Family Friendly Shakespeare Performances + Tips

To see, or not to see, that is the question: Whether 'tis comedy or tragedy; your budding Bard will be delighted to experience Shakespeare performances in an outdoor setting. Break out the picnic blanket for 4 great opportunities to catch quality Shakespeare performances for free that is engaging, accessible, and appealing equally to adults and children. 

Comedy of Errors


A mixture of mistaken identity, glorious romance, and families reunited,the show is perfect for a summer afternoon in the redwoods listening to some of the most beautiful words ever written!

Old Mill Park Amphitheatre , Mill Valley
Four Weekends including Labor Day Monday
August 20 - September 11
Pre-show starts at 1:40pm, show starts at 2:00 pm 

What I love about this production is the live music, fun set, engaging performance punctuated with the modern references, in a beautiful setting. It can get cool in the redwoods. The singing is terrific and laugh out loud funny. Chairs are provided. If your kid is getting fidgety, there is a playground and lovely creek to play in. This is a perfect first time Shakespeare experience. It's free, but plan on giving a donation, they do a fabulous job. 


Luminous and heartbreaking, tragic and gloriously funny, The Winter's Tale is the crowning achievement of Shakespeare's late career, a magical tale that swoops across continents, generations, and genres to its bittersweet and beautiful conclusion. King Leontes of Sicilia trusts his own paranoid beliefs against all evidence to the contrary, plunging his kingdom into a chain of tragedies - culminating in Shakespeare's most famous stage direction, "Exit pursued by a Bear." But in the play's darkest hour, a baby girl survives to grow up in the happy kingdom of Bohemia, ignorant of her noble past. Thanks to the wisdom of the Lady Paulina and the magic of theatre, Leontes learns that not all losses can be reversed, but redemption is possible.

Music, dance, and a trio of delightful clowns all make this romance a treat for the whole family.

Pleasanton: Amador Valley Community Park
(Santa Rita Rd & Black Ave)
July 2-17 on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm

Cupertino: Memorial Park Amphitheater
(Stevens Creek Blvd & Mary Ave)
July 23-Aug 7 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 pm

Redwood City: Grounds of Sequoia High School
(1201 Brewster Ave at Broadway)
Aug 13-28 on Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 4:00 pm

San Francisco: The Presidio’s Main Post Parade Ground Lawn
(between Graham St & Keyes Ave)
Sept 3-18 on Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day Monday at 2:00 pm

San Francisco: McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater
(40 John F. Shelley Dr)
Sept 24-Oct 2 on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm; PLUS: Sept 30, Friday at 10:00 am

What I love about this production is that these plays are always welcoming to families but this is a powerful subject and may not be suited to all young theatergoers. Bring a blanket to sit on. If you choose to bring your own chair, make sure it is a low-backed chair so the people behind you can see. 

As You Like It


As You Like It is a pastoral comedy that follows its heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, accompanied by her cousin Celia to find safety and, eventually, love, in the Forest of Arden. In the forest, they encounter a variety of memorable characters, notably the melancholy traveler Jaques who speaks many of Shakespeare's most famous speeches (such as "All the world's a stage" and "A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest"). Jaques provides a sharp contrast to the other characters in the play, always observing and disputing the hardships of life in the country.

Foundry Wharf Green: H & 2nd Street, Petaluma
September 16-18, 23-25, 30-October 1

The Taming

It’s 2016 and the Shrew that needs taming is the US Congress.  The Tamers?  Three intrepid women with very different points of view.  If this unholy trinity can form a more perfect union, then what’s stopping the rest of us?  Beloved local playwright Lauren Gunderson’s rollicking comedy tickles both brain and funny bone.

July 17, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day, youth 18 and under FREE

Twelfth Night

Shakespeare’s gender-bending comedy is full of eccentric romantics who fill Illyria with music, poetry, longing and deceit.  Shakespeare explores romantic love in all its guises and disguises in this hilarious and touching celebration of mischief and mirth.

August 7, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day, youth 18 and under FREE


This magnificently malign play is a complex portrait of trust, deceit, love, jealousy and rage as Shakespeare shows us a good man who is led to make some very bad choices.  Shakespeare’s classic story is by turns tender and brutal, radiant and ravishing. Because of the tragic nature of the play, this is best for older kids.

September 18, Sunday 4:00 pm – Family Day, youth 18 and under FREE

Tickets: General $35, Senior $32, Youth $10, Previews $12

Family Day Matinee allow anyone 18 and under in FREE. Some plays contain emotionally powerful subjects and may not be suited to all. Family Day Matinees have fun activities at 3:00 pm prior to the start of the show. 

Six Tips When Taking Kids To See Shakespeare

1. Age recommendations depends on your child. I started taking my daughter when she was 4. She's now 11 and looks forward to seeing these performances every year. She did not always follow the language but was able to follow the plot. Consider how long they can sit and be engaged.

2. Discuss the story in advance. Even though kids won't understand all the language, they can still follow the action. Preparing them will help them understand who the main characters are and what the story line is.

3. Eat, Drink and Be Merry. Bring a picnic or purchase it at the performance. However crunchy foods like chips and crackers can be very distracting to your neighbors. Try to refrain from eating this during the performance.

4. Mother Nature is watching. Keep your food covered whenever possible, and be sure to dispose of your trash and recyclables.

5. Dress appropriately. Don't forget water and sunscreen. 

6. Be courteous. We are so lucky to experience these plays along with our neighbors. Infants and toddlers are always welcome but at least one parent or guardian should be prepared to take a break with them outside the theatre space if needed.