Christmas is without question my favourite time of the year. I love everything about it from the cheesy Christmas songs, mince pies, mulled wine, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the house and tree, our little family traditions, seeing my gorgeous girls face on Christmas morning. The list goes on and on – there is literally nothing I don’t enjoy (I don’t even get annoyed with other shoppers as they are just being Christmassy). Even since before having children I dreamed of taking my family to Lapland and last year we made it (read all about it here).
I love planning our little activities to really get us in the mood so I have listed below some of my top 10 activities on offer in Greater Manchester this year. (I have purchased a couple of activities already so will do a review after).
Manchester Christmas Markets and Ice Village
Living in South Manchester we are so lucky to be able to jump on the tram or train and head in to the city for our annual dose of the Manchester Christmas Markets – but what does it offer those who have never been before……?
Manchester’s award winning markets are scattered all over the city in 10 locations (Albert Square, Brazennose Street, St Ann’s Square, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, The Corn Exchange, King Street, Market Street, Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens) there are stalls, it seems, in every nook and cranny and every year the offering seems to get bigger and bigger. The city is heaving with locals and tourist alike. Weekends are particularly busy but if you time it right you can still get plenty of space to wander around.
The markets offer mouth watering food from crepes, bratwurst, hog-roast which are the traditional but over the last few years the food on offer has reached another level so make sure you are wearing clothes that stretch. Then there is the drink on offer – mulled wine, spicy cider and mulled gin plus a hot chocolate (normal and alcoholic) and a vast choice of beers.
Then there are the gift stalls, anything from food gifts, soaps, chrismas decorations, crafted goods the list is endless. So in additional to stretchy clothes make sure your wallet is stretchy too.
This year there is the addition of the Ice Village. Based in Cathedral gardens this offers pletny for adults and children from the Ice Cavern* where there elves have been hard making amazing sculptures from ice and end the journey with a drink at the ice bar. There is also a Grotto*, area for ice skating* Artic Huts* and a number of free activities.
*Additional charges apply
Whilst there are rinks that are open year-round, it is definitely the outdoor, pop-up events that seem to have hoards of families flocking to them year in year out for their yearly dose of Ice Skating. There is always a scattering of capable skaters but most of us dreaming of emulating Torvill and Dean but the reality is more Bambi on ice. Mr TWB really doesn’t take to it so has left this activity in my almost capable hands. He is happy to sit on the side-lines with a mulled wine or adult hot chocolate and watch us wobble and stumble around but that is as close as he gets.
Manchester offers a number of temporary venues throughout the festive season:
Manchester Ice Rink (www.manchestericerink.co.uk). As well as the skating the aria offers plenty of choices for food, drink and entertainment.
Location: First Street (Near to Deansgate Lock)
Open:16th November to 6th January
Times: Monday to Friday – 3pm to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 8pm
Price: Adults £13, Child £11 plus £1 booking fee
Ice Village Manchester (www.icevillage.co.uk). Within the above Ice Village there is an ice rink which is a paid for activity.
Location: Cathedral Gardens
Open: 9th November to 5th January
Times: 11am to 8pm every day
Price: Adults £11, Child £9, Family (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) £35 all plus booking fee.
Winter Funland (www.winterfunland.com). As part of the event they are bringing a gigantic real ice skating rink. Slots must be booked on arrival to avoid disappointment as each session is run to a certain capacity.
Location: Event City (near the Trafford Centre)
Open: 7th December – 1st January
Times – 2 sessions daily – 11am – 3pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm
Price – included in the admission fee – below
Santa’s Christmas Grotto at Chill Factore
Over at the Chill Factore they are bringing back their Grotto where your little ones can get to see the big man in his log cabin surrounded by real snow. Every guest will receive a gift and then depending on the age of the children can get involved with additional activities. After all this there are a couple of places to grab a bite to eat or even pretend its hot outside with a gelato and the ice cream parlour.
