Going on a safari, finding out how chocolate is made and visiting a castle are some of the things to do with kids around Birmingham and the Midlands
Venture into the heart of industrial England to discover heritage, wildlife and theme parks for a fun family day out
This animal-themed day out is much more than a visit to a traditional wildlife park. See giraffes, zebras, elephants and tigers roaming freely in the different sections of the drive-through safari. Then keep tabs on the penguins, reptiles, bats and other animals you see on the indoor Discovery Trail with the free scratch card quiz.
If you’ve had your fill of modern beasts, step back in time in the UK’s largest animatronic dinosaur attraction, the Land of the Living Dinosaurs. There are 40 life-size moving and ‘breathing’ dinos in this fearsome exhibition. If you’ve still got time, head to the theme park, which has rides suitable for tiny tots through to thrill-seeking teens.
This open-air museum tells the story the Black Country – a region in the West Midlands – over the past 300 years, and is an eye-opening day out for the whole family. Have a chat with costumed characters from the past, wander down a Victorian street and see forging demonstrations, bringing alive the heritage of the world’s first industrial hub.
You can also venture down a 19th-century mine, ride a tram, or try your luck on the games in the vintage fairground. Parents can finish their day with a pint in the traditional spit and sawdust pub.
There’s plenty to occupy both animal and history loving families at Dudley Zoo in the grounds of the castle. It is home to more than 1,300 animals and around 200 species, many of which are linked to international conservation and breeding programmes. The endangered species include Asiatic lions, Sumatran tigers and Bornean orangutans.
Meanwhile, Dudley Castle echoes with history. The Dudleys were at the sharp end of Tudor life and, on occasion, at the wrong end of the executioner’s axe. The ruin is now used by historical re-enactment groups and as the setting for ghost walks, music events and the zoo’s birds of prey displays. Check the what’s on page [http://www.dudleyzoo.org.uk/events/whats-on-at-dzg/] to see if your visit coincides with an event.
Go for a walk, visit a restored Victorian farm or tackle the high ropes – the choice is yours at Sandwell Valley Country Park. This Green Flag park is bursting at the seams with activities to suit all tastes and abilities.
Young children will enjoy a visit to one or both of the park’s farms where they can meet rare and endangered breeds that include Hereford cattle and Berkshire pigs, clamber around the adventure playground and complete the farm trail. Older kids can harness up for the aerial assault course or whizz around the mountain bike trail. Don’t forget to pop by the award-winning tearooms to refuel.
The young and young at heart will love Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Theme Park. There are over 25 different attractions from rollercoasters to engine tours, introducing you to many of the characters from this much-loved children’s series.
As if that isn’t enough to keep you entertained all day, the park has a zoo with over 100 animals from around the world, an interactive 4D cinema and rides suitable for all ages. Don’t forget to bring a mac for the water rides! If you want to make a weekend of it you can also stay over at Drayton Manor’s camping and caravan site.
Step back in time to Elizabethan England at Kenilworth Castle. This spectacular English Heritage ruin was once home to Robert Dudley, Queen Elizabeth I’s most ambitious courtier. Climb the castle tower to the same level as rooms that Dudley had built for the Queen and take a walk in the recreated Tudor gardens.
Children will enjoy the interactive displays about the castle’s history in the stables exhibition and dressing up in Tudor garb.
Motor and aviation enthusiasts will not want to miss an exhibition about one of the castle’s more recent residents, Sir John Siddeley – the founder of Armstrong Siddeley Motors.
Explore the history of the RAF and the people involved with it over the past 100 years. This free museum gives families the chance to get up close with more than 70 aircraft. You can even view an enormous Belfast Transporter from above in the high-level viewing gallery. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
Other exhibits to intrigue youngsters include a display of pilots’ lucky charms and a 1:1 scale Airfix Spitfire, as featured on the BBC Two series James May’s Toy Stories. For those desperate to get off the ground, you can get that flying feeling with the 4D experience: buckle up to take part in a Red Arrows aerobatic display or join a WWI combat mission with the Red Baron among other fantastic ‘flights’! Boarding passes cost £5 per person but admission to the museum is free.
This seasonal attraction is a real treat for transport fans. During weekends between March and October, you can see a collection of more than 90 buses, 30 electric delivery vehicles and a miniature steam railway.
Wander though three exhibition halls showcasing public and service transport from the 20th century, get hands-on with displays in the Power Hall or go for a ride on one of the vintage buses. Check the museum’s website before visiting for opening dates, family-friendly activities and the availability of steam train rides.
Pack a picnic and head for Lickey Hills Country Park for a day of fun in the great outdoors. The park has several walking trails of different distances, for which you can pick up a map at the visitor centre. Climb Beacon Hill and see what you can spot from the top – on a clear day, you can see Wales.
For children, there’s an adventure playground and a mini golf course. Or why not take advantage of the space and borrow a rounders set from the visitor centre?
Find out how your favourite sweets are made during this interactive foray into the world of chocolate. Visitors to Cadbury World can find out about the early days of the chocolate maker, John Cadbury, and his first shop, or try a 4D Cinema experience featuring some of the brand’s best known marketing characters.
Try not to dribble while the chocolatiers demonstrate traditional chocolate-making skills. And let the kids burn off any indulgent treats from the shop and café in the African Adventure Play Area. There’s also a zone for under-fives.