Hey, how you doin’
Well… Where do I start? I went to Friends Fest.
OH. MY. GAWD.
For those of you that are not familiar with Friends Fest, It’s basically a tour that is based on the American sitcom Friends, which is featured on Comedy Central. And for those like myself who don’t have a Sky box and have Freeview instead, you may remember the good ol’ days when Friends was aired on E4. What a great life us Freeview guys and gals lead. Anyway, going on a ramble as always. So, Friends Fest is a 12-week tour that is stopping in 6 different locations in the UK to give fans of the show a real glimpse into the sets, props and a general re-experience of one of THE greatest TV shows in history. Bold statement, you may question? I think it personally needs to be underlined too!
I never heard of Friends Fest until this year funnily enough, even though after doing a little bit of research I realised it had been around for a few years. I first found out about Friends Fest when it came up on my Facebook feed about how the event was coming to my hometown, Newcastle. I immediately read into it and watched a short clip that they shared about what to expect and it’s fair to say, I instantly fell in love with the whole concept. I was on the website at 9 AM for when they released the tickets and I snatched up those babies in seconds.
The pricing of each ticket for Friends Fest was £27.50 and a booking fee of £2.50 so overall £30 per ticket. I bought myself and my boyfriend Alex a ticket which came to £60 which is on the pricey side especially when you’re in an apprenticeship on £4 odd an hour like me, which is why I’m writing this Friends Fest review for all you hard working people out there who want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.
On July the 23rd, 2018, the day had finally arrived and it was time for Friends Fest. I double checked my ticket the night before to see the time the tour started and it was 12:00 PM. We left at 11 to give ourselves half an hour to get there and the other half hour to get settled in before the tour as it says on the ticket to be there 15 minutes early and boy, were they right.
If you’re reading this now, in 2019 or maybe even 2020 for a Friends Fest review, the one piece of advice I’d say is to check the Friends Fest official website for more information. You may already have but since I’m human dory, I forgot so I realised on the day of Friends Fest that taking public transport was recommended as parking at the site is limited. My boyfriend drove us to the venue at Castle Farm Fields, Newcastle Upon Tyne and the website was right, the parking is bloody awful. There are two car parks close to the venue, one with a space of up to 8 cars and the other is a paying car park with around 12 car parking spaces which is extremely limited as it says on the site.
Even though we arrived at the venue half an hour early, we were not able to get a space in either of the car parks as they were already taken and all the streets close to the venue were all permit holders only so we ended up having to park in a random street which was a 20 minute walk away. Luckily, our tour was not until 12 so we just made it in time, however, I would advise if you’re travelling by car to give yourself a good amount of time to find a car parking space so you can get to the tour on time without any added stress.
When we first got into Friends Fest, we were told by the staff to go to the yellow flags where our tour would begin. The tour was set in a big gazebo tent (best way to describe it) and we joined the queue with the rest of our group which was made up of 20-25 people. In the Friends Fest tour, there were also 2 different lines next to us with signs for the future showings which showed that the event was organised and avoided any confusion with customers.
We were greeted by a young girl in her 20’s as our guide for the Friends Fest tour and we were taken a few steps forward to the top of the room to a small corner that you could see as you queued up. In this section, you got to see the iconic Friends props such as Phoebe’s famous Guitar, The Cheesecake, The Geller Cup and more which were all showcased in well-lit glass boxes.
Move aside Mrs. Braverman, this is MY cheesecake now!
After taking photos and looking at the props, we were shown interviews of the cast on a reasonably sized TV from when they first started filming the show to the last season and listening to the casts views on how they would like Friends to end with each of their characters, which I thought was a lovely touch to the beginning of the Friends Fest Tour as it made me reminisce over just how good Friends was and how much I want to believe the rumours about a potential Friends film! However to anyone that is thinking of going to Friends Fest, I would say that there were only 3 rectangle glass boxes with around 3-4 props in each and obviously, with the number of people there were in the group in a small confined space, it was a little crowded.
After this, the real Friends Fest tour began (well in my eyes!) as we were taken into the first set which was Joey and Chandler’s apartment which was incredible and looked just like how it does on the show. The second we got there, everyone loaded onto the set, taking photos left, right and centre which I did find a little overwhelming as it was almost like a fend for yourself scenario. As we walked around the set, our tour guide would tell us little interesting facts that we may not have heard before which was really entertaining.
