Wednesday, October 11, 2017

KARA ABROAD: That First Trip to Blackpool

Several years ago, I asked a friend who lives in Blackpool what it's like there. His response: "It's shit and the clock doesn't work." Which no one has disagreed with, and yet at the same time I've had people say I really ought to go.

Having never been to Atlantic City I'm reluctant to say Blackpool is the Atlantic City of England... but what little I know of AC seems to back that up. Obviously there's never going to be a true 1-to-1 comparison of any inherently culture-specific experience, but Blackpool is a very long stretch of shops and attractions along a beach with some very specific Things You Do There mixed in.

Sarcasm aside, I did not have a bad time. I can see why someone might not want to live there or go constantly, and I can see where the jokes come from, but if you're with friends it is a Nice Day Out.

Granted I didn't see everything because that would be difficult. But we had a few ticketed events we hit.

Madame Tussaud's Blackpool

Yeah, no. Yeah. As in the wax museum. It's not as big as the mothership location, but the Blackpool stop-in has some interesting rooms.

By the way, if you've never been to a wax museum... it's kind of creepy. Eventually it's less so, but those first few rooms take some getting used to because the majority of the selections are pretty realistic.

For Coronation Street fans, there's an actual pub recreation where you can sit down and watch television with mannequins of the characters. If you don't know the show, don't go in there for long because you will get very confused.

All that said, there are some very cool bits. There's a whole room set aside for Brian Cox, including a hologram of him at one end talking about space and stuff. There's an Abbey Road recreation and a bit of the royal family you can pose with. In fact, a lot of the displays have interactive sections.

Check out their website to see what's on display.

The Blackpool Eye

This is one of those "school trip fodder" stops but it's also very cool. Blackpool Tower is another good old "inspired by the Eiffel Tower" construction, with a history of its own. There's a 4D cinema with a cute little film about how great Blackpool is, a timeline area, and then you go up a lift and go... well... nearly to the top.

At 380 feet, seen above, there's an observation deck with a partial glass floor. (See above.) It can apparently hold the weight of two elephants, but you still go a little wobbly standing on it no matter how reasonable you are.

You can go up a couple more levels and get some amazing views of Blackpool and the beach. Not all the way to the literal top, though; that staircase is padlocked and I'm actually sort of glad.

The set dressing around the trip to the top was fun, but the actual view for miles was the best part. Find out more about it here.

Star Trek: The Exhibition

It's not a proper day out with my friends without a geek outing. There's a very cool Star Trek exhibit on with costumes and set pieces from the series and films. There's also walls of scripts (with the animated series included), a TOS bridge for posing, and a Discovery section.

Oh, and a gift shop of course.

Download the exhibit's app and you can play with some of the exhibits in augmented reality, too. It's a very cute conceit I'm hoping to see continue in other similar exhibits.

You don't have to be a dyed-in-the-wool hardcore fan to really enjoy this and take things away from it. There are tons of deep cut exhibits, but even someone like me who considers it a secondary or tertiary fandom can geek out like an idiot.

More info is on their website.

Rock and Lights

We absolutely didn't see everything because there wasn't that kind of time. There was a circus. There was a ballroom. There was a Shrek stage musical(???). There's a lot.

But I did experience two things that are apparently essential. Firstly, rock. Not music. Not a specific rock geologically speaking. This:

Big fat sticks of solid sugar. Are they edible? Technically. I just ate a smaller one that was chewable under the candy coating. They taste like mint, usually, but there are other flavors. And not all of them have words on them, but many do. You can get some that say YOU WANKER if that's your thing.

Oh, and the lights.

The Blackpool Illuminations run for 66 days every year, effectively extending the beach town's touristy-ness into non-beach season. (So no, it's not Christmas related at all -- it ends in early November, usually.) The light displays feature local art, designs sponsored by popular shops and landmarks, and some frankly crazy junk like random astronauts and an Alice in Wonderland scene with Alice painted up like a mime.

And yes, before you ask, there's a light-up TARDIS.

It's not a posh day out. It's definitely Being A Tourist. And that's honestly fine sometimes. And it's an experience. It's cold and a bit windy and you're tired at the end of it from all the walking but... it's nice. I can see why they went and made a musical about it.
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