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Best Free Things to do With Kids in Birmingham

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In the heart of England, Birmingham is the second largest city in the United Kingdom, and for some, a surprisingly engaging tourist destination. It has excellent rail and road links, and is known for industry, shopping, canals, and jewellery as well as its distinctive “Brummie” accent.

Parts of the city are unexpectedly green and pleasant, and it has a vibrancy and quirky sense of humour amidst its gorgeous architecture. The area is known to have inspired many authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien, and has recently been the setting for the successful BBC series Peaky Blinders.

Table of Contents

Lickey House Country Park

Lickey House Country Park

What it is: This 524 acre country park is around ten miles to the south west of Birmingham, and a great location for wildlife spotting, playing a little sport, or just enjoying a picnic with the family. It’s been in the ownership of Birmingham City since 1888 and if you’ve any budding geologists in the family they’ll probably love finding out about the different rock layers.

There are over 380 different types of flora in the park as well as dozens of bees, butterflies, flies, slugs, centipedes, and beetles and over 90 different kinds of birds. The Park also regularly wins Green Flag Awards.

Why we liked it: It might be called a park, but Lickey House incorporates all kinds of different types of wildlife habitats, including grassland, heathland, and woodland, and there’s a great range of wildlife to be seen here – badgers, ducks, swans, moorhen, and deer.

We loved learning about the history too – flints that are thousands of years old have been found here, as well as a brass coin from Roman times. There’s a kids’ play area and a visitor centre that can help suggest routes for guided walks and nature trails. Keep an eye out for lizards and grass snakes too, and rumour has it that even adders have been spotted here, so take care as you explore.

More information about the Lickey House Country Park

Address: Lickey Hills Country Park, Warren Lane, Rednal, Birmingham, B45 8ER
Opening hours: Daily 10am to 5.50pm (summer); 10am to 4.20pm (winter). 

birmingham museum
Birmingham Museum

What it is: This is the city’s foremost museum, and a great place to while away a few hours, whatever the weather. There are always special exhibitions taking place, with recent examples covering the role of women in the city, how cinema shaped the area, and the struggle against racism.

Look out for lunchtime guitar concerts too – Birmingham is a surprisingly musical city, and this is a great venue. It’s located in a gorgeous parade of buildings that are Grade-II listed, so it’s always a good idea to check before visiting in case repair and renovation works are going on. 

Why we liked it: The items in any city’s museum give such a great overview of the life of the location, and what’s important to its people, and this is no exception.  One of our favourite aspects was the chance to have a chat with some of the curators in the museum – it was great to get the behind-the-scenes lowdown on how items are chosen for the displays as well as gain a little bit of understanding of how specialised the job is.

More information about the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Address: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH
Opening hours: Every day 10am to 5pm. (Check Christmas opening times directly with the venue; in 2022 renovation and electrical works were underway so double check opening times before visiting). 

Tolkien Trail

The Trail starts at Sarehole Mill

What it is: Although they’re not his only works, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit have caught the imagination of generations of readers. What might come as a surprise is to learn that much of Birmingham and its surroundings served as inspiration for his tales of Middle Earth. And now you can literally walk in his footsteps.

Most of the buildings and landscapes on the trail are around Edgbaston, Hall Green, Ladywood, and Moseley. The trail starts at Sarehole Mill before taking in Wake Green Road and Moseley Bog, with its twisty trees and plentiful wildlife, and even if you’re not a Tolkien fan, it’s still a magical landscape. There are various trail options, ranging from just under two miles to just over 13. 

Why we liked it: It’s always fun to see how a place inspired great fiction, and imagine your favourite characters treading the fields and pavements, and it gave us a really different view of Birmingham. We loved imagining Sarehold Mill as one of the locations in Hobbiton, and venturing into Moseley Bog, which was the inspiration for the Old Forest.

Once you get to Edgbaston the landscape becomes much more industrial and we enjoyed looking at Perrott’s Folly and the Oratory. There’s a festival that takes place in the area every year, so don’t be surprised if you bump into people dressed like Gandalf, Orcs or Hobbits…

More information about the Tolkien Trail

Opening hours: 24/7 throughout the year, weather conditions allowing. 

Jewellery Quarter Trail

The Chamberlain Clock on the Jewellery Quarter Trail

What it is: While Birmingham has a reputation for being dark and grim, what isn’t so well-known to those who haven’t visited the city is that it’s a major centre of jewellery working and design in the UK. Back in the Industrial Revolution, it was pretty much the main centre in the West Midlands for all kinds of metalwork including badge making.

