Britain's second-largest city, Birmingham – dubbed the 'Workshop of the World' in Victorian times for its position at the heart of the Industrial Revolution – is enjoying a revival, not least as a fabulous shopping destination. But it's not all about the retail therapy – a wide choice of cultural and entertainment options make it a great place for family breaks, backed up by some interesting places to stay and a huge choice of restaurants, whether your taste runs to burger or baltis, or a little of both.
Things to do with kids in Birmingham
Go back in time at the National Trust Back to Back Housing, a beautifully restored 19th-century courtyard of working people's houses, evoking the experiences of the people who lived and worked here from 1840 to 1977, with each interior reflecting the cultures, religions and professions of the families who made their homes here.
Head for Cannon Hill Park and the Birmingham Nature Centre, home to meerkats, lemurs and otters plus a collection of endangered reptiles. It's also a great spot for a picnic.
Run free in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses, with famous glasshouses, a museum, an adventure playground, and a children's discovery garden.
Expand your minds at thinktank, an ultra-modern science museum with more than 200 interactive displays, a planetarium, and a Science Garden and adjoining Kids' Park. The same building houses an IMAX cinema with the largest screen in the Midlands.
Head for Cadbury World – your children won't let you not go, when they've seen the flyers or signs for the 14-zoned visitor attraction. There's plenty of chocolate to be eaten and the chance to see it being made, plus interesting social history to be discovered.
Spend a couple of hours at the National Sea Life Centre. It's not huge, but kids love the glass tunnel through a 1-million-litre ocean tank, where giant green sea turtles, black tip reef sharks and tropical reef fish swim inches from your head.
Discover the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, a well-received free attraction offering guided tours through the original Smith & Pepper factory plus live demonstrations at the jeweller’s bench. The Quarter itself is also home to the The Pen Museum, several art galleries, more than 100 jewellery shops and some 200 listed historic buildings, making it a great place for a stroll.
Investigate the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where you can find out about creative techniques from painting, woodcarving, bronze-casting, drawing and etching to weaving, pottery, jewellery-making and the process of stained glass, and watch artists talking about their work while demonstrating artistic processes on interactive TV screens.
Explore the surrounding West Midlands, also comprising Dudley with its Black Country Living Museum, an urban heritage park based around a village dating back to industrial Britain, and the counties of Staffordshire with its themeparks Drayton Manor Park and Alton Towers, and Go Ape! Tree Top Adventure site in Cannock Chase. Warwickshire, home to Warwick Castle and Stratford-Upon-Avon, Worcestershire, with the West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park, Herefordshire and Shropshire.
Central Birmingham is packed with family-friendly chains, especially in and around the Bullring and the Mailbox. A little further afield, picturesque Brindley Place by the canals (home to the National Sea Life Centre) has lots of restaurants, or head for Birmingham's famous Balti Triangle in the south of the city (Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Moseley).
Sea Life Centre.
When to go to Birmingham
Birmingham is a year-round destination, but bear in mind that some of the attractions in the surrounding West Midlands are seasonal.
Ice skating at Christmas.
Birmingham can be a good-value spot for a city-break but also a great place for a splurge.
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