Many generations of British families have spent their summer holidays at this seaside getaway in Lancashire. It became fashionable in the mid-18th century, for the wealthy to bathe in sea water to improve wellbeing, and in 1781 stage coaches began running here from Manchester. Soon after the railway was built in the 1840s, connecting the town to industrialised regions of northern England, it became a well-established resort for all.
Dominating the skyline is the Blackpool Tower, built in 1894, inspired by the Eiffel Tower. A complex of entertainment venues and restaurants below include Tower Ballroom and Tower Circus. There’s also Central Pier, which includes a large Ferris wheel and shops, and South Pier with the nearby Pleasure Beach resort and amusement park, featuring one of the country’s largest roller-coasters. The Golden Mile is a stretch of raucous, pubs, clubs and restaurants. The Blackpool Illuminations, an annual Lights Festival that began in 1879, light up the Promenade at a time when most other English seaside resorts are wrapping up the season. This year: September 2-November 6, 2011.
At the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, opened in 1894, business boomed until the 1930s when it became a movie cinema off-season. Saved in 1972 from demolition, the refurbished site is now home to stage and opera performances, and named as the British National Theatre of Variety.
In the decades since WWII, with the proliferation of cafés, pubs and clubs where gay men would meet, this has became a gay destination; a beach resort for northerners and Irish visitors, just as Brighton is for Londoners and southerners. The gay community here is lively, especially in summertime, with plenty of action in the streets between the Blackpool North Station and the beach above North Pier. The Funny Girls drag cabaret/burlesque showbar, Kaos, Flamingo and the Flying Handbag, all near the corner of Dickson Road and Queen Street, are at the center of it all. Others are nearby.
Many of the gay bars have been around for years, still going strong, but new clubs open each year, sometimes recycling older ones. Drag and cabaret shows abound and many of the general-public pubs and clubs are gay-friendly. Scores of nearby guest houses market themselves as gay (some are men-only), or gay-friendly. There are also three gay bathhouses in town. Blackpool Pride has been held each June since 2006. For business listings, locations and website links, see our map & listings tab.
Blackpool International Airport has flight arrivals from Ireland, Spain and Italy, so Dublin, London or Manchester are the easiest places for North Americans to land. See our articles for details on those cities. From Dublin there are flights. From London Euston it's about 3 hours on the train to Blackpool North, with a change at Preston. The Manchester Piccadilly direct to Blackpool South train takes an hour and twenty minutes; to Blackpool North another 20 minutes. See the National Rail website for details.
National Express coaches, with 6 departures on weekdays from the Victoria Coach Station, London, are a less expensive option - but the trip can take up to 7 hours.
Trams, including several antique cars preserved over the decades, and buses are the quickest and least expensive way to get around. There are even double-decker trams. For system info and schedules see Blackpool Transport. At Blackpool Transport Travel Centres you can get detailed timetables free of charge, along with expert travel advice. The Market Street location is open during business hours, Monday through Saturday, and until 3pm on Sunday.
After a night of clubbing, taxis are the best way to get home. The guys at AstaBGay recommend C Cabs (6 Caunce St; 0125-329-2929).
Media & reources
The Blackpool Gazette and the Blackpool Citizen are two general-public papers for the area. The Blackpool Live website has guides to all the shows and events at the Winter Garderns, and at all three of the piers.
Visit Blackpool is the site of the Tourist Information Centre.
Other websites of interest: The Blackpool Dance Festival; The Blackpool Zoo; Blackpool Tower; Sandcastle Waterpark; Houndshill Shopping Centre; Odeon Cinema; and Pleasure Beach resort and amusement park.
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