Having A Ball At The MAD Museum

MAD Museum

by Sonia Eldredge |
Updated on

I took my eleven-year-old daughter, my 14-year-old son and his friend to the MAD Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon last half term.

Usually, you can just turn up — although there might be a short wait — but in school holidays it’s best to book online in advance. Whilst you book a specific entry time, you can spend as long in the museum as you like (although you can’t leave and come back in). The recommended length of time for a visit is around an hour and a half, and this is indeed how long it took to us to have a thorough yet unhurried look at everything and have a good play with the DIY marble runs.


The MAD Museum is accessed via a staircase or lift from the street and even the entrance has a ball run stretching down the wall and under the steps to immediately hook you into the museum’s theme. A pleasant member of staff scanned us in and informed us we needed to wave our hands over the little blue buttons in front of each of the displays to kickstart the machinery and make them move.

The exhibits fall roughly into two categories. Firstly, there are the more sculptural pieces which range from cute and quirky wooden figures who might be, for instance, repeatedly eating a sandwich, to a mesmerising metal jellyfish gently swaying in its case to a large scene filled with sinking ships and mermaids. It being Stratford-upon-Avon and the home of Shakespeare there were, of course, a couple of pieces devoted to the Bard himself.

Secondly there are the marble runs in all manner of shapes and sizes, from huge steampunk-style metal contraptions with the balls inching their way round a maze-like circuit of spirals, cogs and steps, to laser-cut wooden racetracks with marbles shooting round at lightning speed.

MAD Museum Metal Dinosaur head

Without exception they were all fascinating in their own unique way and you could appreciate each and every one from an engineering perspective or on their aesthetic merits alone.

Roll with it

Although the museum was fairly busy there was plenty of room and very little waiting to look at anything — you could simply move on then come back if another group were taking their time in front of a particular display. It was certainly very inspiring and made you want to have a go at designing something yourself. This is where the next part of the museum comes in!

MAD Museum
©MAD Museum

Halfway round there is a room with metal sheets cladding the walls and moveable grooved wooden blocks and cogs stuck on with magnets. This is where you get to make your own huge marble run. My daughter and I had a go, and it was lots of fun tinkering with all the different pieces to see if you could control the speed of the ball to get it to complete the whole run without dropping off.

Later on, my son and his friend had to be almost dragged out of there as they were really getting stuck in — and filming the results on their phones, naturally. Needless to say, you had to be mindful of small white balls zipping across the floor at all times!

MAD Museum exhibits
©MAD Museum

Also in the same room is a table filled with drilled wooden cubes which you can stack to make yet more marble runs. Rarely have I seen a group of children, from pre-schoolers through to teenagers, so absorbed in what they were doing. I smiled knowingly at the other parents and grandparents who were enjoying a bit of downtime while their charges played around with various configurations. From toddlers through to ‘big kids’ (i.e. the adults) everyone seemed to be engrossed in the exhibits and there was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

Mad to miss out?

At £6 for children aged from six to 15 years old (children five and under go free) and £8.80 for adults, I felt it was excellent value for money. Even the items in the small gift shop, such as build-your-own mini marble runs, were reasonably priced. But what did the kids think? Molly gave it nine out of 10 and Arthur eight (although I did think that this was downgraded so he didn’t look too ‘nerdy’ in front of his friend)!

I would thoroughly recommend this museum as a fun and educational way for the whole family to spend a morning or afternoon if you live in the Stratford area or if you’re visiting other tourist attractions in the town centre.

Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6PT

Adult £8.80
Concession/ Student £7.00
Child (6-15yrs) £6.00
Child 5yrs and under Free
Family (2 adults and 2 children) £25.00
Extra child with a family ticket £4.00

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