Winter Island

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor
Winter Island

Winter Island at Freight Island, Manchester 9 November — 24 December 2023 Entrance is free — Visit now

Freight Island has only gone and done it again. This festive season, Mayfield Park transforms into Winter Island, packed full of the best festive-themed food, drink and live events, not to mention The Twilight Trail – an enchanting winter light show, happening now and running right up until Sunday 31 December.

It’s the perfect inner-city Christmas destination for all ages, plus the first event of its kind at Mayfield Park, transforming it into “a dazzling city-centre winter escape” for the duration of the festive period. And dazzling is the right word, whether you’re looking for lights, food, booze and pretty much anything else  that comes under the banner of ‘Christmassy’.

During a recent visit, we were constantly impressed by the sheer number of things to do, all high quality, all well worth a repeat visit. Whether that’s cocktails at the upstairs bar (tentatively titled The Lounge, so we’re told by the superbly upbeat and highly-skilled barman), or sipping mulled wine while dipping into one of the many top-notch street food vendors found throughout the complex.

Speaking of street food, just inside the main hall Mega Gyros serves up fresh, beautiful Greek cuisine, practically next door to Mia’s Arepas A Taste of Venezuela – both must-visits. Not forgetting the glorious Indo-Chinese buffet courtesy of Payal, and the crispy, crunchy chocolate-covered churros found at the far corners of The Twilight Trail itself.

Speaking of the trail, it’s a vibrant show-slash-walk, soundtracked by DJ and producer Kenny Dope to full effect. You’ll begin your journey at Mayfield Park, then follow the 30-minute trail around the seasonally renamed Winter Island.

Elsehwere, you’ll find a brand-new Grotto in the Plant Room, home to an interactive Visit Santa Experience (a far cry from the low-budget grottos I enjoyed back in the 1980s at Wigan’s finest Labour Clubs, which placed the emphasis firmly on grot), while The Mezz has been transformed into a cosy Alpine Lodge in collaboration with Grey Goose.

You can also expect a bunch of live performances, a Santa Paws dog show and a wreath-making workshop with Northern Lights. And, of course, there’ll be plenty of Christmas pop-ups from Cocoa Cabana, Parmogeddon, Formaggi by Lazy Tony’s, Smoking Coal German BBQ, alongside a Paulaner Tap Takeover.

The festive destination is strategically located in the city centre, just a short five minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station, providing easy transport links including trains, trams and buses.

Looking for more festive events and experiences? Check out our Christmas guide.

Winter Island at Freight Island, Manchester 9 November — 24 December 2023 Entrance is free Visit now

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