Published: 23 April 2021. Written by: Kat Poole.
Can’t wait to make plans as the world opens up again, but not sure where to start? From the creative and the curious to some seriously cool culture, here’s our pick of ways to reconnect and socialise with friends and family – not a beer garden in sight…
Over the past few months, deciding where to meet friends for a catch up has been, quite literally, a walk in the park. All-weather strolls might have given our vitamin D levels a boost, but even our favourite routes have begun to lose their shine after the 256th walk around the block.
But with lockdown restrictions easing, the world is about to become much bigger than our back gardens. Spending time with friends (plural!) is back on the cards, the spring and summer months are set to deliver some much-needed rays of sunshine, and we’re (sort of) spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can do and where.
The only problem? We’ve spent so long not making plans that it might feel a little tricky to whittle down the options. Which is why we’ve done the hard work for you, so all you have to think about is enjoying that time reconnecting with friends.
1. When you want to laugh
The saying goes that laughter is the best form of medicine, and it’s no joke — one study from the University of Maryland Medical Centre showed that laughing and having an active sense of humour may help you maintain a healthy heart. So, it’s very happy news that the UK’s comedy scene is set to reopen this summer, with the likes of Phil Wang, Romesh Ranganathan and Ellie Taylor taking to the road with their tours from June.
Until then, why not give it a go from the other side of the audience? Hoopla’s popular improv comedy classes have gone online for lockdown and are ongoing, so you can sign yourself and a friend up to give it a try and cheer each other on from the virtual sidelines.
2. When you want to reminisce
We all know how comforting it can be to look back on fond memories, but a study from the University of Southampton has shown that the feeling of nostalgia can also increase self-esteem and how connected we feel to other people.
This summer, you can go down the reminiscing rabbit hole at Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, an immersive exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum opening on 26 May, showcasing the rich history of a childhood favourite, so a great one for the kids too.
And if your favourite childhood stories were more Bash Street Kids than Mat Hatters? You can book ahead for Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules, a celebration of the world’s longest-running comic, which opens at London’s Somerset House in October.
3. When you want to learn something new
Research suggests that having a hobby such as cooking or baking can boost your confidence, help you switch off, and even enhance your performance at work. And while you might have used lockdown to hone your skills in the kitchen, there’s still time to add to your repertoire. Waitrose & Partners Cookery School has a whole menu of free and ongoing virtual classes which will remain online until they can be held in person.
For something a bit different, in Wild Life Drawing’s animal drawing classes you can sketch anything from bunnies to chimps. They’re currently being held online, but until they resume in person you can get a group of friends together and compare your creations at the end.
4. When you want to dance
After a year of kitchen discos, we’ve had plenty of time to dance like no one’s watching. But, if you ask us, nothing beats a festival with your friends or family in a field full of happy people, dancing the day away.
Leopallooza is a family-friendly affair taking place from 23 to 25 July in a beautiful valley in Bude, Cornwall, featuring grassroots music alongside the likes of Goldfrapp and DJ Annie Mac.
In the meantime, you can shake it off with Frame online, where classes like Cher-obics are a fun, retro way to get the benefits of dancing — which, according to two recent studies, may include helping to reduce the risk of disability and dementia.
5. When you want a walk with a difference
Aside from ‘you’re on mute’, ‘just popping out for a walk’ might be the most uttered sentence of the past year. But stretching our legs has hugely positive benefits, particularly when done in a group (and tracked for earning those Vitality points) — from giving us a dose of immunity-boosting vitamin D to helping reduce the risk of depression.
If you’re meeting friends for a wander, why not try something different? Creative Folkestone is a free trail which takes in 74 outdoor artworks, including pieces by Tracy Emin and Antony Gormley, all near the sea. And for foodies, Fergus the Forager hosts wild food foraging walks in a different London park on the first Sunday of every month, so meet a pal, clock up those steps and learn something along the way.
6. When you want to unwind
Not only does yoga help promote flexibility and strength, stretching it out can also aid sleep and reduce stress. For a mini-break which is as relaxing as it is good for you, try a retreat. The Tree Relaxation Retreat in North York Moors National Park has been described as one of the best yoga retreats in Europe and has a variety of stays from May onwards.
But really, does anything beat chilling out with a friend at a gorgeous spa, wrapped up in a soft robe? Champneys spas are opening back up in line with government guidelines, and their packages are perfect for a day or two of pampering and delicious food. As a Vitality member, you can enjoy some well-deserved savings on Champneys.
7. When you want to tick something off your bucket list together
Research from the University of Edinburgh has shown a positive link between new experiences and stronger memories — all thanks to the dopamine our brains release when we try something different. And after a year severely lacking in red-letter days, why not go big — or rather, high — and scale a London landmark? Thrill-seekers can head to the capital’s O2, where you and a brave friend can climb the iconic dome at sunset, twilight, or during the day.
But if tasting new things is more your thing, you can take a tour at Denbies — England’s largest single-estate vineyard, situated in the beautiful Surrey Hills, is taking bookings from April onwards. We’ll say cheers to that.
CTA: Looking back. Here are 6 positives we can all take from a year in lockdown.