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Cadbury World (Birmingham)
Member Name: zoe_page_1
Cadbury World (Birmingham)
Advantages: It's Cadbury and you get free chocolate
Disadvantages: It's expensive, there aren't enough freebies, and it's not overly interesting
I have two tenuous links to Cadbury. The first is that the former Chief Exec and Chairman of the company, Sir John Sunderland went to the boys' school next door to mine (though left 30 years before I started). The second is that I love chocolate.
I once went to Tasmania with the sole purpose of visiting their Cadbury factory ("...all because the lady loves Milk Tray") but my previous attempts to visit Birmingham's Cadbury World while in the area had all been thwarted, so we finally decided to make a specific trip recently. Big Sis lives in the Midlands, so I drove down to stay overnight and we set off early on Saturday morning. The route is not complicated, and (chocolate) brown tourist attraction signs, mixed with the occasional (caramel) yellow AA sign direct you from the nearby motorways to the factory itself. The car park is large and free, but there are no drive-through spaces - always our preferred option since it saves reversing into or out of a space.
We arrived just before the place opened at 10am and a queue was forming, perhaps because they stress in all their leaflets and on their website that you should book in advance due to limited room, as an indoor attraction. You can't do this, however, if using vouchers, and we had redeemed Tesco points for this outing. Ticket prices are steep for what you get, at almost £14 for an adult, and £10 for a child. Tesco tokens come under the Days Out banner so you get 4 times the voucher value, meaning I redeemed £7.50 in vouchers to get £30 in entry tokens. No change is given, but it still works out cheaper than redeeming £5 to get £20 and paying the difference. We had no trouble getting in but had to queue up for maybe 10 minutes, along with a lot of families NOT obeying the direction for one member to line up while others waited to the side.
We then proceeded to the entry to the first part, where they enticingly hand over two full-sized chocolate treats, currently a Curly Wurly and a bag of Buttons. I'd not had the former in maybe 20 years and I soon remembered why - I don't like them all that much - but you don't say no to free chocolate, even when expecting lots more to come. The first area you move into is small and cramped, and offers a rather boring museum style display about the history of chocolate rather than anything to do with Cadbury. I say boring because if you've been to any other chocolate museum or factory, you'll have seen or heard it all before. It was also extremely dark so people struggled to see where they were going, though flash photos lit the way (and came out surprisingly clearly). We dutifully read all the display signs but didn't really learn anything, and I could understand why many people, especially those with kids in tow, raced through this.
The next stop was a series of glass windows showing a hologram film of how Cadbury began. It's here that we began to think that doling out Curly Wurlys at the start was not the best idea. Waiting for the screens to reset took a few minutes, so we were not the only people who dug out the chocolate at this point and starting eating. However Curly Wurlys are quite messy - the chocolate literally falls off the toffee - so there were shards all over the floor that some poor person would clearly have to clean up later.
This was also a bit of a bottleneck as people had been flowing through the Aztec Jungle part only to get caught up here in batches waiting for the film to reset. At the time this seemed rather badly designed since there was no room really to wait in, but it soon became clear why they'd done it, as the next few areas were group activities - two little sit-down 'cinemas' showing films about Cadbury and where chocolate comes from. From here you go into the packaging area and again, cluster round a few screens which show you short films of how the make various items in the range - this was interesting to watch but there were a few too many people for the number of screens. You couldn't really hang around though, because the next lot would be spilling out of the previous cinema shortly. I would recommend heading to the furthest screen on offer in this bit since it gets you out of the way when the next lot come through. Some people gave up on this and just watched a couple of the shorts, but we worked our way through all of them.
Next up is the demonstration area where you, finally, get more chocolate. This may depend on what they're making that day and/or what they want to promote: we got a new Fair Trade Dairy Milk each. By this point the crowds have thinned out and you can go at your own pace again, walking round the packaging plant and having a nosy at how they make things. You can't get in to it, but you can peer through the glass as people are hard at work...watching the machines do their job. We saw bars being wrapped, and wrapped bars being batched into boxes. This part has a few steps, and is about a ¼ mile circuit to walk but is worth it if only for the glorious chocolate smell that suddenly hits you as you walk round. If you want, you can also do a computerised quiz at one point, but alas there are no prizes, chocolatey or otherwise, up for grabs.
Cadabra is a fairground style ride of the tamest sort, and the place you get to next on the circuit. To be honest, it is not worth bothering with as an adult (and you can skip it entirely) though little ones might like it. You sit in the world's slowest car and slowly crawl round the Cadbury equivalent of Disney's 'It's A Small World'. This is a newish attraction, but I really didn't see what it added, and I can imagine any child who has been treated to a trip to Disney or even Alton Towers would also feel underwhelmed.
Next up is the Demonstration Area where you can watch various talented artists among the staff make pretty chocolate shapes, and also write your name in chocolate and so on - it's fun, but also a bit of a let down as there's so much chocolate right in front of you but none is for eating and they have all sorts of signs up about how you can buy 'hygienic' chocolate in the shop at the entrance, thus implying that this stuff is not (probably because they use it for demos repeatedly throughout the day). It's quite hard to resist running your finger through it when they're not looking though. The third station at this stop was especially good when we went, because the demonstrator was a fantastic entertainer and really played to the crowd, putting everyone in a good mood (if you weren't already, and, hello, you're in Cadbury World).
