Keeley Rodgers reports back from the latest Reader Club Trip to the intu Trafford Centre in Manchester.
Soaring into space, walking the plank and flying high above Paris; not bad for a day’s fam trip to a shopping centre. And that was just in the last hour of the packed itinerary showcasing the experiences on offer at the intu Trafford Centre.
The Bucks Fizz on arrival set the celebratory mood in Manchester for our visit on Saturday 14th July. Because this year the shopping centre, one of the UK’s largest, is celebrating its 20th anniversary; a presentation highlighted where the site has come from, and more importantly, where it’s going.
“The behind the scenes tour was really interesting but the highlight for me was the VR experience, especially as I wasn’t planning on having a go to begin with. The whole trip was really well organised and it was lovely to be in such good company!”
Janet Spooner, Travel Treats
With over 200 stores, 65 restaurants and three miles of shop floor to explore, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was solely about the shopping. Of course, that’s the major appeal, but as we soon found out, there’s so much more.
Behind the scenes
How many people can you fit into the Trafford Centre’s brand-spanking new control hub? We now know the answer after a fascinating insight into the team in charge of the centre’s security. The GTOs left feeling very reassured, many enquiring about bringing their own groups along to see the new control room, and what goes on there.
Dave Usher, customer services team leader at the Trafford Centre, gave us a very informative guide of the inner workings of the centre, including preparations for a certain popstar, Rita Ora, due to visit the following day.
And after working up an appetite from our wander, marvelling at the impressive glass domes and Roman goddess paintings, it was time for a buffet lunch, finished with a rather delicious chocolate cake – which didn’t last long!
“VR is something I’ve never experienced before and I loved going behind the scenes because it adds value; it’s that little bit extra that groups are looking for now.”
Pat King, Buckden Friend
Much more than shopping
The afternoon session began with a tour of the Legoland Discovery Centre, the first of its kind in the UK (the second is about to open in Birmingham), during which we channelled our inner child. Our GTOs got into the spirit, joining the Good King’s army to rescue the princess from Skeleton Tower (on the Kingdom Quest ride), before a tour of the Miniland.
It was then on to the Sea Life Centre, which opened in 2013, where we walked below sharks, turtles and stingrays, as well as watched pufferfish, giant crabs and stroked some of the starfish, a very relaxing experience, especially after you’ve shopped until you drop.
Saving the best till last
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Imax Virtual Reality studio, located in The Orient, where we had begun our visit.
If you haven’t experienced VR before, it can be quite daunting, but once the headset goes on and you’re transported into a different world, all hesitations are hopefully forgotten.
“It has been a brilliant day; very well organised and interesting. It’s not a normal shopping centre at all, I didn’t know how much there was to do before this trip. There’s plenty to entertain and we’re hoping to plan a visit for our group.”
Hans Gleissberg, Anglo German Society
We had a selection of experiences to choose from, including a mission to space, eagle flight and (for the brave), walking the plank – my arm was twisted to try the latter and I tried very hard not to look down!
“This has been my favourite experience of the day”, said GTO Caroline Fowler of Tesco Retired Staff Association, after flying with the eagles, “if I could persuade my members I’d get them all to come and try it!”
There was plenty of laughing, a few screams (short-lived I should add) and we all left with some unique experiences to report back from what is certainly much more than a shopping centre.
A personal touch
Some of the benefits for groups planning a visit to the intu Trafford Centre include:
- - Meet & greet service
- - Behind the scenes tours
- - Voucher booklet
- - Personalised itineraries
- - Coach parking
As well as boasting the biggest Topshop outside of London and a host of awards, including the Group Leisure & Travel Award for the Best Shopping Experience in 2017, the Trafford Centre & City (wider site) offers onsite hotels, indoor mini golf and the new Treetops Adventure Course.
There are exciting developments afoot too with the Barton Square expansion project and plans to build a Metrolink tram line connecting to the city.
intu Trafford Centre:
0161 749 1717 / firstname.lastname@example.org