If you can’t wait ’til December 25 to celebrate with your loved ones, fear not; there is plenty to do in the lead up to the big day. The city is abound with holly jolly things to do in Manchester this December, from pantos to film screenings, woodland walks to candlelight concerts. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got a list of arguably the 12 best festive events this side of the new year.
Escape to Freight Island has revamped into a certified magical wonderland, and you’ve still got a whole month left to check it out. Of course, you can expect the traditional Christmas market-style experience – mulled wine and hot cider, glittering trinkets at the stalls – but that’s not all. There’ll be cabaret shows, family raves, movie nights, live music, even a Christmas tree forest… the list goes on. There’s something for everyone, both young and old, those who are a touch Grinchy and those who are giddy with excitement. Snap up a table ticket before December 31.
Nothing says winter like weekly viewings of the Harry Potter films in the lead up to Christmas. And, if you’re not content with following the boy wizard’s adventures on screen for the 15,263th time, grab your coat and live some of them yourself at Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience. Located just an hour outside of Manchester, in Cheshire, is a magical nighttime trail, inspired by the legendary series and spin-off, Fantastic Beasts. You’ll encounter Nifflers, Centaurs and Unicorns along your route, as well as have a chance to cast your own Patronus and taste butterbeer. Just watch out for Aragog’s lair. Those spiders haven’t heard of Christmas spirit; just ask Ron. Tickets are available here.
3–6. Candlelight concerts
Fairy lights aren’t the only thing lighting up the city this season. A series of candlelit concerts at various locations in Manchester will ignite your Christmas spirit, if it’s not already there.
🎻 First up, taking place on both December 9 and 22, is Candlelight Festive Film Scores at the iconic Stoller Hall. A talented quartet will take to the strings to play beautiful renditions of music from all your festive faves, including Miracle on 34th Street, The Snowman, Home Alone and many more. Book your ticket here.
🎹 Over at Albert Hall on December 18, the Candlelight Holiday Special will feature classical music by Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi, as well as traditional Christmas tunes like Ave Maria and O Holy Night. The hour-long show see musicians play both strings and piano. Find out more and book a seat here.
🕯️The London Concertante will visit our good city for two two-hour shows on December 19 and December 30. Everything you need to know are the events’ names: Christmas Baroque by Candlelight at Manchester Cathedral and Viennese Christmas by Candlelight at Manchester Cathedral. Expect enchanting melodies from Strauss, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. Book your tickets here for December 19 and here for December 30.
With various dates and film showings between November 26–December 31, the drive-in cinema at Christmas City has something to suit all tastes. And, what’s more, you’ll be enjoying the movie from the comfort of your own car, so no one can judge you for wrapping up in your fluffy PJs and eating your twelfth mince pie. On the big screen will be a selection of Christmas classics, like Home Alone (I and II), The Night Before Christmas and The Santa Clause, then after the 25th, things will take a darker turn with Annabelle and The Exorcist (via the more pleasant Greatest Showman and Dirty Dancing). The cinema will be set within a winter wonderland that boasts a candy cane forest, drive-in festive mail room, and dedicated Christmas karaoke area. Browse the schedule and book a spot here.
If you’re a fan of drive-in cinemas, why not take it to the next level? A car park panto! Horrible Histories will bring a host of well known historical figures back to life for some fabulous festive fun across two days (December 29–30) at AJ Bell Stadium. Honk your horn in glee as the likes of Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII and St Nicholas get to grips with Christmas traditions and join forces to save the season of goodwill. Will you book your tickets? Oh, yes you will.
9–10. Boozy brunches
The humble brunch is a winner all year round, but come Christmas, we really have something to celebrate. So, pop on your Santa hat, and get ready for food, bottomless drinks and the most wonderful time (of the year).
🎅🏽 On December 18, bring it all back to arguably one of the best decades for style, pop music, and iconic celebrity couples: the 1990s. At Santa’s 90s Christmas Bottomless Brunch, there’ll be three hours of tunes, plus lip sync battles, Secret Santa giveaways, delicious burgers, and free-flowing cocktails or mocktails for an hour. Don your double denim and book your ticket here.
🎂 If RnB is more your vibe, then like Santa, we can deliver something just for you. A little earlier in the month, on December 4, head down to Bierkeller for the RnB Brunch: Christmas Special. We’re talking old skool tunes, we’re talking dancehall, we’re talking bottomless rum punch. There is even a birthday package option for December babies – did someone say shots and cake? Book now for guaranteed good vibes.
11–12. Festive gigs
“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Take a leaf out of Buddy from Elf‘s book, and warm up those vocal chords for a couple of Christmas concerts.
🎤 At the first of these gigs, on December 21, West End stars will come up from London Town for a concert of feel-good tunes. West End Boys at Christmas: Festive Concert will fill The Monastery with some of your favourite songs from this time of the year, performed in a way only musical stars know how. The venue with be bathed in soft candlelight, making for a truly magical experience. Tickets are available now.
🎶 Then, a couple days later on Christmas Eve Eve (December 23), another round of Christmas anthems will be belted from the same stage, this time celebrating the ultimate chart topping hits. Christmas Hits Live: Festive Concert will feature songs like Wham’s Last Christmas, Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, and The Pogue’s Fairytale Of New York. It’ll be a Christmas corker, so grab a ticket today.