Late nights at the NHM
Generations of children have stood in the great hall at the Natural History Museum and gawped at the giant Diplodocus that greets them. Thanks to a monthly late-night opening, adults can now have the place to themselves between 6 and 10:30pm, and enjoy a bite to eat, some soft music, and a glass or two of wine beneath the fossilized remains of the great beast itself. After-hours events happen on the last Friday of every month, and are an eye-opening opportunity to see one of London's great Victorian edifices in a whole new light. Check www.nhm.ac.uk for details of upcoming events.
Visiting the cinema -- in central London at least -- can be an expensive experience, especially those on Leicester Square. Plus, given that mainstream Hollywood films are shown at most theatres, you could be in any city. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you'll find alternative cinematic experiences. The Curzon in Mayfair, 38 Curzon St., W1 (tel. 0871/703-3989; www.curzoncinemas.com; Tube: Green Park), caters for true cineastes with screenings of foreign and art-house films, Q&As with directors, and one-off screenings of classics. Tickets cost around £15.
If you prefer more audience participation, and have a high tolerance for the camp, head to the Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, WC2 (tel. 020/7494-3654; www.princecharlescinema.com; Tube: Leicester Sq.); the last Friday of every month is "Sing-A-Long with The Sound of Music" (www.singalonga.net), a long-running and inspired combination of fancy-dress karaoke and a classic family film. Advance tickets cost £12.
Also, keep an eye out for Secret Cinema (www.secretcinema.org). Every few months they host a large-production extravaganza in a different venue, bringing a film to life on an epic scale. You're kept in the dark as to what film is showing, but you will be given a theme to ensure you dress appropriately. On arrival you're catapulted into a complete reproduction of the film's universe -- it's spectacular. Buying tickets in advance is a must.
A growing number of literary events have brought books out of silent libraries and into London's noisy nightclubs. The capital's premier regular event is Book Slam (www.bookslam.com), which takes place on the last Thursday of every month at the Clapham Grand, 21-25 St. John's Hill, SW11 (tel. 020/7223-6523; Train: Clapham Junction). Heavyweight authors such as Mark Haddon and Nick Hornby have all guested alongside a variety of book-loving pop- and rock-stars. Expect everything from poetry and book readings to live music and DJs.
Although numbers have decreased in recent years, London still boasts an impressive number of bookshops -- ranging from the esoteric to the populist -- and many regularly hold literary evenings. Waterstone's (www.waterstones.com), the largest chain of bookshops in the U.K., has stores dotted all over London, and their website lists all upcoming instore events.
Websites such as the Londonist (www.londonist.com) carry information on forthcoming literary events.
Ever since Jeff Bridges played the role of "the Dude" in The Big Lebowski, ten-pin bowling has been the coolest sport on Earth. London now has the bowling lanes to match, in the shape of the All-Star Lanes (www.allstarlanes.co.uk) in Brick Lane (95 Brick Lane, E1; tel. 020/7426-9200; Tube: Aldgate East) and the Bloomsbury Lanes (www.bloomsburybowling.com) at the Tavistock Hotel, Bedford Way, WC1 (tel. 020/7183-1979; Tube: Russell Sq.). All are open 7 days a week, and offer live bands and cool DJs at the weekend.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.