14 smashing summer holiday activities in Manchester for the whole family


School’s out for summer, as Alice Cooper once said.  That means six weeks to, ahem, enjoy with the kids. If you’re worried about running out of ideas for things to do before the end of the first week, we have a line-up of some of the best, and (mainly) free, family friendly events in and around Manchester to keep them entertained.

Summer fun at intu Trafford Centre

There’s plenty to keep the kids happy at intu Trafford Centre over the school holidays. There’s beachside fun in Barton Square until 3 September with a sand play area, deckchairs, buckets and spades and a themed Dino Dig from Sea Life every Saturday 10am-4pm. There’s a Cartoon Network Event at Legoland Discovery Centre from 4 August and an opportunity to join the Octonauts at the Sea Life centre and discover creatures of the deep until 3 September. And don’t forget there’s a huge ten pin bowling alley, Namco Funscape, Laser Quest, The Rock and Odeon IMAX cinema to keep them happy too.


ParkLives returns with its programme of family fun activities from family dancing to den building at 12 Manchester parks including Heaton Park, Alexandra Park, Whitworth Park and Collyhurst Park. Hosted by trained leaders plus volunteers, you’re sure to find a park and programme of events to suit you.

Open Days at Greater Manchester Police Museum

Get behind the scenes of one of the country’s biggest forces at the Greater Manchester Police Museum. Free open days are running every Tuesday and Thursday until 31 August including events which focus on different units in policing – from the Underwater Search and Recovery team to the Tactical Dog Unit. Perfect for any aspiring policemen and women out there.

Design studio at Piccadilly Gardens

The opportunity to create your own mobile phone case is coming to Piccadilly Gardens from 25-27 August thanks to specially designed HSBC Mobile Studio where adults and kids can create their own customised case for free. You can also ask for design advice from expert Illustrator Marylou Faure who will be on hand to help. 10am – 6pm Friday and Saturday, 12-6pm Sunday.

Museum of Science and Industry

Kids can get hands-on at MOSI with a range of activities like Imagine It, Make It, Move It from 22 July to 4 September which includes fun workshops, activities and shows. There’s a chance to make your own fidget spinners and help build a bike and cycle to victory in the Inventors Wanted! show.  Don’t miss out on the annual MakeFest 19-20 August, now in its third year, a big family friendly celebration of coding, making, arts and crafts.

BookBench Trail

Follow the trail of new BookBenches around Manchester thanks to new downloadable map. There are 58 colourful book-shaped benches designed by children dotted across the city centre and stretching to other locations like the Lowry Outlet and Manchester Museum just waiting to be discovered.

Free summer cinema at Spinningfields

A range of family films will be shown for free on a massive outdoor screen in the Oast House Courtyard Spinningfields every Tuesday evening from 18 July with films including Mean Girls, Beauty and the Beast, E.T. and The Goonies.

Enjoy art hampers at The Whitworth

Pick up an art hamper to enjoy anywhere in the Whitworth or its grounds. These hampers are full of fun art materials, ideas and even a picnic blanket  so you can get creative and cosy too. Available free of charge from the welcome desk at the entrance from 10am.

Mini beast mysteries, scavenger hunts and fun with wildlife

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded in Didsbury in 1889 so it’s fitting that it has organised lots of free, family friendly activities in the area. There will be a mini beast hunt and wild bingo from 12-5pm in Alexandra Park on 1 August and you can make garden birds their own kebabs at Heaton Park 10am – 6pm on the same day.

Glow in the dark art at Manchester Art Gallery

Children are invited to make glow in the dark art at Manchester Art Gallery. Every Wednesday to Saturday in August, artistic drop-in sessions suitable for all ages will be taking place from 1pm to 3pm with two specially-trained artists to help out.

Big Saturday – Modelling Nature at Manchester Museum

Come along to the newly opened Object Lessons exhibition on 19 August at The Manchester Museum and look at how models help us get a better understanding of the natural world. There will be drop-in sessions and hands on activities.

Rainbow Drops Treasure Hunt

Are you ready for a sweet-themed treasure hunt? Swizzels, the makers of iconic sweets Rainbow Drops, are running a themed treasure hunt in the city centre on Saturday 29 July. Top prize is the chance to win £1,000, so get searching with the kids. You have until 4pm on the day to follow the trail and clues for four iconic locations available from the Swizzels website.

The Welcoming Party August sessions at Z Arts

There’s family friendly fun days with arts, crafts and creativity for all ages every Saturday in August at Hulme’s culture hub Z Arts from 11 am – 3pm. Take part in a range of art and crafts from posters to pop-up buildings. And children can enjoy seeing the work they create go up on the walls at the exhibition.

Summer activities at Withington Girls’ School

All the fun of summer camp comes to Withington Girls School, the base for two weeks of summer holiday activities for boys and girls. Starting on 3 July, children can choose between sports camp or creative writing sessions for week 1, then from 7 August onwards there’s a choice of more sports camp, film animation or art workshops. With most activities running from 9.30 to 3.30, it’s an ideal option for working parents. And there’s the choice of earlier drop-off and late pick-up for a small fee.


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