For many, Blackpool is the epitome of traditional British seaside holidays – but despite it being just an hour away from home, it’s not somewhere we ever go. In fact, aside from a trip to the circus a few years ago, I don’t think we’d ever actually been during the day until our visit earlier this month! Funny isn’t it that something can be right on your doorstep and yet you never take advantage of it.
Heading over to Blackpool on one of the hottest days of the year didn’t feel all that smart – I was worried that we’d get stuck in traffic, struggle to park, that it would be heaving and that we’d suffer in the heat (this is a major concern when your family is 40% ginger!). We decided to set off early doors (I’m talking 8.45am) to beat the rush and actually made it over to Blackpool in little over an hour and easily found a parking space in the Bonny Street car park opposite Coral Island.
Coral Island is Blackpool’s largest indoor free admission family attraction – perfect positioned right on the seafront and ideal for passing the time on a rainy day or in our case, an air conditioned oasis in a heatwave!
From the moment you walk through the door, Coral Island is an assault on the senses – it’s dark and noisy with flashing lights drawing you in everywhere, tempting you to pour your holiday money into a vast array of games and machines. Basically heaven for our children who have only ever really been to an arcade once before in Scarborough where they developed a heavy obsession for 2p machines (and who can blame them!)
Whilst we got our bearings and started to choose what things we might like to try out, Dave made a beeline for a change machine to make sure we had a ready supply of coins! The kids were fascinated by the Pirate Flyer ride which literally takes you on a ride above everyone’s heads, giving you a great view of Coral Island in the process! You have to buy your tokens before you go on the ride and one of ours got stuck in the machine, it took me a matter of moments to find a member of staff to help us out and remove the token from the machine.
Next on our list was hitting up the 2p machines, where I honestly think we could have played all day. We picked out machines which not only give out 2ps but prize tickets and so began our collection! The kids were so excited when the machines spat out reams of tickets for them to gather up, you’d think they’d won the ticket lottery!
The Camel Derby was great fun, though the kids found it quite tricky and the other adults who were playing alongside us were difficult to beat – Dave couldn’t resist giving the kids a hand but we soon decided that it was probably not worth them playing again!
Of course we couldn’t visit the Admiral’s Lounge, Island Slots or Casino as these areas are clearly fenced off and suitable for over 18s only but we did have a lot of fun playing Prize Bingo. This isn’t quite the same as the old bingo dabber on a card situation, you sit yourself down in front of a screen, pop your coins in and basically press at the cards as the numbers are called – they are automatically highlighted for you and over the course of a few games both girls managed to win a line each giving them points to spend on a small prize. (A flashing hedgehog and a light up ball if I remember rightly!)
We loved that nothing was really that expensive so we didn’t feel we had to say no to rides or arcade games (though we did limit some of them to one turn!)
One of the newest additions to Coral Island is a VR simulator ride – I warn you now, this isn’t cheap at £3 so was definitely a one go only ride, but Ben absolutely loved it!
When it comes to eating in Coral Island there are four restaurants offering a range of food and best of all, kids eat free! One under 10 eats free for every paying adult so we obviously had to pay for an extra children’s meal but this is fairly typical. I let Dave choose where we ate and he picked out The Buccaneer – a fairly traditional pub with a piratey twist from the decor to the staff (yes, the staff were in full pirate costume which the kids loved!). I had a lasagne (which was possibly the most tomatoey lasagne I’d ever had in my life but it filled a hole!) Dave and Ben went for burgers whilst the girls had chicken nuggets as is standard!
Of course the most important thing to do before we left was to cash in ALL our tickets! As it turns out, we didn’t actually have that many tickets at all compared to some of the people we saw feeding them into the “ticket eater” but we had enough for Ben to be able to choose a small toy from the Treasure Chest!
I think we spent about £40 on the arcades and the same again on dinner & drinks for five . . . we could have easily spent longer in Coral Island but we felt it was only right that we went for a quick paddle before our car parking ran out! We’ve promised the kids we’ll go back another day.
*We were invited to visit Coral Island and our expenses were paid however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
Click here for an updated post on Coral Island with some top tips for getting the most from your visit