I grew up an hour from Birmingham. But while I couldn’t wait to explore the world, it wasn’t until I had my own daughter that I properly paid attention to what was on my doorstep and started exploring all the things to do in Birmingham with kids.
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A great spot for a city break, there are a string of family-friendly attractions to tempt year-round, including the Birmingham Christmas market in winter. So if you’re considering an easy short break, this is all the motivation you need to book a trip – from museums and penguins to chocolate and Lego!
Because as the past few years have reminded us, you don’t need a long-haul flight to discover somewhere completely new, with so much travel inspiration closer to home too… starting with my pick of the best things to do in Birmingham with kids.
National SeaLife Centre Birmingham
Growing up in the Midlands, you’re pretty much as far from the sea as you can be on our island – but a visit to this fantastic aquarium is no sorry second best and one of my favourite things to do in Birmingham with kids.
Frankly, the Birmingham SeaLife centre at Brindleyplace beats more than a few windswept beaches, especially in winter, as you can touch starfish in an interactive rockpool, see sharks and rays, a giant turtle in a 360 degree ocean tunnel and spy seahorses.
Pirates are coming to SeaLife Birmingham this summer, with a special Pirate treasure hunt from July 9 to September 4. Take on the challenge to help Captain Careless, collect trading cards, meet the crew and win a prize at the end. For a challenge on sea AND land, buy a joint ticket to find more pirates at Birmingham Legoland Discovery Centre on the same dates
Check out my review of our visit to the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham – the revamped penguin area has also now reopened.
The revitalised old canals are just on the doorstep too, with a string of family-friendly restaurants around Brindleyplace and towards The Cube and the Mailbox along with some of the many family-friendly hotels in Birmingham.
For another stylish place to stay in Birmingham that’s also good for families, check out my review of the Birmingham Radisson Blu hotel
Legoland Discovery Centre, Birmingham
Lego plus Lego-inspired fun makes this one of the best places in the UK if you love getting hands on with the bricks. There are three rides as well, plus a 4D cinema, but the big highlight for most kids (of all ages) is getting to create in the 10 Lego build and play zones.
Aimed at children aged three to 12, the Legoland Discovery Centre also has special activities for under-fives (and those aged under three are free) plus a Duplo Farm.
Pirates are coming to Birmingham Legoland Discovery Centre this summer, with a special Pirate treasure hunt from July 9 to September 4. Take on the challenge to help Captain Careless, collect trading cards, meet the crew and win a prize at the end. For a challenge on sea AND land, buy a joint ticket to find more pirates at Birmingham SeaLife Centre on the same dates
Or enjoy the Miniland city, made from 1.5 million bricks, as well as master builder workshops.
You can buy combination tickets for the Legoland Discovery Centre and Sealife Centre opposite, saving up to 40% on the on-the-door price – click here to book
Science museums have changed dramatically since I was young – award-winning Thinktank has more than 200 hands-on displays, a 4k Planetarium, outdoor Science Garden, interactive We Made It gallery and Our Changing Planet for older kids.
For younger kids, there’s also MiniBrum, an interactive gallery that’s a miniature version of the everyday world, aimed at the under eights. This mini city puts kids in charge (similar to children’s museum Eureka) with different play zones including a construction site, shops and park, as well as sensory areas for babies.
Inside the museum at the Millennium Point building, you can also discover talking robots, a chocolate wrapping machine and plenty of other displays focused around science, technology and the natural world.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Ideal if you’re looking for free things to do in Birmingham with kids, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (aka BMAG) is well worth a visit, even if there had been an entrance fee!
The highlight with kids is the Staffordshire Hoard – some of the Saxon pieces discovered in a field in Staffordshire and split between the museum here and another in Stoke-on-Trent.
As well as the replica golden helmet, there’s fascinating background on how archaeologists restored the ancient pieces (using thorns to get the caked on mud off, for example) and chances to get hands on, dressing up, feeling the weight of different swords and playing nine men’s morris, as well as marvelling at the intricate golden decoration and cloisonne jewellery.
You’ll also find galleries on the Ancient Egyptians, Greek and Romans – including a beginner’s guide to Egyptian gods – as well as different religions and beliefs, plus activities and crafts during school holidays.
The littlest visitors will love the Mini Museum, with displays on animals, more dressing up and even some soft play.
Plus there’s art both modern and classic, a fabulous collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, and other galleries on Birmingham itself. Throw in the impressive Edwardian tea room and some rather handy lockers for bags (bring a pound coin) and it’s easy to stay much longer than you intended.
BBC Birmingham’s Public Space at The Mailbox
An unexpected must – kids (and grown-ups) can have their photo taken with the Doctor Who Tardis or step behind the Strictly Come Dancing desk to try out their most cutting criticisms among other opportunities to try being on TV.
There are also outfits and memorabilia to see at BBC Visitor Centre at The Mailbox along with BBC Children’s Apps for younger visitors to try out – temporarily closed.
Sadly the behind-the-scenes tours – which shared how a programme gets from script to screen – are no longer running.
Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park
Just south of the city centre, you can find red pandas, lemurs and monkeys, not to mention iguanas, snakes and lynx, at the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park (previously known as the Nature Centre).
With information on their conservation work, it’s great for older kids to learn a bit more about the world as well as some animal spotting plus there’s also a play area on the site. Several buses run from the city centre and tickets should be prebooked.
Scroll down for more ideas of things to do nearby at Cannon Hill Park
Is it possible to mention a city break to Birmingham with kids and not suggest a visit to Cadbury World? Easily one of the top things kids would like to do if you’re in Birmingham, it’s probably on more than a few adult wishlists too.
Just a bit further south of the city than the Wildlife Conservation Park, you can watch chocolatiers at work, chase a giant Crème egg, ride a Crunchie rollercoaster on a 4D experience, design your own packaging, and learn a bit more as you trace chocolate’s history and arrival to Europe.
Plus there’s the world’s biggest Cadbury’s shop to finish, plus other chocolate experiences to try.
Selly Manor Museum
Step back in time and experience what Tudor life in Birmingham was once like at the Selly Manor Museum. The museum is located in Bournville, near Cadbury World, and has close links to the Bournville Family themselves.
Set inside two beautiful Tudor homes, kids can enjoy dressing up in traditional costumes, trying on real armour, and handling historic objects. The family-friendly museum also has a variety of fun trails you can follow, as well as printable activity sheets and themed word games.
Plus, keep an eye on their calendar for special events throughout the year, from half-term Halloween fun to Christmas crafts and more.
Birmingham Back to Backs
Also known as Court 15, the Back to Backs are four conserved houses covering life from the 1840s through to the 1970s, set around at 19th century courtyard.
Once common across the city, it’s now Birmingham’s last surviving court of back to backs – houses built back to back around their communal courtyard.
Designed as they would have been when they were inhabited, right down to fires in the grates and some sounds and smells of the past, it’s a fascinating look at what life was once like for many families.
At present, you can only visit with prebooked tickets for a guided tour, so it’s better for older kids than preschoolers – the groups are a maximum of six, and take around an hour (allow up to 90 minutes for the whole visit).
Cannon Hill Park
If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to escape the bustling city centre on a sunny day, head south to sprawling Cannon Hill Park.
The 250-acre green space is the most popular park in Birmingham and has plenty of things to see and do to keep the little ones occupied for a few hours, quite apart from the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park (above) which is also based here.
Head out onto the large boating lake on a swan pedal boat, take a ride around the large scenic park on the land train, or enjoy a game of mini-golf at Golden Putter. There’s even a small fairground with a few fun rides and games for toddlers to 10-year-olds.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Outdoorsy families shouldn’t miss a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Not only will you get to explore the beautiful gardens and buildings, many of which date back to the early 1800s, but there are also plenty of fun family-friendly activities to enjoy.
You can hire a family activity backpack, which is bursting with creative activities and resources to help kids make the most of the gardens. Depending on the theme you pick, the backpacks come with activity sheets, colouring pens, magnifying glasses, binoculars, bug pots and more.
There are several fun and educational trails for children to follow. Don’t miss the Magical Plants trail where you can discover the real magical plants that inspired JK Rowling’s Harry Potter.
The Botanical Gardens also put on loads of family-friendly events and exhibitions throughout the year – previously the Jurassic Encounters event even saw huge dinosaurs roaming the gardens, while there’s often outdoor theatre for kids during the summer.
The Bear Grylls Adventure
Launched a couple of years ago, The Bear Grylls Adventure is one of the newest and coolest adventure activities in Birmingham for kids and adults alike. As long as you’re an adrenaline-junkie!
Opened by the adventurer himself, the unique activity centre has many daring activities to choose from, including shooting, archery, escape rooms, high ropes, climbing walls, indoor skydiving, shark diving, and a Royal Marines-inspired assault course.
You can book individual activities separately from around £20, or splash out for a multi-pass and spend the whole day taking part in several different challenges. The minimum age for most activities is 8+, while shooting and diving are both 10+.
Birmingham Treasure Hunt Trail
If you’re looking to explore the city, swap a standard guided tour for a treasure hunt through Birmingham with kids.
There’s a great self-guided sightseeing treasure hunt designed to work on your phone, with a pirate captain setting challenges and clues to solve along the way.
Or check out the themed Treasure Trails of Birmingham, with several different options including the chance to explore the canals with the whole family working together to find clues located on buildings and monuments around Birmingham, as well as learning some fascinating facts about the city.
At just over a mile, the Red Rag to a Bull trail, is an easy one with younger kids – you go at your own pace, but allow around an hour.
For more tips, Visit Birmingham has some great suggestions
*First published 2014, last updated 2022*
PIN FOR LATER: THINGS TO DO IN BIRMINGHAM WITH KIDS
ThinkTank image courtesy of Marketing Birmingham, Botanical Gardens/Back to Backs courtesy Make it West Midlands, chocolate image courtesy of Adobe Stock, all others copyright MummyTravels