With 8 million people crammed into 40 square miles, London isn’t exactly renowned for wild open spaces and outdoor activities. However, for the more adventurous Londoner looking for something different for a day off, or a fun activity for a hen, stag or birthday party, Go Ape is a great way to spend a few hours.
Go Ape has sites nationwide giving both adults and children the opportunity to fly through the trees with Tarzan swings, high ropes and zip wires. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, a group of us (aged between 20s-60s!) visited Go Ape in Trent Park on the outskirts of London last summer for a hen party activity. Although on the day in question it was raining, it was still possible to do the activity with a pair of sturdy trainers and a raincoat.
We booked the Tree Top Adventure package (£33pp) and arrived a short time before our time slot to get equipped with safety harnesses. Before taking to the trees, you are given full safety instructions by a trained staff member and are individually asked to demonstrate your new skills before you are trusted to do it alone. Although you climb higher and higher across the course as you gain in confidence and experience, the ropes start at easy jumping distance from the ground to get you acclimatised. Go Ape staff members are always nearby on the forest floor should you run into any difficulty.
The course is split into five sections and involve 33 or 38 crossings, taking around two to three hours to complete. While some crossings just involve ropes, some are made of wooden platforms suspended between the trees. Although some of the platforms are wobbly, you have your safety harness attached at all times so always feel your safety is paramount.
The climax of the course sees you climbing incredibly high with views over Trent Park, before descending down a 120 metre zip wire. Being responsible for your own safety harness adds an extra bit of adrenalin and the initial seconds when you launch yourself off the platform on a zip wire or Tarzan swing can be quite scary before you realise you’re not plunging to the ground and are flying through the air.
While the day in question we visited, it was drizzling rain on and off, it didn’t dampen our mood or enthusiasm for the activity. There were a few screams, some psyching ourselves up and a lot of laughing, but overall we thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes a bit of adventure in their life, or perhaps would be a good place for someone who wants to conquer their fear of heights.
A few tips – bring a waterproof coat, closed toe shoes (preferably trainers or something with grip) and gloves could be handy too. Leave your fear at home too!
- Go Ape, Trent Country Park, Cockfosters Road, Enfield, EN4 0PS. Nearest station: Cockfosters. For more information and booking, visit the Go Ape website.
For Metro Girl’s post on hen parties in London, click here.
Or for a 1920s hen night, why not read our review of the Candlelight Club here.
Vintage has never been bigger and with the release of The Great Gatsby movie last year, it appears the roaring ’20s have been… well roaring again. There is now a host of Art Deco and Speakeasy-themed bars in London as entrepreneurs catch on to the soaring popularity of drinkers wishing they were in another time.
Taking the 1920s theme a step further is The Candlelight Club, a touring pop-up nightclub featuring live music, cocktails, dancing and overall ambiance from yesteryear. I had wanted to get tickets for some time, but finally got round to booking them when I was tasked with organising a hen party recently. The Candlelight Club takes place on sporadic dates in various secret London locations – with them only being revealed a few days before the event, so you need to keep an eye on the website for dates.
A group of nine of us booked our £20 tickets quite far in advance and were able to take advantage of the early bird deal. In addition to your entry, there are options to dine or have a table for an extra cost. As expected the dress code was 1920s so lots of fringing, pleats, spaghetti straps, feather boas, long pearls and Mary Jane shoes. Although hen parties – such as our group – are welcome, try to blend in with the theme so no bright pink sashes or inflatable genitalia! We bought our bride a ‘bride to be’ rosette badge which was the same colour as her dress which was a subtle and simple. The venues of The Candlelight Club tend to be different and all the time, and on the night in question we attended, was a stunning building built in the 1920s in West London lit by candlelight.
In addition to the Twenties theme, The Candlelight Club also has a further theme each night – ours was the Excelsior club, a grander version of the usual club with sweeping staircases, waiters in full suits and a grand venue. Leading the entertainment was Champagne Charlie and his Bubbly Boys with dancing by the Bee Knees. We arrived about an hour after opening and missed out on any unreserved tables, but managed to get a few chairs for our group. It was rather quieter than expected at first before the live music started and with many people eating, which left guests soaking in the atmosphere, having costume envy and sampling the vintage-themed cocktails or bubbly. I particularly liked the bubbly being served in coupé champagne glasses, which nestle in your hand a lot easier than regular champagne flutes.
The atmosphere really changed once Champagne Charlie came on stage with his band. His mix of cheeky humour and singing soon got the crowd going. He also came over to our group and teased the bride with some risqué jokes. We were also treated to several performances by the very glamorous Bee Knees dancers. When the band weren’t performing, there was a vintage DJ spinning tracks so you could attempt the Charleston. In between shimmying, we could be found at the bar which was staffed by very dapper and friendly mixologists and barmen.
I can highly recommend Candlelight Club for a unique night out. The entertainment was brilliant and the venue was totally stunning. It was a refreshing change to my usual weekends to step back into the 1920s for the evening.
