Five Family-Friendly Activities in Birmingham, U.K.
Looking for an off-the-radar escape from the city of double-decker buses and red phone booths? In the United Kingdom, Birmingham is a mere two-hour drive from London, with its own collection of charming, kid-friendly activities that make a perfect weekend excursion. Since Birmingham is notorious for rainy days, a mix of indoor and outdoor activities give your family plenty of options when deciding what to do. Here's what's on—as the locals, or Brummies, would say—for families visiting the Birmingham area.
Get a Sugar High at Cadbury World
It's what any kid and most grown-ups dream of: An entire interactive experience dedicated to some of the most popular chocolate in the world. Cadbury World (Linden Rd., Bournville, Birmingham, U.K.) is located a couple of miles outside of Birmingham. It has free parking, making it a stress-free daytrip for families. The chocolate lover's paradise far surpasses a run-of-the-mill factory tour. Enter the Aztec Jungle to learn about the origins of the cocoa bean and visit the 4D Chocolate Adventure Zone. You can even watch the chocolatiers hone their craft and demonstrate traditional chocolate-making techniques. Since that's sure to stir your appetite, follow up with a stop at the World's Biggest Cadbury Shop to buy plenty of edible souvenirs to take home. Let the kids burn off their sugar rush at one of the play areas before driving home with happy hearts and full stomachs. Tickets should be booked in advance, and you can receive a discount for booking online; once you're in Cadbury World, all exhibits and activities are included with the price of entry.
Make Waves With the National Sea Life Centre
Submerge your family in life under the sea at the National Sea Life Centre (The Waters Edge, 3 Brindleyplace, Birmingham, U.K.). Get up close and personal with wacky and wonderful sea creatures, like Beverley, the resident Giant Pacific Octopus. Feeling brave? Try your hand at feeding a shark or start smaller by tickling a sea anemone. Take a break from walking by watching a movie at the 4D Cinema. Although the National Sea Life Centre does not have an on-site cafe, there are several options within a short walk, and re-entry is allowed as long as you have your hand stamped. Book tickets online to enjoy a discounted price: On weekdays, an adult with a toddler under age 5 enjoys a discounted ticket, and children under 3 visit for free.
Be a Brainiac at Thinktank
Warning: You might have even more fun than your children at this award-winning science museum. The Thinktank (Millennium Point, Curzon St., Birmingham, U.K.) provides a fun-packed day for children and grown-ups of all ages. Wander four full floors of interactive exhibits that cover the past, present and future. The Spitfire exhibit brings the history of World War II to life, while Kids' City shows children the science all around us in our everyday lives. Finish the day by looking forward in the Futures gallery, where you can even build your own alien. Take a break for lunch at the Thinktank Cafe on Level 0 near the train in the Move It exhibit. Children under 3 visit for free, but plan to spend a little extra if you decide to take in a show at the planetarium.
Walk on the Wild Side at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park
Got animal lovers in your family and a rare sunny day on your hands? Visit some of the world's most endangered animals at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park (Pershore Rd., Birmingham, U.K.). From red pandas to spider monkeys, from ocelots to sloths, your kids will be wowed at the wide variety of animals highlighted in this small park, and they'll love seeing them up close and personal. Several animals, like the Asian short-clawed otters and the European lynx, are fed between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Note that feeding times vary, so double-check on the park's website before your visit. Picnic tables and a soft play area are available for your own outdoor lunch when it's time for you and the children to chow down, too.
Get a Green Thumb at Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Sometimes, kids just need a dose of fresh air—even when it's cloudy outside, as it tends to be in Birmingham. When pent-up energy threatens to break loose, head to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Westbourne Rd., Birmingham, U.K.) to purchase a reasonably priced family ticket, which includes two adults and up to three children over the age of 5. Explore 16 acres of interactive exhibits and self-guided activity trails. Harry Potter fans will geek out over the Magical Plants trail, where they learn about the real-life plants that inspired J.K. Rowling's fantastical world. Wander through the glasshouses, home to exotic plants from the world's tropical, desert and Mediterranean climates. Or tiptoe through the Butterfly House, where you might get lucky enough to see a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens are open year-round, except on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, giving your family a bright, flower-filled escape even in winter.