Although, our tour guide was full of facts and witty comments for Friends Fest, at times it was difficult to take everything in as we were limited to a viewing time of 10 minutes for each set, there were moments where Alex would ask me if I just heard what the tour guide said and I didn’t because of how busy it was. When it comes to the re-creation sets of Friends Fest, Joey and Chandler’s apartment was so identical to the original, from the Lazy Boy Recliners to even the finer details that you may not have even noticed such as Hugsy the Penguin.
Casually writing Becca’s Bubble on the back of Joey and Chandler’s door because after all, when is the right time for a bit of self promo? 😉
After around 5 minutes of everyone on the set, the tour guide would tell us to all come off so we could take photos of the set without anyone in it which I thought was a great idea and gave everyone the opportunity of getting the set without anyone photobombing your photos. After everyone got their photos, we were given a couple more minutes to get any last photos we wanted before heading off to the next set, I think due to it being around 20-25 people in each group, it was extremely difficult to get a photo without anyone photobombing it as their just wasn’t the space. So just to let you know, if you’re one of those people that needs to re-take a photo a number of times before you’re happy, then you may feel like you can’t due to the number of people queuing up behind you.
(As you can see, someone’s hand still managed to make an appearance on the right-hand side and that was when everyone got off the set so you can imagine how hard it was to get photos without any photobombs!)
Also, tied in with Joey and Chandler’s viewing was the famous hallway between Joey and Chandler’s apartment and Monica’s which was dreamy as ever. Not going to lie but all I wanted was a cheesecake to tuck into on the floor ahaha, may not be hygienic especially due to the number of people who would have walked on it with Friends Fest but the things you do for a recreation, ey? As we were viewing Joey and Chandler’s apartment, it was announced by our tour guide that if people want to get a photo in the hallway to do so as it’s best to have some people get their photos now due to the confined space and for those that don’t get it now, they can go back to it once the tour is finished. However, thinking back to it now, no one from our group were invited back to it.
Looking back at the Friends Fest tour now, I really do feel that there should have been a separate viewing of the hallway whether that be separating the group in sections and the rest continue to view Joey and Chandler’s set or even just additional time for the Friends Fest tour as I didn’t get enough time to take photos around some of the spots I wanted to.
Then we moved on to Monica’s apartment (well it is next door, after all!) and we followed the same regime where everyone loads on to the set to take photos then we get off to take photos of the set. Monica’s apartment was also equally identical to the real deal which made the experience even more enjoyable, from the tiffany blue kitchen drawers to Rachel’s dreadful trifle.
As I was looking around Monica’s apartment frantically, trying to appreciate the apartment in all it’s glory yet wanting to get a photo to remember this beautiful moment, there were queues at the purple door, the kitchen table, the window seat, the sofa, you name it, there were queues which were maintained and organised but I do think that 10 minutes per set is not enough time to get the photos you want and to enjoy yourself without the phones or cameras.
No matter how much you smile at me Alex, you ain’t getting a cookie.
I personally did find Monica’s Apartment equally as rushed as I did in Joey and Chandler’s as when we were called to the next set, everyone was still taking photos as well as myself which shows that we didn’t get to experience everything we wanted to. So, if you are planning to go, I’d prepare where you will go and queue first in each set as I ended up looking like I was re-creating Kylie Minogue’s Spinning Around music video, many many times.
OOO This reminds me, I bring a funny story to this blog. So, once we got off the set to get shots of Monica’s Apartment, there were 3 girls taking a cute photo together and my eyes began to widen as they did not push in the chairs. I looked around frantically to see if anyone was going to comment about it but nobody did so that’s when I had to pluck up the courage, use my overused lungs and ask in good old Rebecca fashion “Eee, do you not mind if I tuck in those chairs before we take the pictures, my OCD is going mad!” and the tour guide responded ‘Yes, of course! You’re doing your job for me haha!” and I stumbled back onto the set to fix the chairs.