This self-guided tour lets you literally walk through the centuries, seeing how the area developed and how it not only survived but flourished. It’s recently enjoyed something of a resurgence as a tourist area. 

Why we liked it: People still make their living from traditional jewellery-making skills in the area, and you never know what fabulous scene you might come across in this part of the city. There are over a hundred workshops and jewellery shops and we admired the workmanship of the Chamberlain Clock, a tower that’s often used to represent the area. 

More information about the Jewellery Quarter Trail
Opening hours: 24/7 throughout the year (the trail); individual workshops vary

Library of Birmingham

library of birmingham
Library of Birmingham

What it is: Although opinions vary and some aspects of the library have been controversial, this ten-level library remains one of the most innovative designs of recent years. This stunning library is impossible to miss.

Opened in September 2013, it typically attracts well over a million visitors a year and often makes the list of the most popular tourist attractions outside London. Check with the library to see what special events are taking place, there’s always plenty going on. 

Why we liked it: Half the fun in the Library of Birmingham is trying out the different types of seats and taking in the brilliant design, but there are also regular special events here to keep visitors entertained throughout the year. The day we visited, we bumped into William Shakespeare holding forth in the Shakespeare Memorial Room. moved from the old library.

(Okay, it was actually an actor in one of Mr Shakespeare’s re, but it was thoroughly entertaining nonetheless, especially when we learned that the whole room had been moved from the old library.) There are also special spaces for children and the Parker collection of children’s books, just one of the special collections, and we loved being able to spot the various attractions in the city from the garden terrace.

More information about the Library of Birmingham

Opening hours: 11am to 7pm Monday to Tuesday (telephone lines close at 5pm); 11am to 5pm Wednesday to Saturday. Check with the library for bank holiday opening times. 

The Lapworth Museum of Geology

The Lapworth Museum of Geology

What it is: Fancy taking a trip back in time 3.5 billion years? Come and take a look at the fabulous geology collections and the free interactive exhibitions at this literal hidden gem on the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus.

Find out about earthquakes, dinosaurs, volcanoes, fossils and rocks – it’s described as one of the largest and finest fossil, mineral, and rock collections you’ll find in the Midlands and you can borrow Backpacks from the museum to bring your visit to life. 

Why we liked it: Okay, we confess, we get awed by old rocks, and this is one of the oldest specialist museums of geology in the United Kingdom. We loved the atmosphere of the museum, as well as the fact that there are frequently great talks and activities on offer.

Some have an educational aspect, alongside arts and crafts, tours, and other family-oriented activities. And besides, there can’t be many places where you can see diamonds and dinosaurs in the same location!

The videos of the previous Objects of the Month on the website were also a great talking point before we even got there, and since we visited at the weekend, parking on campus is free too.

More information about the The Lapworth Museum of Geology

Address: Earth Sciences Building, Aston Webb A Block Building, University of Birmingham Edgbaston Campus, Birmingham, B15 2TT
Opening hours: 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday; 12 noon to 5pm Saturday and Sunday throughout the year; check website for Bank Holiday opening hours. 

Martineau Gardens

Martineau Gardens

What it is: If you’d like to visit a garden with a difference, then give the Martineau Gardens a try. It’s been going for over 25 years, and is a charity and a community garden, around two miles out from the city centre. It’s tranquil and calm, managed organically, and spread over two and a half acres. It’s known as a therapeutic garden, and a place where plants, wildlife, and people flourish alongside each other.  There’s an orchard, nature trails, designated play area for children, ponds, beehives, and a bird hide. 

Why we liked it: The garden is run by volunteers and offers therapeutic horticulture programmes. There are also family activities going on in school holidays. There is occasionally a charge for some of the special events, but it’s usually free to access.

We got especially excited about seeing dragonflies over the pond and the beds of fresh produce, and we’re determined we’ll spot badgers, birds, and Pipistrelle bats next time we visit.

More information about the Martineau Gardens

Address: 27 Priory Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 7UG

Opening hours: 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday all year round apart from public holidays. 

Weoley Castle

weoley castle
Weoley Castle

What it is: Although it is, or was, more of a fortified manor house than a true mediaeval style castle, and is now in ruins, Weoley Castle is over 750 years old. One of the quirkiest aspects is that it’s right in the middle of a mainly residential part of Birmingham with the same name as the castle.

