The school summer holidays are finally upon us, so what better time to delve into the top 10 reasons to visit Stratford-upon-Avon this summer?
Though many Covid restrictions have now been lifted in England, life has yet to return to normal in Stratford-upon-Avon. Some of the Shakespeare homes remain closed, indoor theatre is yet to return, and plans for popular annual festivals have once again been shelved.
There is, however, plenty to see and do in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2021: theatre has moved outdoors in spectacular style; our dining and drinking scene is better than ever; and the pleasures of the River Avon and its beautiful banks have gone nowhere.
So let’s take a look at Stratfordblog’s top 10 reasons to visit Stratford-upon-Avon this summer.
Top 10 reasons to visit Stratford-upon-Avon this summer
Get on the water
The languid waters of the Avon and the picturesque willows of the riverside inspire visitors and locals to get on the water and savour the idyllic scenery. And there are a variety of ways to do it, from a lazy lunch aboard a cruiser to a lesson in balance atop a paddle board.
Visit Avon Boating in Swan’s Nest Lane to hire one of their row boats or motor boats; short river tours are also available from Bancroft Gardens. The Countess of Evesham offers lunch and dinner cruises, if you prefer to see the river in style. As it continues to grow in popularity, why not have a go at paddle boarding? SUP Stratford is based at Riverside in Tiddington Road and you can have a 90-minute lesson for £30.
Indoor dining is once again an option, but outdoor dining in Stratford-upon-Avon is a real treat in summer. With around 450 outdoor tables – many of which are tucked away in hidden gardens and terraces – there is no shortage of places to dine when the sun shines. Check out my favourite outdoor dining spots in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Don’t go overstuffing your stomach during lunch and dinner, because Stratford-upon-Avon has a load of options when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth. Save room for a gelato at Hooray’s, swap lunch for a cream tea in one of our cafes, buy fresh fudge from Roly’s Pantry in High Street or tackle a giant scone or cake at Hobsons. And – watch this space – Lola’s Waffles and Crepes (yes, the one from the market) is setting up permanent shop in Rother Street and should be open by the end of summer.
The RSC built a new garden theatre for this summer season. The Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre welcomed excited theatre-goers from mid July in the performance space, which is located on the banks of the River Avon adjacent to the Swan Theatre. The Comedy of Errors runs until September 26.
The Attic Theatre and Tread the Boards Theatre Company is touring with an outdoor production of Alice in Wonderland at a variety of nearby venues. Click here to view further details.
Between July 27 and August 20, the RSC is running a series of performances, workshops and activities for young people and their grown-ups.
Stratford Town Trust is also running a programme of free activities for kids; visit the bandstand on Wednesday afternoons. The line-up of events can be seen here.
Family-friendly attractions in Stratford-upon-Avon include the Butterfly Farm, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, the MAD Museum, Magic Alley, and Tudor World.
The Shakespeare homes are open again
Local and visiting families cannot yet return to the popular Mary Arden’s Farm (fingers crossed for 2022), but you can once again visit three of the five Shakespeare homes (Hall’s Croft also remains closed for 2021). See Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place in the town centre, and walk, drive or catch the sightseeing bus to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in nearby Shottery. Visit Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for tickets and opening times.
The Recreation Ground has always been a magnet in summer for picnics and play, but this year it’s even better, with a new natural playground and cycle training track complementing the existing playground, paddling pool, and mini golf.
The old favourites are still here, joined by a handful of new stores, while the Stratford-upon-Avon markets continue to attract visitors and locals. Stop by Rother Street Market on Fridays and Saturdays, and Waterside Upmarket on Sundays. There’s a three-day international special on Waterside July 27-29 to celebrate the Tokyo Olympic Games, a Neverland-themed special August 17-19, plus a Bank Holiday market on Monday August 30.
Stratford Town Walk is back for public walks from August 1 (they have been running private group walks). It’s always advisable to book for this informative walking tour. The Ghost Walks are currently not running (hopefully by Halloween!). You can even book a “Walking without Will” tour, with not a single mention of Shakespeare!
Tudor World in Sheep Street offers ghost tours of its historic building, plus walking tours by Shakespeare himself (okay, a very knowledgable actor in costume).
I recommend both company’s tours for visitors and locals (I guarantee you’ll learn something new, even if you’ve lived in Stratford-upon-Avon your entire life).
A boom industry during Covid times, outdoor cinema in Stratford-upon-Avon continues to draw crowds looking for a new experience. On August 28 and 29, Stratford Racecourse is hosting Outdoor Movies UK, which will be showing Peter Rabbit 2, Mamma Mia, Scoob, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Pack a picnic, pick a spot, pitch up your camping chair, and munch on popcorn.
Of course, if you’d rather not take your chances with the British weather, Bell Court’s Everyman Cinema is the place to go for the latest big-screen blockbusters (with comfy sofas and a roof!).