If when you think of Blackpool you imagine run-down guesthouses and bawdy stag and hen dos, then take another look.
While plenty of people may still head to the seaside town for a drunken weekend away, the resort is rapidly reinventing itself as the destination of choice for families.
One of Blackpool’s biggest strengths is the sheer amount of things to do – both indoor and out.
This is just as well, as the town’s world-famous illuminations mean it remains bustling with activity well after the end of the summer season.
And while there is still cheap and cheerful accommodation for those who want it, there are now a selection of luxury hotels and apartments for visitors looking for something a bit special.
The Queens Mansions – a set of five-star apartments which offer tourists (and the occasional celebrity) a stylish and comfortable home from home – are proving a popular choice.
Located on the promenade at Bispham – the northern end of the illuminations – it is a bit quieter than seafront hotels in the centre, making it a great choice for families.
Its less-than-central location is not really a disadvantage at all.
You still get the sea views and there are plenty of amenities on your doorstep with the major attractions a quick and easy tram ride away –Bispham tram stop is right outside.
We stayed in the three-bedroom Empress Suite, which was spacious enough to easily accommodate six adults.
There are flat-screen televisions in every room – even the bathroom, which has an Aquavision set at the end of the whirlpool bath – plus a well-equipped kitchen for those who want to cater for themselves.
Our apartment was so luxurious, it was almost a shame to leave it to go and enjoy the rest of Blackpool.
Of course, the illuminations remain the big draw in autumn and they never disappoint. Our two children gazed in wonder at the flashing lights and moving displays featuring favourite characters like Postman Pat, Noddy and Basil Brush.
The iconic Blackpool Tower has undergone a major revamp since theme park owner Merlin took it over in 2011.
Now, anyone can go inside the tower, but they have to pay to visit the attractions with both single and combination tickets available.
The tower circus was the highlight of our trip.
Nowadays, there are no animals involved and all the thrills are down to the amazing talent of the people in the troupe.
The acrobats are phenomenal but the real star of the show is the clown – Mooky, who is perfectly complemented by his straight-man brother Boo. Forget any ideas you may have of creepy clowns, Mooky is a fun, fresh and modern reinterpretation of the role who manages to get both adults and children collapsing in fits of laughter.
The top of the tower is now known as the Blackpool Tower Eye and comes complete with a 4D film, which celebrates the town’s history while also reminding you how far it has come.
For young children, there is an impressive Indiana Jones-themed soft play called Jungle Jim’s, while teenagers will enjoy the guts and gore of the Blackpool Tower Dungeon.
Blackpool’s other must-visit family attraction is the Pleasure Beach which has plenty of white knuckle rides for the brave.
But there is now even more for the little ones too with Nickelodeon Land.
This is bursting with child-friendly rides centred on characters like Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and the Backyardigans.
The newest addition to the Pleasure Beach is the Wallace & Gromit Thrill-o-matic, taking riders through scenes from the plasticine pair’s adventures including The Wrong Trousers.
For animal-lovers, there is Blackpool Zoo.
It boasts an impressive collection of creatures including gorillas, elephants, lions, tigers and, when their new enclosure is completed later this year, orang-utans.
If you prefer to find out about the creatures living in the waters which lap Blackpool’s impressive sandy beach, there is the Sea Life centre.
Sea Life is a great indoor option for rainy days with plenty to wow the children from tiny clown fish, so they really can find Nemo, to a rock pool where they are encouraged to gently handle the creatures living inside.
Other highlights include a gigantic spider crab and an underwater tunnel where sharks and stingrays glide above you as you walk.
Other family attractions include a Madame Tussauds waxworks and a pirate-themed adventure golf course.
Three things to do:
1 The Comedy Carpet and Tower Festival Headland. Take a stroll where every step brings a new giggle on Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet in the shadow of Blackpool Tower – it is one of the largest pieces of public art ever commissioned in the UK and celebrates the jokes, songs and comedy catchphrases of Britain’s most well-loved comedians and writers.
2Blackpool Illuminations. Take a horse-and-carriage ride, drive or heritage tram trip along almost six miles of coastline from Starr Gate to Bispham to see the illuminations in all their glory – or just enjoy a stroll along a shorter stretch. The world-famous Illuminations – which continue until November 10 –cost £2.4 million to stage, with the equipment worth £10m. They attract more than 3.5m visitors to Blackpool every year – visitors spend more than £275m in the resort.
3Blackpool Tower. The iconic image of the Lancashire resort boasts a number of attractions inside – from the hugely popular circus and the fabulously ornate ballroom to a children’s play area . And not forgetting the Tower Eye at the top, offering stunning views along the coast, as well as through a glass floor down to the ground below.
Holiday: Queens Mansions is part of the Burbage Holiday Group, a family-owned and run business providing self-catering accommodation. Choose from the Victorian splendour of Burbage Holiday Lodge or the 1930s Art Deco-influenced Queens Mansions with a selection of four-star one and two bedroom apartments and five-star three-bedroom apartments, priced from £340 for two people sharing per week.
Resort PasS: This new ticket offers the best of Blackpool at great value for money. It is valid for one visit to each attraction over a week. There are two types – The Resort Pass + includes access to: Pleasure Beach; Nickelodeon Land; The Tower Eye; Tower Dungeon; Sea Life Blackpool; Madame Tussauds Blackpool; Blackpool Zoo, Sandcastle Waterpark and Blackpool Model Village & Gardens. The Original Resort Pass includes access to: Pleasure Beach; Nickelodeon Land; Madame Tussauds, Sea Life, Tower Dungeon and Eye. Blackpool Tower Circus can be added to both passes.
Cost: The Resort Pass + costs £77.50 per person, saving more than £55, based on standard adult rates at each attraction. The Original Resort Pass £52.50 per person, saving more than £35.
website: Blackpool Resort Pass