The best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon in a weekend

Anne Hathaway's Cottage, one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

Stratford Upon Avon is a fantastic town, full of stunning historic buildings, quirky shops, and beautiful riverways.  Of course there are just a couple of things to do in Stratford Upon Avon which are themed around William Shakespeare, who lived here for much of his life.

We recently spend a weekend in Stratford Upon Avon with kids, checking out all of its major sites, and we’d definitely recommend putting Stratford Upon Avon on your UK bucket list.

Read on to find out about the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids (or without)!

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The best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

Stratford Upon Avon with kids at Anne Hathaway's Cottage

We visited Stratford Upon Avon while we were staying at a nearby glamping site.  The fantastic thing about Stratford is that all of the attractions have been designed with families in mind, even if they’re not totally aimed at kids.

So while you might think that Stratford Upon Avon and its surrounds are too adult for families with small kids, it’s actually not the case!

As well as the five Shakespeare houses in and around Stratford you can also visit his former school to learn about his education.  But not everything in Stratford Upon Avon is themed around the Bard.  Kids will love visiting a museum of mechanical art, the best butterfly farm in the UK, and plenty more.

There is so much to see and do in Stratford Upon Avon that I would recommend staying for at least two full days.  Of course it’s possible to visit Stratford Upon Avon as a day trip from London, or if you’re staying nearby in the Cotswolds.

But if you want to make the most of your trip then try to stay at least one night – recommendations on where to stay in Stratford Upon Avon can be found at the end of this post.

How to save money in Stratford Upon Avon

Wisteria and planted beds at Hall's Croft Stratford Upon Avon

All of these paid attractions quickly add up which means that unless you’re careful you can end up spending a lot in Stratford Upon Avon.  To keep costs down there are two combined tickets that you can buy if you will be visiting most of the below attractions.

The first ticket, the Full Story, covers the five Shakespeare’s England attractions: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, the New Place, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This will pay for itself if you’re thinking of visiting two or more houses.

The Full Story ticket costs £22.50 per adult and £14.50 per child. You can buy this ticket direct from Shakespeare’s England or through a third party like Get Your Guide.

The second ticket covers the MAD Museum, the Butterfly Farm and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom.  You can buy individual discounted tickets or a family super saver ticket.  Buy them on any of the websites or at their ticket desks.

Mary Arden’s Farm

Mary arden's farm - one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

Hands down one of the top things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids is to visit Mary Arden’s farm.  This is the Shakespeare house most geared towards families.  Mary Arden was Shakespeare’s mother and she lived on this farm which is just a couple of miles outside of Stratford Upon Avon itself in the village of Wilmcote.

We found it was a little like visiting the Weald and Downland Museum, another historical working farm (although the W&D is more like a working village as well).  Expect to see people dressed in Tudor style clothes and working on the farm, cooking, or demonstrating any number of crafts and skills.  When we visited the kids had go at archery which they thought was brilliant.

Mary Arden's Farm is definitely one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

There are lots of farm animals to meet, a walk through the surrounding fields, and of course Mary Arden’s house itself to look around.  There’s also a playground with climbing equipment, swings and slides.

You’ll need several hours to look around Mary Arden’s farm, depending on what’s on when you visit, or how long the kids want to play in the playground!  Visiting during school holidays is a good idea as there will be loads of family friendly activities, although of course it will be busier.

Opening times: Mary Arden’s Farm is open from spring until autumn, 10am to 5pm (4pm in March).

Cost: Individual tickets cost £15 per adult and £10 per child.

MAD Museum

Mechanical artworks inside MAD museum - ones of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

The MAD Museum was a huge hit with my kids.  MAD stands for Mechanical Art and Design and it’s where artists and inventors can display their work.  It’s right in the town centre and is a perfect foil to all of those historical attractions.

Inside the kids will be enchanted by all sorts of mechanical contraptions and artworks.  There are lots of buttons to press which should keep little ones happy!

The inventiveness of some of the displays is fantastic.  Marbles run down the most intricate runs you can imagine.  I loved a large display made out of kitchen objects which moved ping pong balls around in a hypnotic dance.

While you press the buttons to activate each model, you can’t touch most of them.  But there is a section at the back for kids who enjoy hands-on activities.  They can build marble runs down a wall or out of blocks and there’s a table maze for two people to work together to complete.

The MAD Museum will keep the kids occupied for around an hour.  It’s a great rainy day stop too.

