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.
This is the ideal park for the entire family, offering a variety of facilities including boating lakes, playgrounds, tennis courts, tropical greenhouses and nature conservation areas. It is also the home of the Midland Arts Centre. A walking/bicycling route winds through the grounds that has recently been extended. The park also plays host to a variety of concerts, performances and the annual Fireworks Fantasia.
The National Sea Life Centre is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. One of the most thrilling things about this aquarium is its 360-degree transparent tunnel, which lets you stand in the middle of the ocean while sharks and other aquatic lives swim around you. There are 55 displays in total, including the "Kingdom of the Seahorse" and "Claws," featuring the giant Japanese spider crab. among other fearsome crustaceans.
These fine gardens, opened in 1832, were designed by John Claudius Loudon, a leading garden planner, and horticultural journalist. The gardens offer you the chance to see some of the most beautiful greenery in the world along with stunning glasshouses. Attractions besides plants include indoor aviaries, a restaurant with a fantastic view of the gardens, a children's adventure playground, a gift shop and plant center and a gallery displaying work by local artists.
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.
Originally the home of Shakespeare's parents-in-law, Anne Hathaway's Cottage is a charming, half-timbered, thatched-roof farmhouse. Inhabited by descendants of the Hathaway family until the 19th Century, the cottage still contains items of furniture that used to belong to them. Outside is a fantastic traditional English cottage garden complete with an orchard. Take a stroll through this idyllic setting, perhaps stopping to buy plants and herbs grown by the property's gardeners en route. The Tea Garden provides light refreshments and is open from March to October. Note too that Guide Friday Tours stop at the cottage.
As 200-year-old feats of engineering and unique combinations of industrial heritage and wildlife havens, canals provide us with some fascinating walks. The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal is no exception. From its basin in the Bancroft Gardens, the canal extends for 26 miles before it meets the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. The canal boasts many features of architectural interest, including over 40 listed structures and buildings ranging from aqueducts and locks—of which there are 56 in all—to the British Waterways' office and workshop at Lapworth. And, yes, even here Shakespeare is remembered. A bust of the Bard can be seen on the portal of the Brandwood Tunnel—even though this tunnel is actually much closer to Birmingham than to Stratford-upon-Avon!
Firs Gardens, a triangular-shaped garden, bound by Evesham Place and Grove Road, is named after Grove House that stood nearby. Despite the hum of passing traffic, Firs Gardens retains an air of peace and tranquility. What is more, as they are a little way away from the town center, they are rarely crowded. If you find yourself meandering here, look out for the rose bed which is dedicated to the memory of the "Red Beret" airborne divisions.
The Welcombe Hills is a delightful area. Not far from Stratford-upon-Avon town center, it is best approached on foot from the parking area in Ingon Lane just off the Warwick Road. From here it takes about ten minutes to reach the obelisk (erected in the 1870s in memory of a former owner of the Welcombe estate) where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The hills cover about 72 acres of land, providing habitat for an abundance of flora and fauna. Picnic tables and a viewing point have been provided for the additional enjoyment of visitors. Although not visible from here, the road that now forms the driveway to the Menzies Welcombe Hotel & Golf Course was once a track used by the Romans for transporting salt across the Welcombe Hills. A further point of local historical interest is that Shakespeare once purchased a share in the local tithes here, and was subsequently involved in a dispute concerning the enclosure of common land.