Location: Chill Factore Manchester (close to the Trafford Centre
Open: 17th November – 24th December
There are 2 options:
Santa and Snow Park (perfect for children over 4)
Price: Adults and Children from £25 off peak and from £28.50 peak. Family of 2 from £45 off peak and £52 peak**
This price includes the meeting with Santa in his Grotto including a gift and then a Snow Park Pass The Snow Park gives access to all the activities from
Downhill Donuts – riding the bumps in a giant inflatable ring
Luge Slip and Slide – twists and turns on the ice lide
Sledging – race to the bottom on real snow
Snow Luge – go top speed down the snow.
The Snow Park sessions are either 1 or 2 hours and that will determine the actual cost.
Santa and Mini Moose Land (perfect for children under 4)
Price: Adults and Infants from £9.50 off peak and £11.50 peak Family of 2 from £16 off peak and £20 peak**
Again, the price includes meeting Santa in his Grotto and the gift and then your little ones can spend time playing in the “real snow” in Mini-Moose Land. This is a fun play area with colourful soft play dragons, reindeers and hoppers. They also have mini sledging and skis but from what I have seen the little ones just like to play around in the snow.
**All children must be accompanied by an adult
Snow clothing is not supplied but can be hired but guests are welcome to bring their own. Trainers are not suitable.
Christmas at Dunham Massey
Following the success of last year – Dunham Massey’s gardens and historic buildings will be lit up again for this after dark event. This is not an event to meet Santa it is all about the experience of 1000s of lights guiding the way through the trees. Surprises are in store and children and adults alike will be transformed to a magical place where reindeers, snowflakes guide you through the singing trees to the finale of the dancing water fountain.
You can enjoy a spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate whist toasting marshmallows and ten end the night on a vintage carousel (charges apply).
Location: Dunham Massey, Cheshire
When: 30th November to 30th December
Time – 4.40pm – 8.pm
Prices: Adults £16.50, Children £10, Children under 5 – Free, Family £50 (2 adults and 2 children) – transaction fee applies.
Car Parking is charged at £7 per vehicle but National Trust Members receive this free.
This years Winter Wonderland at Event City is the North West’s largest Indoor Christmas Event. The event is created by the team that put together the Geronimo Festivals in the summer. It is an all inclusive package (with only a couple of activities that need to be paid for) and there is a maximum capacity for the event aimed to give everyone a brilliant experience.
Location: Event City (near to the Trafford Centre)
Open 7th December – 1st January
Times – 2 sessions daily – 11am – 3pm and 4.30pm to 8.30pm
Price – Adult £22.50 plus £1.50 booking fee, Child £22.50 plus £1.50 booking fee, Children under 3 go free, Family £85.00 plus £3.50 booking fee (family is 2 adult and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children)***
So what does the price include…..?
Circus – Circus Funtasia presents a show with winter fairies, a guest appearance of the Grinch along with the usual tumbling tricks. Very much Christmas theme.
Ice Skating – see above for details – remember to book on entrance as spaces are limited.
Theatre Show – Andy Day and the Odd-Socks will perform their musical show twice per session in the 1000 seater auditorium and the websites state “you should not miss”
Funfair Rides – all the traditional rides including carousels, helter skelter and dodgems.
Santas Grotto – there will be a grotto for the little ones to go and visit Santa. This will only be available up to Christmas Eve as Santa will be taking a well deserved break!!
Live Reindeers – Rudolph and Dancer will also be at the event for the children to go and see but like Santa they will only be there until Christmas Eve.
***Not included in the cost – gift from Santa and photo, food and the prize stalls.
Walking with the Snowman Media City
It seems most activities are set to take more money off you, so when I heard about the Free Snowman Trail at Media City this seemed a good option to add to the list. Presented by Wild in Art (the team behind the successful Bee in the City Trail earlier in the year), the Walking with the Snowman celebrates the 40th anniversary of the lovely Raymond Briggs tale of The Snowman. There are 12 sculptures inspired by the twelve days of Christmas are dotted about Media City in this family friendly trail as well a number of smaller statues created by local children which can be found in some of Media City’s iconic venues. There is a free downloadable trail on the website and a certificate once completed.
