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The Waters Edge, B1 2HL
From £12.50 or free with a Merlin Pass
See website for times
Birmingham's the furthest British city from the sea, but is lucky enough to have the National Sealife Centre Birmingham at its heart in Brindley Place.
Watch the Gentoo Penguins jumping into the water; the clown fish in the coral reef; the shark pool; and native fish swimming in a English channel habitat.
You can touch crabs and sea urchins; and get close up to adorable sea otters; and admire a beautiful octopus called Ursula.
New for 2016 is the refurbished 360-degree underwater tunnel, which gives amazing views of a huge turtle called Malachi and tropical Indian Ocean fish.
There are more than 2,000 creatures to see and it's a great half-day out.
Parent and Toddler tickets are £13.50.
Times and prices are subject to change. Contact venue before setting out.
My two older children have both loved visiting over the years so we thought it was time to take our four year old to see what he thought. I remember the excitement of seeing the building when it was new, with its roof like the wings of a ray, and my son seemed to feel some of the same excitement, especially with the giant penguin pictures on the wall. He duly liked the penguins the best - and they are beautiful - it's the middle of Birmingham for heavens' sake and there they are, leaping around with a sense of fun that obviously speaks to four-year olds (and forty somethings for that matter).
My son's friend is a massive fan of The Octonauts so the 4D cinema was also a big hit. The staff were very accommodating when I mentioned our son might not want to sit through the whole experience (shaking seats, squirts of water in the face!) but in the event he loved it too.
There are talks and backstage tours, which I'm sure our older children would have loved if they'd been there, (and I'd have liked to hear more about sharks off the British coast) but four year olds want to see what they want to see. We soon found ourselves at the main attraction, the UK's only 360 degree aquarium tunnel. I remember from last time the sheer variety of creatures in there is surprising, not just the sharks, with children shouting 'look at the huge turtle' and everyone having their favourite.
So all in all a Birmingham institution which we have a special affection for and I'm so pleased my youngest and his friend enjoyed it as much as his brother and sister. I'd get there early if you haven't booked tickets as seems it's not just us who like it. Also bring a camera that can shoot through glass or has an aquarium setting as I really struggled with my (admittedly basic) mobile phone
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