Family things to do in Manchester and the North

Gemma Gibb, Families Editor

No need to feel there’s no sparkle this January. We have found it for you and captured it in our trusty guide to the best family things to do indoors and outdoors this month and beyond.

New adventures to be had at museums and galleries include the chance to create patterns from light and incredible contraptions at new exhibition Patternarium at Eureka! in Halifax. While you are there, don’t miss the chance to leap around the recently restored Piece Hall.

In Manchester don’t miss the return of the Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth, the chance to unlock the secrets of your DNA at the Science and Industry Museum, and to step into the watery worlds and enchanted forests of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s imaginations in the new A World Inside a Book exhibition at Z-arts.

We also preview the best family Chinese New Year shenanigans and quality theatrical fixes at the RNCM and Waterside.

For those desperate to fill those shiny new 2019 diaries book now for outdoor spectacle Zara at The Piece Hall, and our favourite family festival Just So which has released details of new areas to adventure through this year.

Check out our free family things to do in Manchester guide for more ideas in this penny-saving start to the year.


Here are our picks

More in Families

Families 17 May 2017–3 May 2019,

Wonderlab at the Science and Media Museum

Explore a maze of mirrors and take part in Star Wars inspired sound battles in over 20 new state-of-the-art experiences in this new exhibition.

Rocket courtesy Science Museum
Exhibitions 25 September 2018–28 April 2019, FREE

Rocket Returns to the Science and Industry Museum

Make tracks for Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum. A one-in-a-lifetime chance to see Stephenson’s Rocket return to the site of the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway for the first time in over 180 years.

Exhibitions 18 October 2018–28 April 2019, FREE

Electricity: The Spark of Life at the Science and Industry Museum

One of the headline events from last year’s Manchester Science Festival, this super-charged exhibition tells the story of our quest to understand, unlock and master the power of electricity.

Exhibitions 19 October 2018–3 March 2019, FREE

Quentin Blake and John Yeoman: 50 Years of Children’s Books at Lady Lever Art Gallery

Bookworms rejoice! The first exhibition to celebrate illustrator Quentin Blake’s decades-long partnership with author and childhood friend John Yeoman promises literary larks and crazy characters for all.

Activity 20 October 2018–31 December 2019, FREE

Documentary Challenge at IWM North

Make and feature in your own mini-documentary at IWM North.

Everyman Rock 'n' Roll panto The Snow Queen
Families 24 November 2018–19 January 2019, from £15.00

Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto: The Snow Queen at Liverpool Everyman

The Everyman’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto is as much of a festive tradition as matching Christmas jumpers and a trip to Father Christmas’ grotto.

Dance 2–3 February 2019, from £4

In the Palm of my Hand at Bluecoat

This new performance work is the culmination of a project with Kinship Carers. A compassionate tale of hope, courage, love and determination.

Chinese New Year in Manchester
Families 7–10 February 2019, FREE

Glittering Golden Dragon at Exchange Square

Head to Exchange Square to catch a glimpse of the giant, glittering Golden Dragon that has taken up residence there this Chinese New Year in Manchester

Activity 9 February 2019, from £5

Making a Dimension: Digital Drawing Workshop at CFCCA

Join CFCCA for a digital image making workshop taking inspiration from the anti-aesthetic, memes and old school internet imagery in it’s current exhibition ‘Chinternet Ugly.’ Led by artist Emily Tilzey, this practical workshop will cover digital surface drawing, painting, image layering and over exposure.

Culture Guides


January brings a focus on women-centric cinema, classic revivals and international hits.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: making the Glasgow Style at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool


On the brink of the new year, here’s a couple of the major exhibitions and smaller gems we’re looking forward to in 2019.


January, February, March, April, even May… we’ve plenty for you to look forward to live literature wise as 2019 unfolds – from performance poetry and soundscapes to readings from magazines, memoirs and award-winning short stories.


Ranging from electronica to indie, this month’s music guide features some of the most singular voices in contemporary music.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Five-star musicals, acclaimed site-specific performances and two-week-long eclectic arts festivals? There’s nothing dry about January.

Tours and Activities

Explore the other side of Manchester’s performing arts, as this month, we highlight some of the best tours of the city’s theatres, venues and concert halls.

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