Monday, 29 April 2019

Our Family Adventure at Coral Island, Blackpool - A Review

What a difference a week makes, as only seven days ago we were enjoying a day trip to sunny Blackpool and it finally felt like summer had arrived. We had a lovely family walk along the promenade, ate some delicious ice cream on the sea front and visited the largest free admission attraction in Blackpool, the fabulous Coral Island!

Unfortunately this weekend was comparatively different with gale force winds and heavy rain instead. Therefore our trip to Coral Island last weekend is a recent memory that is firmly on our minds, with the kids already requesting to return very soon. It is a great place to visit whatever the weather and is guaranteed to provide you with a jam packed day of family fun, with a whole host of fun games, rides and family dining options on offer.

When we travelled from our home in North Wales last weekend, we set off at around 8:15am in an attempt to avoid any traffic. Our decision proved to be a success and we arrived in Blackpool at 9:30am just as Coral Island opened. We parked in the nearby car park just across the road and my children immediately spotted the huge parrot on the outside of the building. We hadn't had time to eat before we left, so I told the children that we could have a walk around inside first to see all the games and rides that were available, before visiting one of their on-site restuarants 'Peggy's Snack Bar' for breakfast. I thought that this would be a lovely way to start the day and would also put any hungry tummies to rest for a few hours, so that we could enjoy this wonderful attraction.

The first thing that we found out about Coral Island is not only is it the largest free admission attraction in Blackpool, but also that kids eat free, all day, every day, in every single one of their restaurants. There are five dining options available which are The Buccaneer, Captain Jacks, Peggy's Snack Bar, Big Fish Trading Bar and The Traditional Chippy. One child under 10 eats free with every adult's meal purchased, which we think is an absolutely fantastic deal and helps making eating out affordable, especially for larger families like ours where eating as a family of five can often prove to be quite expensive.

The Buccaneer Bar & Restaurant looked fabulous with a Pirate Galleon theme and serves family favourite meals, along with a three meat Sunday carvery every Sunday. Captain Jack's is the go to place for stacked burgers, ribs and delicious family sized desserts, whilst both the Big Fish Trading Bar and The Traditional Chippy offer award winning fish & chip meals. If you are also looking for a great choice of hot and cold meals, then Peggy's Snack bar has plenty to offer with prices starting at just £4.75 for breakfast and £4.95 for main meals, with the option of daily specials also being available.

We visited Peggy's Snack Bar for breakfast and my husband opted for the Big Breakfast. This costs £6.75 and includes 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, beans, tomato, hash brown, mushrooms and fried bread. I chose to have a Full English which comes at a price of £4.75 and each of my children had a kids breakfast which consisted of toast, beans and then a choice of sausage or bacon. Drinks are extra but are very reasonably priced with both hot and cold options available. My husband and I both chose a cappuccino and my children selected some bottled juices which all accompanied our breakfast nicely.

There was plenty of seating available for customers and it all appeared to be tidy and well kept. We noticed that tables were cleared quickly when guests left and the staff all seemed to work really well together to ensure both the serving and cleaning was managed effectively.

Our food was really tasty and we all enjoyed our meals. Personally I would have preferred it if I could have had toast instead of fried bread, but that would just be my personal choice and there is the option to purchase toast as an extra should you wish to. The sausage and bacon seemed good quality and the eggs were cooked just how I like them, so along with the well cooked hash browns and beans, it was the perfect meal to start our day. My children all cleared their plates and my youngest son said that his bacon was delicious!

Once we had finished our drinks, we made our way into the arcade which was probably the most challenging part of the day as we simply couldn't decide where to begin! With so much to choose from, the children all wanted to head in different directions, but eventually we were all able to agree where to start and we began to play on some of the machines to build up our collection of tickets.

