Despite being destroyed by fire in 1930 and again in 2008, Weston-Super-Mare’s Grand Pier has once again risen from the ashes – this time following a £39 million reconstruction. Today the pleasure pier’s arcade games and slot machines are joined by a 4D cinema and state-of-the-art rides, giving a twenty-first century twist to this paragon of traditional seaside fun.
Thrill-seekers should head straight for the Robocoaster and Sidewinder rides, where they’ll be swung in all directions, or the Freefall ride, where they can experience the feeling of weightlessness as they plummet to the ground. Downstairs the penny pushers, novelty cranes and ride-on vehicles are great for younger children, while upstairs in the 4D cinema (£3) you can enjoy a 3D film enlivened by moving seats, air blasts, water sprays and even leg ticklers. Rounding it all off are the Lazer and Crystal Mazes, air hockey, racing car simulators, split-level go-kart track, House of Horrors and the Crazy Circus – three storeys of moving floors and general mayhem; most rides and attractions cost between £1 and £5, and are aimed mainly at children aged 8+. When you’re done with the thrills and spills, chill out on a bench and enjoy the panoramic views over the beach and out to sea.
You can’t park at the pier itself, but there’s a drop-off point on the seafront road from where visitors can take a wheelchair-accessible “land train” up to the pier’s main entrance, or walk the four hundred yards (there are plenty of rest seats along the way). Limited parking is available along the seafront (first hour free of charge), while the nearby Sovereign Centre indoor car park (http://www.sovereign-centre.co.uk; approximately £1 per hour) has disabled bays on level one with powered scooters for hire alongside them (enquiries on 01934 420410, or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Up on the pier, lifts connect the two levels open to the public, with a disabled toilet on each level. As for the rides, you must be able to get on and off without assistance to be able to use them; most also have a minimum height restriction. The cinema has wheelchair spaces.
Food & drink: The Grand Pier is well supplied with cafés, tea rooms and snack bars serving up everything from fish and chips to English cream teas.The Adventure Cove Café comes with a soft play area for kids, while the Tiffany Room, with its elegant Edwardian-style decor and sea views from all windows, makes for a calm and classy option.