Have you ever considered heading to a vibrant UK city alone with your kids for a few days away? In this series, we explore some of the UK’s top city break destinations and give you an idea of what they’re like when you’re alone with the kids!
There is no doubt that Manchester is an amazing city. Everywhere you look there’s a bit of history to explore, and there are countless incredible bars and restaurants to enjoy. The city is well known for having a thriving music and nightlife scene, with brilliant music venues, bars, clubs, and pubs everywhere, but what is the city like when you’ve got kids with you?
Manchester is a pretty vast city, but luckily there are lots of easy transport options when it comes to getting around. There are two main train stations; Manchester Victoria, and Manchester Piccadilly. Piccadilly is the more accessible of the two if you’ve got a buggy with you – there are several lifts to navigate at Victoria and they’re often out of order.
There are Metrolink tram lines running through all major districts of the city centre and Greater Manchester, making it easy to reach some slightly further out destinations. Every tram car has a designated space for wheelchairs and buggies, but keep an eye on when the football matches are. On Manchester match days, the trams are usually incredibly busy, making buggy access difficult.
In addition to the trains and trams, there is a comprehensive bus network, including some free shuttle busses that run from the train stations. As with most busses, access for buggies can be difficult, and you may be denied access if there is already a buggy or wheelchair on board.
What To Do
While there are bars, restaurants, and coffee shops a-plenty, Manchester might not have a lot on offer for kids at first glance. It’s certainly not as child friendly as other UK cities, and there are no outdoor spaces in the city centre that are safe enough to let small children really run loose to play. This being said, there are a few gems that are worth exploring!
The Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library, and People’s History Museum are good starting points, and all have free admission. Both have reasonable accessibility, meaning you can access all areas with a buggy. Like most museums and galleries, there are a few fun things on offer that are aimed at kids, and they are great places to do little scavenger hunts. If you want to try a ready made scavenger hunt then there are some ready made treasure trails you can follow!
Head to the Spinningfields district of the city to find the Museum of Science and Industry which is also free to explore. Here, there is a whole floor dedicated to fun interactive science activities and experiments for kids of all ages to enjoy. There is a wonderful open area to see and learn about Manchester’s industrial transport, which is a fantastic place for little people to really stretch their legs in a safe environment where they can learn new things. There are often additional activity stations for children during the holidays, so check the website before you visit to see what’s on.
Just down the road on the edge of Spinningfields is one of the biggest Waterstones bookstores in the country. While we are advocates of shopping through independent bookstores where possible, this makes a good stop when you’ve got kids with you. There is an enormous children’s reading room and bookshop area on the first floor. There is plenty of room for even the biggest buggy, and it’s a great place to just stop and have a bit of a mooch.
Easily accessible changing and feeding areas are few and far between in Manchester, but the two that should be on your radar are M&S, and Boots. The M&S next to the Arndale centre has a few spacious feeding rooms which are equipped with changing stations, sinks, and comfy armchairs. There is enough room inside for a big buggy, and the doors are lockable, meaning you can take the time you need to nurse in peace. The nearby Boots has a similar setup in their first-floor baby room. Here, you’ll find chairs, changing stations, and sinks, although it’s more of a communal room rather than smaller private rooms.
If you want to venture a bit further afield, then take a look at Heaton Park, Tatton Park, or Dunham Massey, all within the Greater Manchester area. These outdoor spaces are great for kids on nice days, and boast plenty of land to explore, buggy accessible routes, and coffee shops! Check entry prices before you travel as some areas have charges. The Trafford Centre is another good option, although gets very busy during holiday times. There is a small Sealife Centre and Lego Discovery Centre along with a tree top adventure!
Where to Eat
Everywhere you turn in Manchester there are cafés and restaurants. There are some fantastic independent eateries all across the cities, but sometimes these are tricky to access if you have a buggy with you. On a sunny day, many have outdoor seating which is a good way around buggy accessibility! Head to the Northern Quarter to Eastern Bloc or Slice for tasty food, or check out the Manchester Food Market that pops up in Piccadilly gardens! If you want to eat somewhere with a tried and tested kids’ menu then you can find Wagamamas, Pizza Express, Nandos, Zizzis, and all of the other main chains in the Arndale Centre and around the city.
Where to Stay
Transport links in Manchester are good enough that it doesn’t really matter where you decide to stay – it’ll be easy enough to get to everything you need! If you want the very best attractions on your doorstep then try finding somewhere to stay near the Spinningfields area of the city. Be warned though, prices can be high! Before you stay, make sure to check hotel access requirements if you have a buggy with you, and make sure there are cots and high chair available if you’ll need them.
Manchester is an amazing city, but definitely not the most child friendly place to visit. While there are some great attractions in the city centre, there aren’t safe outdoor spaces for children to play unless you head out into Greater Manchester.
Please leave us a comment below if you think we’ve missed anything out, and let us know where else you want to see covered!