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I loved visiting the seaside as a kid, and to be honest I still enjoy going to see the sea these days but don't get the chance that often. The last time I went to the seaside was about two years ago when we went to Blackpool and ended up in the middle of someone's Hen night. This wouldn't have been so bad but I was with my wife and kids and this was at 11am on a Thursday morning, so the screaming, shouting and swearing coming from a group of drunken, I was going to say ladies but that's not quite the right description for them, was a bit out of order. In fact, I wasn't the only one to find these pink fluffily dressed 'chavs' a bit of a nuisance as I was surrounded by other parent with families on a day out who seemed as disgusted as I was.
But then again Blackpool seems to have gone down the road of Stag and Hen parties to keep the money coming in, so visiting Blackpool again for a day out at the seaside was not top of my agenda.
But recently, due to the long summer school holidays, I had to find thing to keep my kids entertained, which was making a bit of a dent on my wallet. Luckily a friend of my wife's offered us the use of her Caravan which is situated just outside Prestatyn, so we jumped at the chance of a few days away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
When we got there we had to find things to do and as the weather was quite good finding things to do was quite easy due to the lovely area around us.
One of the places we chose to visit was a place I'd been to before, many many many years ago, and it was right by the sea, so I jumped at the chance, grabbing the buckets and spades ready for the sand castles that I was planning to build.
The place I am talking about is the seaside town of Rhyl, which is located in North Wales, a few miles from the town of Prestatyn, Towyn and Abergele
Getting there is a doddle, as the town centre is on the A548, but this is not where the 'action' is, it is the B5118, the Promenade, which offer more of the thrills that a seaside resort has to have. But the sign posts are clear and there are several scattered around so you won't, or shouldn't, get lost.
If you do input the post code into your sat nav it will take you directly into the town centre which, when we went, was covered in road works and really slowed the traffic down, so if you can, you should get onto the B5118 as soon as you can. The best route I found was to turn right at a set of traffic lights with a set of shops on your left, you the coast road is opposite a 'Fosters' Off Licence, just before what looks like a small place of worship, this will take you right along the coast road and avoid the town centre, plus, there is plenty of parking spaces along this road so, if like me, you enjoy building sand castles and the tide's out, then pull up here and grab your bucket and spade.
Anyway, as I said, we came in from the East parade, coming from Prestatyn, but the coast road is straight forwards from either way, so if you come in from the West parade, coming from Kimnel Bay, you still can't go wrong.
Driving in from Prestatyn is quite a pleasant way in indeed, passing by the beautiful view of a grassed verge with the sea trailing away from it, whilst opposite there are some rather nice looking buildings, these being a mixture of hotels, Bed and breakfasts, apartments and some lovely quaint homes, there's also a hospital if anything horrible should happen.
The entire road is littered with car parking slots with more spaces being towards this end, becoming busier the closer we got to Rhyl itself.
As we got closer to the centre, passing a massive building on the right, I think it was a theatre, I realised that this place had totally changed, although why I expected it to be the same as it was when I visited many years ago I don't know.
We passed the first of the main car parks, deciding to get further into the centre in the hope of finding a space in there, and when we came up to a mini roundabout the traffic just seemed to fill then entire area, coming from nowhere as if by magic.
Over this roundabout and we were more or less in the centre of the tourists spot, with the Sea Life, 'seaquarium', centre on the right and White Rose shopping centre on the left.
From here it was a matter of finding somewhere to park, which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, especially as the area is well sign posted, pointing to every car park and sites to see.
On the right there was an area which looks a little like a funky castle, this is in fact an area containing café's seating areas and, most importantly, a toilet, which, unfortunately, you do have to pay to get into.
Also on this side there is a small fun fair which is great for the younger kids as it has several rides and activities they can go on, including go-carts, a train ride, an inflatable slide and a big bouncy thing that's shaped like a massive clown. You do have to pay to get on them in the form of tokens which can be purchased from the little booths.
It was just passed this area where I managed to park up, mainly due to the fact that I felt it was in the centre and it had a cracking object so that I could remember where I'd actually parked, this object being the Sky Tower, which is a spinning seating area which rises up into the air so that you can get a view of Rhyl and the surrounding area.
At the side of this car park there is a little skate boarding area with ramps and things, which was crammed with teenagers all skimming around, whilst some were falling over much to my amusement.
Then, just passed this, there was a rather nice little open air paddling pool, which was quite busy with many screaming kids all splashing around. My kids wanted to have a dip in the water but as we'd only just got there I told them to wait a while and promised them they could have a dip on the way back. So I asked the life guard how much it cost to get in and what time it closed, to my amazement he told me it was free to use, which, especially these days, was a brilliant way to let the kids run wild for no money at all.
If only more places had things like this for the kids to use without having to take out a second mortgage.
