Blackpool Pleasure Beach 23rd July

Yesterday I took my first visit to Blackpool Pleasure Beach in about seven years, drawn back by the new Icon rollercoaster. More of which later.

Firstly, the park is looking good at the moment, its clean, tidy and well presented overall. One of the great joys of Blackpool has always been the tightly packed mish mash of rides and attractions with more packed in to a relatively small space than you could imagine. Also, the mix of classic woodies and newer rides means there is something for everyone., and many of the rides are truly great. But, over the years, a lot of the magic has been lost:

  1. The Wild Mouse – yes it was brutal but still one of my favoutites. The replacement kiosk doesn’t really make up for it.
  2. Writsbands: When I first started going to Blackpool, it was pay per ride and free entry to the park. This meant that it was in the operators interests to keep things moving swiftly and there was a manic energy and excitement to the place. Now, slow operations, one train operations are the norm. There is now no need to keep things moving as they already have your money.
  3. Fastpass: This is the first time I have been since they introduced this system and it means that there are queues where before there were none, and the unsubtle nature of the whole system meant that you would be in the gates, ready to board before being told not to get on because fastpass people were coming. Obviously they want people to pay for this, but this combined with the slow operations meant that the queues quickly became frustrating. I don’t mind waiting 30 minutes for a ride unless, like yesterday the number of people in the queue means it should be 10.

However – we were lucky, at about 3:00pm the park emptied which meant a lot of the bigger rides became walk ons. Iy has to be said though that it really wasn’t that busy all day so I shudder to think what it would be like which the crowds are high.

The rides:

Icon – marketed as Britain’s first double launch coaster. Strange given the double launch Revolution is not 50 yards away, but never mind. It is though Britains first Mack launched ride and it looks fantastic, the way the track intertwines the other rides around it is incredible. The launches are forceful, the hills steeper than you would imagine, and lots of twists and turns. We rode it twice: From the front seat it was loads of fun, it felt faster than it looks but nothing earth shattering. Overall though, we came off satisfied. The second ride was at the very back – this is where this coaster really came to life with ejector airtime on the drops, including the one leading to the second launch, and it really seemed to whip through the twists and curves. Definitely the best place to ride and a really solid addition for Blackpool.

The Big One – it doesn’t hold any records any more but I must admit that on my first ride I had forgotten how high it felt and got a little freaked out. The ride after the first drop is pretty non descript, its all about the speed. Good fun but I feel a slightly wasted opportunity. The second ride was from the front and I found it much more enjoyable. I think though that I have slightly missed the point of the ride – from the reactions of the people around me the coaster is almost a rite of passage, the challenge to take in Blackpool. Lots around me were very nervous getting on then whooped and cheered all the way round once the first drop was over, lots of breathless cries of “I cant believe I did that” at the finish.

Revolution: Ground-breaking in its day, it is now a museum piece, but the first drop and the backwards loop still pack a punch. Haven’t ridden this for years so it was good to have another go.

Avalanche – a standard bobsleigh coaster – lots of fun, good for the families.

Infusuion was down for most of the day, once it opened the queue rapidly got out of control with the fastpass people filling up one side and one train operation so we didn’t bother. Valhalla was closed all day.

We rode the Ghost train, River Caves and Wallace and Gromits Thrill O Matic, three dark rides, nothing incredible but full of charm. Its great that the pleasure beach has this kind of ride as well as the thrill machines.

The rest of this trip report is brought to you by the word “Ow!”

It should be noted that I am 6 feet 6 inches tall and getting into many of these rides requires skills that only a contortionist can truly master. Then throw in the strong forces and a trip to the chiropractor becomes a necessity.

The Steeplechase: I made the mistake of riding with my partner and squeezing into the back seat, my legs spread so far it was agony. The horse then started, every curve , every drop caused more pain. We laughed a lot, but walking like John Wayne for the rest of the day wasn’t part of the plan!

The Big Dipper: One of the classic Woodies, I didn’t expect it to be smooth and thankfully I was able to brace for the rough parts. Loads of fun, a real classic coaster. Long may it remain.

The Nickelodeon Streak – I remember riding this when it had no safety bars at all.. The most gentle of the woodies here but still good fun. Most painfully slow queue of the day though, especially galling when the second train is sat next to the station.

Which brings me to the final coaster, The Grand National. This ride has a special place in my heart, it was my first ever adult coaster and the fact that it always races means that every ride is an experience. But good grief –rough is not the word. This was like a sadistic bronco ride in an earthquake. It was brutal, and not in an entirely good way. I only just folded into the seat and then was stapled in. I don’t think I have ever experienced such pain in places on a ride. I have to say we did ride it twice so it cant have been too bad but work is required to restore this beauty to its former glory. Its too fine a coaster to let it fade away. At its best, you really have to ride this machine and brace yourself for the drops but there was too much unexpected pain this time to be truly great.

Overall, we had fun, but left feeling that something was lacking. We will go back, but wont be rushing.

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