Many generations of British families have spent their summer holidays at this seaside getaway in Lancashire. It became fashionable in the mid-18th century, for the wealthy to bathe in sea water to improve wellbeing, and in 1781 stage coaches began running here from Manchester. Soon after the railway was built in the 1840s, connecting the town to industrialised regions of northern England, it became a well-established resort for all.
Dominating the skyline is the Blackpool Tower, built in 1894, inspired by the Eiffel Tower. A complex of entertainment venues and restaurants below include Tower Ballroom and Tower Circus. There’s also Central Pier, which includes a large Ferris wheel and shops, and South Pier with the nearby Pleasure Beach resort and amusement park, featuring one of the country’s largest roller-coasters. The Golden Mile is a stretch of raucous, pubs, clubs and restaurants. The Blackpool Illuminations, an annual Lights Festival that began in 1879, light up the Promenade at a time when most other English seaside resorts are wrapping up the season. This year: September 2-November 6, 2011.
At the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, opened in 1894, business boomed until the 1930s when it became a movie cinema off-season. Saved in 1972 from demolition, the refurbished site is now home to stage and opera performances, and named as the British National Theatre of Variety.
In the decades since WWII, with the proliferation of cafés, pubs and clubs where gay men would meet, this has became a gay destination; a beach resort for northerners and Irish visitors, just as Brighton is for Londoners and southerners. The gay community here is lively, especially in summertime, with plenty of action in the streets between the Blackpool North Station and the beach above North Pier. The Funny Girls drag cabaret/burlesque showbar, Kaos, Flamingo and the Flying Handbag, all near the corner of Dickson Road and Queen Street, are at the center of it all. Others are nearby.
Many of the gay bars have been around for years, still going strong, but new clubs open each year, sometimes recycling older ones. Drag and cabaret shows abound and many of the general-public pubs and clubs are gay-friendly. Scores of nearby guest houses market themselves as gay (some are men-only), or gay-friendly. There are also three gay bathhouses in town. Blackpool Pride has been held each June since 2006.
For business listings, map locations and website links, see our map & listings tab.
Blackpool International Airport has flight arrivals from Ireland, Spain and Italy, so Dublin, London or Manchester are the easiest places for North Americans to land. See our articles for details on those cities. From Dublin there are flights. From London Euston it's about 3 hours on the train to Blackpool North, with a change at Preston. The Manchester Piccadilly direct to Blackpool South train takes an hour and twenty minutes; to Blackpool North another 20 minutes. See the National Rail website for details.
National Express coaches, with 6 departures on weekdays from the Victoria Coach Station, London, are a less expensive option - but the trip can take up to 7 hours.
Trams, including several antique cars preserved over the decades, and buses are the quickest and least expensive way to get around. There are even double-decker trams. For system info and schedules see Blackpool Transport. At Blackpool Transport Travel Centres you can get detailed timetables free of charge, along with expert travel advice. The Market Street location is open during business hours, Monday through Saturday, and until 3pm on Sunday.
After a night of clubbing, taxis are the best way to get home. The guys at AstaBGay recommend C Cabs (6 Caunce St; 0125-329-2929).
Media & reources
AstaBGay is a gay website guide to Blackpool with full and up-to-date listings, and BGS - Blackpool Gay Scene, has online news, listings and events information for most everything queer in town. BAGS - Blackpool Accommodation for Gays, lists about 40 gay hotels and guesthouses, along with events listings of interest.
The Blackpool Gazette and the Blackpool Citizen are two general-public papers for the area. The Blackpool Live website has guides to all the shows and events at the Winter Garderns, and at all three of the piers.
Visit Blackpool is the site of the Tourist Information Centre.
Other websites of interest: The Blackpool Dance Festival; The Blackpool Zoo; Blackpool Tower; Sandcastle Waterpark; Houndshill Shopping Centre; Odeon Cinema; and Pleasure Beach resort and amusement park.
Churchills (83-85 Topping St), small gay-friendly pub, older crowd, pub food, easy mix, weekend live entertainment.
Flamingo (44 Queen St), stylish multi-level dance club, videos, stage shows, big-name DJs, theme nights; open nightly until 5am, Saturday 'til 6am.
Flying Handbag (44 Queen St), popular gay pub, raunchy drag comedy shows, karaoke, live bands, games, heated patio roof terrace and and balcony.
Funny Girls (5 Dickson Rd), high-energy camp entertainment, popular drag cabaret for mixed mostly straight tourist crowd, dance acts.
Galleon Bar (68-70 Abingdon St), gay-friendly party bar, weekend live music venue, food, WiFi, older mixed crowd.
