Things to do with toddlers in Manchester

Creative Tourist

Toddlers. The most adorable little tyrants the world ever saw! And as we know, days out with those terrible twos (did we say terrible, we meant tremendous…) require a plan.

We’ve pulled together a super-duper list of fun stuff to do with your little ones in Manchester and the North. There are heaps of exciting adventures and days out just for toddlers, but also days out that can be fun for older kids, and toddlers too. Manchester is a wonderful city for young children to explore, never too far from somewhere to stop for a play.

If you want more things to do with the kids, check out our regularly updated families guide which picks out the best cultural adventures for families in Manchester and the North.

Our top picks

RHS Garden Bridgewater

RHS Garden Bridgewater, Occupation Road (Off Leigh Road), Worsley, Salford, Greater Manchester, M28 2GU - Visit now

Are you looking for a family day out in Manchester where your little one can run around safely and freely? Head to the spectacular 154-acre RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford and enjoy some outdoor fun!

Image: Harris Bugg Studio

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester Barton Square, The Trafford Centre, Manchester, M17 8AS - Visit now

Great for kids big and little, LEGOLAND is a great day out for families. Children under five can enjoy the DUPLO Farm, and then have a tumble and play in the soft play area, no big kids allowed!

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth

Outdoor Art Club at The Whitworth, Manchester, Until 20 July 2024, free entry - Visit now

Visit the Outdoor Art Club at the Whitworth Art Gallery, jam-packed with fun and creative activities designed to encourage your little ones to play freely while exploring nature and the outdoors with family and friends.

Image courtesy of The Whitworth.

The East Lancashire Railway

The East Lancashire Railway, Bury Bolton Street Station,, Bury,, Lancashire, BL9 0EY - Visit now

Toddlers love nothing more than watching the steam trains come in and shouting ‘Choo Choo’, just before they hop on board and wave out of the windows. A great day out for the whole family.

East Lancashire Railway

Heaton Park

Heaton Park, Middleton Road, Higher Blackley, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M25 2SW - Visit now

Heaton Park and Farm is a great option for toddlers. Head to the Animal Centre where your little one can cuddle the cute animals and hopefully learn a few new words and sounds along the way! Lots of picnic spaces and green grass guaranteed. Perfect for toddlers to roam around safely.

The Great Northern Giant Sandpit

Great Northern Sandpit, Until 31 August 2024, free entry - Visit now

Digging, building, just simply eating sand – what more can a toddler want? Sun cream on, picnic ready, this is a great day out for younger children, or just a pleasant stop off on your way to something else! And it’s free…

Great Northern Sandpit
The Great Northern

Waterstones Manchester Deansgate

Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, 91 Deansgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 2BW - Visit now

The two city centre branches are reliable refuges for the littlest explorers. The Deansgate branch has a dedicated children’s area, but the branch inside the Arndale Centre is the better of the pair: it has a Costa Coffee right next to a lovely play area in the children’s section. This comes with a few well-loved toys, soft cushions and a big table that’s always equipped with paper and crayons. Your child’s art might even be used to decorate the shop, though mind they don’t decorate any books!

Science and Industry Museum

Science and Industry Museum, Liverpool Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 4FP - Visit now

With it’s great (and free) hands-on Experiment! Gallery, MSI is top for toddlers, and it has two cafes and an indoor picnic area where you can eat a packed lunch. If they still have some energy left, the kids might enjoy playing on the grass in nearby St. John’s Gardens, or you could take a picnic to the canal and watch the narrowboats.

Image courtesy of Science and Industry Museum.

People’s History Museum (PHM)

People’s History Museum (PHM), Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3ER - Visit now

People’s History Museum has a great kid-friendly cafe and plenty of regular children’s activities and hands-on exhibits to keep curious minds (and hands) busy.

People's History Museum Manchester
Image © People’s History Museum

Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 3JL - Visit now

Manchester Art Gallery has the children’s Clore Interactive Gallery to explore and they frequently run workshops throughout half term and the summer holidays. The cafe has a pay-as-you-feel deal for children too.

Manchester Art Gallery. Photo by Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks

Manchester Craft & Design Centre

Manchester Craft & Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5JD - Visit now

In the Northern Quarter, Manchester Craft & Design Centre offers a little respite from the city (and baby-changing).

Manchester Craft and Design Centre by Joel C Fildes.
Manchester Craft and Design Centre by Joel C Fildes.

Piccadilly Gardens

Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 3BG

And on hot days, the fountain at nearby Piccadilly Gardens is irresistible for water play (the nearby Pret has baby-changing facilities). Bring a change of clothes!

Piccadilly Gardens Manchester
By Dave Morton (23 Piccadilly Gardens) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Where to go in Manchester

The National Football Museum Manchester
National Football Museum

The National Football Museum is now open to the public, ready to show off its impressive array of football-related exhibits and activities.

Manchester Museum Tours at Manchester Museum
Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum isn’t one of the UK’s leading university museums for nothing – it has six million objects in its stores, including a full size T-Rex skeleton, and that’s just for starters.

Pankhurst Centre
The Pankhurst Centre

The Pankhurst Centre houses a small museum and heritage centre that remains as a legacy to the Pankhurst family and the Suffragette movement born in this city.

Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre

This beautiful building holds temporary exhibitions of acclaimed international art, contemporary and historical collections, handcrafted art in the Art Shop and Tina’s tea rooms. Alongside this runs a varied events, workshop and education programme.

Salford museum and art gallery exterior
Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Salford Museum and Art Gallery is a friendly city museum close to Peel Park with special appeal to families; the highlight is Lark Hill Place, a charming Victorian Street installation.

Gallery Oldham, in Oldham Cultural Quarter
Gallery Oldham

Gallery Oldham provides a wide range of exhibitions and activities targeted at different audiences of all ages within Oldham and the surrounding area.

Air Raid Shelters

Carved into the natural sandstone cliffs, the intriguing network of underground tunnels offers visitors an unparalleled insight into life in wartime Britain in the 1940’s.

Hat Works Museum

Top hats, bowlers, trilbies …. who doesn’t love a hat? Visit the UK’s only collection devoted to hats which celebrates Stockport’s role in the hatting industry.

Manchester Visitor Guides

Tasting Menus in The North

Looking for the finest luxury multi-course restaurants in Manchester? Look no further. We've picked out the very best tasting menus in the city - just make sure you have deep pockets.

Photo of the Halle orchestra at Bridgewater
Music Venues in Manchester

Manchester is still a great place to watch new and innovative music – so here’s a guide to where to watch the best live music in the city.

Sunday Roasts in Manchester

Looking for the finest roast dinners in Manchester? Look no further. We've picked out the very best Sunday dinners in the city.

Federal Cafe Bar
Breakfast in Manchester

Manchester is strong with the breakfast force, and has some impressive form where brunch is concerned. Here’s our pick of the city’s morning glories.

Blossom on trees in Manchester
Parks and Gardens in Manchester

There are more green spaces in Manchester than you might think. We've picked out some of the best parks and gardens in and around the city.

Bars in Manchester

The best new bars in Manchester, plus some old favourites for good measure.

Pillock at Contact
Spotlight on

Fringe Theatre in Manchester and the North

Check out our top picks of shows previewing in the North West before heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival later in the summer.

Take me there

Culture Guides

Rebecca Watson author photo
Literature Events in Manchester and the North

In between working out, then working through, your holiday reading pile this summer, find inspiration for your next bookish acquisitions from our selection of live events and exhibitions.