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 ThereFortunately 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.
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.
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.