Looking for something fun, educational and entertaining to do with your family? Look no further than the Shaw Festival Theatre’s production of The Horse and His boy. We took our three-year-old and five-year-old and it’s truly fun for everyone (I’m not sure who loved the interactivity of it all more — us or the kids?!)
The most daring and magical Narnia adventure finally hits the stage in this world premier of the renowned book series that we all know and love. The Horse and His Boy is so creative and entertaining that we talked about the show for days afterwards.
Our kids have never read the Narnia series nor watched the movies (yet) and even still, the performance totally captivated them.
Is the Shaw Festival Theatre family-friendly?
The short answer is, absolutely! In fact, we found that, for a theatre, it’s one of the most family-friendly experiences we’ve encountered. The team at Shaw Festival Theatre has truly thought about the needs of parents and small children. They’ve currently got a matinee (10:30am) performance of The Horse and His Boy. They’ve also got a pre-show workshop where guests can attend an interactive experience and learn how the show was created. For an additional $5 to the cost of each ticket, guests interact with a performer, learn show songs/chants, participate in an acting workshop etc.
It’s an ideal warm-up for show attendees of any age. We learned the insider-scoop on some plot development and blocking and were able to then participate more fully in the actual show.
There’s also a theatre shop at the entrance of the building where kids can find popular themed paraphernalia (like this horse and hat). The kids loved checking out all of the different items and then seeing them come to life on stage.
There’s a sort of nostalgia to the entire experience at the theatre where guests feel a sort of connection to traditional story-telling and live stage. It’s a fantastic break from screen-time and an educational experience that’s rarely found these days. There was a twinkle in our sons’ eyes as they watched the opening scene…that first moment when they saw the horses gallop onto stage. Everyone is encouraged to use their imagination in a way that can’t be taught in school or on a device.
That brings us to the picnic experience. At Shaw Festival Theatre, you can pre-order a picnic lunch (sandwich of your choice, fruit, chips, a drink and fresh-baked cookies) that are ready for pick-up at intermission. You can even pick up a checkered picnic blanket at the theatre store and enjoy a peaceful lunch. Everything is fresh and made to order (and absolutely delicious).
It all ties back into the thoughtful experiences offered by the team at Shaw Festival Theatre. They’re always thinking of ways to get guests involved beyond the stage. You can check out more offerings here (there’s everything from events for aspiring actors to activities for show guests of all ages).
If you’re thinking of taking your family to the Shaw Festival Theatre, here are our insider tips:
- Check age-appropriateness of the show. There’s always something available for families so read through and find the right one!
- Arrive early! Find an ideal parking spot by arriving well before your showtime. Let the kids burn off some steam outdoors or on the second floor area so they’re ready to sit quietly during the performance.
- Attend the pre-show workshop so you and your family can get involved in the actual performance. Everyone is encouraged to yell out phrases and chants and enjoy a hearty belly-laugh. So don’t worry about keeping your kids quiet. The actors enjoying hearing from the audience and they feed off the energy.
- Leave the stroller behind! The theatre is family-friendly, but there’s no need for your stroller. Let the kids roam around, explore the outdoors, and walk about. It’s not a massive venue so little ones can handle the walk.
- Enjoy the picnic lunch! Our boys were so thrilled to receive their little brown bag. They dug through it as though it was Christmas morning and pulled out one delicious treat after another. They even offer peanut-butter and jelly (which was adorable).
- Come with full bellies! No food or drinks (besides water) are permitted in the actual theatre so make sure your kids are well fed and not looking for a snack. This might be a good time to have some hard candies or gum on hand if you’re children tend to snack during shows or movies (we opted for small TicTacs — no threat of choking).
- Enjoy the fresh outdoors. The Shaw Festival Theatre is located on a beautiful piece of land (in a scenic town) so leave time to enjoy the outdoors. Don’t rush. Run, stroll and bask in the small field etc.
- Plan a day to explore Niagara-on-the-Lake. There’s a lot to see and on the main strip. So leave time to grab an ice cream, browse the little shops or play in the nearby playground. Everything is within walking distance. It’s such a quaint, fairy-tale-like area. So take advantage of your escape back in time.
Overall, The Horse and his Boy was a perfect introduction to theatre for our kids. There are no scary scenes yet it’s still totally captivating. The energy in the audience (since participation is encouraged) really helps bring the experience to a new level.
We know we will be back for annual family shows and hopefully you get a chance to take your kids too.
If you have any specific questions about enjoying the Shaw Festival Theatre with young children, send us an email. As always, we’re happy to seek answers where we can.