10 Things for Families to do in Birmingham
When people think of Birmingham, they may think of it as a concrete jungle, the centre of the Industrial Revolution and the home of Ozzy Osbourne’s metal band Black Sabbath.
Whilst this is all true, it is also what a lot of Brummie locals would call ‘bostin” (Brummie dialect for ‘very good’!) Brum has one of the biggest green spaces in Europe, a real-life chocolate factory that would make Willy Wonka jealous and is a vibrant multi-cultural city, full of exciting things to do with your family, whether your little ones are explorers, historians or animal mad! (It’s not just a shopping centre with a bull statue!)
Here are my top attractions and suggestions for fun-filled days out with the family, all found in ‘land-locked’ Birmingham:
For the animal-mad:
Located on a beautiful stretch of canal in the city centre (we have more canals than Venice, don’t you know?), Sea Life is perfect for kids of any age. Learn about the sea horse breeding programme, get hands-on with the starfish, goggle at the sting rays and try and ‘find’ Nemo and Dory, but don’t believe the rumours that the sharks live in the canal (like I used to when I was a kid!) Oh and there’s penguins too!
Not far from the city centre is an array of exotic animals, set in the grounds of a 13th century castle. So while you’re here exploring the lemurs and lions, book yourself in for a ghost tour around the castle ruins (once featured on TV’s Most Haunted). It’s worth checking if there’s an event on before you go, because sometimes the spooky castle crypt is used for interactive shows and talks, perfect for little ones to learn all about the animals.
Just on the outskirts of the city centre, this is a little smaller than Dudley Zoo, but still has a vast collection of species on show, including red pandas, lemurs, reptiles and monkeys. Follow the map to explore all of what there is to offer, but don’t miss out on the massive play area to finish off your day. You can even picnic with the pigs! It is right next door to Cannon Hill Park and the Mac centre, so you may need a couple of days to fully appreciate what this area of Brum has to offer!
For the explorers:
Just six miles out of the city centre will bring you to the suburb of Sutton Coldfield, home to one of the biggest green spaces in Europe (apparently!). Here you can grab an ice cream, feed the ducks, ride a bike, fly a kite, have a kick-about, play on the swings and even visit the Donkey Sanctuary (small fee applies). Just watch out for the free-roaming cows- I nearly got injured by one once!
- Sandwell Park Farm, Forge Mill Farm and RSPB Nature Reserve-
Located in Sandwell Valley, where you can also find many outdoor activities such as, mini golf, high ropes and mini boat racing, you will find Sandwell Park Farm. The farm is a restored Victorian farm, complete with kitchen gardens and a tea room. There’s plenty for the kids to do and see here and you can also pop across to Forge Mill Farm to admire their herd of dairy cows, before strolling around the RSPB Nature Centre, as they are all close-by and pocket-money-friendly.
Opening Summer 2018, Birmingham is welcoming this new Lego-tastic attraction. Just a stone’s throw across the canal from the Sea Life Centre, you find Arena Birmingham, which will house this exciting attraction for ages 3-300. Kids (and adults) can get hands-on with the famous bricks and let their imaginations run wild in the interactive discovery zones and mini village.
In the village of Bournville, lies a chocoholic’s dream. Feast your eyes upon the infamous chocolate factory, explore how it all began, learn about the brand and even ride through a chocolate wonderland (I promise there are no oompa-lumpas!) Pre-booking is essential, so don’t miss out. Did I mention there was free chocolate?
From the Egyptians to the Pre-Raphelites (the most important collection of pre-Raphelite art in the world), indulge in a free day out for the family at BMAG. Explore the free exhibitions and learn all about the Staffordshire Hoard and the history of Birmingham in the interactive galleries. A visit to the Edwardian tea-room is essential.
Even though a lot of locals were sad to see the old library demolished, it has paved the way for this brand-new state-of-the-art multi-purpose library- and it’s another free day out for families. Explore the vibrant children’s zone downstairs, but there are many floors for the adults to explore too. The Shakespeare room at the top of the library is a must.
Catch a show at one of the many theatres Brum has to offer. For opera, ballet and West-end musicals on tour, try the Hippodrome in the vibrant ‘China-town’ of Birmingham. The Rep is located next to the library and Symphony Hall, whilst the Alexandra Theatre is near the newly-rejuvenated Grand Central train station and John Bright Street. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, The Crescent is near the canal off Broad Street and Brindley Place. There is always something on, so check the websites of all theatres to book a show!
These are just a few of the attractions on offer in Birmingham. I haven’t even mentioned ThinkTank science museum and the historical Jewellery Quarter or creative Custard Factory area of Digbeth, but there are also many neighbouring attractions, set in the Midlands. Try the quaint market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, and visit his family homes and Mary Arden’s farm nearby. Or if you like a bit of history, Birmingham is surrounded by castles and Kenilworth, Warwick and Ludlow are again a short drive away, with plenty for kids to see and do. Just make sure you don’t run out of time!
@Mamasaurus87 has lived in Birmingham for all thirty years of her life. Follow her blog or on Instagram and Twitter for an honest account of parenting through the eyes of first-time mother.