Sarah in the Suburbs

Halloween 2014

by Sarah

My kiddos had a great time at Halloween this year (really the whole month of October because I’m that awesome mom that let’s their kids wear the costume every day….not when we left the house, mind you, but I did let them wear them a lot). Our neighborhood has lots of families with young children, and it’s perfect for walking around and trick-or-treating.

There’s even a little “parade” of sorts before it all begins. We all gathered at the end of the back street of the neighborhood and kind of “paraded” down the street to the cul-de-sac. In hindsight, we probably should have split off from the huge group parading down the street so we wouldn’t overwhelm the first few houses with trick-or-treaters, but it turned out ok for this year.

We had to cut our night short because of some crazy winds and scary looking clouds, but I think the girls had enough fun without staying out late.

Top 5 Family Friendly Spots in Birmingham

by Sarah

I was asked a while back (almost a year ago, whoops) what fun things there are to do in Birmingham for families with young children. Being a stay-at-home mom, I’ve had to get creative with different ways of keeping my girls entertained throughout the week. We are just not good at being homebodies. We can do it for 1 day a week, but for the other 4, we’ve gotta get out and do something. These faves of ours are in no particular order, but if you’re ever in the Birmingham area (or you live here and have never been to one of these places) I hope you’ll give these places a try!

1. McWane Science Center

The McWane Sciene Center is absolutely one of the best places in Birmingham for families with children (young and old)! It’s probably our family’s favorite spot because there is so much to see and do. We have a yearly membership, which pays for itself in just 2 visits (free parking is included!), so it is definitely worth the price to us, but, for your information, daily admission for adults (13-64)  is $13 and children (2-12) is $9 (Adults 65+ are $12 and kids under 2 are free). There is an IMAX theater (which we have not yet taken advantage of), so you can up your ticket price if you also want to take in an educational movie or you can buy a solo IMAX ticket if that’s all you’re interested in too.

I am so excited for the expanded children’s area they will be opening in 2015. Like any great family friendly location that is used on a daily basis, I can definitely see where it’s been in dire need of updating, and I think the new children’s area is going to be a great start. Personal recommendation: if you go during the week, pick either Tuesday or Wednesday if you want almost the entire place to yourself. Field trip groups tend to overwhelm the building on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but you can always call ahead to check who will be there that day if Tuesday and Wednesday are not convenient for you. The closer it is to a holiday, the less likely a field trip group will be there on a Thursday or Friday.

2. Birmingham Zoo

We love our zoo. They have been slowly making updates and changes over the last year, but they will be undergoing a massive renovation next year to totally overhaul the entrance, and I think this is a great start to improving the zoo even further. The exhibits are great, and the size of the zoo makes it worth a membership (it might be difficult to see it all in one day depending on the crowds and your pace), but I do think that they need to continue to make updates and changes to make it worth the admission price to a one time visitor. Children (2-12) are $10, Adults (13-64) are $15, and Seniors (65+) are $10, and there are also a plethora of mechanical rides, giraffe feedings, camel rides, etc. that you can spend extra money on too if you don’t steer your kids away from those areas! One of the upgrades I would love to see for our zoo is the offering of a one-time purchase of a “ride pass” that would give you unlimited train and carousel rides for the length of your membership. In any case, don’t skip out on a visit to the Birmingham Zoo! It is a clean, well-organized, large zoo with plenty to entertain your family for an afternoon.

3. Celebration Splash Pad (Gardendale)

Gardendale is a city about 20 minutes north of Birmingham, but it holds one of the only “splash pads” in the area, so it’s well worth the drive to me because my kids love it. It is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-dusk May 1-September 30. There are murmurings of a splash pad coming to the Vestavia Hills area, but until then, we will trek it up to Gardendale for some cool fun on a hot summer day. Obviously, the splash pad is seasonal, but if you are visiting during the summer, head up there and check it out. Best of all, it is absolutely free to use!

4. iJump 280/Pump It Up

In the last 6 months, my girls have really come to loving jumping and climbing on things. Pump It Up (Pelham) and iJump 280 (Hwy 280 near Inverness) are 2 places we’ve visited that have “free play” time for families to come and use their facilities without having to have a party scheduled. General admission for iJump is $8.50 (adults are free if only spectating) and Pump It Up charges $7, but I’ve found much better admission deals through sites like Groupon and Amazon Local, so always be sure to search for discounts before you go (this tip could also apply to the zoo and McWane Center). These places are great spots to get all that energy out that kids seem to have an endless supply of!

5. Birmingham Museum of Art

BMA is one of the hidden gems of Birmingham. The area they have for children seems somewhat small, but it is packed with tons for them to do. Everything in Bart’s Artventure! is hands on and encourages imaginative play. They usually have a craft related to the current exhibits that is fun and easy to do. Another perk? Admission is free! I always love it when I can save a little here and there.

As with all lists of this sort, this one is not entirely comprehensive, so if you feel like I’ve really missed something important please let me know. It goes without saying that we have some of the best libraries and parks in the state, so, if all else fails, check out our local libraries and parks! There are always family friendly events going on at the library, and we have parks around town for all ages, sizes, abilities, and, yes, even some that are friendly to your little furry friends you may have tagging along.

Hope this list is helpful if you are planning a trip to my neck of the woods soon! If you live here, did I mention a favorite of yours? Or did I miss one? Let me know so I can check it out too! Have a great weekend!

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