Even in these trying times, there’s still a wealth of places to go and activities to do in Manchester. Below, you’ll find some of the best fun and free things to do in Manchester that you can enjoy with (or even without) your family. All the indoor venues have their own rules in place to keep people safe, such as social distancing and advanced booking. So please click the links and swot up before your trip.

Explore the riches of the Science and Industry Museum

Here, adults and older children can explore the city’s rich legacy of innovation – and for the little ‘uns, the venue’s free soft play area will be soon be reopening. There’s a café on-site or visitors can bring a picnic to enjoy outdoors. The shop offers a range of gifts, toys, and science kits that are sure to keep the whole family entertained.

Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FP, Tel: 0800 047 8124
Walk the hallowed halls of Central Library

You’ll find the children’s section downstairs in the modern, revamped area of the Manchester Central Library. It’s well-stocked but can be a little sleek so visitors should be sure to head to the upper floors to revel in the venue’s Hogwarts-like glory. There, you can see the famous reading room and play the instruments in the music library – all for free!

St Peter's Square, Manchester, M2 5PD, Tel: 0161 234 1983
Go for a stroll around Ancoats Marina

Just a few minutes from Piccadilly Gardens is this hidden oasis. Walking alongside quiet waterways replete with narrowboats is the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Newly regenerated, the marina embraces Manchester’s industrial heritage whilst looking to the future. It also features an array of independent bars, restaurants cafes and traders. Explore Ancoats further in our going out guide.

Cotton Field Wharf Marina, Ancoats, Manchester City Centre
Soak up some culture at Manchester Art Gallery

Behind its Grecian-styled exterior, the Gallery houses exhibitions of British and European art and design. Stand-outs include paintings by Turner and Rossetti and there’s also work from up-and-coming modern artists, too. A new exhibit looks at the history of the Gallery itself, and how it connects with the local community. All in all, it’s a great place for a free – and educational – day out.

Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL, Tel: 0161 235 8888
Take the kids to Whitworth Park's play area

Just next door to the acclaimed Whitworth Art Gallery is a green space which is steeped in local history. In 2014, the Park was given a Green Flag Award for being safe and well maintained. Adults will enjoy the field space for a leisurely walk while children under 12 can enjoy the adventure play area from dawn until dusk.

Oxford Road, Manchester, M14 4PW, Tel: 0161 275 4950
Visit rare frogs at Manchester Museum's Vivarium

You’ll find a large collection of exotic frogs in conditions that mimic their natural environment at the Manchester Museum vivarium. They’re not just there for the enjoyment of visitors – but also for research. The Museum’s curators are involved with studies that provide a better understanding of these creatures and help with their conservation. An afternoon spent here is truly eye-opening.

University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, Tel: 0161 275 2648
Explore street art in the Northern Quarter

Alas, there are no formal street art tours at the moment – but you can do your own homework before you go, or simply roam around the area with your eyes peeled. Either way, you’ll discover many fine examples of this urban artform, from political murals to purely artistic frescoes. We suggest starting at Stevenson Square’s constantly changing Outhouse and wandering down Spear Street’s impromptu wall-gallery. You never know what you might find!

Stevenson Square, The Northern Quarter, Manchester
Enjoy a picnic at Chorlton Water Park

The centrepiece of Chorlton Water Park is an old gravel pit which was flooded to create a lake. It flourished and is now an official Local Nature Reserve. In the grassland and woodland that surrounds it, there’s a network of accessible paths with picnic benches and a small playground. The perfect green day out!

Maitland Avenue, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 7WH, Tel: 0161 881 5639
Celebrate the Beautiful Game at the National Football Museum

Free for City of Manchester residents to visit, the National Football Museum explores soccer’s past, present and future. It features hundreds of era-defining footy shirts and behind-the-scenes photographs. With the Penalty Shootout Challenge, kids can feel the pressure of Wembley and go for glory from the 12-yard line.

Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd Street, Manchester, M4 3BG, Tel: 0161 6058200
Go stargazing in Heaton Park

Away from the light pollution in built-up areas, Heaton Park at night is the perfect place to stare at the heavens. You can even join in with sessions run by the Park’s official Astronomy Group. Coronavirus permitting, they meet every Thursday evening throughout the Autumn and Winter months.

Middleton Road, Manchester, M25 2SW, Tel: 0161 773 1085
Stop to smell the flowers at Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

The well-to-do suburb of Didsbury is home to a charming park which also features a beautiful botanical garden. It features a wide range of ornamental trees, rare plants and royal ferns, alongside a variety of wild life and birds. It’s open every day of the year – and there’s a lot to see, whatever the season.

Stenner Lane, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2RQ, Tel: 0161 434 1877
Be a rollerblading daredevil or a BMX bandit

Several public open spaces in the city, such as Birchfield and Bradford Parks, have purpose-built skating areas. Brookdale and Hulme Parks have BMX tracks as well. Be safe: you’ll need helmets and pads… along with the usual face coverings – but one you have all the gear, there’s no shortage of adventurous spaces to explore.

Various locations
Thu 24 Sep
A. James Simpkin
Published on:
Wed 28 Oct 2020