Opening times: Open every day from 10am to 5.30pm (4.30pm in winter)

Cost: £7.80 per adult, £5.20 per child aged 6+.  Buy tickets online or at the door.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Stratford Upon Avon

Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare’s wife and this house is where she spent her childhood.  You’ll find Anne’s cottage right on the outskirts of Stratford Upon Avon.  It’s changed quite a lot since she lived there but still has its original stone floors in some of the rooms, and it’s mostly been left untouched for the last couple of centuries.

After you’ve admired the outside of the cottage, you can explore the interior.  Most of the visit is unguided but you’re taken into the house in groups and given a quick chat about the farmhouse’s history and Anne and her family.  After that you’re free to look around by yourself.

Gardens at Anne Hathaways Cottage Stratford Upon Avon; one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon with kids

There are several family friendly displays where the kids can pick up objects, and we found little scented boxes to sniff and work out what the Tudor smell was (some were nice, like apples, but the horse one was less pleasant!).

Children will love the gardens where they can run through the apple orchard and look at the bee hives at the far end.  There’s a lovely woodland walk which takes around half an hour to explore, with little statues to look out for.  The willow sculptures and huts were a hit with the kids, although they were less keen on listening to the sonnet recordings you can play inside them!

Opening times: 10am to 4pm November – March; 9am to 5pm April – October

Cost: £12.50 per adult; £8 per child

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom

Shakespeare's schoolroom - one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon

I wasn’t expecting there to be so much to do at Shakespeare’s schoolroom – we stopped in as we were passing for what I thought would be a flying visit, but we ended up spending well over an hour here.

Shakespeare’s school is above the main Guildhall which was built in 1420 and it’s still part of a school today.  Your visit is loosely guided; when we arrived we watched a short film about the history of the Guildhall and Shakespeare’s involvement (his father was on the guild) and then we had a brief tour where we looked at the way the building was constructed.

At the back of the Guildhall, hidden behind a screen, is a centuries old fresco showing Jesus and John the Baptist that was whitewashed over at a later date.  It’s slowly being uncovered and can only be shown for about 30 seconds at a time.

Shakespeare's schoolroom, on of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon

Upstairs, looking into the schoolroom that Shakespeare would have used was the most interesting part of the visit.  Our little group sat down in front of a costumed schoolmaster who gave a very entertaining demonstration of how boys would have learned at the time.

Afterwards the kids were able to try out writing with a quill and ink and dressing up – this sort of things always goes down well with them.  The visit is probably aimed at adults and kids a bit older than ours but they still had a good time here, although I think the husband and I found it more interesting overall.

Opening times: 11am to 5pm every day (except Christmas and Boxing Day)

Cost: £8.50 per adult, £5.50 per child age 5+.  Buy tickets online or at the door.

Stratford Butterfly Farm

Stratford Butterly Farm is hands down the best butterfly farm in the UK!  There are an enchanting 200 species in the main rainforest room, with around 1500 butterflies fluttering about you at any one time.

Tropical plants and flowers surround pools and waterfalls so look out for the butterflies feeding on them.  Try to spot the two iguanas who live in the main greenhouse among the flowers – we couldn’t find them!

Although the butterflies are beautiful, I think that the leafcutter ants are the most interesting species here.  They’re housed in an innovative display where they crawl out of their home tank, across a rope strung across the room’s ceiling and into another tank where they cut the leaves and carry them back.  It’s quite something to watch the ants running over your head!

Elsewhere you can find other insects and arachnids including mantis, stick insects, tarantulas and more.  It’s an interesting stop for adults and kids alike, and as it’s all under cover, Stratford Butterfly Farm is a great activity for a rainy day.

Opening times: 10am to 5pm in winter and 6pm in summer

Cost: £7.25 per adult; £6.25 per child aged 3+.  Buy tickets online or at the door.

River Cruise

Cruising down the river with Bancroft Cruisers, Stratford Upon Avon

A river cruise is something that you really shouldn’t miss out on in Stratford Upon Avon.  The river Avon runs through the town and several historic bridges cross it, so it’s a picturesque part of the town to say the least!

We’d recommend taking a trip with Bancroft Cruisers.  This river cruise is on a covered, heated barge so trips run throughout the year.  The barge is called the Rita Ellen, and you can order an afternoon tea to have on board.

We were warmly welcomed aboard by Fiona and even though we hadn’t ordered an afternoon tea, she had still provided a fruit and cake platter for the kids, and Derek and I had a scone, jam and cream too.  Usually the boat trips last for about 45 minutes but we were lucky enough to go on an extended trip.

Fiona gave us an entertaining guided tour as we chugged gently along, enjoying the opportunity to put our feet up.  The trip took us through a lock which was interesting for the kids, and they also got to see lots of local wildlife along the river banks.

