As winter sets in, the temptation to stay in all December-long and bask in the glow of scented candles is real. Particularly with all this chilly weather. Need a push in making the most of the last month of 2022? Check out these wonderful activities and events (both Christmas-related and not) taking place across Manchester this December and finish the year with a bang.
1. Take a magical winter walk at the Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience
Popping up for the winter only, the Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is the perfect Christmas experience for fans of all things magical. Potter through an illuminated forest filled with the unknown, with tons of mystical creatures and familiar sights from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies to uncover along the way.
2. Go ice skating at Escape To Freight Island
Now open at Escape to Freight Island’s Winter Island, guests can glide into Christmas (sorry, Elton, no stepping here) in style at this ice rink – all under the historic roof of Depot Mayfield. Situated on its own mezzanine above the Ticket Hall, guests will be able to enjoy the sounds of live entertainment while skating, as well as take advantage of the many, many amazing festive traders residing at the complex this month. Escape to Freight Island, 11 Baring St, M1 2PZ.
3. Visit this trail of spectacular light art installations
Staged around outdoor locations across MediaCity and Salford Quays, Lightwaves Festival returns this winter and invites visitors to explore a trail of dramatic light art installations that animate and transform the urban waterside area. Now in its ninth year, the free event will take place from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th December, lighting up different locations around Salford Quays and MediaCity. From 4pm to 10pm each evening, visitors can enjoy illuminated works from leading artists, both local and national, bringing a variety of different pieces; thought-provoking, surprising and playful.
4. Hit up Manchester’s famous Christmas markets
It’s not a December well spent without a trip to the Manchester Christmas Markets. Attracting thousands annually, the huge market spans the entire city centre, with plenty of quirky gift stalls, food stalls and bars to enjoy. Taking the form of a traditional Bavarian market, guests can expect classic grub such as Bratwurst, Dutch pancakes and more, alongside plenty of desserts, cheese and even Italian food.
5. Discover this exciting, multi-sensory interactive emporium for kids
If you’re looking for things to do with kids this December, we bring news of a new interactive world nice and early. Opening its doors in Regent Retail Park, Dreamland Imaginarium is home to a plethora of multi-sensory activities, inspired by children’s dreams. Designed for children aged 2–10 years old, Dreamland Imaginarium brings together giant inflatable creatures, interactive games and many surprises all in one space. As your little ones roam the four different worlds, they’ll come across (friendly) monsters, birds, fish and flora, and have an abundance of space to run, bounce, crawl and daydream.
6. Soak up incredible views of the city at this new, wine-led rooftop restaurant
Rooftop views and wine make for the perfect evening and this December Manchester will be blessed with this dreamy combination with the arrival of a new, ‘wine-led’ rooftop restaurant. Born out of a desire to pair incredible foods with incredible wines with a format that allows guests to dictate their own pace, ‘Climat’ (named after the term for a specific vineyard site in Burgundy) will be a 100-cover restaurant featuring a ‘contemporary Parisian-style’ aesthetic. The restaurant will feature over 250 wines from across the world, complimented by an ever-changing daily menu described simply as ‘food you want to eat’.
7. Enjoy classic Christmas soundtracks at this stunning Candlelight concert
From Love Actually to Home Alone, Christmas movie fans are in for quite the treat this month. Taking place at Stoller Hall, the fantastic venue will be immersed in the sounds of famous movie soundtracks – all brought to life by a talented string quartet. There’ll be plenty of festive favourites to enjoy, with candlelight bringing the festive ambience to the already stunning venue.
8. Hideaway from the bitter cold in a twinkling tipi
Need to hide from the chill? Escape to one of Manchester’s many cosy tipis or huts, each of which is decked out with the most festive of aesthetics. Kick back with a mulled wine, enjoy a festive meal, or just hang out with friends in these warm and toasty hideaways.
