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.
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.
This square has transformed over the past decade from a grassy slope where office workers would picnic on a summer's afternoon to a pedestrian-friendly European plaza accessible all year. Birmingham's Town Hall and Council House are located on the square, but graded steps replace the slope and there's now a large fountain containing a sculpture known fondly by locals as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi. Stone lamps and statues of sphinxes adorn the grounds, as does a statue of Queen Victoria. Victoria Square has now become a popular meeting point and a relaxing place for people to watch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since its establishment in 1874, the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club has come to be a popular choice for those looking to take up the noble sport of rowing. The club offers rowing lessons for all age groups and hosts an annual regatta each year in June. The club's squad members are also given the chance to compete in a number of international and local events throughout the year. Summer camps and other fun activities are organized each year. The clubhouse itself boasts a splendid Victorian design and is perched along the banks of the River Avon; the perfect backdrop for special events and celebrations, including wedding receptions, corporate events and charity dinners. Whether you crave the thrill of a boat race, or are simply looking for the perfect venue for your next event, stop by the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club and take a look around.