Definitely recommended!  You can book your tour on the Bancroft Cruisers website.

Tours run from Wednesday to Sunday and cost £7 per adult and £4.50 per child (refreshments are extra).

Shakespeare’s New Place and Nash’s House

The gardens at Shakespeare's New Place are fun for kids to run around in

Although many of the houses associated with Shakespeare and his family have survived through the centuries, sadly his main family home, New Place, was demolished in the 18th century.  Today you can visit a memorial garden on the site of Shakespeare’s house, and a museum next door in Nash’s House that tells you more about Shakespeare’s family.

Tree sculpture at Shakespeare's New Place Stratford Upon Avon

The gardens here are especially lovely.  There are some fantastic sculptures including an incredible wind-blown tree, a ship and a beautiful globe.  Flags with lines from famous sonnets are dotted around the garden so aficionados can take a closer look at them.

Further into the gardens you’ll find some beautifully planted beds and then a large lawned area.  We weren’t able to go into the lawned area when we visited due to high winds but it did look lovely.

New Place Gardens seen from Nash's House, Stratford Upon Avon

Next door, Nash’s House is also associated with the Shakespeare family.  Shakespeare’s granddaughter Elizabeth married Thomas Nash, who lived in the house next door to New Place.  When you visit don’t miss the balcony view out over New Place’s gardens.

Inside the museum at Nash’s House we found dressing up for the kids and a reconstruction of how New Place would have looked, complete with peepholes that the kids enjoyed peering through.  You can learn more about the Shakespeare family here (he had three children, but no direct descendants are alive today).

Overall this was a good site for kids, mainly because of the gardens and dressing up!

Opening times: 10am to 4pm November to March and 5pm April to October.

Cost: £12.50 per adult; £8 per child

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

In the gardens at Shakespeare's birthplace - one of the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon

If you’re interested in learning more about Shakespeare then Shakespeare’s birthplace is probably the best house in Stratford Upon Avon, so make sure you don’t miss it.

Your visit begins with a look around a small museum where you can watch a film about the impact that Shakespeare’s work has had on culture and the arts, including modern interpretations.  Then there’s a room with Shakespearean artefacts including a book hundreds of years old.

Outside there’s a fun display with cartoon strips of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and so we had a good time telling the kids some of his stories – they found this display very engaging.  Then it was time to run through the tulip-filled garden to the main house itself.

Inside everything is set out as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time, including Tudor style wall hangings.  We visited Stratford Upon Avon on the Shakespeare birthday weekend so the house was decorated with 450 origami swans, one for each year since Shakespeare was born.  The kids had fun making some of their own, which kept them happy, as did following a trail through the house.

Opening times: 10am to 4pm November to March; 9am to 5pm April to October

Cost: £17.50 per adult; £11.50 per child

Hall’s Croft

Hall's Croft, one of the Shakespeare houses in Stratford Upon Avon

I really liked Hall’s Croft – it’s a beautiful Jacobean timbered building with absolutely stunning gardens (especially in spring).  Hall’s Croft is where Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna lived with her husband John Hall, a doctor.  Hall’s Croft dates from 1614.

We found that Hall’s Croft was much more geared towards adults, although my kids were happy enough in the gardens.  There’s an incredible mulberry tree in the centre surrounded by seasonal flower beds, and a Jacobean era medicine garden which grows the same herbs that Hall would have used.

Kitchen in Hall's Croft Stratford Upon Avon, one of the best Shakespeare homes

The inside of the house is quite different to the others as it’s been extended over the years since Susanna and John lived in it.  Again, the home is set out as it would have looked back in Jacobean times, with the kitchen being especially interesting.  When we visited Hall’s Croft there was an interesting display of Jacobean medicinal techniques and instruments upstairs, making me ever thankful for modern medicine.

Opening times: 10am to 4pm November to March; 10am to 5pm April to October

Cost: £8.50 per adult, £5.50 per child

Bancroft Gardens

Statues and flowers in Bancroft Gardens, Stratford Upon Avon

You can’t miss Bancroft Gardens as you walk through Stratford Upon Avon.  This is a large green area in front of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre and it’s a good place to have a picnic lunch, or eat a snack that you’re bought in the nearby market.

The gardens have lovely planted flowerbeds, statues and they are surrounded by canals which are usually full of boats so there’s extra interest for children.  Wander through them if you can!

Magic Alley

Display at Magic Alley magic shop, Stratford Upon Avon

This is a bit of an odd one.  Magic Alley is a shop with all sorts of pop-culture items for sale; think Potter, Doctor Who, GoT, that sort of thing.  It’s all very nicely laid out and we spent some time browsing. As well as the extensive shop there’s a cafe which sells Butterbeer.  The shop was opened by the writer of fantasy tales and these books are also for sale.

