During our weekend away to Stratford-Upon-Avon we were able to spend 2 full days exploring. We managed to pack in many different things and each experience was unique and great fun in their own right. Stratford-Upon-Avon isn’t just about the famous playwright William Shakespeare. There are so many non-Shakespeare, family-friendly things to see and do. You can experience as much or as little of him as you desire. Jamie has, since our visit, learnt who the great man was and as he was so intrigued by him and his life we did squeeze in a visit to his birthplace which is in the heart of the town centre.
Everything in my 10 great things to do in Stratford-Upon-Avon list below is everything that we managed to do during our two-day visit. We only just scratched the surface and there is plenty more within the town and just out of town to add to the list (see the bottom of this post).
You can find out even more via the Shakespeare’s England website. They also offer a great explorer pass for adults and children for 1-3 days (children 5 and under are free to most of these attractions). If you want to do as much as we did then this pass is highly recommended as it will save you a lot of money. It will gain you entry to Hall’s Croft, MAD museum, Kenilworth castle, Magic Alley, Mary Arden’s farm, Ragley Hall, RSC, Shakespeare’s New place, birthplace and schoolroom and Guildhall, St Mary’s church, Stoneleigh Abbey, Warwick castle, Anne Hathaway’s cottage gardens, Avon boating, British Motor Museum, Compton Verney, Lord Leycester hospital and Hill close gardens. Those highlighted in bold are within the town centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
1 – Head Out on the Water
After William Shakespeare, the river Avon is the main focus of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The RSC (Royal Shakespeare company theatre) sits beside the river. There are a few places to eat and drink plus you can rent a rowing boat, punt, canoe or motorboat. There are also guided boat tours that cruise along this stretch of the river. We went on an Avon Boating river cruise. It was very pleasant and worth arriving early in case you get the chance to sit and watch all the swans swimming right by the boat.
The public river cruise with Avon boating lasts for 40 minutes. It sets sail from the water’s edge not too far from the RSC. The tours run from mid-March until late October. The website stated that cruises run every hour. However, when we were there (May bank holiday weekend) they seemed to be running every half an hour. You pick up a handheld electronic guide and you are given a map so that you can press the appropriate button at the right time for an audio tour. It was very informative and we cruised down to the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried and then back past the RSC under the bridge and down past some stunning homes by the river.
- A public river cruise on the 40-minute tour costs £6.00 per adult and £4.00 per child (16 and under). A family ticket of 2 adults and up to 3 children is £18.00. You can book online in advance.
2 – Visit the RSC and go up The Tower
The RSC is the Royal Shakespeare company theatre. The theatre itself seats just over 1,000 people. As well as putting on performances of William Shakespeare’s world-famous plays they also have many other theatre productions.
There is a tower at the RSC with a lift which was built in 2010, or stairs if you so desire, up to the top. Being at the top of the tower you can appreciate some wonderful and beautiful views of the town and river below you. You are escorted up in the lift and it all feels like a really special journey. Once at the top you are handed a leaflet to help you spot the main sights in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
- It costs £2.50 per adult for a ride in the lift to the top of the tower. Under 18’s are £1.25 each. The tower lift opens at 10 am.
3 – Go to The Play’s the Thing at the RSC
The Play’s the Thing is a new family-friendly exhibition at the RSC and celebrates the past years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon. When you arrive you are shown into a room where you watch an introductory video which is mostly in the narrative of William Shakespeare. You then walk up to a room. It’s a small room but it is packed with things to do and play with. Young and old can get hands-on with the exhibits. Jamie loved the dress up mirror with a variety of hats to try on. There’s even a really fun virtual costume mirror where you can change outfits, take a photo of yourself on stage and have the photo emailed to yourself. We managed quite a few of these each.
Another favourite was the alphabetical theatrical drawers. There’s a surprise every time!
Other things to discover in the RSC are – “Dressing Up Box, Cloakroom, Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Play Cart, Riverside Cafe and The Other Place. Story Blankets, collect from the information desk at The Other Place and Adventure Bag, collect from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Cloakroom.