9. Head to the UK’s largest indoor fairground, Winter Funland
The UK’s largest indoor fairground is coming to Manchester, with tons of festive fun in store for all the family. From family-friendly fairground rides, to festive food stalls, circus performances, and more, guests (and kids in particular!) won’t be disappointed by Winter Funland.
10. Drink a whole lotta mulled wine
It’s time to get merry and by ‘get merry’, we mean tipsy on this season’s hottest drink: mulled wine. An absolute staple at Christmastime, the season isn’t done right without at least one taste of the warming brew, and luckily for us, there are plenty of places to get your hands on a mulled wine this winter in Manchester. And of course munch on a mince pie to make for the perfect festive match.
11. Shop for unique gifts from independent traders at Ancoats Pop-Up’s Christmas Fair
Ancoats Pop-Up, well known for its outdoor markets at Cutting Room Square and KAMPUS, is bringing the city of Manchester its biggest indoor Christmas Fair this winter. Taking place every Saturday and Sunday up until the week before Christmas, visitors to Canton House in Manchester’s Chinatown can expect 50 independent traders filling three floors of the building. Plus, there will be a cafe and creative workshops by Manchester Urban Digger (MUD) alongside evening entertainment and cocktails by Witch Kings Rum.
12. Experience a Christmas wonderland at Tinsel Town
Sending the year out with a bang with the return of the Trafford Centre’s festive event, Tinsel Town, guests are invited to enjoy a whole host of festive activities – including the return of their huge fairground rides for all ages to enjoy, a spectacular ice show, winter ice rink, and a very exciting new grotto. Visitors can also enjoy incredible views and festive magic this Christmas, as the big wheel returns to the Trafford Centre’s Tinsel Town – see all the glittering lights and sights from a staggering 55 metres high.
13. Enjoy locally brewed beer and sourdough pizza at Runaway Brewery’s pop-up in Stockport
Manchester favourite, Runaway Brewery, known for brewing by hand in small batches at their Manchester microbrewery, is spreading its wings and set to open a Stockport venue in early 2023. To celebrate the opening, Runaway Brewery is popping-up at their new site this December with friends Honest Crust, to give beer fans a taste of what’s to come. The brewery will be running a pop-up Tap Room at their new premises on Astley Street in the lead up to Christmas, featuring wood-fired sourdough pizza as part of the celebrations, because what goes better with beer than pizza?
14. Check out Manchester’s Christmas bar, Miracle on Cross Street
Opening for the second year running, Miracle on Cross Street is bringing plenty of festive vibes to Manchester, with beautiful festive decor, tons of festive drinks and, of course, festive tunes to enjoy all season long. Think mince pies, mulled wine and Christmas cocktails, with plenty of cosy corners to retreat to.
15. Experience the best of Oasis in an entirely new way at this candlelight concert
So you might have been unable to bag tickets to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds concert next summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear some of the Gallagher brothers’ top tracks in concert. This enchanting event will be sure to light up your evening, listening to a unique twist on the chart-topping music of Oasis in the stunning surrounds of Hallé St Peter’s. This is a must for any fan of the epic British rock band who fancy hearing their hits like they’ve never heard them before.
16. Escape the city at 20 Stories enchanted forest winter terrace
‘Tis the season to get cosy and the winter terraces are calling our names. Joining the comfy spots for a festive tipple is Manchester’s highest restaurant and bar, 20 Stories, which has launched its annual winter terrace allowing guests to embrace the cold evenings in style. The terrace at 20 Stories is in partnership with French vodka brand, Ciroc, and there will be five new cocktails on offer for guests to enjoy.
17. Head to the theatre to see a festive show or pantomime
Nothing says Christmas quite like a show or pantomime, and thankfully, there are a wide selection of performances to enjoy in Manchester this festive season. From family favourites to beautiful ballet performances, playful pantos to amazing adaptations, Christmas in Manchester is sure to be show-stopping.
