The most wonderful time of the year is here: the Christmas holidays! A period of time where, we as adults, get caught up in the magic of the season, routine goes out of the window, and a diet of chocolate and late nights enter the household. We basically regress to childhood – and as for the actual children in our lives, they lap it up. Whether you’re seeking to be the fun parent/aunt/uncle/family friend this season, there is an abundance of terrific things to do with kids in Manchester this Christmas while we await Santa’s arrival – or during the days that follow his visit. Get your coats on and get out into the city.
1. Step into an interactive emporium of dreams
Be one of the first to enter Dreamland Imaginarium, as it opens next Wednesday (December 21). The new immersive experience is designed for children aged 2–10, and combines a series of multi-sensory activities to encourage development in younger visitors, while still being fun for older ones.
Inspired by children’s dreams, the four ‘worlds’ at Regent Retail Park boast a ball pit, bubble monster, bounce slide, and much more between them. From dancing to joining a scavenger hunt, your child will have an unforgettable hour in this colourful world.
2. Cast spells and encounter fantastic beasts in the Forbidden Forest
The immensely popular woodland trail has returned for another year, taking up residence just outside of Manchester at Arley Hall & Gardens in Cheshire. At Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience, you can expect to cross paths with some of the creatures from the iconic Harry Potter™ and Fantastic Beasts™ series, such as hippogriffs, nifflers, and even the fearsome Aragog.
What’s more, as you traverse the outdoor trail, you’ll be able to relive key moments from the film, cast your own patronus, and even glug some butterbeer™. The entire family friendly experience has been created by award-winning theatrical designers and experiential creators, so you know it’ll be magical.
Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is spreading the Christmas cheer with 20% off tickets! All you need to do is enter the code XMASHPFF20 when you buy your tickets and you’ll be treated to a special discounted price. It is valid for all sessions but must be redeemed by January 6.
3–4. Admire bright and beautiful light installations
If you fancy your nighttime trails without magical creatures, we’ve got something for your family too. Another of the returning events to Manchester is Lightopia – one of the much loved things to do with kids each Christmas. Illuminating Heaton Park for the fourth year running, this year’s immersive light festival is themed ‘A Christmas Story by Lightopia’, and will include never-seen-before installations and intriguing audio-visual displays. From birds to butterflies, big cats to flowers, the trail will enchant young and old alike.
Elsewhere in the city, historic National Trust venue Dunham Massey will transform their formal gardens and deer park for Christmas with festive lights. A sight to behold at any age, there’ll be strobe effects, light-covered tunnels (brilliant for photos) and artsy light sculptures.
5–6. Sing (or hum) your heart out at a Christmas concert
While panto in the heart of Manchester is one of the done things to with kids at Christmas, there’s only so many “he’s behind you!”s one can take. If you’re feeling a bit Grinchy over the whole panto experience, why not head to a Christmas concert instead? The Muppets Christmas Carol Live in Concert plays on December 21 over at The Bridgewater Hall, while The Snowman will be shown a day later on December 22 with an accompanying live orchestra at The Hallé.
Looking to put a smile on the face of your teenager? Perhaps one of Manchester’s Candlelight concerts will do the trick. On December 21, they’ll be able to enjoy 60 minutes of magical movie scores at Candlelight Christmas. A string quartet will perform the likes of Walking in the Air from The Snowman, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree from Home Alone, and Jingle Bells from Elf, illuminated by the soft glow of candlelight. While singing out loud isn’t really the vibe here, humming along and enjoying the music is yours and your teens’ prerogative.
7. Devour fancy soufflé pancakes
Pancake house Fuwa Fuwa have created 12 days of treats this month, bringing together their much loved jiggly Japanese pancakes and classic Christmas flavours – think Terry’s Chocolate Orange and After Eight pancakes. Yes, please! On December 18, those on the nice list can indulge in Fuwa Fuwa’s first kids collection of pancakes. The mini-misu souffle pancake will be available for one day only, between 12pm-6pm, so snap ’em up before they’re gone!
8. Join the Sugar Plum Fairy and toy soldiers on the city’s streets
For the past few weeks, Manchester BID have hosted jovial Festive Sundays, the last of which falls this weekend (December 18). Join the likes of Christmas Crackers, Sugar Plum Fairies, Toy Soldiers and a Fairy Mouse along Manchester Arndale and Market Street at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm for sparkling street performances.
9. See Santa’s helpers on a drive-thru safari
Make your way a little out of the city to Black Meadows Farm for a drive-thru Christmas safari experience, and see the reindeer as they prepare for their big night. Admire Donna, Blitzen, Rudolph and co from the comfort of your car, as they saunter around the 1.5km trail. You’ll also be able to enjoy countryside views, Christmas lighting, and have some fun in a hidden village. There’s even a drive-thru grotto with Father Christmas, which leads us on nicely to our next point…
10. Seek out Santa himself in one of the city’s grottos
Now, we couldn’t finish this list without suggesting a trip to see Santa – and thankfully, you don’t need to head to the North Pole to do so. This year, the jolly man in the big, red suit will be popping up all over the city. However, if you’re looking for something a little different to do in Manchester this Christmas, we highly recommend taking the kids to have breakfast with Santa Claus himself at the Christmas Cafe by Gooey, located in the Selfridges in the Trafford Centre.