Choose from 7 Fun Things to Do in West Midlands
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There are few more fitting locations to watch one of Shakespeare's plays than Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of the iconic playwright, and the most prestigious venue in town is the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Built in 1932, the historic theater is the official home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose performances of Shakespeare's works are renowned around the world.
Built to replace the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which stood on the site since 1879, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was the design of Elisabeth Scott (one of Britain's first notable female architects) and underwent extensive renovations in 2010. Today, the theater hosts regular performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company in its 1,000-seat auditorium, but it's also a popular destination for tourists.
A range of tours allow visitors to explore the Front of House, peek behind-the-scenes, visit the grounds and gardens, or even get a backstage look at the nearby rehearsal rooms and costume store. Alternatively, the theater's 32-meter-high Tower offers far-reaching views over Stratford-upon-Avon, while the Rooftop Restaurant and Riverside cafe serve up everything from afternoon tea to cocktails, and a range of free temporary exhibitions are hosted on-site.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is located along the waterfront of the River Avon in central Stratford-upon-Avon and is open daily from 10am "“ late. Access to the public areas and restaurants of the theater is free, but admission to the tower costs £2.50 and guided tours start from £6.50.
Address: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BB, England
Hours: Daily 10am-late, tours by booking only
Admission: Public areas: free, Tower: £2.50, Tours from £6.50.
From $ 19
Part zoo and part theme park, Drayton Manor opened in 1949 as a kiddie heaven, with a whole host of fun-filled, themed rides and activities for toddlers.
Thomas Land features the steadfast favorite character Thomas the Tank Engine and is expressly aimed at small children. Attractions include carousels, soft-floor adventure playgrounds, Winston's Monorail and Bertie Bus; kids can also sing along with the Fat Controller at live musical shows. All children will love the zoo for its colorful parrots, meercats, tigers, kangaroos, monkeys and reptiles, while other family-centric sights include the Dino Trail, penny slots and crazy golf. But there's plenty for older kids too: water rides and adrenaline-pumping roller coasters include the Bounty Pirate Ship, Pandemonium and Shockwave.
Indoor attractions for rainy days include a 4D cinema, bumper cars, haunted houses and a pirate adventure. A chairlift transports families across the 247-acre (100-hectare) park, while the Polperro Express trundles around the grounds. Catering outlets dot the park, along with the Thomas the Tank Engine souvenir store, and there's even luxury accommodation at Drayton Manor Hotel.
The park is open daily from mid-May through October from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thomas Land also opens at Christmas. Travelers can take the train to Tamworth and then grab a taxi, or take Arriva bus No. 110 from Birmingham. Height restrictions operate on some rides.
Address: Drayton Manor Drive, Fazeley, Tamworth, Staffordshire, West Midlands B78 3TW, England
Hours: Mid Mar"“Oct daily 9.30am"“5pm; Thomas Land also opens at Christmas
Admission: Adults: £39, Seniors: £27, Children 4-11: £29, ages 2-3: £6.
From $ 51
The medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of iconic wordsmith William Shakespeare. Visitors can follow in the literary giant’s footsteps by exploring some of his homes and gardens—there are five in town, each offering a fascinating insight into Shakespeare’s life and works.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust owns and maintains five historic properties in Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm, and Shakespeare’s New Place. Each is preserved in period-style and features a variety of permanent exhibitions, live shows, and family activities. You can purchase tickets for the individual attractions or get a Full Story ticket, which offers access to all five sights.
While you can visit four of the houses on foot, Mary Arden’s Farm is a short train ride away. Hop-on hop-off bus tours also link all five properties. To get to Stratford-upon-Avon itself, most visitors opt for a day trip from London. Full-day tours often combine nearby attractions such as Oxford, Warwick Castle, and the Cotswolds.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Shakespeare’s Houses and Gardens are a must for literature and history lovers.
- Full Story tickets offer unlimited access to all five attractions and are valid for 12 months.
- Cafés are located at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Mary Arden’s Farm, and Hall’s Croft.
- All of the houses are accessible to wheelchair users, but due to the nature of the historic structures, some areas are not accessible.
How to Get There
Shakespeare’s Houses and Gardens are located in Stratford-upon-Avon, in central England. From London, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive northwest; direct trains from London’s Marylebone station to Stratford-upon-Avon take around two hours.
When to Get There
Though always popular, Shakespeare’s Houses and Gardens are most atmospheric during the summer, when the houses host a range of special events, reenactments, and family activities. Make an early start or stay overnight in Stratford-upon-Avon if you want to avoid the crowds, especially in July and August; typically tour buses from London don’t arrive until mid-morning. Note that Mary Arden’s Farm is closed from November to February.
What to See at Shakespeare’s Houses
The most popular of the five Shakespeare sights in Stratford-upon-Avon is Shakespeare’s Birthplace, where an impressive multimedia exhibition chronicles the life of the playwright. Highlights include a collection of his books and first editions, and a live theater where scenes from Shakespeare’s most famous plays are performed. Nearby, Hall’s Croft was the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, Dr. John Hall. The childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is known for its stunning flower gardens. And the New Place, which opened to the public in 2016, is where Shakespeare spent his later years, writing plays like The Tempest. Just outside of town is Mary Arden’s Farm, the former home of Shakespeare’s mother; the attraction hosts fun activities from blacksmith and falconry demonstrations to animal feeding and traditional craft-making workshops.
Address: Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
From $ 19
With a history dating back more than 1,000 years and a serene setting on the banks of the River Avon, the Holy Trinity Church has long been renowned as one of England’s most beautiful and most visited parish churches. An architectural highlight of Stratford-upon-Avon, the Grade I listed church dates in part from the 13th century and is celebrated for its fine Clopton Chapel, Victorian stained glass windows and series of 26 ornately decorated misericords, as well as a first edition 1611 King James Bible on display.
