A trip to Stratford is not complete without a visit to the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The theater was built in 1926 following fire damage to the 1879 original structure. Fortunately it was not completely destroyed during the fire; parts of the original building, a cross between a German castle and French chateau, are still clearly visible. A second auditorium, the Swan Theater has also been incorporated into the older part.
Proudly proclaiming the fact that it is "Europe's largest", the Stratford-upon-Avon Butterfly Farm affords a peaceful retreat away from all things Shakespearean. Hundreds of butterflies can be viewed at close quarters, many of the species sporting spectacular colors. For those interested in less attractive, more frightening creatures, other insect displays are available, including stick insects, leaf-eating ants and the world's largest spider.
If you are looking for a day out in the open, a bit of drama and the chance to place a bet or two, look no further than the Stratford-upon-Avon Racecourse. Steeple chasing has taken place here for almost 250 years with 14 meetings held each year between March and November. In between cheering on your favorite filly, enjoy refreshments from a tempting range of eateries and bars, or at the large picnic area at the center of the course. Although relatively small in size, the course is counted as one of the region's best. The racecourse also offers rental space for a variety of events, including corporate functions, wedding receptions and private parties.
Stratford Picture House is a stylish modern cinema with open spaces and natural wood floors, a much lighter feel from some of the more dark and dingy theaters. The bar hosts regular "Art in the Bar" exhibitions of local artists that are always worth a look. Note that admission prices vary.
Housing one of the world's finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art, with works by Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Holman Hunt, Birmingham's principal museum and gallery is located in a stunning Victorian building. The museum displays works by British and European artists, along with collections of ceramics, sculpture, silver and stained glass. You can also find archaeological, ethnographic and local history exhibits, including Egyptian mummies.
As the only surviving example of the once prevalent Back to Backs of Birmingham, these historic buildings are a rare treasure. During the 19th Century, a number of buildings were built back to back around a common courtyard to meet the demands of the rapidly growing population of the city as a result of industrialization. These houses were inhabited by the working class who managed to survive in these cramped quarters. Each of the four Back to Backs around the courtyard has been restored and refurnished as a representation of four different time periods, giving visitors an extremely rare opportunity to take a peek into the lives of the ordinary working men and women of the 1840s, 1870s, 1930s and 1970s. Only a few slots are available each day and prior reservations are a must if you wish to visit these homes.
This award-winning museum in a Tudor period mansion has interactive exhibits, Shakespeare tours, night-time ghost tours, and organized school visits that bring 16th-century Elizabethan England to life. Visitors can take a seat at a period dining table, rest on a monarch’s bed and throne, and listen for spirits by candlelight.
For those who like their leisure activities passive, this is an ideal spot to relax. Feeding the ducks at the water's edge is about as energetic as it gets! However, there are lots of things to see including the colorful narrow-boats moored in the canal-basin and the impromptu street-entertainers. And that is not all. On one side of the gardens is the splendid Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and on another is the truly inspirational Gower Memorial. The Gardens are also just a short walk from the town center, making them particularly popular with visitors recovering from whistle-stop tours of Stratford's heritage sites.