Blackpool Pleasure Beach – A Century Old Family Affair

Blackpool Pleasure Beach has been welcoming families to its 42 acre site on the South Promenade for over one hundred years. You might be forgiven for thinking that, during that time, its popularity may have waned and what we are now left with is some clapped out relic of more halcyon days; a reminder of what Blackpool used to be rather than a powerful reminder of how good Blackpool still is.For those who haven’t been in a while it’s worth remembering that Blackpool remains the most popular seaside resort in Europe. And it’s popular in so many different ways with so many different age groups that there has to be a reason for it still to be riding high when so many other British seaside towns have faded into a sad obscurity – it’s not like everybody just turns up for the chips.Forget the sometimes negative publicity of the past few years. Blackpool has worked, and is working, hard to grow its appeal with the family again. It’s why Blackpool Tower and Circus, Blackpool Zoo, Sea Life Centre and the Sandcastle Waterworld are all so popular after facelifts over the past few years. But it’s still very much the case that even an attraction as historic and renowned as the magical Blackpool Illuminations serves only as a backdrop to Blackpool’s finest tourist attraction: the Pleasure Beach. And if you’re looking for a family weekend experience, Pleasure Beach Blackpool is still second to none.For the family. By the family.Pleasure Beach Blackpool has remained in the same family ownership since it first opened its doors in 1896. Perhaps that’s why Blackpool Pleasure beach, unlike any other theme park in the country, has an unrivalled range of rides that caters for toddlers, young children and families. Yes, of course Pleasure Beach has an almost inexhaustible supply of white-knuckle rides for the most fearless visitors – not least the 213 foot climb that launches millions each year onto the Big One, the UK’s tallest rollercoaster – but what makes the Pleasure Beach truly impressive, and ideal for a family weekend break, is the number of other rides it crams into its relatively small space that will appeal to just about everyone. So here, broken down into three categories, are five Blackpool Pleasure Beach rides just for the kids, five for all the family, and five for the more adventurous to give you an idea of the variety and depth of what’s on offer, and to give you the full family experience.Child’s playThe bulk of the children’s rides at Pleasure Beach Blackpool are centred around the Beaver Creek area of the park where your children will find something to suit just about all ages and tastes. Here’s just a sample of some of the highlights you can expect on your family experience.Ellie’s Caterpillar – there are coin-operated rides that are suitable for children younger than 2 years old, but the starting age for any of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s rides really is 2. And this ride is a lovely starting point for the youngest visitors (although they’ll need accompaniment if they are only 2). A swirling, bouncing, smiling caterpillar that induces vomiting in adults – but the kids just love it! An oldie-but-goody.Beaver Creek Log Flume – trust Blackpool Pleasure Beach to create white-knuckle rides for kids. Pitched perfectly, this is a single drop log-flume for young children – and again the youngest should really be accompanied by an adult.It is a perfect example of the Pleasure Beach doing what it does best when it comes to the family experience: scaring everybody just enough, but not too much. And why should it only be adults that get wet on rides?Zipper Dipper – there are 12 rollercoasters at Pleasure Beach Blackpool, and two of them are situated in Beaver Creek. The Zipper Dipper is a classic ‘woody’ rollercoaster, built in 1934, with three terrific little dips to master.Once again, adults need to ride with very young children, but this reviewer’s youngest is three and she adores this ride. Alice in Wonderland – other parks in the UK spend the money on the ‘big’ adult rides and the kids get saddled with riding on the Ladybirds – hardly an event ride. Not so with Blackpool Pleasure Beach where some of the biggest event rides are for children. All the family will love this, but kids especially will adore climbing into a Cheshire cat and trundling off to follow Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Delightful.Noah’s Ark – something else that the Blackpool Pleasure Beach rides seem to have mastered more than anyone else is the art of scaring the parents whilst the kids just carry on regardless. Noah’s Ark has been spooking grown-ups for decades whilst the kids just press on in search of the next surprise.It’s a walk-through fun house that takes you in, out and around the titular boat. Full of twisted corridors, shaking stairways and spinning, sliding floors this is truly a family experience, not to mention the longest of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s rides.It does feature total darkness and strobe lighting in some sections but has proven itself suitable for children of any age with accompaniment. Keeping it in the familyIt’s with this class of ride that Blackpool Pleasure Beach stamps its authority. None of the following are overly scary, although a couple of them do have height restrictions that would prevent very young children from riding. Details are below. It’s worth noting that this, again, is just a sample and there are so many family orientated rides at the Pleasure Beach that we’d be here all day listing them. These are the rides that make the most of your Pleasure Beach tickets; try them all once and then find your family riding them again and again. Sir Hiram Maxim’s Flying MachinesSo how much of a thrill can a ride that opened in 1904 really be?Sir Hiram Maxim was a Victorian inventor with an impressive track record – although not necessarily in fairground rides. The inventor of the portable machine gun, the silencer and carbon filaments for lightbulbs he clearly had a spare weekend once where he came up with this: a thrill ride that, 104 years later, is still thrilling.A majestic, historic, delightful family experience that, as it cranks up to full speed, will have every member of the family holding on just that little bit tighter… River CavesA classic family experience. Up to seven of you can ride in the same boat that takes you on a journey around the world and through history.I know, I know; you’re expecting naff models and a highly underwhelming ride – but Pleasure Beach does it again with a rich experience that will have you riding again and again. We particularly love the Egyptian section – surprisingly impressive!Ghost Train – most ghost trains lack a certain something. Like ghosts, for example. But not the Ghost Train at Pleasure Beach Blackpool. This was the first ride of its type in the world to be called a ‘ghost train’ and it’s certainly earned its moniker as this one really is haunted.Don’t believe us? Then check out season one of ‘Most Haunted’ in which Yvette Fielding, Derek Acorah and the crew scare themselves silly on this most legendary of Blackpool Pleasure Beach rides. Of course, the ride isn’t quite as frightening now that Derek Acorah’s left, but it’s still darn good fun.It’s a personal thing, but the general level of Scooby-Doo style scaremongering within makes this ride suitable for young, although not very young, children. And they should be accompanied by an adult. Valhalla – We’re upping the ante a little now. You need to be 117cm tall to ride Pleasure Beach Blackpool’s amazing £15m Valhalla, but since that’s only the height of your average seven year old we’re still saying that puts Valhalla squarely in family ride territory – although it’s certainly at the more extreme end.This is the world’s longest dark ride – you’ll be riding for over six minutes as you journey through the halls of the Norse Gods where you’ll be confronted by rooms of ice, fire and lightening – oh, and the odd steep drop.