Last Thursday night we had the absolute joy of visiting the Christmas Trail at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for a very festive #BrumBloggers meet up. If you read my Christmas Culture post, you’ll know I’m a sucker for night time events that involve pretty lights, sounds and walking so this special Christmas at the Botanical Gardens event was 100% up my street.
I have really vivid memories of going to see Illuminations when I was younger – I’m not sure where we went, but I remember getting on a Park & Ride bus and being able to see the lights as we drove closer, and then being amazed as we walked through them all. Things like this stay with you, I think, and although Pickle is perhaps a bit too young to be able to remember this week’s treat, it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to continue taking him to. And I’m pleased to report that he loved it. He must have felt like he was exploring a magical Wonderland. Not surprisingly, that’s what it felt like for me too!
Having some hot dogs to munch on whilst we took in the sights and a cup full of mulled wine, definitely added to the festive spirit. At the start of the trail, there’s also an old fashioned Victorian fairground complete with grown-up and little carousels and a proper Helter-Skelter slide. The rides have an additional charge to the entrance price, and we’d have definitely enjoyed them, were it not for Pickle being absolutely desperate to investigate the lights first. He saw a glimpse of them through the gates, and was off. You know the lights are good when they’re more enticing than a carousel!
The trail itself was beautiful – there were candy canes, snowflake floor patterns, glittering reindeer, light tunnels, strings of lanterns and a whole hillside of sweeping festoon lights that danced beautifully to accompanying music (a spectacular finale to witness at the end!). The colours, music and smells of festive food all added to the atmosphere, and although I had anticipated carrying Pickle in his carrier around the trail, it was way better letting him wander at his own pace – taking in the sights in his own way.
I thought we might get chance to come back to the fairground rides at the end, but once we’d completed the trail, it was definitely time to be heading home. It was a bitterly cold night and way past Pickle’s bedtime, particularly as it was going to be a fair journey home – a good half an hour walk to the train station, followed by a thirty minute train ride back to Redditch.
It was an added treat to see my blogging friend Lucy (from Real Mum Reviews) and her family, and to finally say hello to Sinead (from Sinead Latham) after we reviewed the same performance of Me… at Midlands Arts Centre a few weeks ago! Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to chat to other local bloggers – I spent most of the networking section of the evening running around the hall after Pickle (who was VERY impressed with the balloon-snowflakes tied to the ceiling).
I didn’t manage to get many good photos of the trail – running after an energetic toddler isn’t really conducive to getting crisp shots in the dark without a tripod, but I’ll keep an eye out for other bloggers posts from the event, and link any I see here if you’re debating whether to go or not. In the meantime, check out the #ChristmasAtTheBotanicalGardens hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for a preview of what you can expect!
Christmas At The Botanical Gardens according to other bloggers:
- “I’ve always loved the Botanical Gardens as it is unlike anything else in the city and it’s such a serene, calming venue.” – Bethan in Brum
- AllThingsKerri filmed a great little vlog on YouTube that really showcases the trail! If you watch carefully, you may even spot LPD by the carousel!
Important Information to Consider
If you’re planning a trip, I’d recommend getting the train. I didn’t attempt to drive but the Botanical Gardens have been quite clear that parking on site is very restricted and nearby residential parking spots are limited. It’s about a mile’s walk from Five Ways train station and although the website suggests getting the bus – the walk isn’t too bad: it’s well lit and has plenty of pelican crossings (if you walk down Calthorpe Road, then tun right onto Westbourne Road). That said, it is worth speaking to the venue if you have access requirements – I know they were able to accommodate a friend of mine this week.
I’d give yourself a good hour to walk around the trail, perhaps a bit longer if you want to enjoy the fairground rides beforehand. There’s refreshment stalls at the beginning, and half way around too so you can top up with hot drinks (alcoholic or otherwise!) as well as festive cakes and biscuits. You may need to warm up if the weather stays this cold – but I think that all helps produce the wintry atmosphere! It wouldn’t quite be the same if you were working up a sweat walking around.
Christmas at the Botanical Gardens is running until 1 January 2018, and tickets can be booked in advance. Prices start from £10 for adults and £8 for children aged over 4. Refreshments bought on the trail and the fairground rides have an additional charge.
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Disclaimer: we were offered hospitality press tickets in order to review the event, organised by the #BrumBloggers team. All opinions and views remain my own.