10 things to do in Manchester

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What to do in Manchester for families and kids

From inspiring museum visits to taking part in a secret spy mission, there are loads of things for families to see and do on days out in Manchester

1. Get creative in an art gallery

Not only is Manchester Art Gallery one of the country's finest art museums – its collection spans six centuries – it also offers innovative activities for all ages.

Its Clore Art Studio provides a space for families to be creative together, inspired by work from the gallery. Children can build sculptural hideouts using den-making blocks, create their own games and see themselves projected on the gallery wall as they play hopscotch.

While visiting the gallery, children can also borrow an explorer tool belt to help them connect with the artworks. And if they've worked up an appetite after all that, the café offers a pay-what-you-feel deal for kids.


2. Go wild in a huge park

Buile Hill is a popular 87-acre urban park, which opened in 1876. It's the largest park in Salford, and includes a children's play area, multi-use games area, outdoor gym equipment, tennis courts, an 18-hole pitch and putt course and picnic areas.

There's also a tree trail through the beautiful Grade II-listed parkland, which is on Historic England's register of parks and gardens of special historic interest.

The park's history also extends to the literary world – Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of children's book The Secret Garden, is said to have written the book during a visit to Buile Hill Mansion.


3. Visit the world's biggest football museum

Footie fanatics won't want to miss the National Football Museum, which tells the story of how football became the people's game.

Housed in Cathedral Gardens in the striking Urbis building, which was designed by Manchester architect Ian Simpson, the hugely popular attraction is free to visit (although donations are welcomed).

Over 2,500 objects are on display at any one time, along with interactive elements – including your chance to have a go at providing Match of the Day commentary – and a programme of temporary exhibitions that link football to subjects as diverse as fashion, art and the First World War.


4. See massive steam-powered machines in action

© Jonty Wilde/The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Located in the grounds of Liverpool Road Station – the oldest passenger railway station in the world – the Museum of Science & Industry is the perfect place for children to engage with technology new and old.

They'll marvel at seeing huge, steam-powered machines in action and the extensive collection of vintage vehicles, while a host of contemporary attractions includes a flight simulator and 4D cinema.

Hands-on exhibits include an early electric-shock machine and a printing press, while in the Revolution Manchester gallery a unique barcode gives you access to games and challenges, and even allows your image to appear on a massive digital sculpture. Temporary exhibitions often include world-class touring attractions.


5. Enjoy east Asian street food

For a fresh take on children's meals, try the east Asian street food on offer at Tampopo, which has branches across Manchester in Albert Square, the Corn Exchange and the Trafford Centre.

It recreates the flavours and aromas usually found in busy markets in Bangkok, hawker centres in Singapore and at street vendors' stalls in Tokyo.

The fun children's menu (which also features puzzles and games to keep the kids entertained) includes tempting treats such as chicken noodles and mini katsu curry, and there are even special chopsticks for young diners to practise with. Let the slurping commence!


6. Explore the city's waterways

Take in the rustic charm along Bridgewater Canal – England's oldest man-made waterway – from aboard one of Manchester's water taxis.

There are two circular routes. One covers Castlefield, Old Trafford, the Trafford Centre (where you can visit the Manchester Sea Life centre and the Legoland Discovery Centre), Stretford and Sale. The other goes between Spinningfields and Salford Quays (where you will find the Lowry theatre and the Imperial War Museum North). And if you want to splash out, the bright yellow boats, which are known as ‘waxis’ and can carry 12 passengers, are also available for private hire.


7. Take part in a secret spy mission!

This is a brilliant way to keep the kids entertained while exploring the city. The circular Treasure Trail is around 1.3 miles long and takes about an hour-and-a-half to complete.

As you follow the route, you must solve sneaky puzzles set on buildings, permanent features and monuments to crack the code, like a true secret agent. The trail begins at the Museum of Science & Industry and leads you through the Roman gardens and fort and along canal paths, before returning you to your starting point.

You’ll need to order a map, which costs £6.99, and you can print it off at home or be sent a copy in the post.


8. Test your skills in the Crystal Maze

"Will you start the fans, please!" Combine your own sense of nostalgia for this classic Channel 4 game show – which was recently revived with Richard Ayoade taking on Richard O'Brien's role as surreal ringmaster – with a fun-packed interactive family experience.

Your team has to solve a series of mental and physical puzzles set across four different zones: Aztec, industrial, futuristic and medieval. Success in the games is rewarded with crystals, which buy you time in the crystal dome, where the game culminates.

The experience, which lasts around 80 minutes, recreates the TV show brilliantly. Tickets cost between £30 and £50 per person, depending on when you go, and it's suitable for ages 13-plus.


9. Jump for joy in a trampoline park

Manchester’s Go Air Trampoline Park offers a combination of leisure and fitness for all the family in an environment that the weather can't spoil.

With a main arena of hundreds of interconnected wall-to-wall trampolines, trick tracks, a giant foam pit, airbags and the chance to play dodgeball or even shoot some basketball hoops, there's plenty to keep you bouncing.

For the open jumping sessions, all members of your group need to be aged six or over. Under-sixes, meanwhile, can take part in dedicated parent-and-toddler sessions.


10. Find out where your food comes from

Founded in 1984, the community farm in Wythenshawe Park provides children with the chance to discover where food comes from and to learn about a working country farm in an urban environment.

You'll be able to see cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, horses and a prize-winning herd of Hereford cattle. And, thanks to an extensive breeding programme, there are often baby animals on site. Best of all, it's free and is open seven days a week. The wider park also includes a café, children's play area, pitch and putt, and an orienteering course.

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