Mention Stratford-upon-Avon and it’s easy to think that all it has to offer is all things Shakespeare. However, as we have discovered there is so much more to this Warwickshire town. Who knew that it had a year round Christmas Shop, a MAD museum and a butterfly farm?
Here’s why we think you should add it to your bucket list for 2020.
In a long-weekend you could see all the main attractions and probably squeeze in a trip to the theatre. The main attractions are mostly situated in town and even Mary Arden’s farm is only 3.5 miles away. That said, there is plenty to keep you occupied if you do want to stay a bit longer.
It's easy to get to
Situated in the middle of the country, Stratford-upon-Avon is well served by both public transport and major arterial roads. London, Birmingham, Coventry, Warwick and Leamington Spa are easily commutable by public transport
There's accommodation for every budget
Whether you want 5-star hotel living, a dorm-bed in the Youth Hostel or somewhere to pitch a tent or motor home Stratford-upon-Avon has it all.
Home for us has been Dodwell Park (www.dodwellpark.com) which is about 2.5 miles outside Stratford-upon-Avon. The facilities are basic and the absence of a laundry and drive through waste dump is a nuisance but there is a quaint charm about the place.
Other short term alternatives include Stratford Racecourse (has a 2 week limit) and unusually there is an aires style spot at Stratford Leisure centre although I’m not sure about water and waste facilities.
The Shakespeare Stuff
Shakespeare’s Properties (Shakespeare’s birthplace, the New Place, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage).
Unbelievably in 5 months we never actually made it to any of the Shakespeare properties but I believe if you have kids in tow the stand out winner is Mary Arden’s farm. This is top of our list for when we return!
Shakespeare's school rooms
I think this was the best Shakespeare activity we did. Issy loved it. The school master and quill writing were a big hit for her.
We got our tickets on Groupon and they were definitely worth it.
Royal Shakespeare Company
So much more than a place to go and see the many Shakespeare productions. We have enjoyed the Family Trail, dressing up in the Theatre box and The Plays the Thing (kids go free at the weekends and during Warwickshire school holidays). That’s before you get to any of the tours that the staff do.
The list of summer activities was endless and appealed to all ages.
The Other stuff
The MAD Museum
AKA The Mechanical Art and Design Museum. Squeezed between a coffee shop and Toni and Guy on Henley Street, this tiny museum has engaged Issy for hours, about 5 in total over 2 visits! She loved it and what is not to love, you can press loads of buttons and the art works come to life and when you’ve had enough of pressing buttons you can build marbles runs to your heart’s content.
There is a family activity pack that you can download and various teachers education packs.
The Butterfly Farm
Hidden away down by the Recreation Ground is the UK’s largest Tropical Butterfly Farm. This is a great rainy day activity. However, be warned as the name suggests it is very humid in there. Despite the signs saying please do not handle the butterflies no one seems to have told the butterflies and this made for several excited squeals while we were there.
During the school holidays they have mini-beast encounters which those of you who know Issy will know how much she delighted in handling the millipede.
Find out whether you are a witch or not, learn about King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Tudor Stratford. This interactive museum will appeal to anyone who like Issy loves Horrible Histories. Issy enjoyed the quiz that she had to complete as we went round.
The Four Teas
This 1940s themed tea house was something a bit different and was a great way to kick of her World War II project work. She enjoyed the 1940s costumes and ration book menus. Lunch was tasty, reasonably priced and the service was great.
The Leisure Centre
Stratford-upon-Avon Leisure centre has a 33m pool, clip and climb, gym and various dance and multi-sports studios. I’m not sure if it applies to all Everyone Active leisure centres but as Issy has swimming lessons with them she gets free entry to the pool for any public swimming sessions.
Canal and River Cruises
Head down to the riverside area and there are a number of river and canal tours to chose from.
If you are feeling a bit more energetic there are also rowing boats for hire so you can navigate under your own steam.
All Things Wild
This little animal park is situated in Honeybourne (about 6 miles outside Stratford) and is a little gem. You will need a car to get there though because it’s almost impossible by public transport.
It has a variety of animals ranging from pygmy goats to meerkats and wallabies, a dinosaur park, a soft play area, adventure playgrounds, go-karts and Issy’s favourite a helicopter which you can clamber round.
For the home edders reading this it is also home to the Honeybourne Home Ed Hub and they hold regular home education days where entrance is £5.00 per person (under 4s go free).
Free or Cheap Things To Do
Stratford-upon-Avon Library is a wonderful place. Issy and I have spent many a happy day in there whether it be attending the Arts Award Summer activities, Lego club, schooling or just chilling reading a book.
The Recreation Ground
A huge playground with good facilities including toilets and reasonably priced car parking. It’s split into sections with areas appealing to all ages. There is also a paddling pool in the summer months.
The riverside area is beautiful and we quite often just go and sit down watching the canal boats going through the locks, listening to the buskers or watching the street artists with a picnic or a bag of chips.
This is the place to go if you just enjoy people watching.
The recreation ground (by the football pitches) hosts both a 5km Park Run on a Saturday morning and for those early risers a Junior Park Run on a Sunday.
Stratford-upon-Avon seems to be a hotspot for geocaching and whilst we haven’t given it a go ourselves it proves popular with a number of people on the campsite.
Visit The Markets
There has been a market in Rother Street since 1196. The regular market day is every Friday however there is also a farmers market on the first and third Saturday of the month.
Stratford-upon-Avon hosts a number of festivals throughout the year including the RIverside Festival and Mop fayre.
And finally...visit the Christmas Shop
Daren this one is for you. There is a permanent Christmas shop in Henley Street.