fairly critical judge when it comes to pasta – is it made like Papa used to make it? Peter opted for the F&B Meatballs, a classic dish comprising of spaghetti with juicy meatballs, bolognese and Neapolitan sauce,salsa rossa, fresh basil, torn mozzarella and served with a bread stick. Now, Pete has had this dish in the past, and although it has been enjoyed, a couple of complaints have always been made. The first is that the pasta has been overcooked, the second is that the dish just isn’t big enough. I’m pleased to say Frankie and Benny’s Blackpool had no complaints. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and with the delicious meatballs it made for a hearty, rustic style dish, In terms of portion size, this dish now comes in a large bowl, rather than a plate, making this a great portion size – in fact, Pete struggled to finish it.

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I also chose a pasta dish. I’m not a fan of tomato based dishes, so I love the fact that Frankie and Benny’s have other options. I went for one of the Al Forno bakes, which are pasta bakes that remain in the oven until they are bubbling. I love Cajun spices so chose the Cajun Chicken Bake, which is Chicken, rigatoni pasta, roasted red peppers and red onion, in a creamy Cajun cheese sauce, topped with Grana Padano and a crunchy cheese crumb. Again, this is a dish that has grown in size, and I was really impressed with how much chicken it contained. The Cajun sauce has a really creamy flavour, with that slight undercurrent of heat from the cajun spices. I also loved the edition of red onion and red peppers which added additional, but complimentary flavours to the dish.

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We chose two side orders, crunchy homemade slaw and Golden Fries. The homemade slaw was amazing, really chunky cuts of cabbage and carrot in a creamy dressing. It was another portion size that was made for sharing and with the golden fries it made the perfect lunchtime meal.

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Joe enjoyed his lunch too, but couldn’t leave without trying out the Sweetie Shop, a child’s feast of sweets, ice cream and pouring sauce. We had great fun with the popping candy too.

Sweetie shop

Sweetie shop

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Frankie and Benny’s Blackpool is a great alternative to fish and chips when you are visiting the seaside. We were well looked after by the friendly staff, especially our waiter Lee, and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our lunch.

 

*We were provided with a £50 voucher for our food in return for a honest review.

A weekend in Blackpool with Travelodge Southshore

I adore Blackpool, it is definitely the flashiest, glitiziest place in the UK, and the sight of that iconic tower always makes my heart skip a beat. I do think finding really good accommodation at an affordable price and in walking distance of the attractions is difficult though – there are lots of guest house around but you really do hear some horror stories. So why not opt for a stay in one of the UK’s most trusted, affordable hotel chains – Travelodge? We did, and we were certainly very impressed by all aspects of our stay.

Travelodge Blackpool Southshore

Travelodge Blackpool Southshore

Location

Travelodge Blackpool Southshore is situated on Bloomfield Rd, opposite the Blackpool FC ground – cue lots of posing by the Jimmy Arnfield statue by this football mad family. It is within a few minutes walk of the sea front, where you can then head to the Blackpool Tower in one direction, and the Pleasure beach in the other. There are trams that can take you in either direction too. There is an on-site car park charged at £5 per 24 hours for residents.

With the Jimmy Arnfield statue outside Bloomfield Rd

With the Jimmy Arnfield statue outside Bloomfield Rd

Public Areas and Check in

We arrived on Friday evening, and check in was quick and easy. You can either pay online in advance, or can pay when you arrive. The staff on the front desk were friendly and efficient and check in just took a couple of minutes. The reception area is spotlessly clean and glossy, with sofas, hot and cold drinks machines, and computers where you can purchase Interact access very cheaply (I think it was £1 for 20 minutes.) Travelodge also provides 20 minutes free WiFi.

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Public area with computer access.

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Joe!

 

Security

Rooms are all opened with key-cards. These are also used to gain access to the hotel late at night, and also to get into the lift areas and corridors to the rooms. This is a great security measure that just adds to your piece of mind – not infallible, but still a great step in heightening security.

Rooms

The rooms are bright and, it has to be said, pretty big. We had a family room that could easily have slept 2 adults and 2 children, with a double bed and two singles pushed together to make another double. Despite the two double beds, the room still felt big, with plenty of space for baggage and the copious amounts of shopping we got. The full length mirror was great (for selfies!) and there was also a dressing table/desk area for working or preening (delete as appropriate).

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The Travelodge beds are rightly famous and commented on, and I have to say they were super comfortable. I love the fact that they provide two plump pillows rather than one, and I can honestly say that the beds are totally conducive to a good nights sleep.

Joe loved his bed.

Joe loved his bed.

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Each room also has coffee-making facilities with a range of tea and coffee, great after a long day in the town.

The rooms have an en suite bathroom containing both a bath and shower. This is a good feature of a family room – Joe is not that keen on showers, so having the bath option is really useful for avoiding tears at cleaning time. Hair and Body wash is also provided, and there are a plentiful supply of towels. As with all the other areas of the hotel – the bathrooms are clean and shiny.

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The one thing that is a slight problem is that the rooms are very warm. This isn’t helped by the fact that the windows only open slightly as a security measure (totally understandable in a family room on the third floor.) The desk staff had warned that rooms were warm and had offered a room fan, which we accepted,  and this did help the situation somewhat. It did have to be left on all through the night to keep the room bearable though, and was slightly noisy, but the room was very warm without it. A minor quibble though, and the fact that staff were acknowledging the issue and trying to rectify it was impressive.

Food

We didn’t sample the daytime menu during our stay, but we did enjoy the buffet style breakfast each morning. I love buffet style breakfasts as I think they offer something for everyone. I love continental style breakfasts, so enjoyed Mandarins and yoghurt, white toast and butter, and croissants with honey and Nutella. I also loved the Blueberry muffins which were really soft and moist. Joe liked the huge range of cereals, and also the fresh juices – apple and orange. There was also a full English option, and plenty of things for those wanting to eat healthily – scrambled eggs, tomatoes, brown toast, unsweetened yoghurt and lots of fruit. The food was kept topped up, the dining area was bright and airy, and breakfast was generally a good experience.

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Dining Area

Lots of choice of cereals

Lots of choice of cereals

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Bacon, toast, beans and sausages for Joe.

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Pete’s breakfast

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Overall, the stay at the Travelodge was great, I really enjoyed all aspects and would definitely return – we are already looking to book again for the illuminations in September.

What we did in Blackpool

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A trip to Jungle Jims

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Fun on the South Pier

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Inside Blackpool Tower

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Lunch at Harry Ramsden’s (review to follow)

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Relaxing on the Pier

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Loving the Retro Arcade games

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Tasting the rock while it’s still warm

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A rock making demo

enjoyed the arcades

enjoyed the arcades

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Joe enjoyed the Pride Parade

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Blackpool Pride

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Pirate fun in Coral Island

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The Central Pier

With thanks to Travelodge for the hospitality during our stay.

*We had a free stay at the Travelodge in return for a honest review.