Blackpool is to get a new themed attraction based on popular children’s character The Gruffalo, it has been announced today. (February 21)

The £2.3m investment will see Merlin open The Gruffalo and Friends Club House in council-owned space beneath the Sea Life Centre on Central Promenade.


Sealife Centre

Sealife Centre

Plans were first revealed in 2021 to reinvent the area as a new attraction, with negotiations to bring The Gruffalo brand taking 18 months to complete.

It will feature favourite characters from creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, bringing together six of the best loved stories to create an indoor play adventure in a world first.

Developed in partnership with Magic Light and Blackpool Council, the attraction is set to open in May.

Kate Shane, regional director for Merlin Entertainments, said: “We are incredibly excited to bring some of the UK’s best loved children’s characters to Blackpool.

“Blackpool is the UK’s number one family seaside resort and this latest partnership with a globally recognised brand will provide compelling new reasons for visitors to come to Blackpool.”

Young visitors to the venue will burst through the pages of some of their favourite stories and into a magical 3D world.

From The Gruffalo’s deep dark wood, to Princess Pearl’s castle in Zog, they will embark on an adventure of imagination with play zones inspired by The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Zog, The Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom and The Highway Rat.


The Gruffalo And Friends Clubhouse Zog\S Dragon School Challenge

The Gruffalo And Friends Clubhouse Zog\'S Dragon School Challenge


The attraction will include play suitable for children under 10, with a toddler play area for the under threes.

Ms Shane added: “The Gruffalo and other characters from the world of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler will be amongst brilliant company alongside our already strong cluster of family attractions on the resort, delivered with Merlin’s world-class guest experience.

“This significant investment further supports Merlin’s strategic growth plans, bringing further jobs and economic benefit to the local community and wider region.”


The Gruffalo And Friends Clubhouse Gruffalo\S Child Sensory Room

The Gruffalo And Friends Clubhouse Gruffalo\'S Child Sensory Room


The council has previously said it would fund the £2.3m cost of the scheme inside the Golden Mile Centre by lending the money to Merlin, with repayments coming from revenue from the attraction, before moving onto a profit sharing scheme.

The council bought the Golden Mile Centre in 2010 as part of a £40m deal which also included the Tower and the Winter Gardens.

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: “Blackpool already has the biggest portfolio of branded attractions outside London and the addition of this world-class family attraction will strengthen that position.

“The family audience is key to Blackpool’s tourism growth strategy and we are delighted to be working in partnership with Merlin Entertainments to deliver something that will truly resonate with that audience, as well as providing new jobs for local people and economic growth to our town.”

The new experience will join Merlin’s seven other attractions in Blackpool including Blackpool Tower, Sea Life Centre and Peter Rabbit  Explore and Play.

Merlin also took over as operator of the council owned Sandcastle Waterpark last August.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are the picture book partnership behind bestselling books such as The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and Zog.

Donaldson was the Children’s Laureate between 2011 and 2013 and honoured with a CBE in 2018 for services to literature.

Axel Scheffler is the award-winning illustrator whose artwork has even featured on 50p coins, and stamps from Royal Mail and Deutsche Post. Julia

So far, 10 books by Julia and Axel have been adapted by Magic Light to become Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning animated specials for BBC One.

Alex Sanson, senior brand manager at Magic Light Pictures, said: “The Gruffalo & Friends Clubhouse will be the first of its kind and we can’t wait to see this amazing space, full of play and adventure, come to life.”