TRAVEL: Forget the cliches '“Â Blackpool really does rock!
Jordan Cross reports on a visit to Blackpool which put some stereotypes to bed...
The raised eyebrows and surprised tone said it all.
'˜Oh Blackpool? Really? I'm sure you'll have a lovely time...'
It was a response to revealing where we were headed for a break for my young family, which factored in all the stereotypes associated with the renowned, and sometimes infamous, Lancashire seaside resort.
Images of dodging the pram around bladdered stag parties and shrieking hen groups appeared in the mind's eye, as we battled our way up the M6 with a particularly unruly 20-month-old in tow.
But if it's good enough for hip-hop royalty, after Will Smith AKA the Fresh Prince visited town last year and played to a crowd of 20,000, it deserved an open mind heading into our stay.
With another A-list attraction in Britney Spears arriving to perform in September, the clues were there's a wind of change whistling off the Irish Sea when it comes to traditional pre-conceptions of a destination which has remained a British favourite since the 19th century.
And after a weekend break to savour it's clear, it's time to put away all the tired cliches and negativity bandied around with this modernised and progressive destination.
The fruits of Â£500m of new investment to the town's infrastructure was proudly outlined to us by our taxi driver, as he ferried us to the seafront hub of activity from our comfortable hotel 10 minutes away from the madding crowd on our first day.
Blackpool's excellent and affordable resort pass was the bedrock of our stay (Â£57.50 or Â£83 for resort pass plus) and opened the doors to a plethora of wide-ranging attractions at discounted prices.
The renowned Pleasure Beach was tackled with some trepidation, but not over the world of white-knuckle rollercoasters on offer but rather it's suitability for a toddler. We needn't have worried.Â
With 19 rides available irrespective of height there was plenty to leave our little lad in awe of his surroundings.
The same can be said of the tram which provides simple and effective hop-on, hop-off travel up the coast - and an ideal opportunity for an inquisitive boy to make friends with accommodating locals.
Cheryl Tweedy, Simon Cowell and Ant & Dec can all now be regarded as his acquaintances, too, as Madame Tussauds proved a highlight.
Thankfully, it also offered respite for mum and dad as they grabbed a pint in the replica Rovers Return of Coronation Street fame, and took a seat next to the Deidre Barlow waxwork.
So all the fun of a traditional seaside resort there, with a polished and family-friendly veneer.
But it's the hidden gems which really dazzled - and the outstanding Blackpool Zoo certainly falls into that category.
With over 1,000 animals set across 32 acres of parkland and lakes there's no doubt the interaction with wildlife on offer more than matches its more trumpeted peers.
Which can also be said for the wealth of places to eat and drink on offer.
Yes, you can grab your fry-ups and pub grub, but along Blackpool's famed Golden Mile lies some top-drawer eateries to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with more celebrated names.
The White Tower Restaurant, Faringo's Vegan and the perfectly-situated Beach House Bistro & Bar all fall into that category, while we opted for the fun and open-armed welcome on offer at the Viva Vegas Diner.
So with cliches firmly put in their box and a host of family memories created, those friends who questioned our stay were ironically proved correct.
Yes, Blackpool, and all its surprises, really does rock.Â
For more details on what Blackpool has to offer visitÂ www.visitblackpool.com.Â