Skip to main content

Dad Discovers... Birmingham

Let's all go and spend a day in Birmingham! Said literally no one ever. But being brave and adventurous we leapt into the unknown and became the first family in history to do a day trip to Birmingham. Probably.

In truth, despite having done a lot of international travel I still hadn't visited the UK's second biggest city and had no real idea of what there was to see (other than Brummies). What with it also being the nearest city to us after London, I felt this was a bit shameful and it was time to rectify the situation.

Getting There

Fortunately at around the same time we were looking into this, there was a sale on with Virgin Trains and we'd managed to pick up some cheap tickets on a fast train. The Boy LOVES trains, so this was a perfect opportunity to get him on one, whilst not being a long enough journey for him to terrorise everyone on the carriage.

So having arrived at the swanky redeveloped New Street Station, our first destination was Brindley Place, at the heart of Birmingham's canal district. Having determined that the front entrance of the station would take us in the wrong direction, we headed out the back only to immediately get lost around some of Birmingham's less glamorous back streets. After weaving our way under an even less glamorous motorway tunnel and through a car park, we eventually found ourselves in a lovely canal district full of bridges and restaurants.

Brindley Place

Brindley Place
Having finally arrived, the first issue we had was trying to cross to the other side of the canal with the pram. Though there are lots of bridges you can only get on them by going up or down steps. Our search for some kind of ramp up took us about four bridges further than where we wanted to be, and even then still involved us having to get up a handful of steps. We had similar issues on the way back, and decided it would be easier to carry the pram down the stairs. There was a lift on one side of the canal that was designed to help with part of this, but this was out of order when we visited so the area can be tricky for people with prams and wheelchairs.

Though very pretty, having thought the area might be something like Camden or Shoreditch we were a bit disappointed to find it was actually more like Canary Wharf. Much of it was dominated by big corporate buildings and away from the actual canal there isn't much for visitors to see except the Ikon Art Gallery and the Sea Life Centre. The canalside restaurants all belonged to large chains, but nevertheless we settled outside a Pitcher and Piano and enjoyed our lunch whilst watching the narrow boats and the people go by.

City Centre

Victoria Square
After struggling again to get out of the area with the pram (which involved us cutting through the International Convention Centre so we could use their lift), we found ourselves amongst a huge building site. It turns out that an large area previously known as Paradise Circus had been pretty much flattened and a £500m redevelopment project was taking place. We came across various other redevelopment areas during the day, but if anything it made me think that this was a city that was on the up. Once past this though, Birmingham has some beautiful grand old buildings including Birmingham Town Hall and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, both situated on Victoria Square.

Thinktank

Thinktank
We wound our way through the city centre and out the other side to another new development called Birmingham Eastside to visit something called Thinktank.

Thinktank is Birmingham's science museum, and prides itself on having a lots for kids of all ages to see and do. Our first challenge was to find our way into the place, which involved entering a relatively unmarked university building and making our way up to the 2nd floor (this time with lifts!) to find the entrance. For one of Birmingham's main visitor attractions it seems strangely hidden away.

Once in though, Thinktank was great. It has four floors of exhibits including a Spitfire exhibition, a planetarium, some massive industrial steam engines, classic cars, a full-size steam train and an interesting interactive exhibit about science, technology and medicine. Of most interest to my two year-old though, was Kids' City. This consisted of a Biggleton-style town for kids including mini shops and offices that they can play in as well as corresponding outfits that they can dress up in to look the part. There are even working phones so that they can call their friends in different offices and a water play area which are all a lot of fun for little ones.

Finally, just outside the museum is the Science Gardens (which strangely you can only access by going back up to the second floor to get out of the museum, then back down to the ground floor to get out of the building, and then back through the gate). This contained more water play areas as well as interactive displays where kids can run on a giant hamster wheel, launch a bottle rocket or learn how to use pulleys to lift themselves off the ground.

The Boy loved all this, and it was lovely that there was lots to entertain him despite him only being two.

We finished up with an ice cream from the cafe, headed through the huge Bullring Shopping Centre back to the station, and boarded the train back home. The Boy had had a good day out and I could finally say I'd been to Birmingham. Bostin.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dad Discovers... The First Few Hours

A Baby "Congratulations!" said the midwife, placing a tiny lump of wrinkly grey flesh on my wife's chest. I was a dad. After nine-and-a-bit months of pregnancy and many hours of labour here was a small person that we had made. A whole life that we'd just created from thin air. I looked at him as he slowly turned from grey to pink, and he looked at me with his dark eyes, sizing me up with an expression that said "So you're going to be my dad then huh? Interesting." I looked at his tiny hands and wrinkled fingers and he gripped my own finger with his hand. I was a dad. We stayed in the hospital for a while longer, I did my first nappy change and despite having prepared for his arrival for a very long time, we just looked at him in slight disbelief that he was there at all.
Leaving Eventually, the medical staff told us we were being discharged and could all go home. By this time he'd been dressed in his first little babygrow and looked much more like …

Dad Discovers... CBeebies

CBeebies is great. Until you have kids you'll probably never have any cause to watch it, but once you do you'll be thankful for the BBC for creating it. It's brilliant. There are, of course, loads of other kids channels out there from CITV to Nickelodeon, Disney Channel to Baby TV, but most depend on a paid subscription of some kind, are predominantly American in content, and are bursting with adverts. CBeebies on the other hand is free (sort of), has no adverts and can generally be relied upon to serve up several hours of good quality content for your sprog.

Needless to say there's a lot of different programmes out there, but these are my current personal Top 10 CBeebies shows.

10) Justin's House The almost reincarnation of Emu's Pink Windmill Show, hosted by the undisputed king of toddler TV, Justin Fletcher. He pops up all over the place on CBeebies but this one is the most fun.

9) Baby Jake Oh look, this family live in a windmill! Ah, here's each membe…

Dad Discovers... Soft Play

“A dungeon horrible, on all sides round… No light; but rather darkness visible served only to discover sights of woe” 
- Description of Hell in ‘Paradise Lost’ by John Milton.
A Great Idea Soft play establishments were one of those things that I was vaguely aware of before having kids, without actually having any interest in. It’s a bit like the way that I’m aware of cricket, ITV Be and Luxembourg and have nothing against them but have no plans on giving them any of my attention.
Flash forward to the present and I’m sitting at home with a small energetic child, it’s raining outside and we desperately need to get him out of the house for a bit. Then we remember that there are mythical play lands specially designed for small children. They have a cafĂ© too, so what’s not to like? We decide to give it a try. Remote for a Reason What sets the tone for these places very early on is their location. Something conveniently located in town? Nope. Something in a leafy suburb overlooking a park? …