The added bonus of this is that the statues will be auctioned off later in December with proceeds being donated to Children in Nee
Location: Media City (various), Salford
When: 22nd November – 6th January
They are also offering some Snowman themed craft activities to get you in the spirit down at Penelope’s Café in the Open Centre. Below is the list of what is on offer and the prices
The activities are only available 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th and booking is advised.
The Snowman and the Snowdog Lantern – £15.50
The Snowman snow globe – £15.50
Paint their own bauble = £12.00
Everyone participating in the activities will also get the opportunity to write and send a letter to Santa over at Lowry Outlet Grotto.
We intend to get wrapped up this coming weekend and head down to Media City so will add a blog about this later.
Santa on the East Lancashire Railway
All aboard the Steam Train at Bury’s Bolton Street Station for a ride through the Irwell Valle to Rawtenstall and back again. The station is festooned with beautiful decorations and hundreds of trees and then with a brass band and carol singing it completely immerses you in the festive spirit. It is a few years since we chose this as our main Santa activity with another family but it was a great afternoon out and the children loved it. Right from the start with all the twinkly lights, on board with the magician and then elves entertaining the children and finally getting their treat from Santa the adventure is spot on. The children receive a drink and a biscuit and the grown ups are looked after too with a mince pie and festive tipple and finally there is also a Great Festive Treasure Hunt at Bury Transport Museum resulting in a good few hours being lost in the magic.
Location: Bolton Street Station, Bury
When: 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 15th, 16, 21st – 24th December
Times: Every 50 minutes from 9.30am – 4.10pm
Price: Adult from £16 children from £13
Afternoon Tea and Santa’s Grotto at Oddfellows on the Park
So, this year we have opted for a little something different and close to home too. We have seen Santa in many locations, (last year even heading to Lapland for the most magical weekend) and try and do something a little different each year. In Bruntwood Park which is close to our home in Cheadle Hulme there is a beautiful old building recently converted into a luxury hotel – Oddfellows on the Park – and we have yet to visit. When I saw that they were offering a Grotto with festive themed afternoon tea this seemed right up our street, so I booked it straight away. As expected the children get so meet Santa and will receive a little treat from the man himself.
Santa is making a special trip on only a few dates to the magical winter wonderland of Bruntwood Hall. I am pretty sure the hotel will be decked out beautifully and we have already heard brilliant things about the food – so this will be a great treat. Look out for my review after we visit this weekend.
Location: Oddfellows on the Park, Cheadle Hulme
When: Sunday 2nd, 9th and then Thursday 20th and Monday 24th
Price: Adult £19.50, Child £12.50
What completes Christmas more than a “Oh yes you did” and “its behind you”? I love a Panto, I love all the cheesy lines, obvious jokes, innuendo for the grown ups that go completely over the children’s heads, the audience participation and the joy on my little girl’s face. Ever since she was old enough to sit through a full production, we have added this to our yearly calendar. This year we are seeing two – The Wizard of Oz in Bolton and Sleeping Beauty in Stockport (reviews to follow) but Greater Manchester has a whole range of pantos on offer.
There are too many to list all in this blog with costs, location etc but I stumbled across the Big Panto Guide (www.bigpantoguide.co.uk) so check this out for more on offer.
Stableyard Carols at Tatton Park
When it may seem as though there is still a mountain of things to sort – why not take some time out from the madness as a family for some good old Carol singing. A popular event in the fantastic Tatton Park festive calendar sees the live band playing and the crowds singing along to well loved songs. What a great way to finish off the festivities before the man himself arrives on Christmas Eve. The Mansion is open for the last time and the theme this year is Food Glorious Food so you could combine this with the Carols for a great day out.
Location: Tatton Park, Knutsford
When: 23rd December
Price: Free but vehicle charge applies (entry to the mansion Adults £10, Child £7
These are just my top 10 – feel free to share links and reviews to any other events you recommend.
Merry Christmas everyone