Winter is coming. Cliché, I know, but there is an impending sense of doom in the chilly air. The holiday cheer that winter brings is gone just as quickly as it comes, leaving only cold and limited sunlight behind. For parents, winter is all about finding creative ways to expend our kids’ endless energy supplies. So here they are, my top five indoor activities in Birmingham for winter, all outside of the house. You’re welcome.
5. Southern Museum of Flight
I visited the Southern Museum of Flight for the first time Veteran’s Day weekend and couldn’t believe I’d overlooked it for so many years. If your child is into airplanes, this is a must-do. My kids aren’t very interested in flight but still really enjoyed the museum. The museum includes a Little Pilots playroom for younger kids with tons of legos, books, ride-on toys, and two small playscapes (all airplane-themed of course). Kids 12 and up can experience flight in the five flight simulators. My favorite part of the museum was browsing the historical warplanes, while my sons liked the model warships and flight uniforms. You can pack a lunch and eat inside if it’s too cold for the picnic tables outside. Tip: Check Groupon for BOGO admission tickets; kids 2 and under are free!
4. Birmingham Museum of Art
Did you think the Birmingham Museum of Art was just for Art on the Rocks, weddings, and exploring unique art exhibitions? Think again! The art museum is a wonderful place for kids to explore their creative side and for parents to escape their house on cold winter days. Bart the Art Bat shares his Artventure spaces that feature more than 15 hands-on learning stations encouraging “exploration, discovery, and creativity.” Artventure is made up of two spaces: the Sonat Gallery designed for kids under 5 and the Hess Gallery for ages 5-12. Check out the Art Bar for self-guided activities that change every two months. Be sure to check the museum’s calendar for Art Cart art-making activities tailored for kids 4-10. Best of all, the museum is absolutely free! Donations of any amount would be happily accepted.
3. Let’s Play
If your kids are anywhere near as active as mine, energy-draining activities are your best friend. Let’s Play on Hwy 280 has been my best friend for over two years now. This indoor playground is fully padded; seriously, the floor is the soft foam squares that kids pretty much can’t get hurt on. There are activities and separate spaces for kids aged 0-12. Multiple play structures with slides, baby area, ball pits, tea cups, obstacle net course, and a bounce house — Let’s Play has something for every child to enjoy! Let’s Play hosts Sensory Friendly Night the second Tuesday of every month, closing the play center to the general public and limiting the light and noise inside. Tip: Don’t forget socks! Shoes and bare feet are not allowed. But, fortunately for all, TJ Maxx is next door.
2. Local Library
The libraries in the Birmingham area are top-notch. We’ve visited multiple Jefferson County libraries plus the North Shelby Library and have yet to be disappointed. With some planning, you can attend story time every day of the week at different libraries around the city. I grew up in a town that had one library and it was the only one we ever visited. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing place and I have the fondest of memories, but there is something wonderful about having so many different libraries within a 15-20 minute drive. Each Birmingham-area library offers something unique, and their librarians put their own spin on story times. Tip: Most books checked out at one Jefferson County library can be returned to any other Jefferson County library (i.e., if you check out a book at Hoover Library, you can return it to Avondale Library).
1. McWane Science Center
Last, but certainly not least, McWane Science Center is one of Birmingham’s crown jewels. This is the one place my family has a membership (four years running) because it never gets old. It is great any time of year, especially when it’s too cold, too hot, or too wet to be outside. McWane has a number of permanent exhibits such as Itty Bitty Magic City (for 5 and under), Alabama Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters, an aquarium, IMAX theater, and much more. Visit now through January 7th to enjoy Holidays at McWane. This featured exhibit has incredible model trains, a life-size train to ride, zip line, and slide. Tip: You can spend hours in McWane working up an appetite. The Pizitz Food Hall is across the street, so be sure to stop in for lunch or dinner after exploring the museum.
We are very fortunate to have mostly mild, short winters in Birmingham, but we do need indoor options to keep our houses standing when the weather is not suited for outdoor play at the park or hitting up the area’s amazing hiking trails.
Did I miss any of your favorite indoor retreats?