Updated: Oct 10, 2020
My favourite activities this summer have been the ones that involved staying away from people. Of course, I mean this in the friendliest way possible. Yes, social distancing sucks but it has to be done. Luckily, there are still plenty of outdoor summer activities that you can do six feet apart from everyone else. Here are two of my favourites from the past week.
The Lunar Open Air Cinema:
When I think of open air cinemas or drive ins, my mind always takes me to John Travolta moodily flouncing around a carpark, pining after Olivia Newton-John as Sandra Dee. In other words, I've always regarded them as some sort of nostalgic American novelty. Something I thought I'd never experience here in the UK.
Well not anymore. These outdoor cinema events are making an epic comeback as Coronavirus puts a halt on your traditional indoor cinematic experience. Although they may have started in America and peaked in the late 1940's-1960's, I couldn't have had a more modern British experience. (In fact, I hate to say this America, but I think we may do it a little better.) Forget car parks, or even parks for that matter. Why not host a cinema in the gardens of a palace?
Welcome to Hampton Court Palace Gardens, all 60 acres of it. (Plus the extra 750 acres of parkland that surrounds it.)
This is where I went last week to watch the psychological thriller, 'Joker'. (Which, can I add, was incredible and deserves an entire blog post of its own.) Anyway, back to my point. Just the walk to my seat was an experience in itself! I felt like royalty driving through the palace gates and wandering around the immaculately kept gardens.
Although the screening didn't start until 9:00pm, Luna Cinema had introduced a staggered entrance policy to adhere to social distancing. As a result, we were allowed in from 7:30pm. Not only did this make us feel safer, it also meant we could bag the best seats and had plenty of time to look around and take photos whilst it was still light enough to do so. All seats were arranged in groups of two or four and were socially distanced from other parties. (I'd like to add that these weren't just any seats. They were directors chairs! Comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.) Hand sanitiser stations were dotted all around the gardens as well as signs to remind people to keep their distance. Even though this was all open air, I'm glad Luna Cinema still went out of their way to make everyone feel safe and comfortable.
As we settled into our seats, we glanced up at the giant cinema screen placed on the east front lawn. Just behind it stood Henry VIII's palace, providing a stunning floodlit backdrop. Naturally, I kicked off my shoes, sat back in my seat and cracked open the tinnies and snacks. Lots of other families and couples had brought full blown picnics which is something I'd definitely bring if I went again. Before the pandemic, Luna Cinema actually provided food vans and various other snack options but let's be honest, it's isn't a proper cinema experience if you're not smuggling in your own food and drinks.
As the film began, it felt just like any other cinema. The sound and screen were brilliant, the film dark and gritty and the air full of excitement. As the evening gradually grew darker and colder it only added to the suspense.
Fancy giving it a go? Check out their website here for open air and drive in cinemas across the country. There are dozens of showings throughout the rest of August and September. Tickets are around £18 per head.
Rother Valley Aqua Park
Ever fancied yourself as the star of 'Total Wipeout' or 'Ninja Warrior UK'? Well now you can be (kind of) with the number of inflatable outdoor water assault courses popping up across the UK. Last week I visited one of the biggest inflatable parks in the UK at Rother Valley, Rotherham. Complete with floating slides, trampolines, climbing walls and runways, this course is insane! Although completing the thing is pretty exhausting, I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life.
After booking a slot online, we turned up 15 minutes before our allotted time to get suited and booted in wetsuits and life jackets. We were kindly informed that all suits and jackets had been sanitized between each use, which put us all at ease. After watching a quick safety video online we were ready to go! Hand sanitizer was provided at the start line and we were instructed to keep one party to an apparatus at a time. After a staggered entry across the start line, we all plunged into the cool lake. (Normally I'm a massive wuss when it comes to cold water but this was one of the hottest days of the year so I was very glad to be plummeting into the freezing lake.)
After a quick swim over to our first obstacle (some monkey bars) the course began. What I soon came to realise was that I had absolutely no upper body strength and slipped straight into the water after the second bar. Pathetic I know. Luckily for me I had Harry and my little brother, Jacob, pulling me around the rest of the course. (Not so lucky for them.) Gradually we worked our way around the course, falling off (or pushing each other off) obstacles and laughing our heads off. My favourite parts were definitely the huge slides and platforms to jump from.
As we were approaching the finish line we had just one more obstacle left to complete, a steep climbing wall with a slide at the other side. Working as a team, we managed to haul all 4 of us onto the floating wall, which wobbled quite frantically as you moved up it. Clinging on for dear life, we began our climb. I recalled how I'd stood at the start line just 30 minutes ago telling myself that this all looked like 'a piece of cake'. How wrong I had been. After about 15 minutes of climbing, wobbling and slipping, my sister, Rosie, and I finally made it to the top. (The boys had long since left us in the dust.) Feeling a strong sense of accomplishment we celebrated our victory...Celebrated probably a little bit too early. Somehow Rosie managed to lose her footing and fell in slow motion back into the lake, making sure to hit every single peg on the way. It was pretty much a recreation of the scene from 'The Lion King' only this one ended in tears of laughter. (From me anyway.)
Once Rosie had recovered from her impressive fall, we finished the course with time to spare. Since we had about 15 minutes left of our slot we decided to swim back over to our favourite obstacles and do them all over again! After our slot had finished we dried off and tucked into a lovely picnic. We definitely had earned it!
Fancy giving it a go? At £15 a head it's a great day out! Check out Rother Valley's website here. There are also dozens of other parks up and down the country if this one isn't close to you.
*Special thanks to my Mum for taking these hilarious photos of us!