However, as I walked back a lady said to me “HAH, Monica!” and suddenly, it dawned on me, my whole life had been a complete lie. I used to say I was more of a Phoebe or Rachel and I’m happy to say that this Friends Fest experience made me realise that I am in fact, Monica. That’s right, now where’s my Chandler? ALEEEEX!
Once our 10 minutes in the set of Monica’s Apartment were up, we moved on to Ross’ Apartment which is a new addition to Friends Fest.
Just like all the other sets, Ross’s Apartment was so true to its real form and this was the one set where it was a lot more laid back and chilled as once people got their photos they started to leave and it ended up just being myself and my boyfriend Alex left to get some last photos and our tour guide even offered to take a photo of the pair of us.
Out of all of the sets within the Friends Fest Tour, I did feel that Ross’s Apartment was the only set I didn’t feel rushed in, I’m not sure if the group after us were running behind schedule or if our tour guide just gave us an extra few minutes but it did feel a lot nicer and I was sweating a lot less by this point. Hola at my deodorant that clearly wasn’t working at the start of Friends Fest!
Ross, get the Chinese ordered!
Oooh, that’ll be the Chinese!
For anyone that is curious to buy tickets for now or for the near future, I’ve written down below my personal views of the Friends Fest Tour.
Pros of the Friends Fest Tour:
- The set is honestly so similar to the original.
- Experience is insane as you’re in the set of BLOOMING Friends.
- The Tour Guide was full of interesting facts about each set.
- The general atmosphere was lovely.
- This Friends Fest Tour made me realise I’m basically Monica.
- All members of our group were happy enough to take photos of us.
- Staff were so friendly and clearly a fan of Friends themselves.
- Even though it was hectic, it was well organised as they had set times for each group, queues for photos, etc.
- You can interact with everything apart from opening the doors.
- Even the finer details were taken into consideration.
Cons of the Friends Fest Tour:
- Hard to get a photo without a number of people in the background.
- A lot to do in a short space of 10 minutes for each set.
- Feeling quite rushed at times.
Wishful thinking for the next Friends Fest tour:
- Additional time for each set.
- Viewing the set without anyone on it could be more at the beginning to avoid any props or furniture being moved.
- Smaller groups to avoid a lot of photobombs (Like the photo below!)
Once the Friends Fest tour came to an end, I came out of the Tour and there was a number of attractions to queue up for that gave you photo opportunities to recreate some of the most iconic Friends scenes. The attractions in Friends Fest were the following:
- Central Perk
- The PIVOT scene
- Ross & Rachel’s Vegas chapel of love
- Life-size Frame from Monica’s door
- Recreate The Titles
- Phoebe’s Taxi
Surprisingly, Central Perk was one of the attractions on the field which wasn’t part of the guided tour which I was SO relieved about as you can spend as much time as you like in there. I sure did! The prices in Central Perk started from £3.50 and I bought 4 drinks from there throughout the day, so it cost around £10-£15 for 4 drinks.
Hello there, may I interest you in any of our fresh bakes today? …Channeling my inner Rachel.
With all of the attractions, there were queues for each one which is a given but I found that it wasn’t a long waiting time as it was only around 5-10 minutes and I was entertained just watching others get really funny photos together.
Hey, where’s my record deal?
Each attraction was well thought about as it’s not just the backdrop that gives you that nostalgia feel but also the majority of them came with props such as umbrellas, signs, turkey head masks and plenty of costumes to choose from. In Ross & Rachel’s Vegas chapel of love, there was a selection of different wedding dresses to wear which was fab as the next group in line were able to start getting ready as the other group in front got their photo taken which is I thought was extremely time effective.
I know what you’re thinking, we are too cute. It’s true.
One thing I would mention with the attractions is that I realised Friends Fest is very photography focused and after speaking with our tour guide and asking how she got the job, she mentioned that it was through a performing magazine which is why I do think for the next upcoming Friends Fest that they should hire people with camera experience for the attractions.
On numerous occasions, we gave our camera to a member of staff but they were not sure how to use it and even after telling them not to worry as it’s on Auto Focus so all you need to do is just press the big button, they seemed a little on edge when taking it. However, I’ve got to say that they did an incredible job with every photo, even though many members of staff found the camera a little terrifying at first, so thank you guys! (You’s did it better first time than I ever could of when I first used one!)