Magic Alley also has an interactive walk through exhibit based on these books which we’d heard good things about and thought the kids would enjoy.  We were given a puzzle to complete as we walked around, which we didn’t end up finishing as it turned out that the rooms involved a huge amount of reading text on A3 sized boards and so it wasn’t suitable for our young kids.

After a while I admit I gave up on reading (there’s an awful lot scraped from Harry Potter) and we just wandered through the rooms. While the rooms are set out well there wasn’t anything for small kids to actually do except for a bit of dressing up.  The kids liked the Christmas Tree room but we walked through the whole thing fairly quickly.

If you’re short on time or you’re not really, really into fantasy literature I’d honestly give the attraction a miss if you have small children.  The shop and cafe are fun though!

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm; Sundays 11am to 5pm

Cost: £10 per adult, £7 per child aged 3+.  Book online or pay on arrival.

Shopping

Sweet shops are a great thing to do with kids in Stratford Upon Avon

Magic Alley isn’t the only shop in town that kids and fans of fantasy literature will enjoy visiting.  Just opposite Shakespeare’s birthplace there’s a magic shop which sells loads of official Potter and Thrones merchandise.

A few stores down there’s a fantastic sweet shop (one of the old-fashioned ones with sweets in jars behind the counter).

Stratford also has lots of Shakespeare themed shops (curiously enough) and the usual high street shops too.

More things to do in Stratford Upon Avon

Here are a few more ideas for your stay in Stratford Upon Avon.  We didn’t manage to get to these attractions – they’ll have to wait until next time!

See a Shakespeare Play

Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon

The Royal Shakespeare Company have an amazing theatre right in the centre of Stratford.  We simply ran out of time to visit it but you can take a tour of the theatre or you can book to climb the tower for fantastic views over the town – one thing I really wish we’d managed to do.

To find out what’s on at the RSC, take a look at their website.

Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tours

Hop-on hop-off bus tours are a fantastic option if you don’t have a car and want to visit Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, or if you’ve got small kids who can’t walk far.

The bus tour starts at Avon Boating near Bancroft Gardens and takes in all of the Shakespeare sites including Holy Trinity Church.  You can buy either 24 or 48 hour tickets, and commentary is provided on the bus.

Click here to book your bus tour of Stratford Upon Avon.

Take Afternoon Tea

Hathaway's Tea Rooms Stratford Upon Avon; best place for afternoon tea in Stratford

We meant to get to Hathaway Tea rooms for Afternoon Tea but unfortunately ran out of time due to our hectic schedule!  If you’d like to take it easier than we did then Hathaway Tea Rooms is in Stratford Upon Avon town centre and it’s meant to be the best option.

The Tea Rooms are found in one of the most historic buildings in Stratford Upon Avon; this one dates from 1610, and comes complete with a crooked timbered facade that wouldn’t look out of place in Diagon Alley.

Hathaway Tea Rooms also serve full English breakfasts and sandwiches for lunch.  Click here to take a look at the menus.

Tudor World and Ghost Tours

Tudor World is in the centre of Stratford Upon Avon, not far from Bancroft Gardens.  It’s a small museum inside a Tudor era house, with a cobblestone road outside which dates to Tudor times.  Shakespeare himself would have walked along this path.

Inside the museum are some exhibits on what life would have been like in Tudor times; this includes a plague house and all sorts of gruesome facts.  The museum is quite interactive and you’re able to touch most of the objects so it should appeal to kids.

As well as the museum, Tudor World run tours.  There’s a daytime tour which is guided by an actor playing William Shakespeare, and this tour takes you to all of the Shakespeare houses (although you don’t go inside) and down to Holy Trinity Church to see where the Bard is buried.

You can take part in an evening ghost tour around Stratford too – many places in town are said to be haunted!

Prices for the museum and the tours are very reasonable at well under £10 per adult – click here to book and buy your tickets.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church Stratford Upon Avon - visit to see Shakespeare's grave

Holy Trinity Church is famous for being Shakespeare’s burial site, and it’s situated on the banks of the River Avon just outside Stratford’s town centre – we saw it from our river cruise but didn’t go inside.  The church is a Norman construction and it dates back to 1210.

At the church you can see the Bard’s resting place, complete with a curse for anyone who dares to move his bones.  He’s buried with his wife Anne, daughter Susanna and son-in-law John Hall, and grandson-in-law Thomas Nash.