- The Candlelight Club takes place on various dates in various secret locations. Tickets highly recommended to be booked in advance. Check out the Candlelight Club website for dates and tickets.
For a guide to other 1920s bars and venues in London, click here.
Or if you fancy a trip to the 1950s instead, check out Metro Girl’s review of the Jive Party at the Rivoli Ballroom.
Over the past 10 years, partially thanks to Strictly Come Dancing, there has been a huge rise in partnered dance classes and actual dances as evening events. Salsa and Ceroc appear to be two of the most popular. Personally, I’ve always felt more comfortable dancing solo and freestyle, so haven’t really attempted to learn such dances… until now.
A dear friend who I have known all my life is getting married and decided to have a hen party. However, she was insistent she didn’t want anything tacky or showy, so no penis-themed paraphernalia, L plates and butt-grabbing claws. So for something a bit different, she decided to have a 1940s/1950s-themed vintage hen, which would culminate on a night out at the monthly Jive Party at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South East London.
Ahead of the actual night, I had to launch a search for my outfit. Although you don’t have to dress in vintage style at the Rivoli, there are plenty who do, and as we were on a hen ‘do it was only right we showed some unity and had some fun by dressing up. I already had a strapless prom dress with a bit of netting underneath, which I bolstered with a second net skirt (a huge selection is available from Amazon). Many in my party had opted for polka-dot and halterneck dresses or twin sets.
On the afternoon before the Jive Party – which started around 8pm – we all gathered at the bride-to-be’s home to transform ourselves into 1940s and 1950s divas, while sipping on bubbly and Mojitos. The bride’s future sister-in-law had organised for a visit from Lipstick & Curls – a vintage hair styling team – who spent several hours styling our hair into braids, victory rolls and beehives and painting our faces with winged eyeliner and red lipstick. I personally only had my hair done, but I can highly recommend the company, who were fast, friendly and left us all happy with our final look.
The Rivoli Ballroom is a unique gem in London in that it’s the only intact 1950s ballroom in the capital. Located on Brockley Road opposite Crofton Park train station, the large Grade-II listed ballroom includes a huge dancefloor, lots of plush seating and a separate bar area – but remember ‘no drinks on the dancefloor’! I’m a sucker for restored, period interiors so loved the ballroom immediately upon entering and were early enough to grab a table directly near the bar and the band. The variety of the crowd was surprising too – I have to confess I was expecting a predominantly middle-aged group, but it ranged from people in their 20s to 60s.
We were attending a monthly night organised by Jive Party. The night starts with a dance class for all those (like my hen group) who didn’t know what they were doing, some with a little experience, and experts who were happy to share their knowledge with the likes of us newbies. The jive routine was broken down into short sequences of moves and after learning a few steps, we were told to move along to change partners, so it gave everyone a good opportunity to meet fellow newbies or get some advice from an expert and also established a ‘we’re all in this having fun together’ vibe. I found the class a bit tricky, although got the main gist of the moves, but at this point had had a few flutes of bubbly so perhaps wasn’t in deep concentration!
Following the lesson, you’re free to hit the dancefloor and show off your moves to the sounds of the Jive Party band Oo-Bop-Sh’Bam, who played a mix of RnB, boogie, Jive and Rock ‘n’ Roll and really got the crowd going. Despite our hen party being (obviously) all women, there were no shortage of partners on offer, although we often danced with each other, which made deciding who was leading very difficult.
All in all, we all had a really fun night, which I highly recommend and suggest anyone making a big event of going to the Rivoli for a hen or landmark birthday should hire the team from Lipstick & Curls to make your retro evening complete. While I’m far from a Jive expert, I had such a laugh I will definitely be heading back.
- Rivoli Ballroom is located at 350 Brockley Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BY. Nearest train station: Crofton Park (20 minutes from Blackfriars). For details of what’s on visit the Rivoli’s website or to find out when the next Jive Party is, visit Jive Party’s website. Tickets for Jive Party, which included the lesson, were £15.
For more hen ideas in London, read my blog post on two hen ‘dos I organised earlier this year: Cluck cluck: Tale of a London hen weekend
Along with Brighton and Blackpool, London is a popular hen weekend destination for many Brit brides-to-be. However, when you already live in London, insider knowledge pays off and brings hens to less hen populated party destinations. On the hens I’ve been on previously, if you run into another hen party, sometimes there appears to be a bit of rivalry – who will be the loudest or more fabulous group… Come on girls, what happened to sisterhood!
Anyway, this year, I had been tasked with organising two different hen parties, both challenging in their own ways. One was in post-Christmas expenditure January so trying to keep things in budget, while the second one in July, involved three different events.
The January hen night took place at the Medieval Banquet in St Katherine’s Docks near Tower Bridge. The extravaganza, which lasts several hours, involves a banquet (well, obviously), entertainment, dressing up, dancing and drinking (of course). The entertainment included singing olde songs, acrobatics, Medieval dancing and sword-fights. Tickets cost £49.95 for adults and include all food and the drink served at the table, but there are discounts for group bookings or through National Rail discounts.
