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  1. So here we go, for the final time in a while, we're off to Blackpool Pleasure Beach! Yay! A bit of background first. I come from a town that's just a short distance from the Pleasure Beach, then moved to Yorkshire for university and stayed here since. But each year my wife and I will come over to the Pleasure Beach for a day. As a child I firmly believed Blackpool was absolutely God-awful as a town - and still do (edible crotchless underwear available in capsule machines on the sea front). But the Pleasure Beach is one of the few things it has going for it. We're travelling to the Pleasure Beach with our two-year-old son and my brother-in-law, and are joined by two friends at the car park opposite the football ground (or, as we locals used to call it, "the skip"), with my parents-in-law arriving later and joining us in the park itself. It's probably about a 10-minute walk to the park (after they've increased the bloody car park fare to £12, I think it was, and payment by card only) past all the B&Bs, one of which is called "Roachville". I have little doubt it lives up to its name. Arriving at the park and it's customary to go to the loos just outside, which of course lacks baby changing in the men's. Finally into the park itself (after getting our wristbands that we bought online, being given all sorts of promotional bumpf, going through the metal detectors and collecting our belongings from the trays) and I do have to say that, whilst the Pleasure Beach doesn't look great, it most certainly is. If you're ever in the UK then it's probably THE park you want to do, probably even moreso than Alton Towers. It doesn't have the nice, peaceful tranquility or massive modern rides of the big, big parks but it makes up for it in just how unique it is. We head on over to Infusion first of all, an SLC that's set entirely over water. In fact, I think it's still the world's only roller coaster built entirely over water. It's a good little ride (we go on it twice whilst the queues are low) but it does batter me a bit with element after element after element. There's not much space, but it is very tightly compressed. It does really look the part though - the park have done very well with this, fitting it into a small space whilst allowing people to look onto it from a long observation area (where there are plenty of food places). Even better is that the Big One and Big Dipper run alongside this, as well as the train! The queue area is also strangely great, basically consisting of bridges going over the water and between the track struts. Next up was Avalance, during which I decided to stay off-ride with my son (one of our friends looked after him whilst we were on Infusion). Avalance is a bobsled coaster, and it's not too bad but nothing special for me. Over far too quickly. But it does take a while to queue for (for some reason). I think I remember this opening, and my sister getting stuck on it when it broke down. Ho-hum. Kept my son entertained by watching the Revolution with him, which he loved as it went round the loop. Last main ride, at the moment at least, was the Big One. The tallest roller coaster in the world when it opened, the lift hill is 235ft above sea level (but 213ft above ground) and, whilst the height has been overtaken many times over the years since, it's still a great coaster. It would definitely be in my top 10 in the world, especially for the following four reasons: 1 - the first quarter of the ride is BRILLIANT. There is a roll to the right on the lift hill drop but I quite like that. Then so many great straights up until you nearly come out of the park (so by this point you've travelled most of the length of the park), before a corner and then back the same way, whilst running alongside Infusion and Big Dipper. 2 - the sheer size of this coaster, and the unique layout of the Pleasure Beach. Because of the size of the land the park has (hint - not much) and keeping so many old attractions, the Big One winds around - and actually through - quite a lot of the park. If you want to see the Pleasure Beach, this is the way. 3 - it lasts AGES. Compared to a lot of major UK coasters this one really gives you a lot of value for money. 4 - loads of people on it are wimps, screaming and holding on for dear life. I just tend to laugh as I put my arms in the air (as much as I can without thwacking my wife in the face). And yes, as it's sponsored by Pepsi Max, it's painted in appropriate blue and red and, before the lift hill, goes through two giant Pepsi Max cans. It did suffer a bit of a breakdown as we arrived, but the queue wasn't that big. Following this, my in-laws have arrived and so, whilst the rest of the group go on the Steeplechase, I go with the in-laws and my son to Nickelodeon Land so he can go on some stuff. Which is fair enough - he quite enjoyed some of the rides once he got into the swing of things. Steeplechase, though, is a ride I really can't go on any more - my legs seemed too long last time to ride on it (the only steeplechase coaster left in the world, like sitting on carousel horses but they're on a roller coaster track) and I fell over in pain when I managed to get off the ride. Not really a ride I'm bothered about, but it would definitely be a pity if it went. Lunch was eventually called for and the only place on-site which could offer anything half good is a Burger King (or Hungry Jacks as they're called in Australia). Fair enough. Got an "Angry Whopper" which apparently has hot sauce baked into the bun. That, fries and a drink for, I think, £6, which isn't bad for theme park food prices. Alright, what else did we do? After this it becomes a bit hectic. Various other rides with my son in the Nickelodeon Land. Also, the others went on the Nickelodeon Streak (new name for the Roller Coaster / Velvet Coaster, which is now painted bright orange). Again, not really a ride I'm too bothered about, but it's good to see that Nickelodeon chose to keep it rather than dismantle it or change anything. Good old coaster. Wild Mouse with my wife. This thing hurts. A very compact, lethal little coaster. If you think "well, I've been on a Wild Mouse elsewhere and they're nothing special", boy are you wrong about this one. Made of wood (and I have to duck at one or two bits, otherwise my head will collide with parts of the track overhead), this thing consists of 90-degree turns (and even 180-degree turns) that are incredibly sharp