The inside of the church is also worth a look especially for its magnificent stained glass windows.  Families might be interested in doing a trail designed for primary school age children – you can download this trail from the Holy Trinity website here.

Take a ride on Stratford Upon Avon’s huge Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel at Stratford Upon Avon; one of the best things to do with kids in Stratford Upon Avon

You can’t miss the big wheel on the large green near Stratford Butterfly Farm.  Open for the summer months only, the big wheel is 40m high and can seat six people in each pod.

Expect amazing views over the town and surrounding countryside.  Tickets cost £5 per person and you can buy them on arrival.

How to organise your weekend in Stratford Upon Avon

Stratford Upon Avon town centre

It can be difficult to fit all of the above in to your weekend but we did manage it except for the Butterfly Farm which we had already been to, a couple of years ago. I’d prioritise the Butterfly Farm over Magic Alley having now visited both.

Day 1 in Stratford Upon Avon

I’d take a day to spend in Stratford town centre and to see the three Shakespeare houses.  The time that you need to spend in each place really varies.  I don’t think we spent more than an hour in each of the Shakespeare houses in town (we spent much longer at Mary Anning’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage).

We spent a bit longer at the MAD Museum and at the Shakespeare Schoolroom, and we had time enough to spare for a run around in the gardens and a look in Magic Alley.

Day 2 in Stratford Upon Avon

On your second day you can visit Mary Anning’s Farm in the morning, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage around lunchtime, and finish your day at the Butterfly Farm and a late afternoon cruise down the River Avon.  It’s a long day – we started at 10am and didn’t finish until 7pm!

In all honesty we did go at a bit of a breakneck pace. However the kids’ attention span is limited in historic houses and so if you’ve got little ones you probably won’t spend as much time in the houses as people without kids.

And of course you don’t have to visit absolutely every Shakespeare site in Stratford Upon Avon!

Know before you go: Stratford Upon Avon

At Anne Hathaway's Cottage's tea rooms - ideal stop for a family lunch in Stratford Upon Avon

How to get to Stratford Upon Avon

It’s best to have a car to visit Stratford Upon Avon but if you don’t then you can reach Stratford easily by train from London, and you can get around with a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus ticket.

Day tours to Stratford Upon Avon from London

If you don’t want to go it alone then there are a variety of tours you can take from London.  Many of these include a trip to the surrounding area of the Cotswolds too.

Cotswold Lavender farmhouse, Snowshill, Cotswolds, UK

Oxford, Stratford and Cotswolds: This tour departs from London and visits Oxford and the Cotswolds as well as Stratford Upon Avon. Click here to book this tour.

Oxford, Stratford and Warwick Castle: This tour leaves from London and stops off at Oxford and Warwick Castle, one of the best castles in the UK.  Click here for more information and to book.

Stratford Upon Avon: A guided tour of Stratford Upon Avon in a day from London. It includes visits to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Holy Trinity Church.  Click here to find out more and book your space.

Where to stay in Stratford Upon Avon

Four person bell tent at the Apple Farm Snitterfield UK

When we visited Stratford Upon Avon we stayed at a nearby glamping site, The Apple Farm.  This was a really fun way to spend the weekend at Stratford and we’d definitely recommend it!  Click here for our full review and to book The Apple Farm.

There are a variety of hotels and apartment rentals in Stratford Upon Avon – click here for a full selection.

The Crowne Plaza in Stratford Upon Avon’s town centre is a popular choice.  There’s a pool, gym, and riverside terrace.  Children under 12 eat for free in the on site restaurant and there are family rooms.  Click here to book.

Arden House is a 5* B&B near the centre of Stratford Upon Avon.  Rooms are ensuite and have flat screen TVs.  There’s a shared lounge and cooked or continental breakfast is served.  Click here to book.

No 3 Central Chambers is an apartment hotel with two bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen.  Centrally located, it’s perfect for families who need a bit more space.  Click here to book.

We were given free entry to most of the above attractions by Shakespeare’s England.  All opinions are my own. 


Have you been to Stratford Upon Avon?  Did you think it was kid-friendly?  Let us know in the comments!

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Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire is one of the UK’s most historic towns. Read our guide to the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon in a weekend, including all of the best Shakespeare sites, a cruise down the river, and family friendly attractions. #stratforduponavon #shakespeare #uktravel #travelguide #england

 

Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire is one of the UK’s most historic towns. Read our guide to the best things to do in Stratford Upon Avon in a weekend, including all of the best Shakespeare sites, a cruise down the river, and family friendly attractions. #stratforduponavon #shakespeare #uktravel #travelguide #england

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