Us Kiwis love a good booze-up, and moving to London is the dedicated boozer’s rite of passage. The pubs are plentiful, the clubs are the definition of epic and the wintertime weather is conducive to staying indoors and talking smack over a few brewskies.
However, after the initial six months of sampling London’s fine nightlife, I felt like it was time to dedicate some of my evenings to less boozy activities in an attempt to save my pennies, and my liver. I’ve been living in London for 18 months now, so I’m still about 10 years off claiming to be an insider, but I have managed to scout out a few fun evening activities that won’t break the bank and don’t necessarily require a good dosing of liquor to make them enjoyable.
See a show
*GROAN* See a show? Really? That’s your big idea? Now that’s original. Seen many, they are good but expensive and the kind of thing to do when the folks visit.
Well, more specifically, I have two suggestions in mind. Did you know that the Book of Mormon show runs a ticket lottery? If you show up two hours before a show, they will put your name into a barrel and then draw out 20 front row seats at £20 per ticket. And believe me it’s worth the £20! It’s side-splittingly funny (unless of course you're offended by anything, and I mean ANYTHING).
My second suggestion is probably more aimed at the ladies. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden sells some seats to their ballets and operas for £5. These are not ideal for anyone who gets vertigo, and the view is restricted, but if you’re like me, you can never follow the story anyway, and are just there to be wowed by the dancing and muscular men in tights. It’s fun for a (semi) posh girls’ night out, or just to be the riff-raff rustling bags of sweets in the cheap seats (apparently you’re not supposed to take snacks to the ballet…).
Do some Ceilidh dancing
If you’re one who likes to participate more than observe the dancing, then this may be for you. Ceilidh dancing is Scottish folk dancing that involves energetically swinging around on a packed dance floor while a man yells instructions at you. It’s tonnes of fun, and for £18, a cheap night of entertainment. The Ceilidh club run regular nights in Camden at Cecil Sharp House, which has a cheap bar downstairs if you need a bit of Scottish courage before hitting the dance floor.
They also run a Singles Night, and ladies, I have three words for you: Men. In. Kilts. I rest my case.
London Zoo Lates
London Zoo opens its gates for an 18+ party every Friday evening through summer. Zoo Lates is the perfect opportunity to take a wander around the Zoo (which is kid-free for a change), grab a bite from the food market, have a few drinks (optional) and enjoy some live music and comedy acts. At £12 it’s a reasonably priced night out too.
Plenty of people dress up, so get involved if you’re into that sort of thing. I opted for a set of giraffe ears on a headband which, strangely, I was asked to take off around the animals because it would “confuse them.” I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised though – at 6’2 I have often been likened to a giraffe.
Cook up a storm
Taking a cooking class is not exactly a wild night out, but it is quite fun and an opportunity to learn some new skills too. I’ve been to a few classes now at L’atelier des Chefs and Recipease (Jamie Oliver’s cooking school). Recipease run regular 2for1 specials on their two hour classes (check their Facebook page for deals – they don’t seem to put these on the website). My friend Steph and I did a North Indian Thali class for £22 each which included a glass of wine and obviously a meal. The chef was a bit of a laugh and had a lot of good tips for us; we were pleasantly surprised by our delicious creations!
L’atelier des Chefs host ‘Cook, Eat and Run’ classes, which involve preparing just one simple, but delicious meal during a 30 minute lesson. They are only £15 and once again, dinner is included.
Get locked in the Tower of London
Every night the yeomen warders/beef eaters lock up the tower during the Ceremony of the Keys, which that has taken place every night for past 700 years. The best part about this is that tickets are available to the public FREE of charge. The guards meet you at the gate and take you to a few sites around the tower on a mini tour before the ceremony, then you witness the ceremony (which thankfully is MUCH shorter than the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace) and about 45 minutes later you will be ‘released’ from the tower once again.
You can apply for tickets here
I'm always on the look out for more fun/booze optional activities, so please share your suggestions below!