There are literally about a million things you and your children can get up to in Manchester and the rest of the North West UK this Summer! Most public parks, libraries and museums will have events and activities for families, and lots of it is incredibly cheap or even free. Take a look at the #70things list from The Arts Council for some great inspiration.
Here are a few of the things going on within Manchester or no more than 1 hour's drive away. I've tried to keep the cost below £10 per person at maximum...
Museum Of Science And Industry in Manchester City Centre is a great free day out for anyone (donations always welcome). We've visited with our children a few times, but I've never written about it. 6 Degrees Of Harmony took her 4 year old son and Mum To A Monster shows how much MSI Manchester has to offer, even for a baby.
They have loads on this Summer, including Pop Bottle Microscopes and finding out all about Graphene - and most activities and workshops are also free. Find out more on the MSI Manchester website.
National Football Museum in Manchester City Centre is a great day out even for someone who doesn't really care for football. Free to enter, not only are there exhibits to look at, there's loads to interact with. I visited 2 years ago with 3 of my boys and they all had a great time, here's our National Football Museum review.
HOME, Manchester (M15 4FN) has a special Roald Dahl on Film season (roalddahlonfilm.com), presented in partnership with Film Hub Wales.
The season starts on Fri 5 August with the much-loved James and Giant Peach (U), and there’s a real treat in store on Sun August 14 when Matilda (PG), presented by Scratch ‘n’ Sniff Cinema, hits the big screen. Come along and join in with a special scratch card of 10 whiffy and wonderful scents, including chocolate cake and pancakes, and smell your way through the film! Advance booking is recommended. Wed August 17 brings Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (U) starring Gene Wilder.
Looking further ahead, HOME’s Orbit Festival in September/October features Molly’s Marvellous Moustache, a theatre production aimed at children aged 3-7.
Media City, Salford Quays/Trafford Park on Thursday 25th August play host to the Pip Ahoy! and RSPCA Fun Dog Show. It should be good for a laugh and entry is only £1 per heat per dog, all proceeds to the RSPCA.
Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays/Trafford Park is free to enter and occasional activities carry a small charge. Loads for everyone, we've reviewed a few times and the boys have always loved it. This is our look at last Summer's activities at IWMN, and this Summer they have a really full programme including making your own toys, fashion in the ration and lots of storytelling sessions for visitors. Find out more on the IWMN website.
Manchester also houses the Police Museum (open Tuesdays), the People's History Museum and the Manchester Museum among others. Five Adventurers have compiled a post with their favourite Manchester Museums for children.
Arndale shopping centre in Manchester will play host to a fantastic tour from the lovely people at Anki OVERDRIVE. Two eye-catching, custom-built tracks will be setting up home and giving local families the chance to get their pulses racing by playing two of Anki OVERDRIVE's most iconic game modes, Battle and Race. The Anki team will be on hand to introduce the game to beginners before they enter into a challenge with another player and will also tell you all about Supertrucks, a new addition to Anki OVERDRIVE to be released in October. Everyone who takes part can enter a free prize draw to win Argos vouchers (one to win per day). There will also be a raffle, with one lucky player getting their hands on a truly awesome Anki OVERDRIVE Family Bundle including Anki OVERDRIVE Starter Kit, Corner Kit, Speed Kit, Launch Kit, Thermo and Nuke.
Thurs 4th August 9am – 8pm,
Fri 5th 9am – 8pm,
Sat 6th 9am – 7pm,
Sun 7th 11.30am – 5.30pm
intu Trafford Centre have masses going on, including Superheroes who are visiting throughout Summer, a free beach in Barton Square and workshops and activities galore!
Every Tuesday and Thursday 12 noon - 5pm until September 1st there will be Superhero workshops on the link bridge outside Top Shop, and you can even pre-book online for a meet and greet with Wonder Woman (Sat 13th August) or Superman (Sat 28th August).
