Birmingham offers a huge choice when it comes to finding fun and free days out with the kids.
The UK’s second largest city, Birmingham has an array of museums guaranteed to appeal to their sense of wonder, plus a whole host of green spaces for energetic kids to let off some steam.
Here’s our guide to things to do and places to go in and around Birmingham, based on recommendations from local parents in the know.
Places To Picnic
Birmingham is home to nearly 600 parks, but Cannon Hill Park came top in parents’ recommendations.
“Cannon Hill Park is beautiful and one of my favourite places to visit with my family during the weekends,” says Emma Conway, otherwise known as blogger BrummyMummyof2 and mum to daughter Erin, seven, and son Ethan, five.
“There’s a nature centre, a lake, beautiful flowers, the MAC (Midlands Arts Centre with free entry) and some lovely playground areas.”
But, she suggests avoiding one part, or coming with a few quid: “There is a tiny toddler fair there all year round.”
New mum Muna Saleh always makes a beeline for Canon Hill with her five-month-old daughter Khatra. “There’s something for all ages - from watching the ducks to playing in the playground with nice clean picnic areas to relax in,” she says.
While Carly Joseph, mum to Marissa, two, and four-month-old Brody, says: “We live right by Sutton Park Nature Reserve near Sutton Coldfield. There are organised toddler walks every couple of weeks with the rangers, which are brilliant.”
Blogger Emma also recommends Sheldon Country Park: “It’s a little farm and also you can view the airplanes taking and landing off from the airport, which my kids love.”
Places To Run Free And Have Adventures
Lickey Hills Country Park is 10 miles south west of Birmingham and makes a lovely day out. A beautiful setting with walking, clambering and cycling trails, there’s also a children’s adventure playground that’s just the exciting side of scary. Families can also play on the tri-golf course and borrow rounders equipment and other games from the visitor centre. The view from Beacon Hill over the surrounding countryside is fabulous, and well worth the walk up.
At Sandwell Valley Country Park, just a mile from West Bromwich centre, there’s a fantastic adventure playground with climbing nets, a suspension bridge and a high-speed zip wire, as well as a water play area to cool off in.
‘Lord of the Rings’ enthusiasts may enjoy seeing JRR Tolkien’s favourite childhood play place (and the inspiration for the Old Forest) at Moseley Bog.
Places For Hands-On Fun
Get your kids off their screens and behind the scenes of TV at BBC Birmingham on level 7 of the Mailbox. You can have a go at presenting the news or weather, take a tour of the studios, watch presenters live on air and have a photo taken with the TARDIS or a Dalek. There’s no need to book.
Martineau Gardens is a community garden that’s a lot more than some raised beds and home-grown herbs and tomatoes, although keen mini gardeners are encouraged to help out. There’s a woodland, a nature trail, children’s play area, wildflower meadows, ponds, beehives and a bird hide.
The Science Garden at Thinktank is an outdoor discovery space with 30 hands-on exhibits, including a human-sized hamster wheel and a square wheeled wagon. Give them all a whirl any day from 3pm to 5pm, when the Science Garden is free to enter.
Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary in Sutton Coldfield offers plenty of petting opportunities. The centre currently has 18 donkeys who are either out in the paddocks or in the yards, depending on the weather. Check the website before going for entry times.
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in Chamberlain Square is free to enter, although there are charges for temporary exhibitions. The museum is home to the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, as well as rooms dedicated to ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt.
The big hit this summer is Dippy on Tour, the 21 metre-long Diplodocus turfed out of the Natural History Museum (in favour of Hope, a Blue Whale skeleton) and the centrepiece of a whole exhibition showing how some dinosaurs evolved into birds. Tickets are free (until 9 September) but must be booked in advance.
There’s a special Dippy family space for younger children to do dino-themed jigsaws, dressing up and colouring in, while the Mini Museum is specifically designed for under fives, with storybooks, games and dressing up as an introduction to the museum’s art and history exhibitions.
Kids will love admiring the fangs of Smilodon, a sabre-tooth tiger at Lapworth Museum of Geology in the Aston Webb Building at Birmingham University. There are fossils galore, including the imaginatively named Roary, the young allosaurus.
Beaches In Birmingham (yes, indeed)
Birmingham may be landlocked in the middle of the UK, but you can still get out your bucket and spade at a number of man-made pop-up beaches every summer. They include the Costa del Solihull urban beach at the Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull, which runs through the summer holidays.
Alternatively, Bosworth Water Park at Market Bosworth, Nuneaton, is hugely popular with a golden sand beach, lakes, 50 acres of parkland to explore and and a pirate adventure playground.