Just kidding. Blackpool is not better than Vegas.
Christine really wanted to see a full-on, in all its glory, British seaside resort. And Blackpool, the mother of all British seaside resorts, was sort of on the way between Cheshire, where we were visiting relatives, and the Lake District, where we were heading next.
The day started with torrential rain. Apparently it rains often in the UK, but we were told that is the only way to fully appreciate a visit to Blackpool, so lucky us! Trevor got soaked checking out a common British amusement, the Pay-and-Display parking lot. Each one has its own character to keep you guessing. This one was huge, with few “pay” machines, long line-ups of Brits trying to figure out how to use said machines, and to top it off, they didn’t accept Canadian credit cards. Like many things in the UK, just a little bit more inconvenient than it has to be.
Anyway, we waited out the rain in a large amusement arcade, where Christine got introduced to 2p machines. Little known fact – the 2 pence coin is only kept in circulation so that Brits (and the occasional tourist who accidentally stumbles into a British seaside arcade) can play 2p machines while on vacation. That probably isn’t true, but it seems plausible! There are also plenty of other games where you win tickets that can be exchanged for prizes.
For those who have not had the pleasure, it is a machine with mounds of 2p coins inside, some sort of moving contraption, and a ledge – the idea is you drop in additional 2p coins, the moving components of the machine push all the coins together, and occasionally some coins fall off the ledge. If that happens, you’re a big winner. Well, as big a winner as you can be when the prize is a few 2p coins. Who needs the slot machines, card tables, and free drinks of Las Vegas when there are literally pence to be won in Blackpool?
For the high rollers, there are also 10p machines operating with the same principle, but those were too rich for our blood.
After an hour or so, the weather started to clear (by British standards, meaning it was raining slightly less), so we walked up and down the promenade. Locals enjoyed their ice creams, further enforcing our confusion over residents of colder countries who eat ice cream at the seaside, regardless of the actual weather. Each of the three piers along the promenade had a variety of rides and its own arcade. We tried out each arcade, finally “winning” Christine a beautiful heart necklace and Trevor a superhero keychain. Money well spent!
We didn’t stay overnight, so can’t speak to the nightlife. Apparently the promenade is lit up, so you can enjoy the drizzle in twilight splendor. There is also a large amusement park at the south end of the promenade that apparently has the best rides in the UK. We also skipped the other two things Blackpool is known for, candy floss and rock candy. Neither fit Trevor’s requirement that candy be gummy and sour.
Blackpool, and other seaside resorts of its ilk like Eastbourne or Brighton, are actually fun to visit. Mostly if you appreciate cheesiness and a run-down je ne sais quoi. In their heyday, they were probably fantastic. But now that British tourists can fly to southern Spain or the Algarve for less than taking the train to their own seaside, the towns’ best times are probably behind them. Travel guide guru (and our friend Nicki’s hero) Rick Steves once described Blackpool as a cross between Coney Island, Las Vegas and a Denny’s. We tend to agree!