If Superheroes aren't your thing then there are also visits from Sylvanian Families, In The Night Garden and Cirque Du Soleil. Find out more on the Trafford Centre website - where they also have some FREE printables.
GAME's Trafford Centre store has opened a first of its kind esports and competitive gaming zone, bringing people together around their passion for gaming. The arena is a place to play, socialise and experience the latest in games, unlike anywhere else in the UK.
With 10 state of the art Overclockers gaming PC’s, a Virtual Reality pod, retro arcade machines and the latest consoles; Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the esports zone has something for everyone.
Parents are welcome to join in the fun, but equally can grab coffee and refreshments on site.
Time in the area can be bought in time slots: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Arcade Machines - 15 minutes £1/2 hours - £5/5 hours - £10, and the venue can also be booked out for parties.
Throughout the summer, there will be a host of in-store activities with epic prizes up for grabs. For more information see the GAME website or follow @GAMETrafford
SEA LIFE Manchester at the Intu Trafford Centre has teamed up with Disney Pixar to enable its visitors this summer to share the excitement of Finding Dory from Saturday 16th July until Sunday 11th September at the Manchester based attraction, as well as 11 other Sea Life centres in the UK and Ireland. We reviewed the Finding Dory event at Manchester Sealife last week.
Entry to Sealife by pre-booked ticket is just over my limit at £10.95 per person, but a joint ticket with LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is £17.50 per person - good value for a full day out.
Manchester United have a free museum that you can visit, although it's closed on matchdays, and they will try to encourage you to take the tour of the stadium - at £54 for a family of 4 it's a little over my £10 budget, but worth it for fans and half price to season ticket holders. Sounding Like My Mother has a great Man Utd Tour review from a couple of years ago...
Manchester City also have a tour, costing £58 for a family of 4, and Mum To A Monster has a nice review of that one from last Autumn...
Jumbles Reservoir And Country Park in Bolton is free to visit with a charge for parking. On site cafe and loads of woodland to explore, with Turton Tower a 1km walk away. Let Them Be Small visited Jumbles last September.
Funtazia Soft Play in Blackburn costs £5.95 per child (adults £1). It had some pretty scathing reviews in the past, but Life By Naomi enjoyed her day out with her baby and young lad.
There are loads of towns and villages around North Manchester with plenty to offer, including Ramsbottom - where you can catch the East Lancs Railway down to Bury or up to Rawtenstall and back. Jollies And Jaunts lists some of her favourite places to visit in the North of England.
Eureka! The National Children’s Museum near Halifax has 44 fun-packed days of Summer in a boredom-busting festival of fun, science, performance and play! From Saturday 23 July to Sunday 4 September Eureka! is open daily, with a packed programme of activities perfect for families with children aged 0-11 including storytellers, explosive Science, Destination Space family shows, The Crunch and pets and animals from Riggmoor Reindeer Company, plus much more. We visited Eureka Museum just before Christmas last year.
You can also be one of the very first people to get your hands on Eureka's brand new range of specially designed creative toys which start at £4, including Build Your Own Cogs Creation, Lion or Marble Adventure, Painting Set and Pop Out Zoom The Robot.
For more information, including weekly activity programmes, visit the Eureka! website. Individual entry is £12.95 - but that's for a whole year if you upgrade your day tickets before you leave. Parking is charged at £3/£6.
Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire
ask you to roll up, roll up for a spectacular summer of circus adventures with Wild Rumpus this summer.
20 July – 10 August - Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays & Sundays.
Run away with the circus and show off your bravery and prowess for 3 weeks only with workshops and performances that change daily
11 August – 4 September – daily.
Return for the last 3 weeks of the summer holidays to continue your circus adventures by following the “Run away with the circus” trail around the garden.
Try your hand at juggling, stilt walking, tightrope walking, hula hooping and feather balancing.
See the full calendar of activities and plan your visit at the National Trust Dunham Massey website. Parking and entrance is free to National Trust members. For non-members normal admission charges apply.
