Entertainment, Eating & Shopping
Thanet is blessed with having a number of theatres that put on a variety of professional and amateur shows, concerts and workshop activities throughout the year. Whether you want to be a spectator or participant there is something for everyone.
As an historical seaside resort providing evening entertainment for residents and visits, Margate still has three theatres – the Theatre Royal which is the second oldest theatre in the country, Tom Thumb which is the smallest and the Winter Gardens Theatre that produces a variety of entertainment and facilities - everything from big name artists to wedding functions.
The Theatre Royal
The historic Grade II listed Theatre Royal is worth a visit – if only to see the Baroque style interior and original features. It was initially built in 1787 and substantially refurbished in 1874 to become a Victorian theatre as opposed to a Georgian boxed playhouse. It is also famous for producing the first drama school in the country, opened by Sarah Thorne in 1885. You can see a variety of entertainment from music to comedy and amateur productions to a Christmas show. In latter years the theatre has become a magnet for the local communities and east Kent artists to develop and take part in artistic creativity. This includes regular workshops helping nurture a family friendly approach and improve the well being of the residents by involving them in various stage related activities.
The Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens opened in 1911 and included a concert hall, two wings and an amphitheatre. Initially music and dance was the main focus but in the 1920s the summer show came to Margate and has continued in various forms ever since. Even today there is great family entertainment available during the summer months, interspersed with a variety of artists such as Graham Norton, Jimmy Carr and David Essex as well as bands, theatrical productions and amateur dramatics. There is everything on offer throughout the year at the Winter Gardens - from wine tastings to Postman Pat!
During its heyday in the 1960s, the entertainers performing at the Winter Gardens read like a Who’s Who in entertainment. At that time you would have been able to see Helen Shapiro, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas and even the Beatles made an appearance early in their career. An event celebrated 50 years on this year (2013) with a terrific performance from the Bootleg Beatles.
Tom Thumb Theatre
For something really different take a trip to the Tom Thumb Theatre in Cliftonville. As one of the smallest theatres in the world it is inevitable that the entertainment can sometimes be a little off beat and quirky but it hosts a variety of theatre, music and comedy and is a family run arts venue. Originally a Victorian coach house, it was transformed into a theatre in 1984 so it is not just the entertainment that is slightly ‘alternative’. The design is an interesting mix of Japanese and Alpine architecture while the décor reminds one a little of an old fashioned Indian restaurant with velvet seats and flocked wallpaper. However, the recent addition of a somewhat ramshackle cocktails-out-of-jam-jars bar intriguingly named the Fin Bar, provides an added reason for a visit and definitely a place to relax during the interval.
Other evening activities
Margate has a plethora of bars and restaurants covering all tastes and budgets, from the delightful Italian/Greek Giorgios – run by the same Greek Cypriot family since the 1950s - between the clock tower and the high street, to the Indian style Ambrette in opposite the Turner Contemporary in the old Hoy public house to the magnificent Sands Hotel. There is also a nightclub called Kabuki above Giorgios restaurant and a casino called The Genting towards Cliftonville for later in the evening.
The Granville Theatre
You will find the charming Granville Theatre and cinema on the East Cliff, overlooking Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour. It provides great stage and screen entertainment with a selection of current films available and the theatre offering a very varied programme of professional and amateur theatre productions including plays, musicals, individual artists such as very popular local girl Mandy Winters and Chas and Dave. The highlight of the season is the Christmas Pantomime – adored by children and adults alike and, with Brenda Blethyn of ‘Vera’ fame as the patron, you might even want to become involved with the theatre as a ‘friend’ and/or helper.
The Kings’ Theatre is near the centre of town and provides shows and activities for the community such as the local ‘Make Me A Star’ competition, talks about Ramsgate’s history and a seniors’ club once a week.
In front of the Royal Harbour and the Ramsgate Marina, are a wonderful selection of bars, cafes and restaurants – from an intriguing Turkish restaurant, The Little Ships (formally Miles Bar) to the French restaurant, Bon Appetit on the upper terrace past the Temple Yacht Club on the other. In between you have many pavement eateries to peruse on sunny days or balmy summer evenings.
Sarah Thorne Theatre Club
You can’t really go wrong when the patrons of your theatre club are Judi Dench and David Suchet. The Sarah Thorne Theatre Club at the Memorial Theatre, Hilderstone Adult Education Centre in Broadstairs was formed to present quality professional plays, music and theatre in Broadstairs, creating a theatre available for local community use. From Gilbert and Sullivan to Murder Mystery Evenings, concerts to pantomimes and charity events to amateur theatricals, there is always something interesting on offer.