18. Get into the festive spirit with workshops and delicious bites at Ducie Street Warehouse
Launching a wonderful entertainment schedule to accompany their new look, guests (including furry ones too) at Ducie Street Warehouse will be able to escape to the warming space for food, drink and entertainment, with plenty of events to enjoy as December 25th draws near. Running up until New Year’s Eve, guests will be able to roam the festive pop-up markets, learn how to make their own wreaths or even enjoy a festive flick or two at the Warehouse’s very own dog-friendly cinema.
19. Witness Manchester’s first ever Christmas parade through the city’s streets
A festive first is heading to Manchester this year with the announcement that Santa’s favourite city is to hold its first ever Christmas Parade. Filled with all the sights, sounds and sparkle that spell Christmas will weave its way through the streets of the city centre as part of the magical parade, to help bring some extra special Christmas cheer to the city.
20. Indulge in festive treats at Gooey’s Christmas-themed cafe at the Trafford Centre
Arriving at Selfridges in the Trafford Centre is a thirty-seater Christmas cafe from Northern Quarter bakery Gooey. The pop-up will be home to the brand’s insta-famous warm, gooey cookies and sugar coated stuffed brioche donuts, plus a selection of barista served coffees, soft drinks and boozy hot chocolates. Diners will also be able to enjoy a whole new selection of sweet treats exclusive to Selfridges including the Smore’s Cookie Pie, The Snowman Choux, Chocolate Orange Layered Cake and Gooey’s Christmas Millionaire Twist.
21. Snuggle up watching a festive film at King Street Townhouse
In the cellar of the historic Grade II listed building is King Street Townhouse’s private screening room, where from Saturday 10th December it’ll show Christmas family-favourites such as Elf, Home Alone, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as something for adults with the likes of Love Actually and the ever-debated Die Hard. Tickets start at £15 per person for screening-only and can be upgraded to include sweet treats, popcorn and a drink for £30 per adult and £25.50 per child. And why not add to the Christmas magic with a festive afternoon tea or dinner, or even a luxurious stay or spa experience at the hotel?
22. Scran a Christmas-themed toastie from Northern Soul
Northern Soul’s epic Crimbo Dinner grilled cheese is back – packed full of festive fillings especially for December. Think turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy, with plenty of cheese to finish. Find it at Escape to Freight Island and Northern Soul’s Tib Street restaurant.
23. See the Coca-Cola Christmas truck up close
The Coca-Cola truck is officially riding into Manchester this week, marking the official start of the festive season. Perking us up with tons of festive fun and plenty of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, the iconic red truck will take up residence at ASDA Sportcity on December 2.
24. Treat yourself to spot of Champagne and dessert at The Ivy Asia
This festive season, Champagne Laurent-Perrier is exclusively partnering with the iconic The Ivy Asia in Manchester. With luxury dessert The Festive Surprise, a limited edition cocktail and stunning decorations in the restaurant, Laurent-Perrier and The Ivy Asia have Christmas all wrapped up. The Ivy Asia’s limited-edition dessert, The Festive Surprise, a chocolate brownie with white chocolate snow, mandarin sorbet and yuzu caramel, is designed to be an interactive advent calendar experience offering guests the opportunity to win Champagne-inspired gifts each day. Plus you can toast to the winter months with the Maison’s classic Cuvée Rosé, or the exclusively concocted cocktail, the Pink Kurisumasu, consisting of passion fruit liqueur, supasawa, pink grapefruit syrup and topped with Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.
25. Be dazzled by these twinkling light trails in and around Manchester
Looking to brighten up the dark nights with a festive activity? Manchester’s city-wide celebrations are back, bringing stunning festive decoration to the centre and beyond. From twinkling street lights to huge lit-up installations, there are plenty of places to see Christmas lights in Manchester this year. See the beautiful grounds of Dunham Massey, Heaton Park and RHS Bridgewater all aglow or venture out of Greater Manchester to witness illuminating animal-themed lanterns at Chester Zoo.
Also published on Medium.