Red House Farm near Dunham Massey is free for parking, play area, grounds, tea rooms and shop, and extra activities carry a charge. Mum To A Monster visited Red House Farm last year.
Warrington’s Golden Square is inviting children to climb aboard for a bounty-filled escapade as it raises the flag on its pirate themed adventure playground. The playground will be making waves daily until 4th September and is entirely free!
Pirate Island includes a dedicated area for shipmates under 4 years old and an additional area suitable for swashbucklers up to the age of 12. Play equipment features slides, a tower, tunnels, rickety bridges and lots more! And for those prepared to walk the plank there are even some pirate ships!
Liverpool Biennial 2016 is the largest free contemporary art festival in the UK, and is open until 16 October 2016. 44 artists will create unique pieces throughout the city, and the Liverpool Biennial 2016 unfolds in six episodes that draw inspiration from Liverpool’s past, present and future.
The Children’s Episode sees artists collaborating with children to create major artworks for the first time in the Biennial’s history. Plus, there is a host of fun, free educational activities running throughout the Biennial for all ages.
Sunday Comedy Club (28 August at Tate Liverpool) is a monthly workshop for families to create their own comedy shows inspired by Liverpool Biennial 2016. Spend the day with educators and comedians to develop your acts, which can include poetry, song and stand-up. Suitable for all ages.
The exhibitions are free, and there are absolutely tons! To find out more take a look at The Biennial Website.
Dove Stone Reservoir in Oldham has free entry, with a parking charge unless you are an RSPB member. It's a great day out for all of the family, with walking, climbing, running, playing, cycling and even sailing. Let Them Be Small paid a visit recently with their 2 young children, and you can find out about Summer events including a Butterfly Safari and Discovery Days on the Dove Stone website.
Tandle Hill Country Park in Oldham has free entry, play areas, toilets, changing facilities and a cafe. MumDadPlus4 took their young twins there on an adventure.
Roald Dahl activities running all Summer long including treasure trails and kite-making, plus plenty of other activities to keep anyone interested. Parking is £6, but otherwise entry to the grounds and most of the activities is free. Charges to tour the house. Hollybobs visited Tatton Park with her children earlier this year.
Clitheroe Castle is free to visit, and you can walk around the keep and grounds. There is a cafe and the Clitheroe Castle Museum has free entry for under 18's, adults cost £4.20. Let Them Be Small paid a visit a last Autumn.
Blackpool Tower is a big favourite of ours, we've already visited twice this year, reviewing the Tower, Circus and Dungeon. Daisies and Pie also went, and they reviewed the Tower and Circus (plus Blackpool Zoo) ...prices are expensive for single attractions, especially if you don't buy online in advance, but the multi-attraction tickets can keep you busy all week, and work out at around £6 per person per venue/attraction.
If for any reason you find yourselves stuck indoors, then pretend you are at the beach by playing the RNLI's Minecraft beach survival game, and teach water safety to your children as they play!
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is launching year two of the charity’s Beach Builder Challenge using Minecraft, which allows children to create and build virtual worlds.
The Beach Builder Challenge, available to play from 1 August, has been timed for the time when many young people will be visiting the coast during school summer holidays. This year, as well as being able to create epic beaches, the RNLI has expanded the virtual world to include a Beach Island Adventure with four levels based on the charity’s Stay SAFE acronym: Spot the dangers, Take Advice, Stay close to a Friend or family member, Learn what to do in an Emergency.
Children using different platforms will be able to talk to one another while taking part in the challenge, to register your child’s involvement email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RNLI (in conjunction with ASA) runs an annual programme of outdoor swimming and water safety sessions for all 7–14 year olds at beaches and lakes across UK locations during the summer holidays. Participants of the RNLI’s Beach Builder Challenge will be able to put their learning into practice by signing up to Swim Safe for a free Swim Safe session visit.