Best free things to do in Birmingham and nearby

Last updated 26th July 2022

1/10 Practice your presenting with the BBC

Budding young journalists and TV lovers alike will adore Public Space, the BBC’s visitors’ centre, hidden away on the third floor of The Mailbox, the home of BBC Birmingham. Doctor Who fans will enjoy an up-close encounter with the Tardis and can even have their photos taken with a Dalek. Take a peek into the BBC studios and watch the presenters live on set. You can even have a go yourself; use the interactive area to record your own news report or weather forecast. Your recordings will be online for a week so you can show off your new skills to friends and family.

Opening hours:  Monday-Saturday 9.30am-5.30pm; Sunday 11am-5pm

Find out more about Public Space

2/10 Peruse the masterpieces at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Located in the centre of the city, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is a free and educational day out for families. The museum is home to one of the largest pre-Raphaelite collections in the world, and although your kids may not appreciate this artistic claim-to-fame, there are plenty of activities run by the museum that will captivate their attention. Free to pick up from the Vestibule desk, family trails encourage kids to search the art works for specific features such as animals, engines, as well as seasonal specials. The museum hosts a number of free kids’ activities every day during holidays including Walk on the Wild side Wednesdays where kids can use the Pokémon Go app to find wild Pokémon among the art works. Other activities, such as arts and crafts are available, but cost between £1 and £1.50.

Opening hours – Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm; Friday 10.30am – 5pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm

Find out more about Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

3/10 Get historical in Stratford Upon Avon

Stratford Upon Avon is a city steeped in history and, as a small, easily navigable town, its perfect for kids to explore by foot. Check out Bancroft Gardens, home to the Gower memorial to Shakespeare which includes physical representations of Hamlet, Prince Hal, Lady Macbeth and Falstaf and picnic in Recreation meadow, which hosts a band at the Peace Memorial Bandstand every Sunday. Stroll along the River Avon, past stunning views of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre towards Holy Trinity Church, the burial sight of Shakespeare.

There are multiple child-friendly festivals throughout the year including Shakespeare’s birthday parade in April which traditionally includes events for kids including crafts and, in 2016, a ‘Knights and Nymphs toddlers party’ for under 5s.

You can look inside the buildings that Shakespeare and his family inhabited, although they charge for entrance. Tickets for his birthplace, Anne Hathway’s cottage and Mary Arden’s farm are £69.50 for a family ticket, although tickets for each house can be purchased individually, too.

Find out more about Stratford Upon Avon

4/10 Get on your bikes for HSBC UK Bikefest

Following the success of last year’s event, Bikefest will be returning to Birmingham’s Victoria Square on September 18th 2016 for a day of family friendly cycling. Roads will be closed on a 2.2 km route around the city, allowing families to cycle safely without the presence of cars. Places on the ride are limited so it is advised that you sign up as soon as possible if your family wants to take part. The event will host the impressive Action Sports Tour, who will perform world class skills in styles such as  BMX, MTB Dirt Jumping and Freerunning. If you’re inspired to give their tricks a go yourself, there will be professionals on site to give you a hand.

Attempt to channel team GB’s recent Olympic glory by having a go on the world’s first pop up velodrome, Street Velodrome,  which allows families to race against the clock and each other. There’s also a specially designed Kids’ Strider Area, where youngsters can test their skills on mini ramps, twists and turns.

Find out more about Birmingham Bikefest and rrgister for the 2.2km ride here

5/10 Picnic in Lickey Hills Country Park

Grab your picnic hamper and head to Licky Hills Country Park, the perfect scene for a family day outdoors. Located just half an hour outside of Birmingham city centre lies the 534-acre woodland and park where there is an assortment of family friendly activities available. Kids can roam wild in the adventure playground, or perfect their swings with the tri-golf course that is especially designed for kids. The flat, grassy areas are perfect for kite flying and you can even borrow rounders equipment from the visitor’s centre. For a 1.5 mile circular walk just follow the green and numbered posts and remember to feast your eyes on the 380 species of flowering plants, 350 species of fungi and 17 species of fern that are known to grow in the area. You may even spot a sparrow hawk or grass snake. Make sure to check out the amazing view from Beacon Hill, 297 meters above sea level.

The visitor’s centre is open daily from 10:00am until 5:50pm in the summer and 4:30pm in the winter and hosts exhibitions and craft sales. It is also home to the gift shop and café where light snacks are available. Toilets can be found here, including disabled facilities.

6/10 Celebrate a treasured writer at Birmingham’s Middle Earth Weekend

Fans of the Lord of The Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit, both young and old, will love the Middle Earth Weekend in Birmingham which celebrates the life of JRR Tolkien within the area that he grew up. The festival is running again for the first time since 2013 and promises to be a family focused event, with music, arts, crafts, costume pageants, market stalls and food. You can even embark on coach tours to the areas that are said to have influenced Tolkien’s fictional locations.

Lord of the Rings lovers should also try the Tolkien trail, which takes you through the areas significant to the writer’s life. Leaflets detailing these locations can be found in Tourist information centers around Birmingham.

When: 3 – 4 September 2016; check their website for dates for future years

Where: Sarahole Mill at Hall Green

Find out more about Birmingham’s Middle Earth Weekend


7/10 Paddle and play at St Nicholas Park, Warwick

 St Nicholas’ park in Warwick is a great open area for families to explore. Catering for both older children and little ones, the play area is perfect for children of all ages to enjoy. The playground is located next to a large grassy area, so there’s plenty of space for kids to play on and off the equipment. On hot days kids can paddle in the under 12s outdoor pool area, although there is a larger leisure centre with indoor pool available too. Thrill seekers will love the Fun-Park that includes rides that can be purchased for a small cost. These include teacups, the jungle blaster and the newly established Runaway Mine Train. An 18-hole mini–golf course is fun for the whole family to take part in – be careful to maneuver the tricky water features and rocks!

Entrance to the park itself is free, although the costs of activities inside vary.

Find out mor

Find out more about St Nicholas’ Park

8/10 Ramble in Sheldon Country Park

A park consisting of grassland, woodland, hedgerows, and mature woodlands, Sheldon Country Park is a wildlife treasure trove nestled on the outskirts of Birmingham. Little ones will enjoy a trip to the farm which sits at the main entrance to the park, that now works for demonstration only, showing country life to city dwellers. Kids will love seeing the animals that include Jersey cattle, pigs, goats, ponies, ducks, chickens and geese.

The park is the perfect destination for young plane-spotters, who can watch the airplanes from the viewing platform over Birmingham airport. This lies a quarter of a mile from the entrance to the park and can be accessed by foot. Bring a football along and have a kick about on one of the three marked pitches. 

9/10 Cycle Birmingham’s canals

Summer 2016 sees the completion of the resurfacing of over 50k of canal towpath to create a cycle-safe environment, with a clean, grippy surface. The lack of traffic on the canal-side means that its perfect for cycling with kids and even the access points from the roads to the canal have been made safer and easier. Fabulous canal-side views are an added bonus to this method of stress-free travel.

Check out Birmingham Council’s cycle route maps along the canal.

10/10 Watch wildlife at Saltwells Local Nature Reserve

A half an hour drive West of Birmingham, Saltwell’s nature reserve is a stunning area of wildlife and woodland and was the first Local Nature Reserve in the West Midlands metropolitan county, opened in 1981. The area is home to bird species such as Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl and Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, as well as a variety of butterflies and 16 species of dragonfly. Kids will love the bluebell woods and the old claypits that are now full of orchids. Check out the spectacular view of the clay cliffs at Doulton’s claypit.

Or, splash out and go and watch one of the new film releases of this summer!