Written by Ashley Fontaine, BA  English Literature and Film & Theatre

It’s likely that one of the first things that springs to mind when you think of the student lifestyle is boozing culture, drunken antics and the inevitable hangover in next day’s lectures.

This stereotype is commonly associated with the ‘university experience’, and while ‘party animal’ capers are great fun for some and almost seen as a rite of passage, it doesn’t need to be the be-all and end-all of your time at university – especially if, like me, you aren’t a big fan of drinking.

Yes, the University of Reading is situated near a fair few bars and clubs and yes, you will probably encounter drinking games and late nights if you live in halls, but there is plenty to do that doesn’t involve booze and the town itself has a lot to offer.

Whether you’re teetotal, eager to save some cash – which is probably already in short supply – or simply want a break from staggering home in the early hours, Reading has a range of alcohol-free activities that you can seek out in your spare time. Here is my pick of the best things to do:

  1. Catch the latest films

    Located in central Reading, and part of the larger Oracle shopping complex, is Vue cinema. Screening the latest blockbusters, you can watch anything from action, to horror, to comedy, and even screenings of gigs, plays and art performances.

    Tip for saving money: Go to Vue on Mondays to save on cinema tickets. They offer a half-price ticket deal called ‘Super Mondays’ where all tickets are £4.99! Book online and in advance of the screening to secure your ticket and seat and remember to bring your University of Reading student ID on the day.

    If you want to treat yourself to a cinema that is a little bit more luxurious, then take a bus (preferably the orange number 12 from Alexandra Road, just off of Upper Redlands Road where St George’s Hall is) to Showcase Cinema de Lux. Enjoy recliner seating at no extra cost, a large range of snack options and a lounge bar!

    Tip for saving money: Sign up for a Showcase Insider Membership card to receive discounted admission and 10% rewards on snacks and drinks. There are no fees or hidden costs involved – simply sign-up online!

  2. Go on a restaurant crawl

    You’ve heard of a bar crawl, so why not try a restaurant crawl? There are loads of restaurants to choose from along the Riverside – an area of restaurants and cafés situated along the river that runs through the Oracle. There are a wide range of restaurants to choose from: Nandos, TGI Fridays, Bella Italia, Wagamama, The Real Greek and Slug and Lettuce to name a few. However, if popular chain restaurants aren’t your thing, there are also plenty of independent eateries around the town centre.

    Tip for saving money: Buy sharing platters or a few starters to eat amongst your friends. By doing this, you can afford to restaurant hop!

  3. Dine in at Patisserie Valerie for Tea for Two

    Patisserie Valerie is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth and a love for afternoon tea. I’ve visited this café plenty of times and highly recommend it! Situated on Broad Street, just outside of the Oracle, the French bakery café specialises in handmade cakes, pastries and other treats. Phone up the store in advance to book your slot – you deserve a break from studying now and again!

    Tip for saving money: Go as a pair and split the bill.

  4. Experience Reading’s escape rooms

    Feeling adventurous and want to try something more unusual? Head down to Time Trap Escape Rooms on Friar Street. Challenge yourself and a group of friends to a game of problem-solving; solve a series of riddles and puzzles using clues, hints and strategy. The experience was set up by University of Reading graduates, so you are bound to have a whale of a time.

    Tip for saving money: Experience Time Trap Escape Rooms outside of peak times and with seven other people to minimise the price per person.

  5. Take in some culture at South Street Arts Centre

    The South Street Arts Centre is less than a five-minute walk from the University of Reading’s London Road Campus. It’s not as mainstream as Reading’s main theatre venue, the Hexagon, but it showcases fringe theatre productions, comedy shows and more. Don’t expect to be paying West End theatre prices – student tickets are around £12! You can also find various open-air cinema, theatre events and art exhibitions throughout the year.