- A visit to the Play’s the thing is not cheap considering the size of the room. However, we had a lot of fun during our visit and the best thing is that once you have paid for your ticket you are entitled to return as often as you wish for the next 12 months. Tickets are £8.50 for an adult and £4.25 for a child. All kids go free on Sundays, and in the school holidays – offer not available online.
4 – Visit The Stratford Butterfly Farm
The butterfly farm is located across the river and is just a short walk from the main town centre. It the UK’s largest tropical butterfly paradise. We have been to a fair few butterfly houses and never before have we seen the number of butterflies that we saw in here. Jamie finally had a bucket list tick as he has been wanting butterflies to land on him for so long. In here everyone will have butterflies landing on them. It’s also very lush, green and pretty inside the greenhouse. To find out more please read my review – Butterfly Farm Stratford-Upon-Avon, Review – Find Out What It’s Like Inside
- The butterfly farm is open all year round except Christmas day. It costs £7.25 for an adult and £6.25 for 3-16 year olds. Under 3’s are free. A family ticket for 2 adults and up to 2 children is £22.50.
5 – Explore Shakespeare’s Birthplace
I was shocked at how centrally located William Shakespeare’s birthplace is. It’s almost like they picked the house up from somewhere else and put it on one of the main shopping streets in Stratford-Upon-Avon. We passed it one day and posed for some photos. While we were there Jamie was so intrigued by the house we decided to go back the next day and visit. I was glad that we did. There are a few corridors before you enter the house documenting Shakespeare. Then you enter a beautiful courtyard next to the house where he was born and grew up in. TThere areauthentically dressed people inside and they are there to teach you all sorts of things about when Shakespeare was alive in the house. Each room has been decorated authentically and it was a lovely place to visit.
- You can save 10% off your ticket by booking online in advance. Online it costs £15.75 for an adult ticket and £10.35 for a child. These tickets aren’t cheap for what is essentially a quick visit. Please see the bottom of this post for a link to my post on how to save money on tickets in Stratford-Upon-Avon and the surrounding areas.
6 – Have lots of fun in the MAD Museum
The MAD museum is located on the same street as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. It’s easy to miss it as it’s located in a small section of a long street.
This museum is interactive heaven. There were so many buttons for Jamie (and us) to press and each mechanical display performs fun movements before your eyes. Some of them you will find yourself standing and watching for ages, others will surprise you and make you jump. Our boy’s favourite was a clapping machine that clapped loudly after you clapped at it and a very loud box with a hand. He also loved the interactive marble wall where you can move ramps around to send marbles from up high to down low. There are so many quirky hands on exhibits in what is essentially a relatively small room. It is incredibly unique and lots of fun.
- A visit to the MAD museum costs £7.80 for an adult and £5.20 for a child aged 6-15 years. Children aged 5 and under are free. A family ticket for 2 adults and up to 2 children is £22.00. They are open for most of the year except for some days during the Christmas period. It is a great indoor attraction.
7 – Go on a City Sightseeing Bus
Stratford-Upon-Avon has a City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus. A lot of the town is easy to walk around however there are a few gems on the outskirts of the town and also out of town that are more than worth a visit.
The city sightseeing bus will take you to these with ease. Plus you will get to experience the beauty of Stratford from a different eye level. Stratford-Upon-Avon has some fine examples of Tudor architecture. There are 11 stops on the route including Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, Holy Trinity church (the resting place of Shakespeare), nearby Hall Croft, Mary Arden’s farm and much more. It’s a great way for little legs to enjoy the town. You can pre book online in advance. If you are paying on the day please be aware that the drivers can only take cash. You can also purchase combination tickets. Make sure you pick up some headphones so you can listen to the commentary as the driver is driving around.
- The bus operates to different schedules throughout most of the year. Please see their website for further details or pick up a leaflet from around town. The buses run from 9:30am until 4pm. Please make sure you allow plenty of time for catching the last bus. You can purchase tickets for 1 day or 2 days. A 24 hour ticket for an adult is £14.50 online, a child aged 5-15 is £7.25 and a family ticket for 2 adults and up to 2 children is £32.00. Children aged 0-4 are free.
