A Guide To The Blackpool Illuminations
Inside The Illuminations
This year’s Illuminations feature several new displays, including a special Star Trek section of the Golden Mile commemorating 50 years of the TV show. See 1,000 LED lights mysteriously change colour and pattern in the Kaleidoscopia installation as you enter the show, and a magical forest of illuminated trees in the Enchanted Garden near the cliffs. Returning favourites include Bling, a sparkling jewellery-inspired section; Art for Walls, one of the biggest galleries of original illuminated urban art in the world; and Ballroom Glitz, which draws on Blackpool’s reputation as the home of ballroom dancing.
Back for a second year and running alongside the Illuminations is LightPool, a large-scale light show projected on the 158m-high Blackpool Tower – a true British institution with five attractions in one. LightPool consists of three films that combine light, sound and state-of-the-art mapping technology, including Chasing Stars: Our Adventures in Space – an enthralling eight-minute galactic tour using actual European Space Agency models and insights from British astronaut Tim Peake.
All The Fun Of The Fair
If you’re too late to enjoy the Illuminations, it’s still worth visiting this quintessentially British seaside town, which is full of sights. Experience the city’s famous Pleasure Beach amusement park, which is still one of the UK’s best 120 years on. With more than 145 rides (including the largest number of roller coasters in Europe) plus a Christmas grotto and ice-skating rink (5 Nov-24 Dec), it’s got something for all ages.
If you are more of a culture-seeker than a thrill-seeker, catch the stage versions of two Hollywood blockbusters: The Shawshank Redemption (14-19 Nov; Opera House Winter Gardens) and Little Shop of Horrors (22-26 Nov; Grand Theatre). Animal lovers should head to Sea Life Blackpool and Blackpool Zoo, where they can get up close to more than 1,000 mammals. Get your photo taken with waxwork royals and celebrities at Madame Tussauds Blackpool. Or head to the Grundy Art Gallery where you can see images of original designs from 1930s’ Blackpool Illuminations. Like millions have done so already, it’s time to flock to Blackpool, like a moth to a giant flame.
Where To Eat
For live music and views of the Irish Sea, head to the Beach House Bistro Bar situated on the beach. Dishes range from Mediterranean tapas and pinchos to generously topped stone-baked pizzas. The sangrias are a must. Festival House, Promenade Blackpool, FY1 1AP
Alternatively, indulge in a traditional afternoon tea in the historic Blackpool Tower Ballroom.From £50, including afternoon tea for two plus all-day admissions to the ballroom where you can enjoy live music, dancers and join in, too. The Blackpool Tower, Promenade, FY1 4BJ
Where to Stay
There are more than 200 hotels to choose from in Blackpool, with something for all tastes and budgets. For prime location, sea views and affordable rates, check into the award-winning Kings Guest House, just a stone’s throw from the Pleasure Beach. Rooms come with complimentary slippers and start at £19.98 per person (including full English breakfast). 553 New South Promenade, FY4 INF
How To Get There
London Euston to Blackpool North (takes 2 hours 45 mins; from £87 return Fri-Sun). T:03457 484950. nationalrail.co.uk
More Light Festivals
Longleat Festival of Light
11 Nov – 2 Jan
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Longleat in Wiltshire is a firm family favourite – it combines an English stately home with a safari park. The grounds are transformed with the Festival of Light. The inspiration for the lights comes from Beatrix Potter, who is also marking a special anniversary this year – it has been 150 years since the children’s author, who created Peter Rabbit, was born. This year’s display will also have the largest collection of Chinese lanterns in Europe. While you’re there, explore the 900 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown grounds, created by the great English gardener between 1757 and 1762.
Newbury Festival of Light
19 Nov – 11 Dec
What this festival lacks in size, it makes up for with community spirit. Now in its seventh year, it is fast becoming a tradition in Newbury. Take part in a free lantern-making workshop (27 Nov & 3 Dec), and if you want to make more adventurous pieces, attend the advanced workshop (19 Nov). Previous years have seen the Tardis from Doctor Who and Star Wars characters in the procession. The procession takes place on 11 Dec at 4.30pm on Northbrook Street, and parades to Market Place. Both locations are in the centre of the town.
What would you do if you stumbled upon some old diaries? In Newcastle’s Saltwell Towers, diaries dating back to 1616 were discovered – the last entry described the writer suffering from a cough. Experts have identified the writer to be William Shakespeare. Four hundred years later, the long-lost diary entries have been brought to life at the Enchanted Parks festival with A Midwinter Night’s Tale. As a part of Light up the North Festival (festivals in northern England), this event has proved popular, so the organisers have added an extra night. On this after-dark promenade, you can see Saltwell Park’s maze, lake and towers all illuminated.
Lynn Lumière sheds a new light, literally, on King’s Lynn’s buildings. While the projections only began last year, they have proved popular. Located in Norfolk, the area is full of history and was an important port in the 12th century. Buildings across the town are illuminated from dusk until 10pm, while light shows include Waves at St Nicholas’ Chapel; Night Sailors, a celebration of the town’s maritime history, at The Custom House and Round the Clocks on the clock tower of King’s Lynn Minster. Look out for special projections, too: on Remembrance Sunday (13 Nov), poppies will be displayed, while during December the illuminations will be themed around Christmas.
Light Up Lancaster
Worried it’s going to rain on your trip? If it does, don’t panic, as the tongue-in-cheek show Light Rain (4 Nov) will cheer you up with its dancing and illuminated umbrellas. There are lots of exciting performers during Light Up Lancaster (4-5 Nov), which is also part of Light Up the North. On the Edge of a Rising Tide sees a skeletal crew on illuminated bikes ride through the darkness, and Steve Messam has been commissioned to release thousands of red balloons in the air – a twist on the county’s Lancashire Red Rose emblem. There is also the chance for you to join in the performances: children will enjoy Lock & Key at Lancaster Castle, where they have to play back music on a giant tubular bell in order to unlock the projection, and during Urban Lights Contracts, spectators’ bodies are transformed into musical instruments. Don’t forget to follow the illuminated art trail, which goes through monuments, parks and squares, and culminates in a firework display.
If your trip extends into December, then you’ll be able to catch Lightwaves in Salford Quays in Manchester. Presenting exciting new works from emerging artists, the illuminations see the area transformed. Last year, contemporary art was used to make the public spaces more appealing – there was a lit-up maze, bunny rabbit and more. You can take part in workshops too.