The area was once a hunting lodge for the local nobility and is right in the heart of a former deer park that used to cover a thousand acres. The ruins we can see today are thought to date from around 1270 – so it’s one of Birmingham’s oldest buildings.

There is also a visitor centre, and occasionally special events take place here. Access is almost always free, apart from some special events which might incur a charge.

Why we liked it: You might not think of castles when you think of Birmingham, so Weoley Castle is an unexpected delight.  If you close your eyes and listen on the viewing platform, you can imagine all those long ago lords and ladies going about their lives centuries ago in the valley.

We know the castle almost certainly had a curtain wall and a moat, and the site got our imaginations going. 

More information about the Weoley Castle

Address: Weoley Castle, Alwold Road, Birmingham, B29 5RX

Opening hours: All year round, any reasonable time during daylight.

Science Garden at ThinkTank

Science Garden at ThinkTank
Science Garden at ThinkTank

What it is: ThinkTank is Birmingham’s family-oriented science museum, and the Science Garden is part of the Eastside City Park, set right in front of Thinktank. It’s the outdoor feature of the science museum, with over 30 exhibits which are interactive, fun, and educational.

The Science Garden is free after 3pm, so if you’re visiting after winter, factor in the nights drawing in early. The earliest the garden closes in winter is at 4pm. 

Why we liked it: Our favourite exhibit was the giant hamster wheel, big enough for a human, that revolves 30 times a minute. That wasn’t the only draw though – we really liked the “Terminus” machine too, which is eight metres high and makes a really satisfying clanging noise, depending on what you “feed” it with.

And the square-wheeled wagon on an uneven road surface made us laugh as well. There’s also a special park aimed at little ones alongside.

More information about the Science Garden at ThinkTank

Opening times: 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday (term time); 10am to 5pm (school holidays in Birmingham). (check this)

Address: 1 Curzon St, Birmingham B4 7XG

Opening hours: 10am to 5pm Monday to Sunday (school holidays); 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday (term time). 

Woodgate Valley Country Park

Woodgate Valley Country Park
Woodgate Valley Country Park

What it is: Just outside Birmingham city centre is where you’ll find this 450 acre country park and nature reserve, established in 1984. It’s a haven of woodland, meadows, hedgerows, small ponds, and even a sstream, the Bournbrook.

There are over 250 plant species in the valley, with summer and spring often regarded as the best times to see them in full bloom; over 90 different bird species and numerous butterflies have also been recorded here. There are two parks larger than this in Birmingham (Lickey Hills and Sutton), but this park is known for its attractive wildlife. 

Why we liked it: We loved spotting all the different butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and flowers, and the fact we could see dog walkers, horse riders, and just enjoy the peace. There are often activities and guided walks taking place from the Visitor Centre when it’s in use, there’s also a picnic area and a children’s play area just outside.

Dogs are allowed off the leash in some areas. We also enjoyed the circular trail around the Bourne Brook which runs the length of the whole park – it takes about an hour and there are a couple of bridges that can help make the route shorter. . The footpaths are also well maintained and there are three different trails as well as a five mile route if you’re feeling very energetic. 

More information about the Woodgate Valley Country Park

Address: Woodgate Valley Country Park, Clapgate Lane, Bartley Green, Birmingham, B32 3DS
Opening hours: 9.30am to 6pm mid-March to mid-September; 9.30am to 4.30pm mid-September to mid-March; times can change so check website for details, 

Honourable Mentions

If you’re looking for other parks and green spaces in or near the city, then Coombe Country Park, Cannon Hill, Kings Heath, Lightvale and Pype Hayes are all worth a visit, as are the gardens at Aston Hall, which sometimes hosts free art clubs and other events. For slightly different outdoor venues, there are pleasant strolls around both Bartley and Edgbaston Reservoirs. 

If you’d like to catch up with the latest modern art developments, then Ikon Gallery has free exhibitions and events throughout the year, and if you’re visiting in summer, check out the man-made beaches that often spring up in the city centre. If you’re looking for an enjoyable event on Saturday or the first Sunday of the month, then the donkey sanctuary is a great place to find out more about these hard-working and pleasant-natured animals. 

Written by
David Prior

David Prior is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and the editor of Big Family Breaks. He is also a father of five and an experienced traveller, especially with kids.

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