*This post is based on our visit to Birmingham, from personal experience. There was no payment or any other compensation for this post.
I was super excited to have the opportunity to visit Birmingham with my son and boyfriend, a place where I studied and lived over a decade ago!
We planned ahead of time of what we wanted to do for our weekend away.
Thinktank Science Museum
We had pre-booked tickets for the Morning Explorers Session at Thinktank. At the ThinkTank Birmingham Science Museum, one carer goes in for free, but please read the facilities and accessibility page on their website for terms and conditions. General entry to the museum is at 10 am, and you enter through the ticket entry on Level 2. However, for the Morning Explorers, you can enter the museum from 9 am on level 0. The sessions are for people with special needs and who have sensory needs and are ideal for someone on the autism spectrum who would become overwhelmed in busier environments.
There are three different types of social stories provided on Thinktank’s facilities and accessibility page. I downloaded their Morning Explorers Social Story and went through this with my son before visiting the museum. There is also a virtual tour that you can access through their website, (on their access statement, and guide).
My boyfriend parked his car at the Millennium point multi-storey car park, located next to the museum. We parked there until 5 pm so were charged £6.50 for our stay, but if you are a blue badge holder, they offer free parking.
On arrival to Thinktank, we were given a red wristband each to wear for the Morning Explorers Session. Although wearing the wristband was optional.
We found the Smethwick Engine and its use of pumping water fascinating.
On this floor, we viewed past transport and the use of machines to help build cars. My son was fascinated by the boiler and its mechanism. He relished with the interactive exhibitions.
We proceeded to head outside to the Science Garden, which had many sensory features. There was plenty of therapeutic water-based play. My son played with the rocket that was powered by water and balancing the balls.
There was what I describe as a human-sized hamster wheel, which I had to have a go.
Together, we looked at the gadgets and the Spitfire. My son sat down in the cockpit, where all the control looked complicating.
There were costumes that you could wear to dress up as a pilot, but my son commented that he is too old for that.
I took a photo of what we looked like on the thermal screen.
There was also an interactive exhibit showing the ingredients that make up the clear glass.
My son selected a couple of colouring ingredients to see what colour the clear glass would turn.
There was a traffic light crossing, where I encouraged my son to practise crossing the road safely, as in real life, he is easily distracted.
My son mastered using the digger to scoop up the plastic balls.
We entered the Wildlife Gallery, and my son gazed at the displays and felt the textured fur and pawprint of a polar bear.
There were plenty of audio buttons to press in this gallery.
Next stop, The Street, where we looked at the landfill, and I explained to my son how organic waste is reused, as compost.
I gave him an example of how his grandad uses compost for gardening.
We liked how there were interactive sliding screens over by the house display when we were selecting what materials have the ideal properties for a house.
The cables and pipes display was a great way of showing my son, instead of verbally describing to him what happens beneath our feet with the transportation of water and gas.
My son saw an impressive visual display of how our food is digested over at the Things About Me Gallery. He looked inside the mouth and pressed a button, and the tooth that you select lights up and audio comes on to explain the function of each type of tooth.
There were buttons to press to select our choice of food, and the audio would explain what food group it belonged to and nutritional information.
We glanced at the intestines and the blood journey.
There was an interactive display of how we breathe, where you press the button, and it shows the rib cage moving as we breathe in and out.
I managed to have a little workout (on my own) in the exercise area.
We played with the finger device where you can pull the levers to move the finger joints.
Over at the Medicine Matters Gallery, my son discovered a computer game. He played a fighting infection game, where you have to select correct immunisation to protect against the infection.
Tickets for the Planetarium to watch a show (We watched “We Are Aliens”) were an additional £2.50 each. We did get one carer ticket free for this. This showing was not busy.
The Futures Gallery was marvellous. It focused on robots, space and advancements in healthcare technology.
We took plenty of photos here of the spacesuit and technology.
Surprisingly, my son was not afraid of the robot. My son controlled the robot’s movements using the computer screen, along with making the robot wave and say ciao.
We briefly had a look around Mini Brum. There was a textured wall where you have to match the material to an object in the museum.
After looking around Thinktank, we were hungry, so headed into town for some food. As we were mindful that we would be in a busy city on a Saturday, we looked at restaurants online before travelling to Birmingham.
We previously decided to eat at Bodega Cantina, as my son mentioned that he wanted to eat a burrito. I didn’t want to choose a restaurant that was inside a busy shopping centre but down a side street. By coincidence, the restaurant was down the same road of a shop that I used to work at a long time ago. (Although the shop is no longer there). We looked at the menu beforehand. I was aware that the restaurant was small, but it is hard to picture the layout of a restaurant until you are physically there. We were all happy with the layout and the restaurant’s colourful design. It was not at all overwhelming but very inviting.
Both my son and I ordered a burrito for our main dinner, and my boyfriend ordered the Bodega’s burger. We ordered some nachos and drinks while our main dinners were being prepared because my son would have wanted his main dinner to come out straight away. The food was delicious and full of flavour.
A Tour of Birmingham City Centre
It was a surreal experience showing my son and boyfriend around somewhere where I used to study and lived a student life. Full of nostalgia and excitement, I wanted to share my past experiences with them.
I was their tour guide, showing them a hotel where I used to work at while studying, the canal by Broad Street, the Town Hall, the Bullring, and other Birmingham landscapes. All a part of my history, memories to share with my child. The main difference from when I used to live here are the trams.
Later that day, we headed to our hotel for the night, ready for our next day’s adventure.