Margate: Fun, History, Music, Art, Delicious Food & Fresh Sea Air – Part 2

Entrance to Dreamland, Margate, Kent
Dreamland entrance

Welcome back!  Let’s pick up where we left off in Part 1 of my review of the eclectic seaside town of Margate on the Kent coast.  Come with me now as we uncover a huge part of Margate history that’s just as relevant today as it was when it first opened in 1863 as a dance hall and restaurant called ‘The Hall by the Sea.’  Its name was changed to Dreamland when it was purchased by John Iles in 1919 with a vision of bringing the excitement of American amusement parks to the British seaside.

During its initial heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, Dreamland attracted over two million visitors a year but, like so many British seaside towns Margate, and hence Dreamland, fell victim to the thrill of cheap foreign holidays and visitor numbers dwindled.  Since then, the site has undergone many changes and its fortunes have impacted Margate town, so intertwined are they.

Dreamland has so much character and such a rich history that it deserves its own dedicated write-up.  I’m holding that in abeyance to coincide with the opening of its 2024 park season so, for now, I’ll remain timely and tell you about the exciting events planned for this winter.  Events that make Dreamland, today, so much more than just an amusement park.

Christmas World at Dreamland, Margate, KentFrom 15 to 22 December, 2023, you can get into the Christmas spirit by enjoying a winter wonderland between 11am and 6pm on selected days.  Entry to the Dreamland site is always free and you can additionally buy tickets for the rides and special attractions.  The winter wonderland attraction will offer festive food and drinks, rides, snowball fights at the roller disco and sleigh rides (some at an extra charge). Children have the opportunity to greet Santa in his grotto and receive a gift.  They can also paint their own bauble to take home and making delicious reindeer food.  You need to buy tickets for the children to take part in this special event but a couple of adults can tag along for free.

Festive film favourites for all ages will be screened and offer superb value at only £5 per head with tickets going on sale in November, so get planning for these on December 18, 19 and 20.

On 22 December, you’ll be yelling “It’s Christmas” at the Slade concert and you could make a real weekend of it by attending Martin Kemp’s Back to the 80s Christmas Party the following night (Over 18s only).  In short, there’ll be elves (did you see what I did there), snowballs, tinsel, warming treats, Santa, magical surroundings and festive music.  Find out more and book your tickets here.

This is all in addition to Dreamland’s regular music events.  Oh, did I not yet mention that Dreamland is also Thanet’s premier live music venue? Allow me to rectify that right now.  They’ve been running a full music program all year and this is continuing throughout the winter months.

Bookings are now open for various themed music events such as Craig Charles Funk & Soul House Party, 80s & 90s Retro Party, Orchestral Music by Moonlight in addition to big name performers as diverse as Credence Clearwater Revival and Skindred (sold out – sorry), or how about The Vaccines or Status Quo.  There really is something to suit everyone so plan your trip and get your tickets here.

Banksy in Margate
See Margate’s Banksy: Valentine’s Day Mascara installed at Dreamland

Finally, in keeping with the town’s art connections, you can view Margate’s very own Banksy.  It appeared one day on the wall of a Margate house and was re-sited to Dreamland where it’ll be seen by locals and visitors and kept safe.  Estimated value: £6 million.  Have a look on your way through the entrance to Dreamland.  It’s a painting of an abused woman – dressed in retro “housewife” clothing, sporting a black eye and missing tooth – getting her own back, presumably on her abuser, as he’s been dumped in a freezer (complete with real freezer, of course).  A clever and hard-hitting social comment as we’ve come to expect from the great Banksy.  Read all about it.

I think it’s terrific that Dreamland caters for visitors throughout the year rather than just being a summer attraction.  As I said, entry is free, so be sure to pop in and have a walk around when you visit Margate.  Breathe in the atmosphere of this iconic site that’s been called “the beating heart of Margate.”  Dreamland offers you the joy and thrills of a bygone era yet with all mod cons!

Visit the Dreamland website (link below) and sign up for their newsletter to be first to hear about more exciting events as they’re added.

Margate isn’t without its problems.  Like everywhere, you’ll see the results of the UK’s austerity program including growing evidence of homelessness.  The future of its long-abandoned historic Lido and the beautiful Winter Gardens event venue remain uncertain, likely due to council funding cuts.  But Thanet’s tourism officers work hard to promote Margate’s many attractions and I’m telling you now, it’s a lovely town to visit with a huge appeal and a warm, beating heart.

We were made very welcome at the beautiful Walpole Bay Hotel (see my review here), ate delicious pizza at the friendly GB Pizza (review here) and in the evening we chilled at the Wednesday night blues jam at the Lifeboat Ale & Cider House, Market Street in the Old Town.   The Lifeboat also hosts a jazz jam on Mondays which attracts a high standard of musicianship.   Here, you can choose from a fine selection of specialist ales and ciders along with the free live entertainment.

Margate hasn’t seen the last of us yet.  Can I expect to bump into you on the golden sands?


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  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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