One of the most curious phenomena of the modern age is the rise of the multi-day, multi-activity hen do. Long gone are the days of a single night out in the local boozer, and not just because all the local boozers have shut down to be replaced with adult ball pits, cereal cafes and other symptoms of societal decay. Nowadays, you’re talking city breaks, boat trips and more activities than a 40 minute Art Attack Christmas special. Some people even have two. Some people have three.
This is all well and good for everyone except the poor schmuck – sorry, bridesmaid – who’s expected to organise the thing. Organising a hen do is a time-consuming, soul-destroying, thankless task, but someone’s got to do it, and because I have a blog specifically about unusual things to do in London, I quite often get emails from these luckless souls looking for inspiration. God knows there’s no shortage of amazing bars in this town, so I’ve found most people want ideas for the daytime, or that don’t involve too much drinking. So here are some of the best:
I had a lady email me recently asking for hen do suggestions for a daughter who was seriously into her fitness. Against my better judgement, I suggested Barry’s Boot Camp, Psycle, Ride Republic and One Rebel, all of whom can deliver horrible cardio-vascular torture before a night on the piss. Or the green juice, whatever. I personally would be furious if a fun-filled weekend celebrating a pal’s imminent nuptials began with me vomiting from anything other than tequila, but different strokes.
Other, significantly more fun ideas include a flying trapeze class at Gorilla Circus (flat fee of £300 for up to ten people, plus £25pp for extras – I tried it myself here!), or a burlesque class with The Cheek Of It!, where hen packages range from £20-30pp based on a minimum of eight participants. You can visit them in their Camden, Covent Garden or Shoreditch studios, or, if you’re staying in an Airbnb, they can come to you.
For a wider selection of dance styles, the legendary Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden does private classes for a flat fee of £146 (60 minutes) or £198 (90 minutes), based on 1-6 participants. They offer pretty much every style and theme: Bollywood, Beyonce, Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Michael Jackson…
Finally, the faithfully recreated inflatable obstacle course from It’s A Knockout now runs in South London all year round, with places costing £50pp. It’s kinda like doing an Iron Man, but not horrible.
If you, like me, prefer your physical activity to be limited to lifting delicious things up to your food slot, there are loads of foodie things to do during the day too.
FOR INSTANCE. An afternoon at the legendary Choccy-Woccy-Doo-Dah in Soho includes private use of The London Parlour for up to ten people, plus milkshakes, dipping pots of molten chocolate and platters of cake for £30pp.
Fancy cookie company Biscuiteers runs special School Of Icing workshops just for hen parties at £56pp, which includes a 90 minute masterclass, a glass of prosecco and a Biscuiteers souvenir apron to take home. You can come to them – the have icing cafes in Battersea and Notting Hill – or they can come to you.
If you’re more of a savoury person, try a proper grown-up cooking class at School of Wok. Classes cost £60pp (minimum of 15 people), and you can choose between sushi, Thai or dim sum. (NB: I have done a Thai cooking class at SoW before and it is tremendous fun by MY GOD there is a lot of chopping. You will not believe the amount of chopping required. The people of Thailand must have extraordinarily over-developed index finger muscles.) It’s also BYOB, so you can take some cheffin’ wine with you at minimal cost.
If you’d prefer something a little more laid back, the Mayfair Pizza Company and Bungatini in Covent Garden both offer pizza-making classes complete with prosecco and nibbles for £35pp and £40pp respectively. Times are limited – Bungatini won’t do Saturdays or any evening Wednesday-Saturday – so it’s worth dropping them a line well in advance.
The best thing about doing creative things at a hen do is that the people who are genuinely quite arty can have a fun time actually doing a good job and feeling a bit smug about their creations, and everyone who’s crap can just have a good laugh. I have a gay friend with all the artistic ability of a flaming waste paper basket who recently had to do a male life drawing session at a hen do, and even though she bitched and moaned about it about it beforehand (“This is definitely a hate crime,”), she ended up having a WHALE of a time.
Life drawing is the obvious choice but Art Macabre can offer something more…theatrical. Prices depend on the size of the group, the length of a session and whether you need a venue or not, but generally prices range from £20-25pp based on two hours of drawing games, creative sketching challenges, a life model and an alternative theme with set, props and music soundtrack, all tailored to the bride-to-be.
Alternatively, try a ‘painting by numbers’ party, where instructors take everyone through making a masterpiece step by step, so even the most lacking in imagination can take home something to be proud of. Try Paint Republic for hen dos from £25pp (based on at least 15 participants) or Studio Masterpiece for private sculpture and oil painting classes for a flat fee of £350 (with a maximum of 10 participants).
Outdoorsy types might prefer a terrarium class with Jar & Fern, who’ll send you away with a beautiful sealed jar filled with a miniature, sealed-off garden that’s practically unkillable. Prices range from £35 to £50, depending on what you make.
You know when you set out to make a list and some things don’t sit nicely in a specific category? Yeah, I hate that too.
Crystal Maze LIVE, for instance, has some physical challenges, but, as anyone who spent their formative years watching reruns on Challenge TV knows, also some mental, skill and mystery ones. It works just like the TV show, right down to the giant crystal dome at the end, and costs from £54.99pp, though you want to try and get eight people or a multiple of eight to make sure you’re not in a team with a bunch of randos.
In a similar vein, escape rooms are wildly popular, and some of the best include Aim Escape (high tech, automated puzzles), Lady Chastity’s Reserve (pub-based escape room with a live action element – get 10% off with the discount code ‘MERRY’) and Lock’d (fiendishly difficult puzzles devised by a Russian physicist). There’s a more comprehensive list here.
If you prefer your puzzles out in the fresh(ish) air, or you’ve got a really big group of people, Big Smoke Events runs one of London’s more unusual scavenger hunts, which includes plenty of quirky photo challenges. For something a bit more energetic, try City Dash from Fire Hazard games, where you run around a small area of the city solving clues and evading real-life guards. I love City Dash and took a bunch of mates for my last two birthdays, my full review is here.
And, if you’d like to celebrate with just a little bit of day drinking, pub games in London are making a comeback. I wrote a post awhile back about everywhere you can play ping pong, shuffleboard, darts, crazy golf and more.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.