Best of all is the tongue-in-cheek, knowing sexiness that always accompanied any classless combination of prosaic amusement and seaside. Picture: SUPPLIED

London - Fun. Food. Dance. Thrills! It is hard to think of a better mission statement. If the promise of all that doesn’t get you through the doors this half-term, then what will?

The tagline in question belongs to Dreamland, the extraordinary retro-amusement park which (re)opened this summer in Margate.

The Kentish resort has gone from zero to hero in a few years. In the Nineties the shabby town was not so much helping police with their inquiries (the late Mail columnist Keith Waterhouse’s famous description of Brighton) but convicted and facing a long stretch inside.

Now Margate is fast becoming the St Ives of the east, replete with trendy art gallery (the Turner Contemporary), a rash of coffee shops and gourmet pizza joints, a splendid beach (which was always there) and now Dreamland.

Dreamland really is a wonderful thing. The original amusement park closed in 2006 and its renaissance is the result of a concerted campaign, a substantial Lottery grant, private investment and the will of the resort-that-refused-to-die.

The culmination of Dreamland’s Phoenix-like resurrection is the reopening of the Scenic Railway, a splendid mile-long wooden rollercoaster, which started rolling again last week.

To mark Halloween, Dreamland is putting on a Scare Festival featuring freak shows, horror movies and Punchinello, an (even more) twisted take on Punch and Judy. My son Zac (nearly eight) and I visited ahead of this, but even so were resolutely amused and, occasionally, scared.

Dreamland’s nostalgic theme is ‘Fifties fun’ and the whole place is a knowing nod to the Anglo-Americana that epitomised postwar entertainments.

The Lottery grant meant that a number of historic fairground rides could be brought to Margate, some dating from the Twenties. There is little truly terrifying here (this is not Alton Towers), but infinite charm is in abundance.

We liked the Fifties-vintage Jet Ride, where you whizz round in futuristic metal planes and can shoot up and down with a flick of the joystick. Monotopia is a weird, self-propelled monorail-rollercoaster (with no rolling). Zac’s favourite was the Pirate Boats, an attempt, not entirely unsuccessful, to induce seasickness in its queasy riders. I loved the Mirror Maze.

You can dance at the Roller Disco, and the food on offer is suprisingly upmarket, from proper sausages to quality pizzas and posh tea and wine.

Best of all is the tongue-in-cheek, knowing sexiness that always accompanied any classless combination of prosaic amusement and seaside. A new star in Britain’s tourist firmament.

TRAVEL FACTS

The Dreamland Halloween Scare Festival runs until October 31. Tickets £24.95/R450 (over-14s only). See dreamland.co.uk for details.

Daily Mail