Things to Do in West Midlands
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.
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.
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.
Just outside the city center, Winterbourne House and Garden is a natural oasis and time capsule of the Edwardian arts and crafts era. The restored home is filled with antiques and historic timepieces, and the surrounding 7-acre (3-hectare) botanical gardens contain more than 6,000 plant species from across the globe.
An idyllic expanse of grassy peaks, rugged peat moors and stone-brick villages; the Peak District National Park became Britain’s first national park back in 1951 and remains one of the country’s most visited regions. With over 555 square miles (1,438 square kilometers) to explore, it’s an obvious choice for lovers of the outdoors and the vast network of hiking, cycling, horse riding and climbing routes include famous long distance trails like The Pennine Way.
Additional highlights of the Peak District National Park include the Castleton Caves; the 2,087-foot (636-meter) peak of Kinder Scout; and Chatsworth House, the magnificent estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Other popular destinations include the town of Bakewell, renowned for its Bakewell Tarts; the Georgian spa town of Buxton; and the historic village of Eyam, known for its fascinating plague history.
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 café serve up everything from afternoon tea to cocktails, and a range of free temporary exhibitions are hosted on-site.
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.
Originally built for a Welsh prince in the 13th century, Powis Castle is now one of Britain’s finest stately homes. Behind the red sandstone façade, which is surrounded by spectacular Baroque gardens and a deer park, visitors can explore elaborately decorated 17th century dining halls and state rooms, before admiring the collection of Indian artefacts in the Clive Museum.
Alton Towers is a theme park in central England that is famous for its hair-raising rides. Opened in the 1980s, the park quickly became one of the most popular days out in the UK. Visit to enjoy a variety of roller coasters and a water park, as well as mini golf and other family-friendly fun.
The perfect destination for chocolate lovers, Cadbury World offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of Britain’s most famous chocolate brands: Cadbury. Located on the site of the original Cadbury factory in Bournville, it’s a fun family attraction with interactive exhibits and chocolate-making demonstrations.
More Things to Do in West Midlands
With several distinct zones—including African savannahs and the UK’s largest animatronic dinosaur attraction—West Midland Safari & Leisure Park is a popular family-friendly destination. Highlights include driving among lions, rhinos, and giraffes during the Safari Drive; riding roller coasters in the Adventure Theme Park; enjoying hands-on animal encounters; and more.
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.
Inhabitants at the National Sea Life Centre range from penguins and otters to piranhas and jellyfish, displayed in antarctic pools and rain forest habitats. At the dynamic center, viewers can learn about marine life from around the globe in a series of exhibits such as an underwater tunnel, tropical forest, and penguin enclosure.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Birmingham combines massive collections of LEGO® bricks with amusement park–style action to create the ultimate LEGO playground. At the park, designed for kids ages 3 to 10, families can enjoy LEGO-themed rides, explore a LEGO re-creation of Birmingham’s top attractions, and practice their skills in the build and test zone.
Birmingham’s historic Pen Museum celebrates the city’s instrumental role in expanding communication and literacy worldwide. Set in a 19th-century Renaissance-style factory that once manufactured the majority of the world’s pens, the museum offers educational exhibits and interactive workshops.
Brimming with interactive science and technology displays, Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum is home to everything from talking robots and steam engines to a planetarium and marine life gallery. The hands-on exhibits span four stories inside the Millennium Point building, and offer entertainment and education for visitors of all ages.
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