16 unmissable things to do in Manchester with kids

Last updated on August 16, 2023

As part of our series on the best things to do with kids in cities around the world, here’s our kids’ guide to Manchester, one of the UK’s most fun cities (especially if you’re into football). From taking a tour of the big teams’ stadiums to going behind the scenes at CBBC, there are tons of unique kids activities in Manchester for children of all ages.

So here’s our round-up of the best things to do in Manchester with kids.

Unique things to do with kids in Manchester

Legoland Discovery Manchester

Legoland Discovery

One of the best things to do in Manchester with kids is a visit to the Legoland Discovery Centre where you can be immersed in a playground of over 2 million LEGO bricks. It’s aimed at 3-10 year olds with everything perfectly sized for child visitors.

Highlights include Miniland, a recreation of Manchester in LEGO; the Ninjago City Adventure Playground softplay; a LEGO 4D Cinema showing the latest LEGO mini movies; a LEGO VR experience; two rides; and the chance to learn tips and tricks from LEGO master builders. Children under three go free. Buy your tickets here.

CBBC Tour Manchester

CBBC Tour

The CBBC interactive tour at MediaCityUK is an amazing opportunity for kids aged 6-11 to see behind the scenes of well known shows like Blue Peter and Newsround. You can even try your hand at being a CBBC presenter or doing the weather forecast. MediacityUK is in Salford, just outside Manchester.

Animal activities for kids in Manchester

Sea Life Manchester

SEA LIFE Manchester

SEA LIFE Manchester is a brilliant aquarium with themed rooms and an impressive ocean tunnel. See sharks, jellyfish, exotic fish, giant turtles, crabs, octopus and more. And have the chance to touch starfish and shrimp in the interactive rockpool experience.  You can even do a ten-minute deep diving experience.

And there are special events throughout the year, including an after-hours mermaid experience where the mythical creatures pay a visit to the tanks! Book your Sea Life tickets now.

Chester Zoo - Things to do with kids in Manchester

Chester Zoo

The nearest zoo to Manchester is Chester Zoo where you’ll find over 21,000 animals in 125 acres of parkland. They have a big focus on conservation and education with lots of opportunities to learn about extinction. It’s one of the UK’s best zoos and there are fun ways to get around, including a monorail and lazy river boat trip.

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Football things to do with kids in Manchester

National Football Museum

National Football Museum

Football fans won’t want to miss the National Football Museum where you can discover the history of football and its impact on culture throughout the world. There’s lots of football memorabilia, including the ball from the 1966 World Cup Final and Maradona’s Hand of God shirt.

There’s also lots of opportunity to try your hand at different skills, from commentating to penalty shoot outs.

Man U Museum

Manchester United Museum and Tour

Perhaps the world’s most famous football team, Manchester United might be the reason for your family trip to Manchester. You can do a tour of Old Trafford where you can also visit the Manchester United Museum.

Walk through the players’ tunnel, explore the dressing room, see the pitch and get a behind-the-scenes look at the famous team’s homeground. Man U fans will be enthralled. You can also book a match day VIP experience to watch a home game.

You can also stay opposite Old Trafford at the football-themed Hotel Football.

Eithad Stadium Tour

Eithad Stadium and Manchester City Club Tour

If Manchester City are your team, head to the Eithad Stadium instead where they have a fun interactive tour using technology and AI to immerse visitors in the world of Manchester City and Premier League football. Tour the famous areas of the stadium, virtually interact with the manager in the press room, and experience a fun 360 cinema.

Museums and galleries for kids in Manchester

The Lowry, Manchester

The Lowry

The Lowry is one of the most famous Manchester’s landmarks – an architecturally stunning building with three theatres and galleries showcasing world-class exhibitions. There’s a varied programme of family events, including all sorts of plays, from Julia Donaldson stories to ballet. Kids will also love the building itself with its bright colours and striking design.

Science and Industry Museum Manchester

Science and Industry Museum

The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the top kids’ attractions in Manchester. There are plenty of interactive exhibits, showing all the ways that Manchester, the world’s first industrial city, has contributed to science and technology. A highlight is Experiment, an interactive gallery where you can get hadns-on with different scientific concepts.

