What to Know about National Outdoor Expo Birmingham NEC

This March I went along to the National Outdoor Expo at the NEC. Attending briefly on both the Saturday and Sunday and thought I would share with you my experience. This is of course to inform you if you want to attend in later years, but also as a reminder for myself!

About The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham

The Outdoor Expo Birmingham at the NEC is, as it sounds, for those who love outdoor adventures. Whether that is on their own, in a group or as a family. The show features a variety of motivational speakers, a wealth of information, a variety of outdoor merchandise, physical activities and workshops. These take place both inside and outside of the Hall.

vibrams at the national outdoor expo

Seeing the merchandise in person gives you a chance to see how some of it fits – whilst also giving you the opportunity to discover nothings that you have never heard of. Be warned though it is a good idea to have a good luck around before making any purchases.

Getting Tickets

If you get them at the right time tickets are free. This included both tickets for adults and children.  This was for both the Saturday and the Sunday. If not I believe that they are £10 for the weekend.


There is parking at the NEC which costs £16.95 for the day. A saving of £5 can be made if you book the day before. It took us 13 minutes (0.65 mile) to walk from the car park but there is also a free shuttle bus from the car parks.

national outdoor expo Birmingham parking ticket

There is also parking at the Train Station with different rates dependent on whether you are taking a train or not.

Parking is also available at Resorts World. This is much cheaper if you are only staying for a short amount of time and is much closer to the Hall. Also at Resorts World you can have cheaper parking if you spend money there – making this still the cheapest way to pay for parking!

Electric Vehicles Parking

There’s some limited (22) slow-charging electric parking on a first come first served basis or – you can pre-book one of the 8 guaranteed EV premium spaces. This may increase by next year though so do check the website. https://nationaloutdoorexpo.com/

Additional Needs at The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham

Firstly, there are some blue badge parking spaces but you still need to pay for parking. Secondly the NEC aims to be fully accessible to those with access needs and there is a quiet space available.

However, we found the Hall on the Saturday completely overwhelming that no amount of visiting a quiet space would have helped with this. The Sunday was much quieter and more manageable, but this could well be to do with the fact that we attended early and it was Mothering Sunday.

Next year Mother’s Day is 10th March 2024, whilst the National Outdoor Expo is the 23rd-24th March 2024.

Other things to Know

  • Open 9-5pm on both days
  • Only support animals are allowed in the hall

Planning your Day at The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham

Plan your visit as early as possible.

Some of the features at the show will require you to book a session in advance, these links can be found on the individual feature pages on the What’s on page on the website. If there is not a link to book on the page you will be able to walk up on the day to take part in the feature. Some of the features with bookable sessions may currently be fully booked but are likely to have walk up sessions available on the day.

leg attached to stand-up paddle board

We found things like the Paddle Boarding, Kayaking and Bushcraft were already fully booked before we looked. Also there were big queues for the climbing wall and zip line challenge.

Think about what times you may want to listen to Inspirational Speakers, or Celebrity meet and greets you may wish to do. Also if you are going to do the outdoor swimming and/or ice bath – think about whether you will need to do this at the end of your day or not.

The Ice Bath at The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham

The Ice Bath Co were there with their Ice Bath. This is possible to go down to 2 degrees but for safety reasons they had it set to 5. There was someone talking to me the whole time, they had a towel for me afterwards and there’s nice steps to get in and out.

Ice bath at the National Outdoor expo Birmingham NEC

There was only one person before me, so not much waiting around and no-one waiting afterwards. This meant that there was really no pressure as to how long to stay in. Although having a camera pointing in my face for a lot of it was a bit daunting – especially when I saw what it was like to go under the water in it.

Things to Know About Using the Ice Bath

You need to bring your own costume. I suggest you come wearing it. There didn’t appear to be anywhere to get changed but I do think they had loan of a Dryrobe so you could change under that.

You sign on an online disclaimer before getting in – but other than that there wasn’t really much safety advice/information. This is a complete contrast to wanting to do the Open Water Swim.

Personally I went from the Ice Bath straight to a booked cold water swim on the Sunday and then went home.

Swimming at at The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham

Okay so the only reason I even knew about at The National Outdoor Expo Birmingham was from wild swimming groups. It is because the event is the only time that you are allowed to swim in the Pendigo Lake.

It was wonderful both days – and everyone was so warm and friendly.

outdoor swim at Pendigo Lake NEC Birmingham during the National Outdoor Expo

Water Safety

Swimming is free at the National Outdoor Expo but you need to have a NOWCA membership (£15 annually) and book a slot (or slots – I went on the Saturday and Sunday). You will also need to do a Cold Water Induction – this is free online with the membership.

There are all sorts of benefits but one is that you receive a wrist band and you use it to tap in and out of the water so that they know who is in the water, how long you have been and can notify your emergency contact easily.

Other safety features on offer was also free wetsuit and tow float hire. Lifeguards on SUP boards around the water as well as plenty of knowledgeable people nearby – including the Bluetits.

Changing Facilities

There is a communal tent to get changed in for both before and after your swim. The Saturday I used this and found it a bit crowded. It was also difficult that there was people changing who I felt were a bit cold. One man even had a cup of tea and I felt sure it was going to go everywhere. Sunday I changed on the side under my Dryrobe.

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