The lavish interiors are impressive enough, but for most visitors the main draw to the Holy Trinity is its connection with William Shakespeare. The iconic playwright was famously born in Stratford-upon-Avon and was both christened and buried at the church. Visitors can view Shakespeare’s Grave for a small fee, as well as the graves of Anne Hathaway, Dr John Hall and his wife Susanna, and Thomas Nash.
Holy Trinity Church is located on the banks of the River Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon and is open Mon-Sat from 9.00am – 5.00pm and Sun 12.30pm – 5.00pm. Entrance to the church is free, but donations of £2 are required to visit Shakespeare's grave.
Address: Holy Trinity Church Parish office, Old Town, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BG, England
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9.00am – 5.00pm, Sun: 12.30pm – 5.00pm.
Admission: Free; donations of £2 to visit Shakespeare’s grave.
From $ 19
With its gabled roof, oak beams and elaborately carved façade, the Harvard House is undeniably attractive, and it’s long been touted as one of Stratford-upon-Avon's most beautiful buildings. The Elizabethan-era town house was built in 1596 by local businessman Thomas Rogers and is now a Grade I listed property, remarkably preserved and decorated in period style.
The Harvard House takes its name from Rogers’ grandson, John Harvard, who went on to found America’s famous Harvard University. Although he never lived in the property, the house is none-the-less an intriguing link between Harvard’s family and William Shakespeare, who lived just down the street.
Today, the house is preserved as a museum and offers a fascinating glimpse into Elizabethan life. Visitors can explore the three floors, where exhibitions chronicle the property’s history and life in Elizabethan and Tudor times, including fun hands-on activities for children.
The Harvard House is located at 26 High Street in central Stratford-upon-Avon and is open daily from 11am to 4pm in winter, and 10am-5pm in summer. Admission passes cost £16.50 for adults or £9.90 for children, and includes entrance to Hall's Croft, Harvard House, Shakespeare's Birthplace and Shakespeare's Grave.
Address: 26 High Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6AU, England
Hours: Nov-March daily 11am-4pm, Mar-Nov daily 10am-5pm.
Admission: Pass for Hall's Croft, Harvard House, Shakespeare's Birthplace & Grave: Adult £16.50, Child £9.90
From $ 28
Long holding the title of the UK's most popular theme park, Alton Towers has been the go-to destination for thrill-seekers since it opened its gates back in 1980. Today, the enormous park is most famous for its white-knuckle roller coasters, including the Nemesis, TH13TEEN, The Smiler and the brand-new virtual reality ride, Galactica. It' not just for daredevils, though—the 10 themed zones include plenty of family friendly rides including favorites like the Runaway Train and the River Rapids, plus a SkyRide cable car, a 4D Ice Age experience and the CBeebies Land, with rides aimed at preschoolers.
The Alton Towers resort is also home to two hotels; an 'enchanted village' with luxury treehouses and woodland lodges; a luxurious spa and a range of cafés and restaurants, including the recently opened Rollercoaster Restaurant, where the food is delivered via a 2-loop roller-coaster track. That’s not all: there’s also the Alton Towers Waterpark; the Treetop Quest high ropes park; an Extraordinary Golf course and several themed gift shops.
Alton Towers is located in central England, 45 miles (72km) north of Birmingham and is open from March to November. Entrance times vary, but the park typically opens at 10am and closes between 4 and 6pm. Tickets are £51.60 for adults, £45.60 for children.
Address: Farley Lane, Alton, West Midlands ST10 4DB, England
Hours: March to November, entrance times vary.
Admission: Adult: £51.60 Child: £45.60
From $ 51
With more than 1,000 machines from 170 manufacturers, the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham has the world’s largest collection of British motorcycles. Visitors can gain insight into British engineering, learn about the vehicle’s history, and see motorcycles from classic models to 21st-century superbikes up close.
At the National Motorcycle Museum, exhibits chart the motorcycle’s development from 1898 to the modern day, with a range of classic models by manufacturers such as Triumph, Ariel, and Norton, as well as examples of working bikes and military machines. Highlights include the 1938 Brough Superior Golden Dream and a 1912 Wilkinson Luxury Tourer. Most visitors tour the museum independently, though guided tours are available for a fee by reservation.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Motorcycle Museum is an absolute must-see for motorcycle enthusiasts, as well as those interested in engineering.
- The museum is fully wheelchair accessible.
- Don’t forget your camera, as the museum encourages photography.
- A family-friendly restaurant and a coffee cart are on-site.
How to Get There
The National Motorcycle Museum is located in Solihull, on the outskirts of Birmingham, just off the M42 motorway. Driving is recommended as the site is a short taxi ride away from the nearest public transit options, Birmingham International train station and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Free parking is available.
When to Get There
The National Motorcycle Museum is open daily, and its size means it never feels overcrowded. One of the liveliest times to visit is in October, when the museum celebrates the anniversary of its opening with a day of free entry, live music, and celebrity guests. Antique fairs often run on Sundays throughout the year.
The Home of Mechanical Engineering
Still known as a manufacturing city today, Birmingham played a significant role in Britain’s industrial past. It was here that Boulton and Watt came up with the first steam engine that used a separate condenser, an invention central to the technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution. Learn more about the city’s science and industry and see the world’s oldest working engine at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum, about 20 minutes west of the National Motorcycle Museum.
Address: Coventry Rd., Solihull, Birmingham B92 0EJ, England
From $ 13