KAOS Bar (38-42 Queen St), nightly gay dance club, all welcome, industrial decor, good sound/lights, snack foods, cabaret shows; the former Trades Bar.
Lucy's @ Tobago (69-71 Talbot Rd), nightly music and entertainment venue, DJs and diva emcees, karaoke, cheap drinks.
Ma Kelly’s North (77 Talbot St), cabaret acts nightly, vocalists, groups, musicians; daily karaoke sessions, booths in back, room to dance.
Mardi Gras (114 Talbot Rd), cruisy gay basement cabaret and disco club, cabaret shows, male strippers, quiz contests and bingo, Big Scrum Sport Kit nights.
Peek A Booze Hotel & Cabaret Bar (72-74 Dickson Rd), gay-friendly cabaret/karaoke bar, local star drag emcee; low-cost rooms.
Roxy's (23 Queen St), Roxy Hart and colleagues' drag cabaret shows, food, karaoke nights, balcony vistas.
Tobago Blackpool (69-71 Talbot St), gay-friendly pub, live entertainers, drag DJs, Sunday roasts.
Taboo Bar (25 Dickson Rd), early crowd, gay-mix, outdoor seating/people-watching, BBQs, bingo nights; former Queen Vic's Bar.
Acqua Sauna Complex (25-27 Springfield Rd), two-level men's sauna, 10-man spa, steam & dry saunas, cruise and play zone, retail area.
W3 / Wet Wet Wet Sauna (1-3 Charles St), dry/steam sauna, hot tub, sling room, glory holes, porn videos, dark rooms, massage services, naked nights.
Hotels and Guesthouses
Astor Hotel Blackpool (83-85 Lord St; 44-125-329-0669), year-round gay-friendly North Shore B&B and bar, twenty en-suite rooms, coffee and snack bar, evening meal option, patio, WiFi.
Chaps (9-11 Cocker St; 44-125-362-0541), men-only gay hotel, eleven new rooms, fast WiFi, reasonable prices; full English breakfasts, dinners, bar/lounge.
Collingwood Hotel (394 Promenade; 44-125-335-5559), 10 en-suite bedrooms in North Promenade, 5 are smoking permitted, TV, byob bar, full English or vegetarian breakfasts.
Crompton Hotel (20 Cocker St; 44-125 329-6679), lesbian-owned B&B near gay clubs, terrace sea views.
De-Lovely Hotel (82 Lord St; 44-125-331-7943), nine gay-friendly, stylish en-suite guestrooms, flat screen TV, DVD, breakfast in bed option.
Derby Hotel (2 Derby Rd; 44-125-362-3708), year-round guesthouse, 10 en-suite and standard bedrooms, sea views, home cooked meals, TV, parking.
Gabrielle's Hotel (77 Lord St; 44-125-329-5565), 9-room women's sanctuary, en-suite/showers, TV/DVDs, WiFi, home-cooked full English breakfasts.
Guyz Hotel (16 Lord St; 44-125-362-2488), North Shore guesthouse, gay singles, couples and groups; near gay nightlife and beach, with karaoke bar and full English breakfasts.
Lawrence House Hotel (33 General St; 44-125-331-0502), adult-only gay guesthouse, en-suite rooms five minutes walk from the gay scene; roof terrace, reasonable prices, bar/meals.
Legends Hotel (45 Lord St; 44-125-362-0300), hotel for gay men/women and friends, short stroll from town center; ensuite rooms, smoking rooms, fully licensed bar, full English breakfasts, vegetarian options.
Mardi Gras 2 (9-11 Lord St; 44-125-362-8073), hotel for gay people and friends across from Flamingo's and Flying Handbag, double glazed and soundproofed en-suite single and double rooms, meals. The former Northern Star Hotel.
Pride Lodge (12 HIgh St; ), gay-only hotel just yards from nightlife scene; spacious, all-new en-suite rooms, 6-person hot tub, walled garden, parking, WiFi.
Rubens (39 Lord St; 44-125-362-2920), year-round North Shore 10 en-suite bedroom guesthouse, women hosts, Freeview TV, bar.
Seacroft Suites (27 Lord St; 44-125-362-8304), gay B&B, seven spacious en-suite rooms near gay bars, TV/DVDs, WiFi, lounge/ licenced bar.
Trades Hotel (51-55 Lord St; 44 125-362-6401), men-only gay hotel and sauna, internet cafe, full breakfast; Kaos Nightclub gay dancing and cabaret shows.
Willowfield Guest House (51 Banks St; 44-125-362-3406), gay-friendly B&B single, double and twin rooms near North Railway Station.
Find over 50 gay and gay-friendly places to stay in the Blackpool area, from Bispham to South Shore, in our map & listings pages.