On a sunny Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, we ventured to Heaton Park in Manchester with some friends to experience Friends Fest – the ultimate celebration of the world’s greatest TV show.
I know it isn’t technically a theme park, but we want to cover all sorts of attractions on this blog, so I thought I’d do a little write up.
One of the first things that struck me when we booked was how little information is available on the website. Quite literally, we didn’t know whether to expect something like the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London or a makeshift tent in the middle of a field. In reality, it was some way between the two.
What is it?
Friends Fest is exactly what it says on the tin, a mini-festival celebrating the best of the TV show Friends. From set tours and photo ops to themed food and drink, Friends Fest has everything you could possibly want as a massive fan of the show – with the exception of Jennifer Aniston, much to Carl’s disappointment.
It’s not as sophisticated as the Harry Potter Studio Tour. In fact, when we first walked up I was a little worried as everything was housed in a series of tents with portaloos – festival style. I guess the name kind of gives it away but as ever, I didn’t get it.
But I had nothing to worry about, everything was very clean and well laid out and you soon got your head around where everything was.
Friends Fest is hosted every year (or it has been since 2016 – I think) across the country in the summer months. The one we attended was in Manchester, but they also take it on the road to Newcastle, Glasgow, London and more.
We couldn’t fault Heaton Park one bit. The grounds were gorgeous, the price of parking was so reasonable (we were expecting £10 and actually only paid £3) and Friends Fest was well organised and easy to find.
Food and Drink
If you’re used to reading blog posts written by me, you’ll know just how important good food is to me and Friends Fest didn’t disappoint. All the outlets were Friends themed and had us all laughing in recognition with names like Mocklate (complete with cheesecake from Mama’s Little Bakery), Joey’s Pizza and a vegetarian option named after Phoebe.
We went for a slice of Joey’s pizza each with some chips, and for festival food it wasn’t half bad. They also had a number of locations where you could get alcoholic and soft drinks. We all indulged in a tipple, but I have to say we were left disappointed. £12 for a bottle of beer and a warm can of Pimm’s was a little bit ridiculous. One of our friends got a prosecco cocktail which was a tenner for the smallest amount of prosecco and a splash of lemonade.
I can’t finish this section without talking about Central Perk. The set from here was reconstructed and you could order a coffee, sit down and listen to someone do renditions of Pheobe’s best songs. There was a great atmosphere in here and it was cool to be able to walk around such an iconic location.
Honestly, Friends Fest is a social media lovers wet dream, as there are picture opportunities around every corner. In total, there were six different photo ops; the titles, the PIVOT scene, Central Perk, the Vegas chapel, the door frame and Phoebe’s taxi.
Each had a designated member of staff there to take your pictures and the queues never ran more than 10 minutes. Overall, I think they did a really good job of managing the crowds as it could have easily had 30-minute queues for everything which would have been fairly frustrating. You just used your own phones and cameras to take pictures too, so there were no upcharge or pushy sales people which was great.
All in all, the photo ops were a lot of fun and we all enjoyed becoming part of the TV show. I think the title credits one was my personal favourite, it’s just so iconic! Some also had little dressing up areas so you could put on the outfits of from of the more iconic Friends moments.
This is the main draw of Friends Fest, the opportunity to tour (and Instagram) sets from the show. There were three sets in total; Monica and Rachel, Chandler and Joey and Ross’s apartments.
Before you’re taken round the sets, you can browse some of the more iconic props from the show – such as the Gellar Cup and the Tyrannosaurus Ross t-shirt – and are shown a behind-the-scenes video of the cast filmed to commemorate the final episode. I’ll be honest, this was a little disappointing as I’m sure this is available for anyone to watch if they own the DVD. It would have been nice to have had something unique filmed for the experience but I guess you can’t have everything.
I won’t lie, this really was worth paying for. I can’t tell you how cool it was to sit in the canoe, cuddle Huggsy and have your photo taken in front of the famous door. The organisers let you get really hands-on with the sets which is great and as the tours work on a timed basis, the group was plenty small enough for us to get all the pictures we wanted.
Granted, there wasn’t really anything else to do there but take pictures, as there were no information boards or really anything else in the sets. In total it took us about half an hour to get round everywhere which felt like just long enough. They told us Ross’s apartment was new for this year and I can’t help thinking I would’ve been a little disappointed had there just been two. Hopefully if it continues for a couple more years, more sets will be added to make this a bit of a longer experience.
Would I go to Friends Fest again? Yes, but not for a few years. I don’t necessarily think this is a repeat experience kind of place but I’m so glad we went. It was well organised, had plenty to do and was a barrel of laughs. We were there for about four hours, and that was probably as much time as we needed, but there was plenty to keep us entertained.
If you’re not really a photo kind of person though, I’d give this one a miss. It’s clearly been born out of the ‘selfie’ generation where everyone is obsessed with experiences that drive likes on Instagram. If you strip it right back, it’s simply a massive photo opportunity with a bit of food and drink.
That’s not to say it isn’t fun though – we had a great time and believe it was well worth the money. Most of all I’d say Friends Fest is best spent with your friends, so if you can grab a group of mates together, it’s a fabulous way to spend an afternoon out in Summer.
Have you ever been to Friends Fest? What did you think?