birmingham sea life centre
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City breaks – reminiscing past trips and planning new

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Prior to this summer, I’d have thought that city breaks were all about childfree, carefree long weekends and something that I struggled to persuade the OH to get away from the farm to go on.  They were more likely to be for myself and my best friend.  But this year, I’ve taken N for a few days away to Bristol and surrounds and we had a great time.  Oh and not forgetting our London day trip too.

So I’d like to introduce more city breaks to N as he grows up.  I’ve been lucky that my mum used to take us on holiday in the UK a lot, as well as travelling around the UK for various work meetings in the past, so there’s lots of places I could take him.

One that’s an obvious start point is Birmingham.  It’s close to home and cheap to visit on the train.. Furthermore, if we stayed over, booking through someone like Hotel Direct, we’d have a great choice of hotels to choose from throughout the city, enabling us to jam pack more in over a couple of days.

I’ve had some lovely leisure trips to Birmingham in the past, but have also enjoyed some great venues and sights through work.

Water fun

For places to visit with children, there’s obviously the Sea Life Centre. I took N there when he was a toddler and he really enjoyed it.  You can turn it into a really good day out, complete with lunch afterwards at Brindley Place, with a chance to take in the relaxing water features if the weather’s nice.

birmingham sea life centre

Talking of urban water fountains and features, we know children can’t resist them, and if you’re shopping in the town centre, it’s worth walking up to Victoria Square where there are water fountains to sit and enjoy over a quick picnic lunch.  I’m a bit of a people watcher, and I remember meeting an old uni friend one day in Birmingham, and we sat for about an hour on a pedestrianised street, just chatting and watching the people going by.  Simple pleasures amongst the hustle and bustle of the other shoppers.

Explore science

In a previous job, I’ve been to Think Tank for a conference.  We didn’t get to see much of the exhibits, but it’s one place I really want to return to and take N.  There’s lots of scientific based interactive activities; he loves getting stuck in and trying things out, so I think he’d love it.

Shows and exhibitions

Other events I’ve loved in the past have been the shows at the National Indoor Arena.  As a teen, I remember seeing Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice tour, and an early Riverdance show.  Both so magical and although not in a normal theatre, you really get the scale of the area; the shows just seem so much bigger to be able to fill the space and reach out to the audience.  I’ve never seen sports events, but there’s always a range of matches to choose from.

An alternative is the NEC which I’ve attended many an exhibition or two.  It always amazes me the size of the NEC.  They do so many different exhibitions, concerts and shows there, you could end up going every week.  The craft shows I’ve been to there are huge, and I’ve found, much better than ones I’ve been to in Manchester.

I’ve also got some wonderful work memories of the NEC;  previously, working with sales teams in a large company, meant that Birmingham was central so a great place for sales people to stay and celebrate their annual successes.  Many a time I’ve stayed a couple of hotels on the NEC site, enjoying work oriented challenges during the day, and by night socialising and fun with the teams I worked with.

Not only conferences, but way back at the start of the Noughties, I volunteered to help out one weekend for a children’s Get Active activity day that my company had put on for 10000 children.  It was a really inspiring day, based all over the NEC buildings and outside areas, where children could try lots of different sports.  Everyone had a great day, and it was a brilliant event to have had the chance to be involved with.  Every time I drive past the M42 NEC exit, I always think of those great days and experiences I had there…probably not something a lot of people are thinking when they’re driving round the M42!

Food experiences

Aside from cultural, sporting, science and shopping, you can’t forget the food in Birmingham.  I love the ease of finding  areas of restaurants, focused around specific venues or theatres.  The ones I’ve been to are largely by the canals, so you get to enjoy the peaceful water views if you’re there for lunch while you eat.  One of my favourite restaurants is the indian restaurant Shimla Pinks, but as well as the curry that the city is famous for, there’s every type of food served up.


Finally a city break wouldn’t be complete without a hotel stay.  I wasn’t sure how N would take to a hotel, but he loved it last month, as it was so different to being at home.  So I’m definitely looking forward to more hotel breaks in the future with him.  I’m not sure I’ll be returning to the lovely Birmingham Malmaison in the near future, but Hotel Direct has a good range of hotels to choose from for family breaks or breaks away with friends.

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  1. We tend to stick more to theme park and zoo visits. I hate visiting major cities if I’m honest as we’re always getting lost in the traffic…even with a sat-nav lol!

    1. I know what you mean. With a young child in the back always asking what we’re doing or where we’re going while you’re trying to navigate road works through a busy city centre it can be a nightmare

  2. It’s all about London for us. Love it. Eli is yet to visit but we’re thinking about going next month, not sure how London with a 8 month old will go x

    1. Probably more straightforward as you can sling or buggy it and keep them restrained between stops. It’s the 3-4 age where you’re not sure how long they can walk/go on that’s harder

  3. I live just down the road from Bristol but tend to stay away from it because of its ridiculous roads! I do love Birmingham! We have friends who live there. We will be going to see them soon, so thank you for the heads up for awesome places to visit
    Laura x xx

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