When I was compiling my post about family friendly days out in the West Midlands, it inspired me to try some during half term. The Black Country Living Museum was somewhere I’d been with my husband pre-children but I hadn’t taken the girls. So we headed there for a day out, and it was brilliant. But as with anywhere, there are certain things you need to know to make the most of your visit. So here are my top tips.
1. Book online
Well I’d love to say that this was what I did. But sadly, I’m not that organised. All tickets booked at the admission desk or on their website are valid for unlimited daytime admission for 12 months. But if you’ve booked online you get to skip the admission queue and get on with your day. You can also become a member for not much more than the admission price for additional benefits. However you book, make sure you allow them to claim gift-aid if you can. It allows them to claim back a bit of money from your tax to help them to continue their work.
2. Check age limits and accessibility
On the whole, the Black Country Living Museum is perfect for children of all ages. Much of it is also accessible for wheelchairs and you can even hire a wheelchair there if you need to. However the underground mine is not accessible for wheelchairs, pushchairs or people with limited mobility. It also has a lower age limit of five years old so we had to sit this one out.
3. Check opening hours
We visited during the Winter when opening hours are slightly shorter. The museum is also only open 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Sunday during Winter, with a couple of weeks where it is closed completely for maintenance. For us, this did mean we missed out on seeing a couple of things, including the replica of the first steam engine housed in this building, as we ran out of time.
4. Check attraction times
Some of the attractions have things going on at particular times of day. For example the chip shop here is pretty famous and that opens at midday. The Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust run boat trips every 30 minutes and the school have public lessons at certain times of the day. We missed the lessons and although the children loved looking around the classroom, they’d have enjoyed going to a lesson.
5. Chat to the staff
All around the museum, there are members of staff dressed in period costume. They are incredibly knowledgeable and are happy to tell you all about the different attractions. They are also there to help with other things such as putting ramps down for wheelchair access and even just giving directions.
6. Go into the shops and the pub
Whilst most of the shops are display only, many of them do have a member of staff there and some even have things for sale. The pub sells both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the chip shop is incredibly popular and the tobacconist offers a step back in time into a type of shop that is no-longer around. The staff will tell you about the history of the shop, what certain objects are and even recommend where to go next.
7. Look out for the old fashioned games
At the bottom of the main street you’ll find an area with old-fashioned outdoor games. Both of my girls spent a considerable amount of time trying to master them. This actually made me think that we should see if we can find some to have at home. I’d far rather they were playing hoop trundling or skipping outdoors than sitting in front of the television.
8. Ride on traditional buses
The buses will take you around the museum. Realistically it’s not a huge site so you’d be fine just to walk. But for children in particular, it’s well worth experiencing a ride on an old bus. We went on the double decker and sat right at the top. The girls were delighted.
9. Nose around the traditional homes
I almost walked past one of the traditional cottages because it looked so realistic, it just looked like somebody lived there. There was a vegetable garden and a pig pen, it looked so idyllic I didn’t think to go inside. But luckily Lia pointed it out and we had a good nose around. From country cottages to old terraces, each home offers a different insight into its occupants and its era.
10. Go to the Black country Living Museum fairground
Even in Winter, you can enjoy the traditional fairground at the Black Country Living Museum. All rides and stalls operate on a token basis. However the tokens only cost £1 and many of the attractions only require one token. My girls went on the swing boats and tin can alley. Then we all shared a bag of candy floss. There’s even a traditional fruit machine arcade and a coconut shy. In summer I can see that there will be a lot more going on here, including a helter skelter. I suspect we’ll be back for a go on that later in the year.
11. Visit the boatyard and Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust
Last time we visited the Black Country Living Museum, we also took a ride on one of the Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust barges. We enjoyed it so much that it was the first thing we headed for this time. We had to ask a member of staff for directions as it’s not immediately obvious where it is. But when you walk past the boatyard it’s easy to spot. Boats run every half an hour and the rides lasts for 45 minutes. There are also other options for boat rides including longer trips and special trips for young children with stories and songs.
12. Check the website for special events
If you’re heading to the Black Country Living Museum during school holidays, do check their website for special events. We missed out on their half term activities as Libby’s school had an earlier half term but we’ll definitely be back in another school holiday to get involved.