16 February 2012
I have already described an earlier visit to the Black Country Museum during 2010. This time I took my daughter during the February half-term holiday. The black country museum is an outdoor / indoor museum showing a sample of buildings from the Black Country. There are a few different time periods within the site including Victorian to post World War 2.
Once again we gift aided the admission which provided us with 12 months admission for the same price as one visit. As well as the usual map of the site we were given a trail guide. This involved finding certain features around the site and taking down some information related to the exhibit. This was mostly a number or word. The trail was fairly easy, but the objective was to make you see some of the exhibits that you may otherwise miss. No prize at the end or anything, but my daughter enjoyed finding all the clues.
The trolley buses were not running. These are normally running on weekends only so I wasn't particularly surprised. The Tram was running and we had a good bit of commentry from the driver. The tram was very popular. When we first tried the tram was full, so we made sure we were at the tram stop extra early for the next one (about 15 minutes later). We looked around the vintage cars and motorbikes. Some of the cars and bikes have been moved around and as a result you can now get closer to the cars than before which is a good improvement.
I was pleasantly surprised that some of the fair ground was still open despite it being winter. As I expected many of the rides were closed for the winter and maintenance, but there was still enough to have a go on the adult swingboats, the cake walk and a childrens round-a-bout as well as a couple of side-stalls.
We were dissapointed when it came to food. They have now moved the cafe from the canal side cafe building to the main hall in the Workers Institute. This means that the one indoor area where you could eat your own food (or food from the take-a-way fish and chip shop) is now a cafe. There was a reasonable choice of hot meals for adults in the cafe, but I didn't see any children's hot meals. There was a childrens sandwich, but no crisps or snacks to go with it (the only crisps were salt and black pepper or mature chedder - which were not really suitable for children). Unforunately there didn't appear to be any prices on the food either, and I was dissapointed by the cost of our meal considering that the few prices that were advertised (hot meals) seamed very reasonable. I wasn't offered a receipt which was instead screwed up and thrown straight in the bin, so I didn't even see which were the expensive items. We may have done something different if we'd seen the prices in advance. The old cafe seamed to have a better choice of food for children (although didn't have such good toilets / baby changing facilities as the new location).
The more popular choice is the fish and chips. As my daughter only ate some of her sandwich and as there were no snacks we were going to have some chips afterwards. There are two fish and chip shops in the museum, but only one of them was open and the queue was very long. We tried waiting until a bit later, but the queue didn't seam to reduce at all so tried joining the queue. After joining the queue for a few minutes we decided to give it a miss. We went to the bakery shop and had a biscuit, walked to the old cafe building, made a craft thaumatrope and then walked back towards the fish and chip shop to see that the people that were in front of us were still in the queue for the fish and chip shop. From past visits the fish and chips are nice, but wasn't worth waiting in that long a queue for. It's a shame that both fish and chip shops weren't open for such a busy day.
The former cafe building was being used for craft sessions during the half-term holiday. They were just making the one craft which was a thaumatrope. This is a spinning disc with a picture on each side that appears to be a single picture when spun quickly. This seamed an ideal craft as it was quick and easy to make, inexpensive and resulted in a toy that the children could take home.
The mine is currently closed for maintainance, whilst they upgrade the electrical wiring. They did instead put on some guided tours of the colliery buildings. These guided tours are usually good for adults, but are less interesting for younger children so we didn't join in. Hopefully the mine will be open again later in the year when we make use of our annual ticket.
The museum is well worth visiting. It's interesting for adults and children. There are lots of friendly staff willing to tell you what is was like in the past. You can even buy a glass gift hand engraved whilst you wait (ideal present for birthdays / Mothers day etc.). Unfortunately I think it's let down by the choice of food which has either very long queues or is less down by lack of child friendly food and no prices on the cold food display.