Also, you know how I’ve mentioned you sometimes only get 1 photo so it’s got to be a one hit wonder? Well.. this was one of them. Look at my face HAHA! I know, I know, I’m SOOO photogenic. Don’t need to tell me twice!
As an aspiring performer myself, I think it is incredible that they’re hiring performers and giving people the opportunity to get experience but I think having performers with no knowledge about cameras in the attractions which are very photography focused is not a great idea. I think having people with media background experience will allow people to take their professional cameras if they wish to do so without the worry of feeling like a burden when giving the camera to someone else for them to take the photo.
Joey doesn’t share food and neither does Becca…
In Friends Fest, all of the attractions were all spaced out around the venue which made things a lot more organised, however, one thing I did notice is that on the Friends Fest website it states that the “80’s High School Prom Area” would be included but in the Newcastle Friends Fest, this wasn’t the case. Following on with this, I was building my excitement daily for Friends Fest by following the hashtag “#FriendsFest” on Instagram to see more about it and noticed people getting photos in the 80’s School Prom Area but they were taken in 2017 so I’m not sure if there were actual faults with the attraction or if the official Friends Fest website forgot to update their website from last year.
If this is the case, this can be a little misleading as if you have prepped yourself for that particular attraction or if the prom scene was one of your favourite scenes which contributed to your persuasion of buying a ticket then this could hinder your experience so one tip I would suggest is to be mindful and do a lot of research before you go!
Sorry, must dash as my cab is waiting!
Pro’s of the attractions at Friends Fest:
- Lovely and happy staff!
- A lot of props.
- Organised queues.
- Not long to wait.
- So entertaining.
- Amazing re-creations of each attraction.
- So much fun.
- Energetic atmosphere.
Cons of the attractions at Friends Fest:
- Lack of camera experience from the staff.
- False advertisement on Friends Fest website for prom attraction.
- Sometimes you only get 1 photo taken (so you have to pray you weren’t blinking!)
Wishful thinking for the next Friends Fest Event:
- Experienced camera staff working on attractions.
- A set number of photos to be taken to avoid any blurry/bad photos.
- Meet some of the actors? Obviously, I’m not talking about the main cast (although that would be insane) but maybe Janice or Gunther walking around Friends Fest who are free to chat too so you can get more out of the cost of your tickets.
As well as the photo opportunities, there was a huge stage in the centre of Friends Fest which showed clips from some of the most hilarious scenes in Friends such as We Were On A Break, Rachel’s Traditional English Trifle, PIVOT! and more. I thought this was a great asset to have in Friends Fest as it gave myself and others the chance to have a sit down and relax with our food and drink whilst reliving some of the most iconic scenes in Friends.
Although I did love the stage in Friends Fest and spent A LOT of time there (too much, almost but I’ll get to that), I do personally feel that Friends Fest could have been even better than it already was by playing full episodes instead, this way people are able to relax for longer without changes of clips and just to buy some time if people were early to their tour.
With the Friends Fest stage, there was also a Host who would come on every so often and introduce Friends Fest, play Friends related quizzes and teach people Ross and Monica’s dance routine plus more. This was really entertaining especially when the two members of staff from Friends Fest were teaching everyone the dance routine as I found that it was really interactive but you know you’ve spent far too much time at the stage of Friends Fest when it comes to 4 PM and the clips start to replay themselves from the beginning. Yup, that actually happened to us which is when we realised we should probably call it a day.
Summing up my overall thoughts on the Friends Fest stage, I’d say…
Pro’s of the Friends Fest stage:
- A place to relax and eat.
- Some of the funniest clips of Friends were shown.
- Confident & bubbly host.
- Interactive with the audience.
Con’s of the Friends Fest stage:
- Advert interruptions
Wishful thinking for the next Friends Fest stage:
- Full episodes of Friends.
- Fewer adverts shown on the Friends Fest stage as at times it was like being at home watching the telly which isn’t ideal when spending £30 per ticket on a Friends related event.
- Get more people on stage as this would increase interaction.
Moving on to the best part of all… FOOD! I mean what’s not to love?
Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Gooooooood!