and taken at speed. You can choose to sit alone or, if you're sadistic (as we are), sit with someone else, one person between the others' legs. The Big Dipper was ridden a few times, as was the Grand Nash. Both of these coasters are old wooden ones and firmly fit into the category of "ow ow ow my spine". The Grand Nash is of particular note as it's a racing coaster but only has one track - it just loops back on itself. If you choose the train on the right, you'll arrive back on the left. It is a single track with two cars. Both Grand Nash and Big Dipper are pretty old, with the Big Dipper apparently being built in 1923, and are pretty interesting to ride and see how they make use of the space. I especially like how the Grand Nash goes through the "garden" bit of the park (which ordinarily you can't go to) and you can see the greenhouses where plants are grown, as well as weeds coming up through the track as it passes close to the ground. In terms of the roller coasters we went on, Revolution finishes the bill. Previously the Irn Bru Revolution (with orange and blue colours, though now it's not it's simply painted a dull grey), this is Europe's first fully looping roller coaster. A simple premise - you climb up the stairs to the station, get on it and it does a loop and then stops. Then it goes backwards through the loop, back to the station. Still pretty good, and it's one of my wife's favourites. We did do a few other rides, mostly with my son. We took him on Alice In Wonderland, an old dark ride where you sit in the car and go past some mostly static sets, which he didn't seem that fussed about. Then we took him on the Ghost Train, which is mostly the same thing (and probably about as scary as Alice), but it also has a small "roller coaster" element in which you basically go down a ramp really fast, and then back up. He seemed to quite like watching this bit before the ride (as this bit comes outdoors, then goes back indoors) and didn't seem to mind the ride. We also took him on the River Caves - a cool little boat ride that looks like it goes through the sunken remains of the Crystal Maze sets, with a tiny drop at the end, which he was quite interested in. And for ourselves - he didn't want to go on it - we went on the Wallace & Gromit ride, a new dark ride which is basically Alice In Wonderland, but with Wallace & Gromit. We also did the Ice Blast (previously the PlayStation), which is a drop tower and fair enough. That basically makes up the Pleasure Beach, which I think was closing at about 6:30 (or something like that, having opened at 10:30). Following this we went to a nearby pub for dinner, and then started heading home at about 9-ish, my son having been awake since about 7 in the morning. Somehow he hadn't slept all day and zonked out immediately on getting in the car. Should also mention that we did consider doing Valhalla, but it was near the end and none of us really fancied it. Valhalla is basically an indoor water ride par excellence - absolutely thoroughly brilliant, if you like water rides. I haven't come across one that comes near it. Ripsaw Falls at Islands Of Adventure is the nearest, but pales in comparison to Valhalla. It is brilliant. It is fantastic. It will absolutely soak you, no questions asked. You will jump through flames, backwards, whilst travelling through a giant freezer and if somehow you don't end up soaked (you will), someone will be on hand at the end to tie you down and pour sixteen buckets of ice-cold water over you. Again, you will get soaked, and unfortunately you're in Blackpool, one of the places in the world where you're least likely to get dry in the sun (a foreign concept to the locals). So. Pleasure Beach. Absolutely brilliant place, so long as you can get the right time and queues aren't massive (we normally manage okay). Yes, you've got scummy parents smoking pot in the queue for the Wild Mouse and yelling at their effing kids, and the weather's not too brilliant (it rained for the morning, but then turned okay for us). But it has a fantastic collection of rides (the ones we did are most certainly not all of them, but definitely most of the major ones) with a new coaster in the works. And again, it has such a unique layout! Constrained by space and planning restrictions, it is like Alton Towers where rides have to be imaginitively planned, but with hardly any room. And somehow it works! During the Big One, you will travel over part of the Big One track, alongside Infusion, alongside the train, over the Big Dipper track, over the Grand Nash station, over Steeplechase and underneath a part of the Nickelodeon Streak. The Revolution, arguably one of the smallest "big" coasters known to man, still allows people to walk under the loop. So many rides just wind around each other, unlike other parks where each coaster is nicely sectioned off from everything else - even the park itself. The Pleasure Beach has absolutely no qualms about putting a garden directly underneath Avalanche, for instance, so you can have a walk around them whilst the coaster roars overhead. It can be a confusing park at times - occasionally, near the mid-area, you have to deal with some things being on different levels (coming off Big Dipper, for instance), and it's easy to forget that the park actually has a road that runs underneath it too (we used to park on it when we went ice skating). The park has, sadly, gotten rid of three of my favourite attractions in recent years - the old Gold Mine (think halfway between a dark ride and a roller coaster, which has now been replaced with the much more sedate Wallace & Gromit), Noah's Ark (a brilliant "fun house" walk-through attraction, which always made me wonder how they fit it all in), and Bling (a recent flat ride which was fun, now replaced with Red Arrows - a "Gerstlauer Sky Fly thrill ride" which was boring). Soon after I went to Cedar Point back in 2011, I joined the park's unofficial forums. Some people on it thought they couldn't think of another park which had to fit so much into so little space. Pleasure Beach does that, but on a much smaller scale. I guess Movie World kinda does, but it does seem to scale down some of the rides a lot. Pleasure Beach doesn't. Somehow it still has pretty big rides but it still works. If you're ever doing a roller coaster tour of Europe, Blackpool Pleasure Beach is one you need to go to. Probably as much as Alton Towers, if not moreso.
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