Blackpool Magic Convention - The Ultimate Guide
Whether this is your first time attending a magic convention, or whether you are a pro who has visited our magic conventions like The Session or Magifest, this guide will help you get the most out of the Blackpool Magic Convention. It's also important to think about how you plan to learn at a magic convention.
Where is Blackpool Magic Convention?
The convention is held in Blackpool in the north of the United Kingdom. Blackpool is a seaside resort on the Irish Sea coast of England and is known for its rugged amusements and tourist attractions such as the Blackpool Tower.
Specifically, the convention is held at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, an impressive building built in the late 1800s that has undergone serious construction and modernisation in the past few years. There aren’t many places in the north of the UK that can fit 4,000 or more magicians, but the Winter Gardens is perfect as it houses a 3,000 seat theatre (the Blackpool Opera House), a large conference hall for the many magic shops and dealers, and large lecture halls that fit 1,000 or so people at a time.
How should I get there?
Blackpool isn’t perfectly located for easy travel, but it’s certainly not too difficult to get there. As the majority of attendees are from the UK, many people simply drive there. Parking isn’t ideal in Blackpool because many of the hotels are small and only have one or two parking spaces, so lots of people sneakily park on residential streets just outside of the town centre so that they don’t have to pay the expensive three-day overnight parking rates.
If you’re flying in, you’ll probably want to fly directly to Manchester airport, which is a major international hub. It’s an hour's taxi from Manchester airport to Blackpool and can cost in the region of £60 - £100 or so. It’s unlikely that you’d be able to get an Uber or similar service and in the UK they typically cost as much as a registered taxi service. You can also pre-book taxis by searching for “Manchester airport to Blackpool taxi” and then you’ll enjoy the fun of seeing someone hold a sign with your name on it in arrivals.
You can also get the train from London, Manchester, and lots of other places. There are many direct train journeys, and some require a change of train at Preston but it’s quite an easy change. And despite their bad reputation, UK train services are quite comfortable and tend to run on time. You should definitely book ahead though because these routes fill up early and if there is maintenance on the train line, it is normally on a weekend.
What’s the weather like?
In short: grim. Blackpool is typically cold and windy in February and for the most part, tourism is closed at this part of the year. Due to the cold winds from the Irish sea, you’ll definitely be cold while walking around the town (such as to your hotel and the Winter Gardens). Typically the temperature is in the single figures (2-10 degrees Celsius/ 35-50 degrees Farenheit) but it feels much colder because of the wind. It’s also likely to rain...a lot.
How many people attend?
The exact number of people who attend the convention is not published by the Blackpool Magic Convention, but it is estimated that around 4,000 to 5,000 magicians attend.
Should I register ahead of time?
Like all magic conventions, it is important that you register ahead of time. Magic conventions often sell out and so turning up on the day means that you cannot be guaranteed a ticket. And as Blackpool Magic Convention allows you to choose your gala show seats, booking early allows you to get a good seat.
What days should I attend?
The convention runs from Friday morning to late Sunday night. Many people arrive on Thursday (and the magic club tends to run an all-day auction of old props and magic books on that day) so that they can get acclimated to the cold Blackpool weather and convention atmosphere. Registration tends to open on Friday morning.
For many people, the Sunday gala show is the “must see” event of the convention and depending on your show time (they do the show twice that evening), you could be up quite late. Therefore, most people stay until Monday morning.
Where should I stay?
So, yeah … that’s the golden question. Blackpool isn’t known for its stunning hotels, but there are options. In fact, we can separate them into three categories: B&Bs, old school Blackpool, and chain hotels:
A lot of people stay in bed and breakfasts (B&B) which are typically small family run affairs. You’ll get a bed, a tiny bathroom, and a goold old fashioned English breakfast. The advantage of these B&Bs is that they are cheap (some starting at £10 per night!) and are typically very close to the Winter Gardens (most people aim to book a B&B on Albert Road, which is a road parallel to the Winter Gardens).
Old school Blackpool hotels tend to be frequented by older attendees who have been going to Blackpool since it started! They are about ten minutes away from the Winter Gardens and are on the Blackpool sea front. They include The Grand and The Imperial. They used to be really nice, but have started to get a little worn-down now.
For those who don’t want the traditional Blackpool experience, there are some chain hotels like Premier Inn, Travelodge, and Ibis. There are also a few AirBnbs too.
Is there a headquarters hotel?
Yes, it’s called The Ruskin. It’s halfway between a B&B and a hotel and is the hotel that many people try to stay at. In the evenings, it’s lively and absolutely packed with magicians. You just have to spend ten minutes at the magic convention and you’ll be asked several times if “you’re going to The Ruskin tonight” and the default answer is always “yes!”
As the Winter Gardens doesn’t really have any late-night bars, The Ruskin has taken over the position as the session hangout of the convention. It’s about a five-minute walk from the Winter Gardens and is typically absolutely packed until the very early hours of the morning.
Are there dealers there?
