Christmas extravaganza planned for Blackpool with weeks of events to welcome Santa to the seaside

After last year's Christmas season was marred by lockdown restrictions, Blackpool events organisers are already on the ball to bounce back with exciting preparations for 2021 festivities.

Saturday, 7th August 2021, 4:55 am

Last Christmas, the resort was much quieter as the lights went down during the Covid lockdown - but that's all set to change this year with an expansive new festive programme.

On November 5, the second national lockdown was imposed in England, putting a stopper in the works for thousands of events around the country.

Even before this, myriad events and shows in Blackpool were either cancelled or postponed, as Covid guidance prevented mass gatherings and social distancing would have been near-impossible.

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VisitBlackpool is busy organising a whole host of festive events for Blackpool residents and visitors this year.

Blackpool's autumn and winter programme became a coronavirus casualty, with events including the World Fireworks Championships postponed and the Illuminations switch-on event reverting to a virtual audience.

But this year, organisers at VisitBlackpool are working behind the scenes to curate a showstopping seasonal spectacle with a brand new programme as the longer nights draw in.

Coun Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We announced earlier this year that we would make a significant investment in marketing and events to kick-start our tourism economy and help our businesses to recover from the losses they have incurred over the past two years.

“By extending the Illuminations season to four months and complementing that with the strongest resort-wide Christmas offer we have had in years, we are confident that our businesses will enjoy a strong finish to 2021.

Last year, Hive in the town centre installed cosy Christmas log cabins on the high street, which is something VisitBlackpool plans to emulate on the Tower Festival Headland this year.

“It is encouraging that many of our tourism operators including attractions and accommodation have responded to this investment by remaining open to the end of the year and adding events of their own.

“Our ambition to become a year-round resort remains as strong as ever and the four-month Illumination season running through to Christmas and New Year presents a real opportunity to demonstrate that Blackpool has something to offer no matter when people choose to come.”

The Illuminations will light the way for longer this year, shining bright until January 3 after Strictly Come Dancing star Shirley Ballas pulls the switch on September 3 in the Tower Ballroom.

The Tower Festival Headland will be transformed into a "breath-taking festive village" from November 19 until January 3, VisitBlackpool said.

The Winter Gardens is set to host another Christmas Market this year.

The festive village will showcase simulated snowfalls, cosy log cabins, and a magical forest, with festive light projection shows and special Santa tram rides.

The Headland will also house an outdoor winter skating rink, which will be free to use for both residents and visitors.

You won't need to travel to a city to experience a traditional Christmas market this year either, as the Winter Gardens is set to transform into its own wonderland.

From December 9 to January 3, the Winter Gardens will host a Bavarian-style Christmas market with a wide selection of themed stalls, fairground rides, live entertainment and Santa's grotto.

In November, fans of cult Us sitcom Friends can also enjoy celebrating every seasonal moment from the TV show at the venue.

Between November 5 and November 19, FriendsFest will be coming to the Winter Gardens to give fans the chance to recreate the titles in the snow with a digital snow globe photo op, check out Monica’s apartment and Central Perk in all their Christmas glory, and visit the Holiday Armadillo’s grotto.

The New Year's Rockin' Eve disco, made famous by siblings Monica and Ross, will be recreated along with themed food stalls and cocktails.

The resort comes alive at Christmas with echoes of "he's behind you", and this year fun-filled theatre shows will continue.

In 2020, organisers at The Grand Theatre were forced to pull the plug on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs after Government rulings meant it was "simply not viable to put on a full-scale show," and they wanted audiences to be able to enjoy "the true beauty and tradition of pantomime."

But Snow White will be back this year, showing between December 3 and January 2.

Aladdin and his genie is also set to grace the stage at Blackpool Pleasure Beach between November 25 and Christmas Eve.

In addition, the Pleasure Beach will host the glamorous Gatsby Christmas Dinner Show between December 3 and 19, and Santa will be in his grotto to welcome youngsters from November 20.

To top it all off, a Christmas Party Spectacular is planned at Viva between December 2 and Christmas Eve, and Hairspray the Musical will show at the Opera House between December 13 and January 2.

Stay Blackpool boss Claire Smith welcomed the planned events, and said it would provide a much-needed boost for businesses who lost out while Covid restrictions were in place.

She said: "I think everything planned so far sounds fabulous, and with events both indoors and outdoors if the weather is bad there will always be something to do.

"The council is really doing their best to help businesses, and we thank them for it.

"People are just so happy to be out and about after lockdown, and even in winter people will still have the appetite to come and support smaller businesses in Blackpool, especially while we aren't going on foreign holidays.

"On a sunny winter's day with an ice rink and lights outside, where else would you rather be than Blackpool?"