Manchester Art Gallery

The free Manchester Art Gallery has a permanent collection of historical to contemporary art, as well as hosting special (paid) exhibitions throughout the year. There’s also a good programme of events.

Active things to do with kids in Manchester

Crystal Maze Manchester

Crystal Maze

One for older kids (recommended for ages 13 and up), this was one of my childhood favourites: the Crystal Maze. But instead of watching in on the telly, you can now have a go at the real thing, including a stint in the famous crystal dome!

Make your way through the medieval, industrial, Aztec and futuristic zones, completing mental and physical challenges along the way. I did the one in London and can vouch for how brilliant it is! This might be one the adults enjoy even more than the kids!

Chille Factore

Chill Factore is an indoor ski village, designed to be like the Alps, where you can have a go at skiing and snowboarding on real snow albeit inside. You can do lessons for beginners or go free range on the slopes. You can also try sledging or snow tubing, and there’s a snowy play area for little kids.

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Paradise Island Adventure Golf

If you want to shop but need to keep the kids entertained and appeased, make a stop at Paradise Island Adventure Golf as part of your trip to the Trafford Centre. There are two 18-hole crazy gold courses with lots of fun quirks and inventive designs. Kids and adults alike will be entrtained. Another good minigold option is Treetops Adventure Golf at the Printworks near the Football Museum.

Fun ways to get around Manchester with kids

Hop on Hop off bus, Manchester

Hop on hop off bus

For a whistle-stop tour of Manchester’s main sights, jump on the hop-on-hop-off bus. The 90-minute journey stops at 15 different sights, including  the football museum and Old Trafford. It’s a fun and convenient way to get from A to B for a day of sightseeing too. Tickets are valid for two days and you can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route.

Wizard’s Spellbook Treasure Trail

Another fun way to explore the city is by doing The Wizard’s Spellbook Treasure Trail, which takes you on a self-guided treasure hunt around Manchester. It covers around 1.5 miles and takes about two hours. Best for kids aged 6 and up.

East Lancs Railway

Ride a steam train on East Lancashire Railway

Around 30 minutes from Manchester is Bury where you can hop aboard an iconic steam train on the East Lancashire Railway. The 12-mile railway was recently restored and the route takes you through picturesque villages and beautiful countryside. There are six stops along the way, so you and pick and choose where you explore. Plus there’s also the opportunity to explore the train itself.

There’s a little transport museum at the Bury station too. The easiest way to get there is to go to Bury via tram from Manchester Victoria Station.

Where to stay with kids in Manchester

Here are some good family-friendly hotels in Manchester…

Staycity Aparthotels Manchester Piccadilly

The Staycity Aparthotels Manchester Piccadilly is a great option for families as you get a whole serviced apartment (1, 2 or 3 bedrooms). It’s also nice and close to the trendy Northern Quarter. Check availability and book now.

Kimpton Clocktower

I’m a fan of the Kimpton brand and how they complement their design with influences from the local area. In Manchester, the Kimpton Clocktower is a luxury hotel in a period building with industrial design touches. Check availability and book now.

Hotel Football

Football fans will love Hotel Football, just opposite Old Trafford football stadium. The whole hotel is football-themed and it’s owned by former players Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Gary Neville.

Check availability and book now.

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More UK travel guides

We have loads of UK travel guides. And oodles of tips for London and Bristol – where we lived/live now. Here are some of the highlights…

UK road trips: Best UK road trips | Best Scotland road trips

UK destination guides: Bristol | Isle of Mull Frome | Liverpool | London | York

UK family travel guides: Birmingham with kids |Bristol with kidsCornwall with kids | London with toddlers Edinburgh with kids | Manchester with kids | Best UK family Christmas breaks | Travelling with a baby

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And if you’re looking for somewhere special to stay in the UK, we have loads of UK Airbnb and hotel guides for destinations from the Lake District to Devon. See all our UK guides.

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