The banquet is set is an arched basement (don’t worry, it’s very roomy) with the long tables in each alcove. There are opportunities to rent costumes or buy a jester’s hat if you want to get into the medieval spirit. For the next few hours, we were entertained in between three courses, which were presented by serving wenches. After the medieval fun is over, we fast forward to modern day with pop classics from across the years played during the ‘disco’ at the end. Although personally myself (pescatarian) and the other vegetarian found the non-meat option quite disappointing, my carnivore hens said their meals were nice enough. However, while the food wasn’t up to my expectations, the entertainment was very good and it was nice to do something different for a Saturday night out.
Dinner @ Terra, Fitzrovia
The July hen was a lot more complicated to organise, with trying to work out who was coming to all three events, or just one. We decided the Friday night dinner would be the ‘calmer’ night, as we didn’t want to be struggling on the Saturday with hangovers. After trailing through TopTable for restaurants who did large group bookings, I settled on Terra, a Mediterranean restaurant in Fitzrovia. Prior to arrival, the staff were incredibly helpful as my booking numbers kept changing. We ended up having a table for 14 on the light, airy ground floor. The menu was extensive and there was something for everyone, regardless of diet or allergies. I am a huge fan of lobster, but don’t get to eat it often due to the price. However, Terra had a half-lobster with tagliatelle for £16.95 so I opted for that and was very tasty. One friend ate salmon and prawn risotto and said it was sumptuous. The service was very good and the music was quiet enough so we could hear each other talking.
The highlight of the hen weekend had to be the Pedibus daytime activity. Trying to explain a Pedibus is difficult, but it’s basically like a bus powered by peddlers. It seats up eight cyclists, with another four can relax in the middle. Pedibus provides two staff members – one to steer it and the other to serve drinks. Yes, you can drink alcohol on board! Our party opted for Marks & Spencer’s cocktails in a can – currently on sale for about £2 – which certainly got us in the party mood. We picked up the Pedibus at Borough High Street and started our trip by cycling UP London Bridge. It was a tough start to get the Pedibus up the hill and attracted quite a lot of attention from the bustling area outside London Bridge and Borough Market. Our trip was a 60-90 minute tour around the City Of London (but they also offer other routes), going over London Bridge, near the Tower Of London, with sights include the Gherkin (Swiss Re Tower) and the Monument on the way. Fortunately the weather was lovely and sunny while we did the Pedibus, but the company’s website say they have sheltered options if the weather isn’t quite so kind. After the tour ended, all the hens were sweaty, tired and rather tipsy, but had spent most of the tour laughing and everyone agreed it was a brilliant activity.
Dinner, drinks and dancing at Salvador & Amanda
The last event of the hen was dinner, drinks and dancing at Salvador & Amanda in the West End (near Covent Garden or Leicester Square). The large venue features a Tapas restaurant, bar and dancefloor so we chose it for the ease of eating and drinking in the same area. As hen nights are expensive, the group menu was pretty reasonably priced and attentive staff made sure we were kept well stocked with Sangria and other drinks. The dancefloor didn’t really get going until after pub’s kicking out time but played a mix of chart hits and dancefloor classics. As the bride was a fan of Ibiza, the choice of venue suited our ‘Ibiza theme’, which I accessorised with pink feather boas, sequinned cowboy hats (!) and glow sticks – all bought from the £1 shop!
My tips for organising a London hen
- Don’t spend a fortune on accessories. Check out the £1 or 99p store. For sashes, L plates and veils, Hen Night HQ have a lot of choice, fast and FREE delivery too.
- Check out TopTable for find which restaurants do large group bookings. Also reviews can tell you if its going to be decent food and service.
- There’s such a large choice of activities you can choose, including nude male drawing classes, the Pedibus, cocktail-making, etc. Visit Freedom Ltd for ideas and opportunities to book.
- If you’re having to put down money to guarantee bookings or numbers, don’t be afraid to make it clear to the hens who have agreed to attend. You shouldn’t have to be out of pocket if someone cancels last minute.
- Have some games prepared to play. This website has a host of ideas. We played Mr & Mrs (without the Mr, we asked the groom some questions for the bride to guess his answer) and also got everyone to write marriage advice with the bride guessing who wrote what.
- Make sure to embarrass the bride-to-be… if only a little bit. If she’s got a sense of humour, she’ll be fair game.
- Accept its going to be an expensive night. Withdraw more money than normal and if you’re left with any at the end of the night, it will be a pleasant bonus. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime night out for the bride (fingers crossed!) so try to widen your budget.
For a vintage-themed hen do, read Metro Girl’s blog post on a 1950s-themed hen at the Rivoli Ballroom: Rock ‘n’ rollin’ at the Rivoli: Jive Party at a 1950s ballroom.
Or if you fancy a 1920s-themed night out, check out Metro Girl’s review of the Candlelight Club, or for a list of 1920s venues, read Go back to the roaring ’20s with these Great Gatsby-inspired days and nights out.