Rhyl has long been a popular tourist destination. Once an elegant Victorian resort, there was an influx from Liverpool and Manchester after the Second World War that changed the face of the town. The area had declined dramatically by 1990, but has since been improved by a series of regeneration projects that have brought in major investment. Several millions of European funding, secured by the Welsh Government, has been spent on developing Rhyl's seafront.
The origin of the name "Rhyl" is not fully known. However, the name appears in old documents variously as Hulle (1292), Hul (1296), Ryhull (1301), Hyll (1506), Hull (1508), [Leidiart] yr Hyll (1597), Rhil (1706), Rhûl (1749), Rhul (1773) Rhyll (1830), and Rhyl (1840). The name seems to be a hybrid between the English word "hill" and the Welsh definite article "y". The exact significance of the name is unclear as there are no hills in the vicinity. It is possibly a reference to a mound or slightly raised place in an otherwise marshy region. Some documents refer to a dwelling house, Tŷ'n yr haul, meaning "House in the sun".
Rhyl has a number of Grade II listed buildings; these include the Parish Church of St Thomas in Bath Street, which is listed as II* and is a fine example of high Victorian Gothic, and a prominent feature of the town landscape; the Midland Bank building; the railway station, two signal boxes and the public telephone box on the up platform; the Royal Alexandra Hospital; the Sussex Street Baptist Church; the Town Hall; the Swan Public House in Russell Road; the war memorial; and the Welsh Presbyterian Church in Clwyd Street.
A previous Rhyl landmark was the Pavilion Theatre, an ornate building with five domes, which was demolished in 1973. Beside it stood the pier which was built in 1872 for the pleasure of the many visitors who flocked to the North Wales coast. It was 2,355 ft (718 m) long and once included a pier railway. The structure was damaged by ships in 1883 and again in 1891. It was also damaged in 1901 when there was a fire at the Pavilion Theatre. Storms were responsible for further damage in 1909 and the pier was closed in 1913 as unsafe. It was reopened with a much-reduced length in 1930 but closed again in 1966, before being demolished in 1972.
Rhyl's top attractions on the West Parade are now Rhyl Children's Village theme park and the 250-foot (76 m) high Sky Tower (formerly the Clydesdale Bank tower, brought to Rhyl from the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival). The skytower opened in 1989 (local newspapers have since quoted a 1993 date, incorrectly) and a few years later, the Children's Village theme park was built, but the tower closed to the public in 2010.
On the East Parade is the SeaQuarium and the Rhyl Suncentre. The Suncentre was an indoor leisure centre which opened in 1980 at a cost of £4.25m and featured a heated swimming pool and Europe's first indoor surfing pool. The local council closed the centre in early 2014. The Pavilion Theatre is also on the East Parade, has over 1000 seats and is managed by Denbighshire County Council.
The Marine Lake, an artificial excavation in the west of the town, used to be a tourist destination, with fairground rides and a zoo. The lake is a 12 hectares man-made reservoir and it was officially opened in 1895. Rhyl Miniature Railway is the only original attraction remaining on the site, a narrow gauge railway that travels around the lake and is now based at the new museum and railway centre. There is also a playground and numerous watersports clubs based around the lake.
The Marine Lake Funfair was demolished in the late 1960s, having been replaced by the nearby Ocean Beach Funfair. Ocean Beach finally closed on 2 September 2007 and was demolished to make way for a planned new development, Ocean Plaza. This was to include apartments, a hotel and various retail outlets. However, work on Ocean Plaza never went ahead as scheduled and the land lay vacant for several years after the original developers, Modus Properties, went bankrupt in 2009. The site was sold to a new company, Scarborough Development Group (SDG), in 2010, but again no work commenced on the site for several years. In 2014, SDG submitted revised plans to develop the land on a much smaller scale than the original plans. Now called Marina Quay, the plans no longer include the building of new apartments on the land as Natural Resources Wales' flood regulations now prohibit this. The plans were approved by the local authority in November 2014. In August 2015, The Range retail chain signed a 20-year lease and plan to open a new superstore on the site.
In an effort to regenerate and boost declining tourism, a number of projects are under way or proposed. Projects include the Drift Park development on the promenade and the reopening of the town's miniature railway around the Marine Lake. The West End of Rhyl is undergoing much reconstruction. There is a major investment of about £4 million at Rhyl College, a satellite site of Llandrillo College. In 2015, plans were announced to demolish Rhyl Sun Centre indoor water park and build an exhibition centre in its place. The Sun Centre, which had heated pools, water flumes and a wave machine, opened in 1980 and closed in 2013.
Rhyl F.C., commonly known as the Lilywhites, is a football club which historically played in English non-league football, but has competed since 1992 in the Welsh football pyramid. In the 2003–04 season they won the Welsh Premiership Championship, the Welsh Cup and the Welsh League Cup, and were losing finalists in the FAW Premier Cup. In the 2008–09 season they again won the Welsh Premier League.
On 17 May 2010, it was announced that Rhyl's Welsh Premier licence had been revoked. Their appeal was unsuccessful and they were relegated to the Cymru Alliance, returning to the Welsh Premier League in 2013 after winning the Cymru Alliance title, becoming the first club in the history of the competition to complete the season unbeaten.
Rhyl have played in Europe on a few occasions.
Rhyl railway station is on the North Wales Coast Line and is served by through trains provided by Virgin Trains between Holyhead and London Euston, and Arriva Trains Wales services to Cardiff Central via Newport and Crewe, and to Manchester Piccadilly. Other nearby stations include those at Abergele & Pensarn, Prestatyn, Flint, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction.. Rhyl has direct Arriva Trains Wales and Virgin Trains services to Holyhead, which give connections by Stena Line or Irish Ferries to Dublin Port.
The A548 road runs through the town, connecting it to the A55 Holyhead to Chester road at Abergele. The A425 road runs southwards from the town to Rhuddlan, St Asaph and Ruthin. Several bus services are run by Arriva Wales along the main coast road between Chester and Holyhead, linking the coastal resorts. Another bus route runs between Rhyl and Denbigh.Thomas Aubrey (1808–1867), minister and travelling preacher
Wayne Bickerton (1941–2015), record producer and musician
James Chester (born 1989), international footballer (Aston Villa F.C.)
Ruth Ellis (1926–1965), night-club hostess and murderer, last woman to be hanged in England
Ched Evans (born 1988), footballer (Sheffield United F.C.)
Lee Evans (born 1964), comedian, writer and musician
Elliott Hewitt (born 1944), professional footballer (Notts County F.C.)
Nerys Hughes (born 1941), actress
Isaac Jenks (1816–1888), ironmaster and Mayor of Wolverhampton, who died at Rhyl
Ann Jones (born 1953), Welsh Labour and Co-operative Party MP
Mungo Lewis (1894–1969), Manitoba politician
Don Oakes (1928–1977), professional footballer (Arsenal F.C.)
Nathan Penlington (living), writer, poet and magician
William Roberts (born 1863, fl. 1880s – 1890s), international footballer
Lisa Scott-Lee (born 1975), singer and dancer
Steve Strange (1959–2015), pop musician
Sara Sugarman (born 1962), actress and film director
Carol Vorderman (born 1960), TV broadcaster and game-show host, attended Rhyl's Blessed Edward Jones High School
Edward Ross Wharton (1844–1896), classical scholar, etymologist and lexicographer
Spencer Wilding (born 1972), actor best known for Darth Vader in Rogue One
Vernon R. Young (1937–2004), research scientist specializing in protein and amino acid requirements