Family things to do in Manchester and the North

Gemma Gibb, Families Editor

In the month leading up to the C word, our guide to top family things to do together is about both outdoor and indoor adventures and the top family festive tickets to book now for.

We recommend booking now for Chester Zoo’s theatrical Lanterns experience which encompasses nine new zones including an Ice Kingdom.

We are more than excited for the premiere of comedian Jackie Hagan’s children’s show which has the best title in the world, The Forest of Forgotten Discos. Part of Contact’s In The City programme head to Hope Mill for this show which is set to be something else.

At Eureka! there are three new family things to do in Halifax including brand new Patternarium exhibition, winter show and the most inclusive and welcoming Santa’s grotto in the land.

Head to HOME for the charming and surreal White for younger ones and Slapstick for physical comedy for older ones.

Get your Raymond Briggs festive fix with Father Christmas at Waterside and The Snowman at the Bridgewater Hall.

Finally, Our Kids Social are laying on a family new year’s eve party in the daytime at YES so those with nippers don’t miss out.

Phew. Better get those diaries out!



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.

Annual Banner Changeover 2018, courtesy of the People's History Museum
Education 20 January 2018–6 January 2019, FREE

Annual Banner Changeover 2018 at the People’s History Museum

Explore the story of democracy through a special display of banners that were integral to the women’s suffrage movement, as well as other campaigns for representation at the People’s History Museum.

Families 6 February–31 December 2018, FREE

Lark Hill Place 1918 at Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Investigate the brand new 1918 setting for atmospheric street installation Lark Hill Place, then let loose in Peel Park.

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

A headline event for Manchester Science Festival, this super-charged new exhibition tells the story of our quest to understand, unlock and master the power of electricity.

Activity 20 October 2018–31 December 2019, FREE

Documentary Challenge at IWM North

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

Photo of the festive display outside the Corn Exchange
Families 9 November–23 December 2018, FREE

Manchester Christmas Markets

The Manchester Christmas Markets are one of the biggest and busiest Christmas markets in Europe. Happening across Manchester city centre from 9 November to 20 December. Pick up stocking-fillers stuff yourself with German sausage and wash down with lashings of glühwein.

Families 10 November 2018–6 January 2019, from £6

Liverpool Christmas Ice Festival

Liverpool’s iconic Pier Head is transformed into a winter wonderland for the return of the much-loved Liverpool Christmas Ice Festival

Activity 24 November–15 December 2018, from £4

World of Music at Band on the Wall

Taking place at Band on the Wall over four Saturdays, the Guide to the World of Music taster sessions will help young people learn how to sing, play and discover new music.

Culture Guides


It’s almost that most wonderful time of the year and there’s all kinds of festive programming and counter-programming in the cinemas of Manchester and the North.

Ren Hang: Wake Up Together at Open Eye Gallery


Tubism, pottery, same-sex intimacy and art education; this month’s Exhibitions Guide has it all. (Even a tentative mention of Christmas.)

Poet Nia Davies at No Matter #4.


December sees some great events lined up for those readers who have been good this year – read on to find out about the live literature gifts we have wrapped up for you, and find out where to buy some Christmas presents of your own…


This month’s music guide features some of the most exciting underground artists from around the world, as well as homegrown Manchester talent.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


Contemporary circus, slapstick comedy, burlesque and immersive dining. Our theatre guide spans the festive season and beyond.

Tours and Activities

This month we are highlighting some of the top multilingual tours and activities Manchester has to offer.

Things to do right now

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Families 6–15 December 2018, from £6

Black Beauty at Z-arts

Families 1 December 2018–6 January 2019, from £14

Stick Man at The Lowry

The Wizard of Oz at Storyhouse
Families 7 December 2018–6 January 2019, from £15.00

The Wizard of Oz at Storyhouse

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

Photo of the festive display outside the Corn Exchange
Families 9 November–23 December 2018, FREE

Manchester Christmas Markets

Families 23 November–23 December 2018, from £5

The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Families 7 December 2018–5 January 2019, from £4.50

Southport Christmas Ice Rink and Winter Wonderland

Activity 20 October 2018–31 December 2019, FREE

Documentary Challenge at IWM North