Looking for things to do in Manchester in the summer holidays? Dig the City is back. The UK’s largest urban greening festival spans King Street to the Cathedral. With food, flowers and a fête. Nine days of gardens galore, pop-up picnics and masses to do and dig for kids.
This year’s Dig the City is all about freedom, fun and family: little ones can enjoy a raft of over 25 activities designed specifically for families, ranging from the National Trust treehouse (with ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ hands-on activities), den-building, giant garden games, a mini city farm (complete with live animals) and, of course, the return of the welly-booted Peppa Pig.
Best of all, everything is free.
Kids can get crafty, creative, build bird boxes and sow seeds, and join in National Trust activities. Parents can also learn new skills from bee-keeping to container planting, and enjoy Show Gardens from award-winning garden designers.
1. Stockley Farm in the City
Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 August and Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 August
10am – 4pm, Greengate Square
Stockley Farm an organic working farm located 17 miles outside of Manchester, is a hands-on kind of a place, providing experiences for families that range from bottle feeding baby goats to going on wildlife safaris. For this year’s Dig, Stockley Farm bring their menagerie of animals right into the heart of the city, as Greengate Square becomes a mini city farm where families can meet, pet, feed and learn about Stockley’s friendliest, furriest residents.
2. Giant Garden Games and Pop-Up Crazy Golf
Saturday 2 – Sunday 10 August
11am – 7pm, King Street
Giant Jenga, Connect 4 and Crazy Golf on a fresh green lawn supplied by artificial grass specialists Saige Decking.
3. Peppa Pig
Wednesday 6 August
12 – 4pm, St Ann’s Square Festival Hub
Welly boots and muddy puddles at the ready: family favourite Peppa Pig returns to Dig the City, and will be making personal appearances on Wednesday 6 August. Peppa is extremely popular so tickets will need to be reserved in advance at www.digthecity.co.uk/calendar
4. National Trust Treehouse – ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’
Sat 2 Aug- Sun 10 Aug
11am – 5pm, St Ann’s Square Festival Hub
Kids can become Outdoors Explorers at the National Trust tree house; each day kids can find all manner of activities from making mud pies and grass trumpets, to decorating trees and a mucky dip. Plus they’ll be special activities throughout the week, including art and craft sessions, dry stone walling, meeting the rangers, kite making and more.
5. Roald Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts’ Storytelling Day
Tuesday 5 August
11am-5pm St. Ann’s Square Festival Hub
Let yourself be transported into the topsy-turvy world of the most treasured children’s writer, as the fantabulous team from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre travel from the small but perfectly formed museum in Great Missenden, where Roald Dahl lived and wrote for 36 years. Their swizzfiggling storytellers will regale you with Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts. Be prepared to join in and snort like a pig or grumble like a Tummy Beast.
6. Royal Exchange Family Sunday
Sunday 3 August & Sunday 10 August
12 – 5pm, Royal Exchange Theatre
As part of their series of free workshops and entertainment for under 11s that every Sunday, Manchester’s theatre in the round, the Royal Exchange, adds a special Dig The City spin to its Family Sundays during the weekends of the festival – expect a day of family workshops and fun for the under 11s, including:
Storytelling adventures for under 5s
12-12:40pm – for non-walking babies / 12:50-1:30pm – for under 5s
Let your imagination run wild with colourful characters. With the power of the spoken word and opportunities to join in, Storytelling Adventures with Carla Henry will inspire children to unlock their own creative potential. Book in advance through the Royal Exchange box office.
Colouring-in activities for under 11s
12 – 3pm
Visit the Craft Shop and create your own garden of beautiful flowers with free colouring in activities for under 11s.
7. Victoria Street Legacy Gardens, Picnic & Play Area
Saturday 2 – Sunday 9 August, Victoria Street
Made over during the first Dig the City festival, the Victoria Street gardens and sandy play area will be open for the whole festival for family fun and picnicking.
8. Wilko’s Family Potting Shed
Saturday 2 August – Sunday 10 August
Drop-in, King Street
The Wilko team invite all Dig the City families into their pop-up potting shed to get their hands dirty planting seeds.
