It’s that time of year again… the market stalls are up, the lights are on, and supermarkets are dolloping cranberry sauce into every meal deal sandwich they can. Christmas in Manchester is a magical time of year, with the city transforming into a winter wonderland, and offering a whole host of events for you to enjoy.
We’ve put together a list of ideas for family festive fun this year, including events and attractions that are all offering up some Christmas spirit.
1. See a pantomime or Christmas show
There’s plenty on offer when it comes to the stage this Christmas.
No Christmas would be complete without a laugh-out-loud panto, and this year is no exception. Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood will be starring in Manchester’s annual pantomime, which this year puts a comedy twist on the tale of Snow White. Alongside Horwood is former Coronation Street actor and panto veteran Eric Potts as Dame Nora Crumble, and regular star Ben Nickless as Muddles. This year’s panto runs from 6th to 29th December at the Opera House.
Another fun pantomime option available this year is a production of Jack and the Beanstalk, taking place at the Plaza theatre in Stockport. The entertaining Ted Robbins is on-hand to provide some great entertainment, alongside former Eastenders star Cheryl Fergison.
If a pantomime isn’t quite your thing, but you still want to enjoy a bit of Christmas-themed theatre, there’s still shows on that will suit you perfectly. The Lowry is giving a Christmas screen classic a musical makeover, with Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” coming to Salford for an extended run, as part of the show’s first UK tour following several successful US productions. Starring comedy’s Griff Rhys Jones and X Factor winner Matt Terry, this runs from 10th December to 5th January.
2. Take a trip around the Christmas markets
The Manchester Christmas markets have become a staple in the festive schedule, this year launching on the 8th November, and running up to the last weekend before Christmas.
They’ve become popular thanks to the wide array of street food, with hog roasts, German sausages, Dutch pancakes and more available to be enjoyed on the cold Manchester streets, alongside hot chocolates and mulled wines.
It’s not just the food and drink that make the markets worth a trip though. There are plenty of stalls that make and sell their own great products, such as ornaments, homeware, soaps and accessories, all perfect either as a treat for yourself, or to get some names ticked off your Christmas shopping list.
This year the markets are spread out over the usual parts of Manchester, with the main hub being outside the town hall at Albert Square.
3. Head to the Ice Village
A great attraction in the Cathedral area of Manchester, surrounded by some of the Christmas markets, is the excellent Ice Village.
A unique addition to the city’s Christmas traditions, the Ice Village has some great things to do and see, and is somewhere you should definitely visit. The main event is the Ice Cavern, home to an incredible, interactive selection of ice sculptures. It’s a truly magical experience, and is a great one to take the kids along to.
If you fancy a drink in unique surroundings, the Ice Village has mixed the heat of Hawaii with a -10C temperature settings, as part of the new Ice Tiki Bar. A tropical themed experience in ice cold surroundings, this is the first ever ice bar in Manchester, and a great place to grab a cocktail.
If you’ve got children with you, you have to make a stop at Santa’s Grotto, where they’ll receive a gift and a photo with the man himself, while you might also enjoy a session on the large ice rink to complete your visit.
4. Visit a light festival
There’s a new event coming to Heaton Park this year, that’s sure to be an exciting, popular attraction. Lightopia will be hosted at the popular park space near Prestwich, with plenty set to be on offer to visitors.
Lightopia is the first event of its kind in Europe, and promises to be “an exploration of light, movement and form”. There’s set to be six interactive installations, featuring lanterns, lasers, water-screen multimedia shows and more, with ticket prices starting at £18 for adults. Lightopia is running from 21st November to the 31st December between 5-10pm.
If you’re looking to save some money but still enjoy some illumination fun, there’s a festival of a similar theme opening in Salford Quays. Running between the space outside of the Lowry, and crossing the water to the MediaCityUK buildings is a trail of fantastic, interactive light displays. Known as Lightwaves, this fun event is free to attend, and will be switched on every day at 4pm until 10pm, between 6th and 15th December.
5. Enjoy Winter Funland
Based near the Trafford Centre is the EventCity conference space, a huge venue that will again be home to Winter Funland following their bug success in 2018.
Winter Funland is the ultimate Christmas family attraction, featuring a huge variety of shows, rides and activities all under one roof. All of the attractions at Winter Funland are included in the cost of your ticket, and as such, you get a decent amount of entertainment for your money.
As well as a huge indoor funfair, Winter Funland includes a massive ice skating rink, a fun circus show, and for the first time, a pantomime! As well as that, you can also take your children to see Santa, with the Funland home to a grotto.
6. Play a Christmas escape room
Starting in Europe and quickly heading to the UK, the trend of escaping from themed rooms by completing puzzles in a set amount of time has really taken off. There’s now eight different companies in the city centre offering several different escape games each, and at Christmas, some of them like to add a festive twist to their rooms!
Lucardo, based in Ancoats, has a selection of varied rooms, and for Christmas are opening the special half an hour “Operation Santa” game. At a fixed cost of £60 a game, teams of 4-6 players can take on the challenge of finding four key elements that are required to fix Santa’s sleigh and save Christmas!