8 – Spend a few hours at Mary Arden’s Farm (out of town, on bus route)
We took the City Sightseeing bus (as mentioned above) from Stratford-Upon-Avon over to Mary Arden’s Farm. It took around 25 minutes and it was a lovely journey. The farm was much bigger than I expected and it is the most picturesque farm park that I have ever been to. You have two houses to explore on site – Palmer’s Farmhouse and Mary Arden’s House. There are people around the farm dressed in costume waiting to educate you and there are plenty of animals to see and meet. The farm also has a playground, daily activities such as archery and much more. It is well worth a visit.
For more about Mary Arden’s Farm please see my review – Mary Arden’s Farm near Stratford-Upon-Avon | Family Friendly Day Out
- The farm is open for most of the year from 10am until 5pm however it shuts over the winter. Please follow this link for up to date information. You can pre book your tickets online. Doing this you will make a saving of 10% on the door price. Online you pay £13.50 per adult and £9.00 per child. This ticket allows you further unlimited visits for no extra cost for the next 12 months. Dogs are not allowed at the farm due to the free range birds.
9 – Gain a certificate of Merit in Bewilderment at Magic Alley
Jamie is pretty much obsessed with all things magic, wizards and anything remotely spooky, so a visit here was a must for us. Magic Alley is not just a shop selling mythical books and gifts there is also an attraction inside. The attraction is based on the World of the Wizard’s thatch (what if William Shakespeare had been a wizard?).
Magic Alley has recently been relocated to a new building in Bell court. You enter the attraction into a series of rooms which are decked out in all sorts of Wizarding curios. There are exhibits that move and exhibits that spark imaginations. You are given a board with a pen and a sheet of questions to answer. Most of these are clues and you have to find the answers either within the texts on the walls or within the exhibits themselves.
It’s perfect for children that can read and for anyone with a love for looking at Wizard themed exhibits. Jamie is learning to read so I helped and answered most of the clues. He did really enjoy himself and talked about it for some time after. Especially as he was given a certificate at the end to say that he had passed an early entrance level examination in bewilderment and befuddlement.
We were given special treats for our press visit and Jamie was given a signed book from the lovely man, Dave Matthews, who helped us to understand our quest. We also ‘shared’ a delicious Butterbeer that is considerably healthier than Universal’s version.
- It costs £10 per adult to visit this attraction and children are £7.00 each.
10 – Go for Afternoon Tea
There are plenty of options for Afternoon Tea in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It’s a perfect way to refuel during a busy day out in Stratford. We had afternoon tea at The Townhouse which is located opposite William Shakespeare’s schoolhouse. It was a lovely setting for some delicious treats. If you would like to read more please read my review – The Townhouse | Afternoon Tea in Stratford-Upon-Avon | Review
Other things to see and do
The fun doesn’t stop there! There’s plenty more to see and do in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The town plays host to many different events throughout the year. During out stay ,the Stratford festival of motoring was on. Over 300 impressive motor vehicles turned up to line the streets and many extra activities were laid on.
Look out for this knight near William Shakespeare’s birthplace. He was very good and made Jamie’s day.
Stratford often has a big wheel that you can go on, although it’s not there all year. It is currently located across the river from the RSC.
How to Make Savings
A visit to Stratford can pull on the purse strings a little. It is certainly a good idea to have a plan of what you want to do before you go. You can see what savings you can make by purchasing tickets to multiple attractions with just one combined ticket. There are quite a few offers out there which I have gone into more detail about over in my post – How to Save on Days Out in Stratford-Upon-Avon – Discounts, Savings and Combined Tickets
Also in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon, you can go on a tour of the river on a barge. visit Shakespeare’s schoolroom and Guildhall, go on a Stratford Town walk, visit Tudor World, go to Shakespeare’s new place, Hall’s croft and visit Holy Trinity church and the burial-place of Shakespeare.
There’s also plenty of great places to stay and I can highly recommend the Crowne Plaza. It has a great location in the town, good sized rooms and more. Please read my review over at – Crowne Plaza Hotel Stratford-Upon-Avon Review | Perfect Base to Explore
Watch our video of our two day Stratford-Upon-Avon Adventures here
Disclaimer: For the purpose of this post I was given a press pass by Shakespeare’s England. As always all words, opinions and photos are entirely my own. Please do not copy any of the above without prior consent.
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