Tickets can be won on a large majority of the machines and you can collect these tickets to exchange them for something at the prize shop. There is such a huge range of prizes to choose from, so you can swap a small amount of tickets for something small like a packet of sweets, or build them up to exchange for a much larger prize. Some of the items we saw ranged from footballs to toys, bubbles to caps and soft toys to superhero merchandise. There was definitely something for everyone!

Emma took a chance on one of the ticket machines and managed to win over 200 tickets from just 10p! She was absolutely delighted and couldn't believe her luck, which certainly put her in a great mood for the remainder of the day. Ben and Riley also enjoyed playing on the ticket machines and both of them managed to build up a nice amount of tickets to exchange later in the day.

After a short while, we moved onto the 2p machines which provided plenty of entertainment for the kids for quite a lengthy amount of time. They loved looking around the machines to try and find some that had prizes on the edge so that they could try to win them. Before long we had already managed to win numerous keyrings much to the childrens delight.

There were a couple of times where coins became lodged or prizes we had won became stuck, so we had to try and find a member of staff to assist. We did have a bit of difficulty the first time, but afterwards we simply went to one of the cash desks and they would radio for assistance. This seemed a good process and was much easier than walking around trying to find someone. When the staff did arrive to assist, this was done promptly and courteously so that we could continue with our prize quest. The staff seemed to work really hard and we also regularly saw the manager walking around ensuring that the whole attraction was being run safely and effectively.

One thing that really stood out to us, right from the very beginning, was how clean and tidy the whole arcade was in appearance. We expected that we might see tickets or sweet wrappers on the floor, especially in a place so big, but this was not the case at all. All the machines seemed well maintained with everything neat and in it's place. If a machine got low on prizes then these would be topped up, if something ran out of tickets then these would be replaced and if a member of staff did spot something on the floor then this would be picked up straight away. We were very impressed with the layout and how well organised everything appeared, which is obviously a credit to the manager and staff involved in the day to day running.

After a couple of hours of playing on the machines, the camel derby caught my children's attention. I remember playing on similar donkey derby's as a child and I knew that my children would love a game on here. The concept is really easy and you simply roll some balls and try and get them into the coloured holes. The more balls you roll and the more colours they roll into, then the faster your camel runs across the race. It is so much fun and we saw people of all ages enjoying this and trying their luck to win. Unfortunately my family and I weren't very good at it and didn't get a single win amongst us, but that certainly did not deter from the fun we had.

Following on from the excitement of the Camel Derby, we moved to another part of the arcade to play prize Bingo. My very first job when I was 14 was working in an arcade and I used to work on the bingo calling the winner's numbers back to the announcer if someone made a claim. I remember how much the customers used to love the anticipation and excitement of only needing one number and hoping and waiting for it to be called. I was therefore really looking forward to enjoying a game with my family.

Coral Island Prize Bingo has digital screens and has been well and truly modernised. There is still a bingo caller, but gone are the days of having to turn your number over as you now simply need to press on the screen to have your card marked. Unfortunately the numbers were called far too quickly to look for them and so instead you simply just tap on the screen after each number is called and the cards are automarked. Whilst this is great for ensuring that you don't miss a number and also helps the younger players, it does take away some of the excitement. However, we still really enjoyed it and I did in fact win my very first game! My eldest son also won a game and we each received 120 points. I believe that the prize points increase depending on the number of players and whether it is a jackpot game and then these points can be exchanged for bingo prizes.

I gave my points to my youngest son and there was actually a really good selection of prizes to choose from. I didn't expect him to get much since I had only won once, but after much deliberation he chose a Batman bubble wand, a gold motorcycle toy and some sweets. I have to also commend the lady that was serving here as she was so kind and patient whilst my son tried to make his decision. She also gave him some suggestions as to what he could get with his points and didn't try to rush him at any point. He was delighted with his choices in the end and we were also provided with a Coral Island bag to place everything in.

As we took another walk around the arcade we noticed a small crowd of people near one of the entrances, so we decided to be nosey and take a look as to what had interested everyone. Much to Riley's delight there were some superheros meeting and greeting guests and Riley was over the moon to be able to have his picture taken with Thor, Iron Man and Captain Marvel.

