As a parent, I am always trying to find new places to take my 9 year old son for exciting days out. If you Google “days out” you often just find the same places over and over. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Yawn. By some miracle though, I recently found a place called The MAD Museum which is in the beautiful town of Stratford upon Avon. MAD stands for Mechanical Art and Design. My son is obsessed with mechanical things, loves art and design, so this place sounded like it would be worth a visit. And I’ll be honest, I thought if it’s not that good we can always have a lovely walk along the river instead. Well we had no time for river walks as we spent hours in this place! It is just amazing!
Don’t be fooled like I was by the museum’s location. It is above some shops (one of which is one of my favourites, Lakeland, but we didn’t get time to go in there) so I had thought it would be tiny, with just a few exhibits and we’d have seen it all in half an hour. How wrong was I! This place is jam packed with exhibits and things to do, all of which are interactive. There are buttons galore to press to activate all manner of crazy but fascinating displays.
We visited on a beautiful day in August. There were 4 of us, 2 adults and 2 children (Luke and Ava), and so we bought the family ticket which was £19. We said after that we would actually have been happy to pay more than that for the amount of pleasure we all had from the visit. Children aged 5 years and younger can visit for free, while children over that age are £4.50, concessions are £5.50, and adults are £6.80.
As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a very friendly member of staff. She asked if we had been before and when we said no, she told us to press every button we see, explore and just have fun. Luke and Ava were so excited to see what each button would start up.
I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment by telling you what everything does, but there are things to make you laugh, things to inspire, and all of it will astound you. There is a mini “cinema” area where you can watch a series of short films about similar fascinating contraptions but on a much larger scale. There is an amazing bath clock, which Luke and Ava wanted to keep running back to every 20 minutes to see what happened at certain times.
Another thing to keep going back to is the skeleton on the phone. We have all been stuck on hold when phoning companies. Well this poor skeleton has been on hold forever! Standing in front of him sets off a sensor so he knows you’re there, and then he calls a company. I really sympathised with him with each response the phone gives. hang around by him to hear the full cycle of responses. We loved it!
Quite a few of the displays are marble-run type ones, and we were all fascinated to watch what happened along the way. As well as being able to watch these marble runs, you can also come up with your own at the MAD Museum. There are 2 areas… the Mini Marble Wall which is a table full of various wooden blocks which have holes and trails cut into them so you can put them together to try and see if you can get a marble to run the whole way through, and a big Marble Wall which is a magnetic wall on which you attach wooden trail pieces with magnets attached, so you can create a huge marble run!
I don’t think I have ever known activities as fantastic as these for developing problem solving skills. Having to work out angles to put pieces at, what to do if the marble flies off an end (as it did hundreds of times while they worked it all out), what effect a bouncy trail piece has, judging bounce distances etc etc… well it was just a joy to watch! Neither of them wanted help, they were both determined to work it out for themselves. The concentration on their faces was lovely to see as they were both 100% engrossed in what they were doing. The big wall in particular was extremely popular so you might have to wait a short while before you can have a turn, but there is so much to do there it really isn’t an issue. At one point during our visit a family erupted into the loudest cheer ever as the dad had created a huge marble run completely filling the wall and the marble had successfully followed it. You’d think England had scored in the World Cup by the excited cheers! It was brilliant! Just shows how this is a place for all ages, and the sense of achievement is incredible.
Something else that tells me how wonderful this place is was the way Luke in particular behaved. Luke had speech problems as a younger child. He has only been told in the past year from speech therapists that it is no longer an issue. His inability to communicate clearly with people apart from family for so long means he now lacks confidence to wander away from my side. This is something we are working on. However, for the first time ever Luke left me so he could run off to see what else he could explore in the MAD Museum. His excitement and keenness was overwhelming and he didn’t want to be tied to wandering around at my pace. He wanted to race ahead, try something new, and rush back to tell me to hurry up and see what was around each corner. He felt safe and happy, and that was incredible. He has never done that anywhere else before (or since), so that to me is a sign of how fantastic The MAD Museum is. It will always hold a very special place in my heart.
When you walk round this museum, make sure you look around ever corner as there are displays hidden all over the place! I would advise you to set aside at least 3 hours to get full enjoyment from the MAD Museum. We were there for almost 4, and even then it was hard to drag Luke away from it! On the way out there is a small gift shop selling all manner of wooden kits and original gifts. I could have bought the lot! As soon as we had said goodbye to the lovely staff there and we had stepped outside, Luke asked when we could go back. That, to me, is the sign of a wonderful attraction… an eagerness to revisit it. We will definitely go back again very soon and I have recommended it to so many people since we went.
WHO IS IT FOR… Everyone! No age limits here. There is something here for everyone to enjoy, young and old. Plus there is wheelchair access throughout. Children under 16 must have an adult with them though.
WHERE IS IT… 4-5 Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6PT. Telephone 01789 269356.
WHEN CAN I GO… It is open all year round, but with various opening times. From October to March it is open every day except Wednesday, although during Warwickshire school holidays it is open every day. Opening hours during these months are 10.30am – 4.30pm on weekdays, and 10.00am -5.00pm on weekends. From April to September it is open every day. Opening hours during these months are 10.00am – 5.00pm on weekdays, and 10.30am – 5.30pm on weekends.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE… Visit their website HERE
If you do visit I would love to know what you think of it and what was the best part for you. There is so much to choose from!