Muddy visits: Cadbury World, Birmingham
Yes, I’m well aware it’s not in Berkshire, thank you, no need to write in. But last week we were staying with some good friends who live about an hour from Cadbury World and they suggested we try it. I figured if it was somewhere I was keen to travel to with the kids, then my lovely Muddy readers might also consider it for a day trip. Besides, a day dedicated to chocolate – no need to ask me twice. Elasticated waistband? Check. I am ready and ALL in. If you’re planning a visit, then read my review first. I’ve broken it down into manageable chunks… of Dairy Milk if you will.
Thankfully booking was not in my control – my friend Kirsty had organised the whole thing and pre-booked our tickets online weeks in advance. This is definitely not my style. I am the mother who decides the night before, or often the morning itself, that we are going on a massive family day out and we’ll just pay on the door, and ‘It’ll all be fine’ is still ringing in my ears as the man at said door looks at me like I’m insane and spits: ‘of course we’re fully booked’ at me, while my children openly weep at his feet. So please, don’t do a ‘me’.
Cadbury World is incredibly popular and gets booked up, particularly during school holidays. Pre-booking is essential and will ensure you get a sensible time slot for your tour (slots are available throughout the day at 10 minute intervals and Cadbury World itself was open from 9am to 4.30pm the day we visited but check opening times on the website as it varies a lot depending on the time of year). Plus, if you book online you save 5%. There are also other offers like 2-for-1 tickets on a Thursday so it’s worth giving yourself time to look into all the options. I paid £35 for one adult and two children – which I didn’t think was too bad. And a family of four is just shy of £50.
The main crux of Cadbury World is a self-guided tour. You walk through various zones which tell you the story of chocolate with some heavy PR spin along the way. Well, what did you expect, really? Just grin and bear it. You’re getting free chocolate after all (tell you about that later).
You begin in a Disneyesque Aztec Jungle discovering the origin of the cocoa bean then move onto the story of the Cadbury family and how the company began; how chocolate is made; manufacturing (a series of video stations where you watch videos of the chocolates being made); chocolate-making; advertising (how many can you remember? Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate…); a green zone where you can buy a photo of you surfing on a Dairy Milk bar; Cadabra (a seated ride through a chocolate wonderland); an interactive zone with games, and finally you get deposited in the Cadbury Shop at the very end – just like Augustus Gloop diving into the pool of chocolate.
Overall we all enjoyed the tour and it’s done in a way to try to keep all ages entertained – though obviously depending on your child, some areas will be more popular than others. Ours surprisingly enjoyed the historical bits learning about the Cadbury family who were Quakers, and how John Cadbury started out by selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate in his shop as an alternative to alcohol. They also loved the bits walking through the working parts of the factory where you see more real-life processes going on. But some bits of the tour are more entertaining than others, and some of it is seated in a mini-theatre so you can’t escape until the presentation has ended (aggh!). But as the majority is walk-through, it’s easy enough to simply speed up through certain areas if your children are getting fidgety.
The Cadbury Café
It’s my biggest bugbear in places like this. The food. It’s nearly always a let down (Legoland, I’m looking at you). So if I’m organised (rarely) I will take a packed lunch and bottled water for us all. But actually, the food at the Cadbury Café was ok. There were some decent looking pre-packed sandwiches and salads, paninis, and a good selection of more substantial meals including fish and chips (£6.95), homemade soup and a roll (£3.55), jacket potato with various fillings (£5.25).
Kids can either have a half portion of any adult meal for £4.95 or a children’s meal, which change regularly but on that day was chicken nuggets served with half a jacket or chips and a side salad and drink (£4.95). I know, it’s hardly Heston Blumenthal, but it was all freshly cooked and service was pretty good even though the place was incredibly busy. Ok, there was the odd glitch – they had run out of tomato ketchup – I watched the colour drain from my son’s face as I had to recount the news – and they’d also run out of jacket potatoes. But overall, better food than I’ve had at many other days out type of places, and reasonably priced. Here’s a sample menu if you want to take a look.
It’s worth mentioning that apart from the tour there is an outdoor African Adventure play area, a 4D Chocolate Adventure zone and the Bourneville Experience (more about the Cadbury family and how the Bourneville village came to be built) and they can all be visited before or after your tour. Believe me, it’s time well spent. We arrived in time for the start of our tour at 10.50am and were driving away at about 3.30pm. We spent about two hours walking through the main exhibition tour, maybe 45 minutes at lunch in the café and the rest of the time outside and on the 4D adventure. The play area is a decent sized adventure playground type thing with the odd Cadbury character turning up now and again for photo opportunities (who wouldn’t want their photo taken with a Creme Egg on legs?).
It was absolutely heaving the day we went, but it was peak Easter holidays and the sun had just come out after a rainy morning, so parents were literally chucking their hyper children at the equipment screaming: ‘Burn off the sugar before you get in my car!’ The 4D experience is as you’d expect a sit down theatre where you pop on 3D glasses (the 4th element is the moving seats – sadly not being showered with chocolate buttons as I’d hoped) and enjoy a thrill ride through a world of Cadbury chocolate. It was AWESOME. And although we had to queue for just over half an hour, well worth the wait. We all loved it.
You knew it was coming. Because what place these days doesn’t have a shop to entice our children in, and have us parents staring down the barrel of another £20 spent on crappy memorabilia? But seriously, this is the world’s biggest Cadbury’s shop – you can’t avoid it, and besides, it’s a hoot! Set aside a little bit of money so you can let the kids go a bit Willy Wonka.
It’s not just chocolate – although there are lots of chocolatey things exclusive to the Cadbury Shop which you won’t see elsewhere – but there are Corgi Creme Egg vans, cuddly Freddo frogs, purple merchandise (there’s a lot of purple at Cadbury world!) including caps, sweatshirts, key rings, bags, and loads of retro styled stuff which I really liked. Basically (and unsurprisingly) all the Cadbury-related chocolate tat you can possibly imagine! There’s also a small factory shop where you can buy chocolate at bargain prices – littlest Mudlet literally filled her pockets with as many Freddo bars as she could (10 for £1.50) and at least half of them made it home – the other half being obliterated during the two hour car journey.
I’d definitely recommend a visit to Cadbury World, and it works particularly well if you have a large span of ages to keep happy. I noticed it was very baby/toddler friendly with plenty of pushchair parks at the various zones throughout the tour, and baby changing facilities. I started out a little sceptical, thinking it was a bit too commercial (uh, of course it is) but as the day progressed I could see how much the children were enjoying it, and I realised I was enjoying it too, and actually finding it really interesting.
Ah, you thought I’d forgotten. The one burning question that you’ve been desperate to ask – do you get free chocolate?! Yes, of course you do! As soon as you go in and start the tour a very smiley lady (dressed in purple, natch) hands you not one, not two, but THREE Cadbury chocolate bars (Crunchie, Dairy Milk and a Curly Wurly since you asked) and it is blinking brilliant. What a day. That elasticated waistband came in handy I can tell you.