Birmingham is one of the most distinctive cities on the UK map. There is the distinctive "Brummie" accent, one that morphs the city's name into "Birming-gum" and common words like baby into "babby." In the Industrial and Victorian eras, Birmingham's great distinction was as an early innovator in mass production, growing quickly due to textile manufacturing and the extension of national canal and railway systems. Currently, there is its distinctive youth, both through the redevelopment of public space within generations of the city's destruction by World War II bombings and the huge student population that attends its six universities. Even some of rock music's most distinctive bands have hailed from the Birmingham area (Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran, Black Sabbath, even Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame), while writers like Washington Irving and J.R.R. Tolkien have also called the second largest metropolis in England their home. Yet very little of this information will provide the context for your own distinctive Birmingham adventure; unless, of course, that's you in your vintage band shirt giving the rock horns in front of Ozzy Osbourne's nondescript childhood home in Aston. Then there may just be nothing else for you here.
For the rest of you, Birmingham's place in the West Midlands provides instant access to the outdoors. There is an excellent selection of more adventurous locations within the city, including the various footpaths of Sutton Park or the rock climbing, kayaking, snowboarding, and more at The Ackers. Don't settle for convenience, however, when there are a handful of top-notch national parks within a day trip's drive, both in England and in Wales. On the English side, the closest of note is the Peak District, which has its fair share of spelunking, climbing, and other active pursuits, while nearly any fantastic corner of England lies with five hours. We suggest- no, we insist- that you cross man-made lines into Wales and see the more inspiring forces of nature at work in national parks like Snowdonia and Brecons Beacons, both of which have mountain peaks and spectacular vistas that are hard to match in England. The Pembrokeshire Coast is also a wonder of majestic cliffs less than a four hour drive away. We've got more on Birmingham's adventures here.
For those whose sense of adventure lies in the preserved spaces of a city, there are numerous highly touted museums (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts among them), as well as the period appeal of Aston Hall. The first iron steamer to sail the Atlantic, the SS Great Britain, sits in the dry docks on nearby Bristol, while the small inland port of Gloucester is a great place to explore the history of the English canal system. Then again, why not dust off your Premiere League jersey for an Aston Villa or Birmingham City match or head to the Edgbaston Cricket Ground for international level competition. Our full write-up on Birmingham culture may be accessed here.
The nightlife is quintessential England, providing excellent venues for live music (O2, The Institute, and Ballroom Birmingham), the best in contemporary dance music (The Custard Factory and Snobs), and plenty of pubs and alehouses to satiate your thirst for excellent local beer. Try Broad Street if you're looking for the compact, "party street" atmosphere and our nightlife page if you're looking for more info.
Located in the center of England, Birmingham is an obvious choice as a home base from which to experience the country's national parks and more enchanting natural areas, while a bevy of engrossing attractions in Wales, Bristol, and even London are just far enough away to visit if you'd like. Sort of like going to college in-state; you're far enough away from Mom to feel independent while being close enough for her to feed you and do your laundry. Birmingham can be that sort of adventure.if you want to pay somewhat less for accommodations. Intrigued? Check out our activity listings for more information.