The second city might not have the best reputation and isn’t on everybody’s list of top places for a day trip, but as a born and bred Brummie I am proud to say it definitely has a lot going for it.
My kids have always relished the prospect of a trip into “town” (as all Brummies call the city centre) especially if it involves a bus or train journey.
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) has a lot to offer for everyone and its FREE! Often during a school holiday we take a trip to Birmingham city centre and it will invariably involve a visit to the BMAG which has special events and workshops to suit children and adults of all ages. Even if there are no special events, the museum has a wide range of exhibitions from the Pre-Raphaelite classics to the Egyptians which has a real life mummy! There is also a great exhibition looking at the history of Birmingham, including interactive maps and a play kitchen circa 1950.
The other main museum that we visit is Thinktank which is Birmingham’s science museum. You can spend the whole day here, as there is so much to see, from the science garden to the planetarium. There are interactive exhibits about recycling, how the body works and inventions through the years, which my kids love. There is also the oldest working steam engine in the world, the spitfire gallery and some fascinating dinosaur skeletons.
For under 8’s there is a role play area called Mini Brum which features famous landmarks such as the canals, Selfridges and Old Joe Clock Tower. Here children can pretend to visit the dentist, post office and cafe while you can grab yourself some refreshments from The Coffee Corner.
Unfortunately, this museum isn’t free but at the time of writing it is £37.50 for a family ticket for up to 4 people, very reasonable for a day out and educational to boot.
Birmingham city centre has had a lot of money spent on it recently, connecting the different areas, making it easy to walk from one side to the other without braving the under passes that used to exist. There are now broad pedestrianised walk ways to get from the Symphony hall to the Bullring shopping centre which take you past some of the nicest buildings in the city centre.
A good way we found to get the children excited about walking around the city centre and seeing the sights is to buy a treasure trail, which has clues to solve as you explore different areas of the centre of Birmingham. They take about 2 – 3 hours to complete and my top tip is to take a break at one of the many cafes along the way to refocus and refuel.
Our Favourite Cafes
Medicine Bakery – An independent bakery that has amazing cakes and pastries but also offers great brunch and lunch options.
Damascena – Middle Eastern Coffee shop which now has five branches across Birmingham.
Yorks Cafe – Lovely little independent coffee shop right next to New Street Station.
The central library in Birmingham was rebuilt in 2013 and is one of the largest in the world. It is an impressive building from outside and sits in Centenary Square. This square has a new fountain which children love to splash in during the summer as the water jets shoot up from the ground. The library has a lovely children’s section downstairs where you can cosy up and read a book in a comfy corner or attend one of the many workshops and story sessions.
If you take the escalators up stairs you are greeted by some very impressive huge book cases that are home to books dating from the 12th century to present day. The library consists of 10 floors and near the top are two roof top terraces which have panoramic views over the city. Its a great place for the kids to run around and let off some steam, ours love the maze like planting and love playing hide and seek.
Birmingham famously has more canals than Venice, although some of them may not be as picturesque. However, there are lots of areas of the city centre where the canals have been regenerated and they now form a very attractive focal point.
The Mailbox, the old Royal Mail sorting house, is now full of up market shops and has restaurants and bars overlooking the canal, the perfect spot on a sunny afternoon. From here you can walk alongside the canal to Brindley Place, which again has lots of bars and restaurants to suit everybody’s taste. The Canal House is a favourite of ours for relaxed dinning right next to the canal, it was once the Old Wharf where narrowboats dropped off and picked up their load.
Outside The City Centre
We have spent many happy hours wandering around Sutton Park which definitely doesn’t feel like you are in the middle of a city. Our girls’ favourite thing to do is choose their own route, as the network of paths is so extensive there are many options and this freedom makes it feel like an adventure.
To the south of the city you can visit the Lickey Hills which offer great views over the city. Its the perfect place for a family day out if you are staying in Birmingham and has lots to offer including a visitors centre with a cafe, gift shop and toilets. Lickey Hills Country Park is no where near as big as Sutton Park but its elevated position is what draws people in, as well as being very accessible. It has 13 different walks with something for everyone, from seasoned walkers to those with mobility issues.
Laura loves travelling across the UK and abroad. She has two children and a husband who are often her travel companions. Beach holidays, cosy cottages, treehouse adventures and brunching are just a few of her favourite ways to spend her travel time.