I’m a bit of a loyalty card lover…let’s face it, if you’re buying anyway, you may as well take up any benefits you can get back. Over the years I’d collected quite a few Airmiles through various sources, but never done anything with them. Then before I got the chance to fly somewhere amazing (well, semi-amazing with the amount I had) for free, we had N which kind of scuppered that opportunity. So I’d been saving them up for something else (as well as using a few for gifts for family members). Now they’re Avios rather than airmiles but you can still get rewards/experiences so I wanted to use them for a day out with N given how expensive some places are.
First use of my points was to go to the Sea Life Centre. Birmingham is our closest (and probably the one furthest from the sea!), so one ticket for me (under 3’s go free), and we went yesterday.
Sods law we hit the horrendous thunderstorms with 3 miles before our junction on the motorway which meant N wasn’t happy with the pounding rain on the car, plus the time it took to move those 3 miles. We also got wet coming out again afterwards, which was a shame as back at home there was around 25 degree heat and mostly blue skies.
Parking was interesting. The centre has no parking so they advise using the NIA parking. All very well, but we parked up to find no lifts. We were on floor 6 with no idea of which level we needed to get out. After lugging pushchair (thank god for one had release and relatively easy to carry) and toddler up and down 4 flights of stairs, we found our way to the entrance and tried to find the shorted route to where we could see the centre. Mmm, easier said than done. The NIA’s signage is all based on their areas; there’re a few signs on the roadsides but they’re not the best. Finally we navigated our way back and forth, over a bridge and eventually into the sealife centre an hour after I’d planned. Very annoying as we hit it at the same time as 2 schools and a pre-school. Luckily they tended to head off in a different direction so we were able to get round with not too many problems or crowding.
I thought N would love the centre as he quite enjoys going to the pet & aquatic shops near us to look at the animals and fish (great break for shopping when toddlers or babies are getting bored, and free!). At the start he was more interested in standing at the top of the ramps and looking down at all the people coming in.
He wasn’t keen on walking round, possibly because it was a bit dark in most areas, although he’s never seemed worried before about the dark at home, so wanted to sit in the pushchair or be carried for most of it. Being in the pushchair meant he couldn’t necessarily see all the windows or get close enough to them, but he definitely liked the colourful clown fish.
They had sea otters who were great to watch that he loved, and walking through the tunnel where the huge turtles swam right up to us enthralled him. But I think it was the starfish that he thought were brilliant – not sure he could quite understand why he could see them but not touch them through the glass.
There were extra things that with older children you’d probably want to see – 4D turtle cinema screening, question/quiz trail, rock pool touch sessions and various talks at different times in the day, but we didn’t do any of the extra things. They are missing a cafe there though. Instead they have a seating area (which on the day we went was full of schools), with some vending machines but it looks a bit on the grubby side and was really cramped with all the schools storage.
The changing facilities were satisfactory, and the staff I spoke to were friendly and helpful and what we saw was interesting, but I can’t believe the full price for adults is £18. There’s no way it was worth that, even if you do all the extra bits. I suppose it’s lucky that there’s always 2 for 1 vouchers available throughout the year from different places which cover the sea life centres.
Luckily the Birmingham centre is in Brindley Place which is near all the restaurants, so we went for Pizza Express for lunch. I decided to get N the children’s menu and then share the pudding/starter, but was still astounded how much he ate: the cucumber (doesn’t eat it at home, but obviously dipping in garlic butter works!), couple of dough balls, whole child portion of cheese & ham pasta, my unwanted olives, half his fudge cake pudding, the froth off his babycinno milk. He still wanted tea when he got home as well! Little piggy.