At a cursory glance, it might seem that I had somewhat oversold our two-night trip away from home. After all, when most people think of Blackpool, the images that spring to mind are of the Tower, the promenade, the Illuminations... And yes, come the weekend, numerous stag and hen parties in search of a good time. A far cry from the glitz and glamour of Vegas.
But the two locations have more in common that you might imagine. For just as Vegas evolved to serve the 20,000 or so workers who had arrived to labour on the nearby Hoover Dam in the early Thirties, so Blackpool emerged to cater for 19th-century Lancashire cotton workers as the mill-owners began the practice of closing for a week each year to repair the machinery. At the heart of both locations lies the same agenda: to entertain, relax and make you forget about all your woes.
To convince my wife that she didn’t need a long flight to get some Vegas flavour, I carefully planned an evening of entertainment to commence with a ride around town in a chauffeur-driven limo. ‘This one was originally used for Britney Spears’s wedding.’ Reveals Patrick Cuddihy, head driver of local limo service Jet Set limousines, as we climb inside a Lincoln stretch model. As he pours us Champagne and switches on the disco lights, I wonder aloud which other celebrities might have been inside the car. ‘All the greats,’ he deadpans. ‘Frank Carson, Roy Walker and most of the cast of EastEnders.’ Hmm, not quite Sinatra’s Rat Pack, but it’ll do for now.
Settling back against the plush leather seating, we head along Blackpool’s answer to The Strip and take in, not the lights of the casinos and hotels of Las Vegas, but the equally beguiling glow of The Illuminations. The Illuminations season runs from late August to early November, costs a staggering £2.4 million to stage, stretches almost six miles from Starr Gate to Bispham and features more than a million light bulbs. It really is a sight to behold, along with the flashing lights of the resort’s three piers. And once you get near the Tower, practically every shop front is festooned with a vast array of coloured lights. But even without the Illuminations, Blackpool is no slouch on the glitter front.