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Forget Santa’s Grotto: Head down to The Hidden House at Westfield Stratford

© Westfield Stratford City

The Hidden House offers an immersive fairytale experience
© Westfield Stratford City

Seeing Santa’s Grotto and his elves at your local shopping centre has become somewhat of a Christmas cliché. So standing out from the crowd, Westfield Stratford City are offering something different this festive season.

From late November until early January, shoppers can take a break from flashing the plastic and be transported to another land. The Hidden House has been inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales and will take guests on an immersive experience.

Audiences will be treated to a pre-show in the depths of the dark forest, before they head inside an abandoned house to find out the series of events which led to the vanishing of Red Riding Hood. Guests will then aim to uncover the truth behind her disappearance without being discovered by the Big Bad Wolf.

You will be free to choose where to go in the free-flowing maze, meaning you will have a completely unique experience. As well as actors guiding you along the way, there will also be special effects to make you feel you are in a fairy tale world.

The Hidden House is available to experience in two different ways: ‘The Hidden House’ for families with children, school groups and childrens parties, and ‘The Hidden House: Darkest Experiences’, for families with older children teenagers and adults over the age of 12.

  • The Hidden House runs at Westfield Stratford City, Stratford, E20 1EJ, from 20 November until 4 January 2015. Nearest station: Stratford. Ticket: Children £5, Adults 16 and over: £10. For groups of 12 0r more, receive a 12% discount. Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-8pm. For more information, visit the Westfield Stratford website.

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Enjoy an Olympic view as The Orbit re-opens to the public

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Climb The Orbit for 360 views of the Olympic Park

Nearly two years after the London Olympics, The Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is finally set to re-open. Standing at 114.5 metre (376 feet) tall, ArcelorMittal Orbit is Britain’s tallest sculpture. Along with the London Eye and The Shard, The Orbit provides stunning views of London, looking over the capital from the east.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The orbit gives 360 degree views from London

The Orbit was a winning design in a competition in 2009, conceived by Shadow Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who believed the Olympic Park needed an ‘Olympic Tower’. The same year, Britain’s richest man, steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal became interested in the project and offered to contribute funding towards it. In March 2010, Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s Orbit design was selected from a shortlist of three. Construction began in November 2010 and was unveiled to the public in May 2012 – two months before the London Olympics.

The structure comprises of two parts – a grey ‘trunk’ containing the stairs, elevators and topped by the observation desk. A lot of the ‘trunk’ is obscured by the twisting red lattice steel winding its way around the structure. It was made using 2000 tons of steel – from Mittal’s ArcelorMittal plants and recycled steel from Luxembourg. It stands tall at 114.5 metre (376 feet), making it the tallest sculpture in the UK. The observation tower is across two levels with a capacity for 150 people.

Public and press reaction to the Orbit has undoubtedly been mixed. It is a very contemporary piece and not to everyone’s taste. However, when it re-opens to the public in April 2014 as part of the regeneration of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, I’m sure there are many who will appreciate the view from the structure while perhaps not liking the design. The Orbit reopens on 5 April and will now include new digital interpretation’ and visitor facilities. Hopefully it will fare better than the Emirates Air Line cable car, which hasn’t been used as much as hoped since the Olympics and Paralympics ended.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The ArcelorMittal Orbit features viewing platforms across two levels

  • The Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, E15 2NG. Nearest tube/train: Stratford. Tickets: Adults £15, Children £7 (Local residents of Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest get £2 off). For more information and booking, visit the ArcelorMittal Orbit website.

For Metro Girl’s blog posts on other London lookouts, including The Shard, click here or London Eye, click here.

For further blog posts on the Olympic Park, read London Anniversary Games: An afternoon of nostalgia and triumph over adversity or It’s been a wild ride! Reflecting on my London Olympics experience

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