9. Den Building with Ordsall Park Rangers
Saturday 9 August
11am – 4pm, Victoria Street
Ordsall Park Rangers come to Dig the City for the first time with one mission – to teach kids the lost art of den building. Branches, tarpaulin, rope, leaves and more; using whatever’s to hand, the Rangers will children back outside and inspired by nature. What better way than creating a cosy den of your own?
10. Build a Birdhouse with The Construction Youth Trust
Thursday 7 August & Friday 8 August
11am – 5pm, King Street
One of the runaway successes of last year’s festival, Construction Youth’s series of children’s workshops give kids the opportunity to get hands-on and build their own planters and birdboxes from scratch.
11. Cath Kidston Facepainting & Kid’s Crafts
Saturday 2 – Sunday 10 August
10am – 6pm, King Street
Britain’s loveliest retro and vintage-inspired emporium gets into the Dig spirit by offering free face painting for the duration of the festival, as well as paper flower-making workshops at the weekends. Find out how to make a floral bouquet just from newspaper – and how newspaper itself has inspired a new Cath Kidston print.
12. Build A Bear Workshop
Saturday 2 – Sunday 10 August
10am – 6pm, Drop-in, Manchester Arndale
The Build A Bear Workshop is surely one of the most perennially popular toy shops in Manchester Arndale – and for the duration of the festival you can build your own floral version.
13. Plant-Your-Own with Sue Jeffries Gardening Advice
King Street, Wednesday 6 August 12 – 2pm / Friday 8 August: 12 – 2pm / Saturday 9 August: 11 – 2pm / Sunday 10 August: 11 – 2pm, Victoria Street
Sue Jeffries takes families through the process of sowing, planting and caring for seeds. It’s the perfect drop-in workshop to get kids growing – even better, bring along your planter from the Build-Your-Own workshop.
14. Creepy Crawly Homes
Saturday 2, Sunday 3, Tuesday 5, Saturday 9, Sunday 10 August, 11am – 3pm
Hulme Community Garden Centre Show Garden, King Street
Come and create your very own creepy crawly home that you can take away and use to encourage wildlife into your garden. All the materials will be provided – all you need is your imagination and some nimble fingers.
15. Factory Youth Zone: Arts & Crafts
11am – 4pm, Thursday 7 August, King Street
The Factory Youth Zone is a charity that gives young people aged 8 to 21 a safe place to go, with its sports hall, climbing wall, dance studio, music and media suites and much more also giving them something to do.
16. House of Fraser: Teddy Bear’s Picnic
Saturday 9 August from 12pm, House of Fraser – Deansgate
One of the most popular nursery rhymes going gets a reboot in this wonderful, one-off picnic at the House of Fraser.
17. House of Fraser: Mad Hatters Tea Party
Saturday 2 August from 12pm, House of Fraser – Deansgate
One of the most popular children’s books going gets a reboot in this wonderful, one-off tea party at the House of Fraser.
18. A Quarter of Sweets: Make Your Own Sweetie Flowers
Saturday 2 August from 12pm, Manchester Arndale
Pop in for a quarter of sweets at the aptly-named A Quarter of Sweets – and stick around for a fun make-your-own Sweetie Flowers workshop.
19. Storytime with The White Company
Saturday 2 and Saturday 9 August, 12 – 12.30pm, Manchester Arndale
Children’s storytelling from the in store books plus in store offers
20. Manchester Cathedral Family Fun
Flora & Fauna Cathedral Trail – Saturday 2 – Sunday 10 August
Creation Station – Monday 4 August & Tuesday 5 August, 11am-12pm & 2pm-3pm
Join in Manchester Cathedral’s family workshops or come along throughout the festival for other fun family activities such as their Flora & Fauna Trail – a unique self-guided trail interpreting the significance of the Cathedral’s architecture, history and character through flowers and plants. There are 30 spaces available per session, on a first-come first-served basis.
21. Grill on New York Street
Saturday 2 – Sunday 10 August 1-3pm, New York Street
Grill on New York Street gets in on the Dig the City action with a special Dig-inspired cocktail menu and 20% off the food bill for all festival-goers. But that’s not all. For the duration of Dig, kids can make their own mocktail with the help of one of the Grill’s mixologists; mocktails £4 each, sessions at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm. Adults welcome to join in!
Follow @digthecitymcr on Twitter for festival updates.