Family things to do in Manchester and the North

Shekina Rose, Families Editor

Halloween is officially over, bonfire night is finished, so does that mean we can finally say the word… ‘Christmas’?!

That’s right, the most wonderful time of the year is just around the metaphorical corner and we are little bit excited to say the least. There are so many events coming up in the run up to Christmas and throughout the festive season, and here, we present to you our top family events and activities taking place in Manchester and the North, both indoor and outdoor, in the coming months.

Get your hat and gloves on and visit The Lanterns at Chester Zoo, now in its eleventh year. Families of all ages are welcome to experience the zoo after dark, where it will be transformed into a sparkling wonderland.

Enjoy some really Christmassy Christmas shopping at the Festive Sundays in Manchester City Centre, starting on 13 November and running every consecutive Sunday until 18 December. Featuring dazzling street performances, live music and incredible puppetry for families in the weeks running up to Christmas.

Next up, it’s time to journey across to the coldest part of the planet. The Man Who Wanted to be a Penguin at Waterside Arts, tells the magical, heartwarming tale of a curious explorer planning for his next adventure, running from 30 November – 31 December.

On 4 December, join fantastic singer/songwriter Yemi Bolatiwa and her band at Z-arts, Manchester for T’was the Gig Before Christmas, a musical celebration featuring amazing music and some familiar festive friends.

And for the older kids, The Ocean at the End of the Lane at The Lowry welcomes young people aged 12+ and adults to experience an exciting and dangerous adventure beyond your wildest dreams! Various dates starting 12 December.

Shush… What’s that we hear? Oh help! Oh no! It’s the Gruffalo… and he’s on his way to the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) on 18 December for The Christmas Family Day: The Gruffalo, just in time for Christmas.

This is not one for the faint hearted. Learn all there is to know about Christmas the horrible way at Horrible Histories: Horrible Christmas at The Bridgewater Hall on 20 December.

Other December events coming up include The Room on the Broom at The Lowry and There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom & Other Stories at HOME Manchester. You can also wrap up warm in your cosiest hats, scarves and gloves and make your way to Glow at RHS Garden Bridgewater, featuring a brand-new lit-up trail jam-packed with shimmer and sparkle.

Open all year round is the interactive Fairy Tales wonderland at  Z-Arts, in an innovative and enchanting exhibition that takes children aged 0-8 and their grownups to a magical world, full of storytelling and immersive play. And for a rainy day.

Here are our picks

More in Families

The Lion King at the Palace Theatre
Families Until 11 March 2023, from £20.00

The Lion King at the Palace Theatre

The sun may have set over our Manchester theatres during the pandemic – but now “it’s rolling high through the sapphire sky” once again. Hit musical The Lion King has added even more dates to its previously postponed run.

Cinderella at Hope Mill Theatre
Families Until 11 December 2022, from £27.00

Cinderella at Hope Mill Theatre

Dig out those glass slippers…the previously postponed run of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella comes to Manchester. The perfect warm-up to the festive season.

Robin Hood at Oldham Coliseum
Families Until 7 January 2023, from £13.50

Robin Hood at Oldham Coliseum

Hitting the target this Christmas, Robin Hood promises to be a traditional pantomime of the highest order – great for the whole family.

A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon
Families Until 14 January 2023, from £15.00

A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon

Bringing music, laughter and a welcome dose of festive cheer, a brand-new adaptation of the Dickensian classic is the perfect festive treat for families this Christmas.

Childrens Until 2 January 2023, from £11

Lightopia at Heaton Park

The award-winning and visually sensational lantern and light festival returns to illuminate Manchester this winter.

saltaire living advent calendar
Families 1 December 2022–1 January 2023, FREE

Saltaire Living Advent Calendar

The Saltaire Living Advent Calendar has been a staple of the village since 2006, with community buildings and houses lighting up their windows with intricate illuminations.

ignite at gibside
Families 1 December 2022–1 January 2023, FREE

Christmas at Gibside

Get away from it all at Christmas at Gibside, a fantastical fire and lantern trail. We all love a stroll in the countryside, but this is a brand new way to experience the stunning eighteenth-century house and gardens.

Families 4 December 2022 12:00 pm, FREE

GRUB Sustainable Indie Christmas Market

GRUB are hosting a sustainably focused group of makers, bakers and curators in their Indie Christmas Market. Join them for a thoroughly festive afternoon.

Star of Wonder at Theatre Porto
Families 5–21 December 2022, from £0.00

Star of Wonder at Theatre Porto

Experience a magical new show that tells the tale of three travellers who follow a star. For children aged 5+ and their grownups.

Culture Guides

Image credit: Maryna Makarenko, Sun-Eaters, 2022

Cinema

Classic pre-Code cinema, the Artist Film Weekender and the music of John Williams are amongst our highlights this month.

Exhibitions

Pause in the hustle and bustle of festive prep to take in some inspiration from this month’s top exhibitions.

Writer Nicholas Royle. Photo by Zoe McLean

Literature

There are spooky stories, Christmas crime thrillers and plenty of books for stocking fillers as December unfolds and Manchester and the wider North region switches on the live literature lights.

Music

The festive season is here, and whether you want to escape it or embrace it, we’ve got you covered.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

Alongside radical sci-fi adaptations and free arts festivals, we take a look at some of the Christmas shows happening in the North.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North for autumn.

Tours and Activities

We’re deep into Autumn now but don’t let that stop you from finding a new tour or activity to get stuck into.

Things to do right now

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Cinderella at Hope Mill Theatre
Families Until 11 December 2022, from £27.00

Cinderella at Hope Mill Theatre

A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon
Families Until 14 January 2023, from £15.00

A Christmas Carol at Bolton Octagon

The Lion King at the Palace Theatre
Families Until 11 March 2023, from £20.00

The Lion King at the Palace Theatre

The Lanterns at Chester Zoo
Families Until 23 December 2022, from £5

The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Fairy Tales at Z-Arts
Families Until 26 February 2023, from £3.00

Fairy Tales at Z-Arts

Robin Hood at Oldham Coliseum
Families Until 7 January 2023, from £13.50

Robin Hood at Oldham Coliseum

Families Until 30 December 2022, from £6.00

Glow at RHS Garden Bridgewater

autumn season at z-arts
Families Until 30 December 2022, FREE

Autumn season at Z-arts

OUTDOOR ART CLUB AT THE WHITWORTH
Childrens Until 31 December 2022, FREE

Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth

Childrens Until 2 January 2023, from £11

Lightopia at Heaton Park