The final two parts of the main circuit are a lot less chocolatey - first you walk through a tunnel full of old Cadbury adverts playing on loops, and old packaging to remember. You don't realise how much things like Buttons have changed until you see the old bags from the 90s. This is also the place to discover some famous faces - the Caramel Bunny and the Gorilla, for example. Finally you hit the Purple Planet which is an interactive area that has very little to do with chocolate, but which the kids seemed to like, and reminded me of parts of Blackpool Tower.
We left this area with a bit of an 'is that really it?' feeling. Somehow I'd been expecting something a little more...special. I had an image in my mind of what a trip to Cadbury World would be like, and the reality is a bit different. We had three (ok, by now two) full sized chocolate bars to take away but I had thought by this point I would have scoffed a bit more. At the Cadbury Factory in Tasmania they literally drip feed you chocolate as you go round, and even though the treats are smaller (some only Heroes or Roses sized) somehow it feels like more as it's a constant flow. That is also a guided tour, while this is a self-guided set up, though you can only go at your own pace during the bits where you're not caged up with dozens of other visitors in a little, locked room...
Luckily we weren't quite done yet, as there is a new exhibit, Essence, outside in the courtyard near the playground, and this won the place a few more brownie points. It starts with a hideous, irritating film but swiftly moves on to...more free chocolate. Yay! Though again, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. They sell it as the place you can concoct your own chocolate creation using all sorts of mix-ins, but in reality you can only have one of these. The choices include things like Wine Gums, marshmallows and popcorn, which they place in a small paper cup and drench in warm, liquid chocolate. I had shortcake pieces and the result was delicious - I just wish I could have gone back for more. This is the only place where the item you get is not pre-packaged, but they have dietary info for the items stuck up on the wall, so we could easily see which (few) were suitable for vegetarians.
Since we were out here, we headed into the Bourneville Experience exhibition which is also out here in the courtyard. It is about the history of Bourneville Village, but wasn't overly interesting, and we didn't stay long.
There were two places inside left to explore, both of which are accessible without a ticket (ditto the playground and the Bourneville Experience, but obviously not Essence). We had lunch in the cafe which had a reasonable choice though confusingly the menu of hot food was near the entrance, not next to the counters, and some things weren't on display. We requested a veggie burger which they said would be 5 minutes - it came out after a more reassuring 10, and was nice and well cooked, and choc full of veggies. I had a sandwich from their large range which again was nice and fresh, despite not having been made on site. We also delved into the sweet treats on offer, having a mousse desert thing and a slice of chocolate orange cake which was a little dry. Prices were not too bad, and the cafe layout was nice and airy, akin to my local Lakeland cafe.
The 'World's Biggest Cadbury Shop' lived up to its name but was nothing compared to the one in Tasmania, where they sold fresh-from-the-factory chocolate, not even packaged properly, but just wrapped up in paper bags. Here there was very little chocolate you could not find in supermarkets (often costing less too) and the 'extras' were really non-edible things like toy Gorillas and Cadbury Bunny post-its. Fun to have, but nothing to satisfy my sweet tooth. They had a few hand-made treats you wouldn't find elsewhere, which could make great gifts, but they weren't especially cheap, and didn't look like they would cost the money they did (always important when giving presents!)
It's a bit of a strange mix of part museum, part factory tour (sort of - more part of a nosy through the window of a tiny bit of the factory) but it seemed to lack good old fashioned entertainment value and while the idea of going to a world of chocolate would have appealed to me as a child, I'd have been left wondering where it was after a visit here - even with the silly ride they've thrown in, I can imagine more than a few disappointed kiddies leave here on a daily basis as it's kid friendly but not that, well, interesting for little ones.
Obviously I'm glad I have now visited Cadbury World, and I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from going - once. I would, however, make sure you get some kind of discount. It is far too expensive for what you get to even consider paying full price, but there are all sorts of codes available online, or do what we did and let Tesco pick up the tab. As an indoor attraction (except for the walk round the corner to Essence) it is a suitable trip for any time of year, but it is a lot smaller than I'd imagined it would be, and we only stayed 3 hours despite including two trips to the cafe and a long trawl of the shop - you could easily do it in 90 minutes if you ploughed on and didn't dawdle. I won't be returning in a hurry, and that's something I'm a little sad about. It's ok, but I thought it could be better for the money. After all, just think how many bars of chocolate you could buy for £14...
I had wanted to go here for so long I was quite shocked by having to give it such a mediocre rating. This place currently ranks 5th (out of 5) on my list of chocolate experiences . For those who are interested, the others, in order of wow factor, are:
1, Chocolate Tasting at the Lindt Concept Store in Sydney - see review, this was an amazing evening I can still recall vividly 4 years later...
2, Cadbury Tasmania - for all the reasons above (and those in the review on the place)
3, Hershey (it RAINS chocolate here at one point, bars literally fall from the ceiling)
4, The chocolate museum in Cologne where they charge you less and are much more generous with the freebies
Summary: A suprising let down
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