Before we knew it, we had already spent over three hours in the arcade and yet we still hadn't seen everything that Coral Island had to offer. I asked the children what they would like to do next and they all asked to take a ride on the Pirate Flyer.

The Pirate Flyer takes you on a tour of the arcade onboard a mini Pirate ship that travels along a monorail track. This is a superb place to get a good view of everything and to also spot any games that you may have missed. It costs £2 per rider or £3 for 2 riders which I thought was a reasonable price. My youngest son Riley absolutely loved this ride, so much so, that he insisted on riding on it again. He loved trying to search for things as we moved along and enjoyed waving at other riders as they went past on the opposite side of the track.

Keeping with the theme of rides, we then made our way to the Ghost Train. My daughter and I found this hilarious, as I am quite jumpy, so even though I know exactly what to expect, it still made me jump out of my seat and scream. We literally laughed the whole way round and my son and daughter decided to go on it again straight afterwards a couple more times.

My husband then spotted something that he hadn't seen in an arcade before, which was a Virtual Reality experience than could be played with one or two persons. My daughter jumped at the chance to join her dad on a virtual reality adventure so they spent a moment getting the headsets set up, before travelling along an underground track avoiding obstacles along the way. This costs £3 per person, which may sound a little expensive, but it is quite a unique experience that lasts quite a while, so I would say that you do get good value for money.

There is also a large screen located above the participants, so people can also watch your adventure on the monitor. It was really funny watching my daughters reactions to things and she didn't let go of the bar the whole time. It was quite entertaining just watching them enjoy the experience and by the time it had finished there were several other families wanting to have a go.

We all decided that we would like to try and win some more tickets before heading over to the prize shop to redeem them, so we spent some further time playing on the basketball and throwing games, along with the ticket slot machines. My children won quite a few tickets on these and kept winning free spins, so this helped to build up their ticket collection.

Once we had spent all of our budget for the day, we made our way to the ticket eaters. There are numerous machines that you guide your tickets into and it will count them all automatically, before printing a receipt that shows how many you have obtained. You then simply take this receipt over to the prize desk to choose your prize. I hadn't expected the children to come away with much, but they each averaged around 500 tickets which meant that they could actually get quite a few decent toys. In the end they each came away with a bag full of goodies that contained everything from sweets to Fortnite character figures. Riley also managed to get an Avengers juice cup with built in straw that he was really happy with.

As our day was coming to a close, we decided to enjoy a fish and chip dinner before setting off on the journey home. We had noticed that The Traditional Chippy had been busy all day which showed us how popular it was with visitors and we couldn't wait to try the food for ourselves. My two boys decided to opt for chicken nuggets instead, but my husband, daughter and I all tried the fish and chips which were absolutely delicious and very reasonably priced too!

You can choose to take these away if you fancied eating on the seafront, however we chose to eat in their seating area which like the rest of the attraction, seemed very clean and well maintained. It was busy, but not crowded and the staff worked hard to ensure that tables were cleared quickly. We all really enjoyed our meals and it was the perfect way to end our visit to Coral Island in Blackpool.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic day at Coral Island in Blackpool. None of us could quite believe how much there actually was to see and do, all inside one building. A lot of thought has clearly been put into this attraction, in creating somewhere that is extremely family friendly and plenty of fun too. We all saw games there that we had never seen before and we enjoyed the mixture of both new and old arcade favourites. The VR Experience was great fun, along with the Pirate Flyer and Ghost Train ride which were suitable for all the family. Every single member of staff that we came across were both friendly and courteous, though a special mention has to be made to the staff that work in the prize shop who all exhibit great patience and professionalism when visitors take some time to choose their prizes. We found Coral Island to be an absolute TREASURE of an attraction and there is no doubt that we will be returning again very soon!

*Disclaimer - We were invited to visit Coral Island as guests, for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience at the attraction. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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