Sarah Thorne was talented and versatile actress and theatre manager in the mid to late 1800s and she went on to manage the Theatre Royal in Margate where she formed the first acting school in the country.
Restaurants and Bars
There are probably more restaurants and pubs to the square inch near the promenade at Broadstairs than anywhere else in Thanet. From the newly refurbished Charles Dickens pub and restaurant to the mix of Italian, Greek, Thai, Chinese and Indian along Albion Street and Harbour Street there is a restaurant or two just waiting for you. Wyatt and Jones offers a great breakfast after a walk along the beach while the Tartar Frigate upstairs restaurant does great Sunday lunches and 54 provides elegant dinners.
Westwood Cross Entertainment
Apart from great shopping Westwood Cross also provides excellent entertainment facilities. With its 10 screen Vue cinema offering all the latest releases and VIP seating you will never miss your favourite blockbuster. The nearby Grosvenor Casino G and Mecca Bingo provide for all your gaming needs. At Grosvenor you can enjoy roulette, blackjack and poker as well as popular slot machines such as Cleopatra and Lucky Lady’s Charm. As if that is not all there is a great bar and restaurant as well as a conference room. At Mecca Bingo there is plenty of fun to be had whether you are playing Cashline or Mecca Max while if you are feeling a little peckish there are a number of well known restaurants around the complex including Bella Italian , Nando’s, Ask, Frankie and Benny’s and nearby, the excellent value Toby Carvery, Canterbury Bell or the Hooden Horse.
Shopping in Thanet
Westwood Cross Shopping Centre
Whatever you want in terms of clothes, furniture and furnishings, electrical appliances, cosmetics and medicines, pet food and accessories, plants and gardening equipment you are likely to find it at Westwood Cross.
From DIY stores such as B & Q and Homebase to Debenhams, River Island, TK Maxx and a 70,000sq ft Primark as well as Currys / PC World to Laura Ashley and The Range your everyday requirements are more than taken care of.
The pedestrian arcade provides a vast array of high street stores and slightly further afield there is an ever expanding selection of large retail outlets including Matalan, Pets at Home, DFS and Halfords.
As if that was not enough, there are vast Tesco and Sainsbury supermarkets and not far away a large Asda and Lidl as well to cope with your regular domestic needs.
Broadstairs High Street
Includes a selection of individual shops from classy designer dresses, unusual card and present shops to art galleries and family owned furniture and furnishing shops. There is even a gorgeous wedding shop, a dolls house emporium and a wonderful old fashioned hardware shop – the sort you forgot existed and offers all those things you cannot buy in a modern DIY centre
Ramsgate High Street
Includes a mixture of high street stores from Waitrose and Wilkinsons to Peacocks and New Look as well as both budget and upmarket individual shops selling a variety of items including cameras and jewellery.
Every Friday there is an excellent street market in the town with stalls offering a wide variety of goods from inexpensive clothes, toys and gadgets to very competitively priced flowers and plants. It is just the place to buy those little extra gifts.
Margate Old Town Shopping
There are a range of art and craft style shops where you can buy unique handmade goods or pictures while in the centre of town there are a variety of high street stores including Boots, Peacocks, and New Look as well as a selection of somewhat unusual shops such as the special Margate Pop Up shops, jewellery and camera shops.
Cliftonville, Northdown Road
One of the longest shopping roads in the country is Northdown Road which has many privately owned shops which have been in the same family for decades. These include Lovely’s Art Gallery, Cliffs Records and the Margate office of Cooke & Co Estate Agents.
It also caters for the bargain hunters with plenty of second hand furniture stores, mobile phone shops and you will also find a Tesco Metro with parking and Aldi for all your grocery requirements.
Westgate, Station Road
With its Edwardian canopied shopping parade Station Road, Westgate includes antique centres, old fashioned emporia and a delightful bridal shop and as well as everything you need in the day-to-day grocery line.
For anyone looking for a bit of pampering there are a plethora of hair and beauty salons throughout Thanet – whether you want the best in nail art or an Afro hairdo, there is everything on offer. Indeed, in Broadstairs alone there are more than 25 hair and beauty salons!
Birchington Station Road
The high street in Birchington has two supermarkets as well as a mix of individual shops - including clothes, pet and gift shops. You can also buy fabrics, flowers and there is an excellent budget bathroom shop and a wonderful fireplace centre offering everything you need to create that special hearth.