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. Enjoy hot chocolates and karaoke in these cosy cabins
Bar Huttë, at both Kampus and Deansgate’s Great Northern, are making their iconic wooden huttë’s the picture perfect home of Santa Claus Club. Wrap up warm and head down to enjoy an hour of karaoke magic in a snug hütte, grab free hot chocolates for the family and some colouring pads for the children. And to guarantee the perfect amount of Christmas magic, Santa Claus himself will pay you a visit, long enough for you to grab a selfie or two!
2. Take on the challenge of NERF Action Xperience
If you’re looking for a retreat from Christmas shopping in Manchester with the kids, then the ultimate NERF adventure at NERF Action Xperience in Trafford Palazzo is one of the best things to do. You have an hour to explore various immersive zones, including a skill-testing Training Ground, a heart-pounding sports arena and thrilling, thematic blaster arenas – this huge indoor venue is a haven for NERF enthusiasts of all ages! Once you’ve finished showing off your skills in the Training Ground, and blasting and outwitting your family and friends in the arenas, you can take grab a bite to eat at Archie’s. NERF Action Xperience also makes for a great Christmas gift for the big and small kids in your life.
3. Cosy up watching a classic Christmas film on the big screen
We’re sure you’ll agree that one of the best parts of the festive season is Christmas films, and Manchester isn’t short of places to screen them for our viewing pleasure. From underground cinemas to those out in nature, there’s a huge variety of experiences to be had whilst sitting back and watching classics from It’s A Wonderful Life to Love Actually, more memorable than just sitting in your front room. So why not make a day of it at one of the cosiest spots to watch Christmas films in Manchester?
4. 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 and winter ice rink. 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.
5. Admire bright and beautiful light installations at The Twilight Trail in Mayfield Park
A brand new light show has arrived in Manchester city centre for Christmas and it’s sure to dazzle both adults and kids. Located in Mayfield Park, Manchester city centre’s first new public park in more than 100 years, is an enchanting winter light show known as The Twilight Trail. Running until December 31, The Twilight Trail at Mayfield Park is the perfect inner-city Christmas destination designed for all ages, from families, couples, groups, and everyone in between. Visitors can explore enchanting lighting installations taking over the 6.5-acre park and finish the trail at Freight Island where you can stay for further festive experiences.
6–7. 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 Christmas Carol Singalong takes place at Bridgewater Hall on December 24 while All I Want For Christmas…Live will be performed on December 19 a dazzling live ensemble band and more.
Looking to put a smile on the face of your teenager? Perhaps one of Manchester’s festive Candlelight concerts will do the trick. On December 27, they’ll be able to enjoy 60 minutes of magical festive movie scores at Candlelight Christmas. A string quartet will perform the likes of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from The Holiday, 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.
8. Try a range of ‘Grinch’-themed treats at this cafe located in Primark Trafford
Manchester Trafford Centre Primark is to become home to the third Dr Seuss The Grinch Café following the success of the openings in Birmingham and Edinburgh. Until December 29, customers in Manchester’s Trafford Centre Primark store can relax in the green surroundings of The Grinch Café and enjoy a host of limited-edition menu items including a Grinchmas Shake made with mint ice cream and decorated in red sugar sprinkles, delicious Cindy Lou Who Waffles topped with vanilla ice cream, meringue and red velvet cake pieces and warming hot drinks including Orange and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates.
9. Marvel at sparkling performers as they take to the city’s streets
For the past few weeks, Manchester BID have hosted jovial Festive Sundays, the last of which falls this weekend (December 17). Mancs can be entertained as a stunning Toy Procession will take to Manchester’s popular Christmas Markets in St Ann’s Square. Created by Walk the Plank, the procession will take place at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm and will feature giant stilt-walking acts including Christmas Crackers, Sugar Plum Fairies, Toy Soldiers, Christmas Elves, and a sparkling Fairy Mouse, bringing magical street entertainment to Manchester in the run-up to Christmas Day.
10. See Santa’s helpers and reindeer 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.
11. Hop aboard this festive train ride through the countryside with Santa
You better not pout and you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town! Santa is very, very busy this festive season as you can steam into Christmas on the East Lancashire Railway’s famously festive Santa Specials. Begin the adventure at Bury Bolton Street Station where you will journey through a gorgeously decorated winter wonderland. Say hello to Mrs Claus and the talking Christmas Tree, and maybe even stop for a quick singalong with our carol singing choir of polar bears, before boarding your train. Whilst travelling, Santa himself will visit your carriage with a gift, a chat and even a selfie!
12. Tuck into pizza and get creative at this fun crafts event at Nell’s
New York-style pizza aficionados Nell’s are hosting an extra special, one day only collaboration at their Kampus site. Nell’s x Born to Be Wild Child is taking place on December 17 – bringing fun face paint, a rock & roll soundtrack, and crafts to get involved in all under one roof. Available to book in 1.5 hour slots between 12-3pm, Nell’s have got you covered. The kids’ imaginations are free to run wild as you eat some pizza – and perhaps order yourself a drink. The event is free to attend with any table booking.
13. Get into the festive spirit at Christmas on TP Street
Taking inspiration from ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, Trafford Palazzo at Trafford City is bringing back Christmas on TP Street with festive fun running until December 24. Trafford Palazzo has something for all ages to create a magical Christmas; expect live music, themed performers, winter crafts plus a cosy tipi to unwind- and it’s all completely free! During the final week of Christmas on TP Street, there will be an ‘Eco Elf’ workshop as they prepare the ultimate Christmas Eve pack complete with a nice list certificate.
14. 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 meet Santa Claus at the Trafford Centre’s brand new grotto, featuring face painting stalls and bakes from Finch Bakery to devour whilst you wait, as well as the Visit Santa experience at Freight Island.