To many people, the Blackpool Magic Convention is all about the dealers room. There are typically about 150 magic shops and dealers exhibiting, ranging from creators who have released their first trick, and the world’s largest magic stores like Vanishing Inc. who have a massive walk-in dealers stand. The dealers room is open for the duration of the convention and is typically quietest during the day when there is a big-name lecture happening.
You'll be able to find magic tricks, magic books, mentalism, and lots of playing cards.
The dealers room is located in the Empress Ballroom at the convention centre; a room typically reserved for ballroom dancing. In recent years, the dealers have overspilled into adjacent rooms, so be sure to look around to ensure that you don’t miss dealers in the smaller rooms. Some magic dealers also exhibit on the balcony of the ballroom, which can be a little tricky to get up to, but look for the stairs in the four corners of the ballroom.
Be aware that not all magic dealers at the convention take credit cards, so consider bringing some cash for those impulse purchases. There are also few cash points outside the Winter Gardens.
Vanishing Inc. has the biggest stand at Blackpool. You can’t miss it! Be sure to come see us and watch our latest releases in person, and meet our team, including cofounders Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay.
Can I see every magic show and lecture?
No, not even close. The schedule is so packed that you are forced to pick and choose between events. As the schedule is typically published ahead of time (like most magic conventions), you’ll be able to make your own schedule before you even attend. We recommend making time for meals, as well as seeing an equal mix of magic lectures and magic shows (and not just the gala shows in the theatre, but some of the smaller shows scattered around the venue too).
How will I know my way around the Winter Gardens?
That’s a common question by first timers to the convention, but it’s not as daunting as you might think. Once you get into the Winter Gardens, you’ll enter a large atrium area with a coffee shop and restaurant. From there, you can find everything:
Turn right just after the entrance and you’ll see signs for the “Spanish Hall,” where some events are held (up a small flight of stairs).
Turn left just after the entrance and you’ll see the Opera House. This is only open in the evening and is otherwise quite difficult to even see because that area is closed off in the day.
Or walk straight ahead and you’ll see the Horseshoe (typically where more dealers are), and the Horseshoe Theatre.
Go straight ahead, then turn left and you’ll see the Empress Ballroom where many of the dealers are.
Where should I eat?
Blackpool has really invested in the area around the Winter Gardens. There are many restaurants (typically chain restaurants like Nandos, and Bella Italia) immediately outside of the Winter Gardens. You’ll normally find us sneaking a little meal at the Pizza Hut buffet because Andi, Josh, and George are on a mission to find the greatest pizookie in the world and Pizza Hut’s is surprisingly not that bad (top tip: ask them to undercook it).
For quicker sneaks or coffee addicts (like everyone on the Vanishing Inc. team; even Mark who pretends to not like coffee), there’s a Subway next door to the Winter Gardens and a Costa and Starbucks just down the street. There’s also a coffee shop and restaurant within the Winter Gardens.
How do I find my way around Blackpool?
Initially: Google maps. But it’s not actually daunting as there are really only three key locations: your hotel, The Ruskin, and the Winter Gardens. If you’re staying local to the Winter Gardens, everything is walkable. Just bring a warm coat. You can also get taxis directly outside of the Winter Gardens.
Should I bring my family?
As there are lots of magic shows, Blackpool is quite a family-friendly magic convention. It’s not really suitable for young children, but teenagers, spouses, and everyone in between might enjoy the show elements of the convention.
Are the Blackpool attractions open?
The Blackpool Tower is normally open and so if you enjoy going up in an elevator to get a bird's eye view of the Irish Sea and some rooftops through the clouds, that’s a good choice. But as February is Blackpool’s off season, the larger attractions like the Blackpool Pleasure Beach are typically closed.
There’s also normally a magic show or two happening in Blackpool outside of the magic convention.
Do you have any tips for a first timer?
Oh yes. Lots of them. Here are our tips for making the most out of your first time at the Blackpool magic convention:
- If there’s a lecture you particularly want to see, consider getting there twenty minutes early as some people try to reserve seats early. (Some people even leave their bags or coats on the seats, but that’s not cool.)
- Don’t be shy talking to other magicians and making the most of jamming. There are lots of famous magicians walking about and so long as you are polite, they’ll only be too happy to talk to you!
- The Ruskin can be a pretty daunting place if you go by yourself. Everyone is friendly, but you might consider using the lectures and shows as an opportunity to befriend people and then go to The Ruskin with them.
- For many people, the dealers hall is a dream come true! Take your time looking through and don’t give in to every impulsive purchase.
- Many magic shops and magic creators use Blackpool to launch their new products. Do your research ahead of time and plan what you’d like to see in person.
- Join the Facebook group and make friends before you attend. Blackpool with friends is way more fun.
- Don’t burn out on the first day. Get some sleep and enjoy the whole convention!
Are there other magic conventions?
Yes! In fact, Vanishing Inc. Magic organise two of the world’s best magic conventions: The Session in London and Magifest in Columbus, Ohio,