Family things to do in Manchester and the North

Creative Tourist

With summer in full bloom in Costa del Manchester and the North, we round up our top alfresco activities to do with the family, while signposting exciting indoor offerings from our newly reopened venues.

Dino Kingdom in Wythenshawe Park invites archaeologists big and small to meet 100 towering, roaring prehistoric beasts, including an 18 metre-long Tyrannosaurus Rex!

For theatre lovers, Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in Chester has a spectacular summer season underway, with one family highlight being The Jungle Book. We also recommend Grimm Tales in the wonderfully eerie Williamson Park and the Summer Shakespeare Festival, running for three weeks in Manchester city centre at the Great Northern Amphitheatre.

REFRACT:21 is now underway, with Waterside in Sale coming alive with a hand-picked programme of performance, including a host of lively shows for little ones and their grown-ups. Think theatre with live animation, interactive clown performances and music to get you moving.

On the festival front, meanwhile, be sure to check out Cheshire’s spectacular Just So Festival which really is one-of-a-kind and promises to be even bigger and even better as it returns this August. And over in Yorkshire, 5 on the Farm in Barnsley is offering families a taste of rural life with hands-on activities and furry friends to meet.

For lovers of literature, why not encourage the kids to take part in Manchester Libraries’ free Summer Reading Challenge, running for six weeks through the summer holidays, and open to all four to eleven-year-olds. Presented in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the theme is Wild World Heroes, focusing on the environment and nature.

And there’s plenty more to discover below, including the much-anticipated The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the adventures of Mog the Forgetful Cat at Z-arts, Chantry Dance’s striking ballet adaptation of The Little Mermaid at Waterside Arts, and trips on East Lancashire Railway’s Flying Scotsman.

There also continues to be a whole host of excellent online activities for little ones, ranging from a monthly morning protest song session with songwriter Matt Hill (expect tunes by the likes of Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan) to crafts with Early Years Atelier at The Whitworth.

Here are our picks

More in Families

Science Learning at Home with Jodrell Bank
Activity Until 31 December 2021, FREE

Science Learning at Home with Jodrell Bank

Science Learning at Home with Jodrell Bank is a perfect way to keep children (and their adults) busy while learning from home.

Hidden Winter
Families Until 31 August 2021, FREE

Hidden Winter

Round the family up and head outside for this wonderful story walk adventure from Stand and Be Counted Theatre. Perfect for livening up a lockdown walk.

Exhibitions Until 31 August 2021,

Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester

TOP SECRET: the Science and Industry Museum digs into the history of British national security over the last 100 years.

The Merry Wives of Windsor at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Families Until 30 August 2021, from £30

The Merry Wives of Windsor at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre

Enjoy this hilarious Shakespearean comedy in the wonderful open-air surroundings of Grosvenor Park.

Counter-flow exhibition & 'Identity Feet' family-friendly creative workshops at People's History Museum
Activity Until 10 October 2021,

Counter-flow exhibition & ‘Identity Feet’ family-friendly creative workshops at People’s History Museum

Explore themes of identity and the migration, and partake in a series of family-friendly creative workshops.

Activity Until 25 August 2021, from £4

Summer Bake Off at Manchester Jewish Museum

Get hands on with heritage and learn some new skills with the summer bake off at the Manchester Jewish Museum.

Counter-flow family friendly workshop: Identity Feet
Activity Until 25 August 2021,

Counter-flow family friendly workshop: Identity Feet

Take part in a series of artist-led family-friendly workshops exploring themes of identity and migration at the People’s History Museum.

Vintage by the Sea
Families 4–5 September 2021, FREE

Vintage by the Sea in Morecambe: CANCELLED

Celebrate the brilliance of 20th century design, fashion, vehicles and entertainment at this award-winning festival set around Morecambe’s famous art deco Midland Hotel.

British Textile Biennial 2021 – across Pennine Lancashire
Exhibitions 1–31 October 2021, FREE

British Textile Biennial 2021 – across Pennine Lancashire

British Textiles Biennial 2021 has an impressive list of headliners, including Maxine Peake, Lubaina Himid and fashion designer Patrick Grant.

Culture Guides

Cinema in Manchester and the North

Hong Kong classics, a John Carpenter marathon and an obscene midnight movie masterpiece all feature in this month’s cinema guide.

Rachel Kneebone: 399 Days at Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Tales of antiquity, cloud gazing, and a return to the forest all feature among this month’s hand-picked selection of exhibition highlights.

Writer Louise Finnigan.


With August, the literature scene is promising some hot events, both online and in real life: with book launches, short story showcases, regular poetry chats, live readings and even an exhibition of word art…

Black Midi


Outdoor shows, candle-lit jazz gigs, boozy all-dayers. Manchester and the North’s live music scene is making up for lost time.

Theatre in Manchester


As some of our favourite theatre teams head back into the rehearsal room, we take a look ahead to some of the performances we’re most looking forward to, as well as the outdoor theatre happening now.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

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

Black Friar

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

A guide to Food and Drink in Manchester and the North, including plenty of new bars and restaurants and exciting new menus from old favourites.

Online events

Discover the best things to do online from the organisations we love in Manchester and the North.

Tours and Activities

Summer is here and we’re so excited to be out in the world touring, making, playing and doing all the things Manchester and the North has to offer.