Now before we jump into this, I’d just like to make sure you’re aware that food and drink are not included within the ticket price so that is separate. In Friends Fest, there were a number of food options suited for all different dietary needs and each food stall tied in with some of the characters which I thought added a lot more personality to the event and made me want to try it more. The food stalls available in Friends Fest were Phoebe’s Vegetarian Buffet, Joey’s Pizza, Oh.My.God Hot Dogs, Mockolate, and an Ice Cream Van.
Looking at all the menus, I did think the food was on the pricey side ranging from £5+ but I already had a feeling it would be as events like this tend to be more pricey and the hosts of the event know you’re not just gonna nip out to Asda for a cheeky meal deal in the middle of a field haha!
So for lunch, I went to Joey’s Pizza (of course) and it was £5 for a massive slice of pizza which is pricey for just one slice but the size really did make up for the cost and that’s coming from a pizza lover. There was a number of different pizza’s to choose from as there was Cheese, Pepperoni, BBQ Chicken and Veggie. Including 3 different sides which were garlic bread, fries or a salad pot that were an additional £2 which I think is a reasonable price for a side. In Friends Fest, I bought two slices of pizza, one for myself and one for Alex and also got him a side of fries which cost me £12. (Bear in mind slices were HUGE).
And that ladies and gentleman was… just the starter. Did you really think that was all I ate, pfffft! Later on, as more time passed by, I went to the Janice inspired Oh.My.God Hot Dogs stand where they were selling burgers, hot dogs and more. I spotted halloumi fries on the menu and it’s safe to say I caved within a split second. The Oh.My.God Hot Dogs stand ranged from £5+ and the halloumi fries cost me £6, I got 5-6 chunky halloumi fries so I’m guessing it works around £1 each and personally, I think It can go two ways with the price, as on one side I think it is pricey for the amount you get whereas, on the other hand, I think it is a reasonable price because I’ve paid around that for a halloumi starter at a restaurant and I got a lot less halloumi so I do think it’s just personal views and how you look at it.
Now, I didn’t try anything from Phoebe’s Vegetarian Buffet, Mockolate or the Ice cream van so I feel that it would be dishonest of me to rate them which is why I’m only going to rate the two stalls I went to which were Joey’s Pizza and Oh.My.God Hot Dogs.
Joey’s Pizza Rating:
Taste – 5/5
Service – 5/5
Cost – 3/5
Oh.My.God Hot Dogs Rating:
Taste – 5/5
Service – 5/5
Cost – 3/5
The last place we visited before we left was the Friends merchandise shop where they sold T-shirts, coasters, posters, umbrellas and pretty much everything you could think of Friends themed, they had. I didn’t buy any merch when I was there so I can’t comment on the quality of the merch but one thing I did notice is that there were no prices on anything which is quite strange.
I know some stores do this as a marketing strategy but I’m not sure if this was Comedy Central’s intention or not but I personally feel less obliged to buy something when there’s not a price tag. I also think if this was intentional that this is a lot more time consuming for the Friends Fest staff as they’ll be approached by many customers who are curious about how much something is. Overall, I feel that the Friends merchandise shop was full of memorabilia and had a lot of products for buyers but I just think if they all had price tags, it would look a lot more professional and would cause less hassle for the staff.
Wrapping up this long ol’ blog (I can only apologise friends), what are my overall thoughts of Friends Fest as a whole?
Despite some flaws in Friends Fest, I can honestly hand on heart say that I had such a wonderful experience and I do think it is worth the £30 you spend. Just maybe with a few tweaks and improvements, it could be even better! From the Friends Fest Tour to the photo attractions, food stalls, the stage and the merch shop, there is a lot to see and do.
I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Friends Fest Review as I’ve never done a review on my blog before and although I made some sweet memories with my love, I never want to sugarcoat anything for you as it’s your money that your spending at the end of the day. One thing I would say is that I definitely don’t think that Friends Fest is worth any more than £30 for what it includes at this moment in time but I think my perspective of this could be turned around with a few changes mentioned previously.
If you’ve got any more questions that you want to ask about Friends Fest or you want to share your own personal experience at Friends Fest, please don’t hesitate to ask or share them as I’ll be there for you!
All the love, Becca’s Bubble xo