We then decided to head along the road, choosing to walk down the arcade side so my kids could get this out of there system. Crossing the road was a bit tricky, even though there are several designated crossing places. (In fact, actually driving down the road was a task in itself as the stream of people seemed to just stumble into the road, making it a test for both my mind and my brakes).
But once across we tried out a few arcades as we went, with my kids constantly pestering me to 'try and win something', which I failed to do in spectacular style.
The arcades have the usual games in them, if you can call some of them games due to the fact that many of them are designed to take as much money as possible whilst paying out very little. The grabbers are the biggest sinners in my books as the amount of money one could spend trying to 'grab' a Homer Simpson doll or a sponge bob square pants character is astronomical, it would probably be cheaper to buy one straight from a shop. In fact, it would probably work out cheaper if you smashed the glass container open, grabbed one and legged it, as the fine you would get when you were taken to court would be less than the money you'd have wasted popping pound coin after pound coin into the tiny slot, (I'm not telling you to smash up the place to get that Peppa Pig cuddly toy, I'm just going off on one really).
These type of 'games' are really designed to infuriate you so that you will keep putting money in just because on your last go the 'grabber' fingers almost dragged that banana toy with a £5.00 note tied to it into the drop zone, and your child, who's standing at your side, mouth open in excitement, turning to horror as the toy drops from the 'grippers' grasp, starts screaming at you to try again, and again, and again....
Other than these 'games' there are what I call 'proper' arcade games, giving you a chance to test your skills in a racing car, or even see how you'd cope when you're attacked by blood thirsty zombies, (it's worth practicing as you never know when it might happen in real life???). For me these sort of games are a little better value for money, even if you don't win anything, at least you have a bit of fun with your pound coin.
Apart from the arcades there are other things to see, such as the Bingo halls, which all seemed to be busy and, due to the voices shouting numbers out from the speakers, very load indeed. There is also a place which looked quite impressive indeed, with it's scary looking appearance and its sinister 'Terror Tower' name. Sadly though it turned out to be as scary as watching an episode of Emmerdale and was a complete waste of money. I should have realised this when I read a sign on the counter stating that no refunds shall be given, and I know why that sign was there now.
There's also a few nightclubs and pubs along the road, with several pubs off the beaten track, along some of the back roads, but as I was driving and out with the family I didn't get to try these out so I can't comment on them. But suffice to say the amount of people trickling in and out of the doors I'm guessing that they are very busy places.
Further down the road, there's a Fun Centre, which we didn't go in so I can't make a comment on.
Then the arcades fade away and the more series business of the hotels and guest houses are upon you, but this part of Rhyl looked like the part that the council seem to have forgotten about, brushing it under the carpet, but not brushing the streets as they should have done. Seeming to get worse the further you drive towards the roundabout heading for Abegele.
As for something to eat, well, there are many places to sit and get a warm meal inside you, with other places offering a take away feature.
We found a rather nice café on the front, just down from the main car park, which offered a cracking deal on the meals, the deal was a child could eat for free with every adult meal, the adult meals selling for £4.50 at the most, which included drinks, (Non alcoholic of course), so £9.00 for four good size meals was a bargain in my books.
There are other places offering there own deals but some of the premises looked as though a rat would turn its nose up at it, with some looking, and smelling even worse, but these café's from hell are easy to spot as there the ones that are void of people.
If you are the type that likes to do a bit of 'real' shopping, with this I mean looking at clothes, shoes, handbags and the like instead of seaside goodies which will find the bin the instance you leave the area, then there's a rather busy shopping area just off the promenade, in between a B & M shop and an arcade called 'The Bright Spot', you can't miss it.
This shopping centre is vehicle free, so spending money there can be done in the safe knowledge that you won't be run over by a car, but delivery vehicles may make an appearance during the day.
Or, if you don't want to shop or spend endless amounts of money in the arcades, then there's always the beach to sit and relax on, when the tides out of course. The sand is pretty much glass free, although it can be pebbly in parts so flip flops are recommended.
The 'central' beach area of the promenade is the busiest with many people running around, so if you want to get a bit of space for yourself, maybe build a sandcastle or two, then I suggest heading towards Prestatyn and parking along the side of the road as the beach is pretty much deserted the further you get away from the arcades.
But before you leave Rhyl don't forget to buy yourself some rock as there's several places to get it from with a lot of different shapes and varieties on offer.
As for the paddling pool which I mentioned earlier, I did take my kids back to this so that they could have a bit of a paddle before we headed back to the caravan and they loved it, cooling there feet after a long walk up and down the prom. This pool is shallow, the deepest part coming up to my daughters knees, so there's no swimming in it really, and certainly no diving, but it was very popular indeed and was very busy.
It was a great little ending for the kids after what turned out to be a rather pleasant trip.
In all, a fine day out for the family, especially if the weathers good, although it can get a bit expensive in the arcades.
It's not the biggest of seaside resorts but there's plenty to do and quite a bit to see so boredom should stay well away.