“FIRST one to see the tower...”

To anyone who has visited Blackpool - and surely that’s pretty much everyone - the famous tower rising above the Lancashire resort is as familiar as fish and chips on the prom.

Blackpool was the most exciting place to me as a child, and I still love it. The ‘kiss-me-quick’ hats, donkey rides and fortune-tellers are all part of its seaside charm, but today’s Blackpool offers much more. Its multi-million pound facelift includes a smart promenade, complete with a “Comedy Carpet”, paying tribute to the nation’s favourite comics, and an elegant curved area with steps leading to the beach.

Our first stop was the Pleasure Beach, blending historic rides with 21st century family fun. We headed straight for the Grand National, one of the world’s only twin-track rollercoasters and a long-term favourite in our family. You have to be prepared to queue for rides, especially at peak season, but over an afternoon we managed the Big Dipper; the bobsleigh-themed Avalanche; the Derby Racer, a huge carousel galloping to a classic seaside organ; the Revolution; and Wallace and Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic, a delightfully bonkers rollercoaster ride through the duo’s adventures and wacky contraptions, from A Grand Day Out's moon-raking ‘Cooker’ to the railway chase in The Wrong Trousers. Great fun.

Using ‘All You Can Eat and Drink’ wristbands, booked with Pleasure Beach passes, we got lunch and snacks from outlets around the site, including Chinese noodles, hot dogs and warm doughnuts.

We visited the Pleasure Beach using the Blackpool Resort Pass, allowing access to various attractions. We also used it for the Blackpool Tower Eye and 4D Experience, the Tower Dungeon, both courtesy of Merlin Entertainments, Madame Tussauds and Sandcastle Water Park. Taking a trip 380ft to the top of the tower, we enjoyed cocktails (and mocktails) at Bar 380 and braved the thrilling SkyWalk glass viewing platform, with fabulous coastal views. On a clear day you can see as far as the Lakes, Liverpool and Isle of Man. The 4D cinema uses impressive sensory effects to journey through the tower's 123-year history.

The building houses several attractions, not least the splendid ballroom where couples waltz beneath chandeliers. Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will know the 'ballroom special' is a highlight of every series and, in tribute to the show, a huge glitter ball stands at Blackpool's South Shore, shimmering in sunlight.

I've been to Blackpool many times but have never seen the Tower Circus, so it was a treat to take ringside seats, where audiences have been entertained since the venue first opened in 1894. As well as slapstick clowns Mooky and Mr Boo, the Circus Spectacular features world-class acrobats and high-wire and trapeze artistes so awesome my palms were sweaty just watching. Things turned darker in the Tower Dungeon, taking daredevils into the North West's "perilous past". Shuffling along creepy passages and through a dazzling mirror maze, we encountered grizzly characters, including a plague doctor, a Pendle witch and, finally, the execution block...

Over at Madame Tussauds, we found ourselves in the company of 'showbiz royalty'. The fun, interactive waxwork experience brings visitors up close to the likes of Ed Sheeran, Morecambe and Wise, Simon Cowell, Mo Farah, Premiership footballers and the Royal Family. We took on bushtucker trials with Ant and Dec, scaled a rock with Bear Grylls and I pulled a pint with Bet Lynch in the (mock-up) Rover's Return.. You can even get a waxwork done of your hand.

After all that indoor activity it was time to stroll the Golden Mile, with its array of shops, amusements, bars and food outlets. Earlier in the day we'd taken a tram using pre-booked transport passes.

Blackpool has long golden sands, and during our visit it was warm enough for a dip in the Irish sea. Overlooking the beach is Sandcastle Waterpark, the UK’s largest indoor waterpark, which has plenty of slides and fun pools. The biggest thrillseekers are Aztec Falls, dropping into a steep, dark chute and 'corkscrew exit', Montazooma, heading down loops, twists and turns, the Masterblaster, the world's longest indoor rollercoaster, and the Sidewinder, a vertical drop slide. For chilling out, the tranquil Sea Breeze spa offers a sauna, steam room, salt inhalation room and foot spas.

After a tasty al fresco lunch at the Sandcastle's Waterfall Cafe, it was time to leave and reluctantly head back to reality. Blackpool's mighty tower was still in sight as we planned our next visit.

* The Blackpool Resort Pass (£55 per person) allows one visit to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Nickelodeon Land, The Blackpool Tower Eye, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Blackpool, The Blackpool Tower Dungeon over seven days. The Blackpool Resort Pass Plus includes entry to the above plus Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool Zoo, and the Blackpool Model Village & Gardens.

Go to visitblackpool.com