And this year, not only is December bringing the festive season along with it, but it’s also brining England’s second national lockdown to an end, with a return to the regional tiered system as part of the UK government’s COVID Winter Plan.
While some of the city’s most-notable festive events have sadly had to be cancelled this year, following the announcement that Greater Manchester will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions, there’s still plenty of ways to celebrate.
You’ll just have to go a slightly different way about it.
With everything from award-winning light and lantern festivals, to drive-in cinemas and virtual Santa’s Grottos though, you won’t be stuck for choice.
Do note that each event listed is subject to change as a result of any potential further government announcements, so it’s advised to keep informed and check the details of each event just ahead of making any trips to avoid disappointment.
The award-winning visual spectacular Lightopia is still set to return to Heaton Park under Tier 3 restrictions this December for a new, socially-distanced edition of adventures, lights, lanterns, sculptures and shows, and with Christmas very much the theme, the festivalwill use the stunning Grade I-listed Heaton Hall as its sparkling backdrop for all its festive merriment.
The event will operate under the ‘rule of six’ and visitors must adhere to this.
Open to the public every day (except for Christmas Day) between 5pm to 10pm, with last entry is 8.30pm daily, Lightopia will take place from Thursday 3rd December, and extend its run all the way through until Sunday 10th January.
You can find more information regarding proceedings, ticket prices, deals and COVID-safety measures ahead of your trip to the event next month here.
Tickets can be booked via the Lightopia website here.
Virtual Lights Switch-On
Manchester City Centre
The annual Christmas Lights Switch-On usually attracts around 20,000 people to Manchester city centre, but things will be a little different this year amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as there’ll be no large-scale event.
That doesn’t mean the city won’t still sparkle though.
Three of Manchester’s NHS frontline heroes are performing the honours of switching on the lights this week – with this year’s illuminations including a trail of light sculptures through the city centre – and while exact switch on dates are still pending, there are plans to live-stream the whole event.
Keep your eye on the Manchester City Council website here for the latest updates.
Christmas movies, live performers and Father Christmas himself will all be at Trafford Park from Friday 4th December, with people invited to drive through Santa’s workshop, watch the elves at work, and enter the ‘snow valley’, before settling in for a movie.
Tickets for ChristmasCity are available to buy now – priced at £40 per vehicle – with a number of COVID safety precautions set to be implemented during the event.
For more information, you can visit the ParkNParty website here.
Christmas at Dunham Massey
It’s safe to say that Dunham Massey’s outdoor lights trail has become one of the region’s most popular Christmas attractions, as the after-dark event illuminates the house, gardens and parkland with twinkling tunnels, giant sparkling reindeer, colour-changing lakeside reflections and trees glittering with baubles and stars.
The event is expected to get underway on 3rd December, and run through until 10th January 2021.
A spokesperson for Dunham Massey said: “As things stand, Christmas at Dunham Massey is still going ahead. We are working within strict government guidelines and carefully considering the difficulties of opening our places to members and supporters while ensuring we do so in a safe manner.”
You can find more information on COVID-safe precautions and book tickets here.
Winter Festival by The Parking Lot Social
intu Trafford Centre
The Parking Lot Social’s Winter Festival will park up at the intu Trafford Centre from 3rd – 8th December, with drive-in pantomime performances, festive film screenings and Christmas car-aoke.
Guests can have food delivered to their cars from a selection of stalls serving classic gourmet burgers, loaded fries, wood-fired pizzas and hot dogs, alongside sweet winter warmers such as hot chocolate, doughnuts, toasted nuts, gingerbread men and more.
Adding to the festive atmosphere will be a 60ft tall rainbow coloured Christmas tree, a giant DJing Santa Claus, and ‘the coolest reindeer to have ever left the North Pole’.
You can find more information and book tickets via The Parking Lot Social website here.
Santa Claus Calls
The UK’s leading indoor snow complex Chill Factore is “keeping the magic of Christmas alive” by letting children share their Christmas list with Santa via the power of video call in a virtual grotto you can visit from the comfort of your own home.
The Santa Claus Calls experience will run from Saturday 5th December – 24th December 2020 and each call will last around five minutes.
The experience can be booked from £20.99.
This price includes the call recording and the option to add multiple callers/screens, so that the whole family can be brought together, and you can also text SANTA to 70125 to donate £2 to Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity to support seriously ill children this Christmas time.
To book and find out more information, visit the Chill Factore website here.
The best things to do in Greater Manchester this week | 27 March – 2 April 2023
We can’t believe how fast this year has gone already, but it’s time to wave goodbye to March and welcome April this week.
With schools breaking up for the holidays this week, and not long left to go before Easter rolls around once again, the Greater Manchester events calendar is absolutely packed this week, so we’ve cherry-picked a few of the best bits happening across the region this week for another edition of our ‘what’s on‘ guide.
As always, some of the events we’re going to mention are completely free, while others will set you back a few pounds, and many will need to be booked in advance.
Here’s our top picks.
Manchester City Centre
Monday 27 March – onwards
Manchester’s gaming scene continues to get bigger and bigger every year, and now one of the UK’s biggest VR arcades has opened in the city centre.
Promising some of the best and most immersive ‘alternative’ activities you’ll find anywhere in 0161, DNA VR’s arcade is packed out with an impressive library of games, over 100 virtual arcade challenges and even virtual escape rooms.
The new venue is right in the city centre and just a 15-minute walk away from Piccadilly Station.
Have you had the chance to visit Manchester Museum yet after it finally reopened to the public after an ambitious £15 million transformation project?
After an 18-month refurbishment, the cultural institution – which is part of the University of Manchester – has expanded into a modern new two-storey extension, with new exhibition spaces and inclusive facilities added into the space.
New spaces inside include a brand new Exhibition Hall, which has opened with the blockbuster exhibition Golden Mummies of Egypt, where visitors get an unparalleled access to more than 100 objects and eight mummies in a UK debut, while the new extension also includes the South Asia Gallery, which will be the UK’s first permanent space to explore the lived experience of South Asian diaspora communities.
There’s a new dinosaur in town too, joining the museum’s legendary T-Rex Stan.
Kimpton Clocktower Hotel has made access to their state-of-the-art gym facilities completely free to the general public for the rest of March.
As part of a new initiative by Technogym called ‘Let’s Move for a Better World‘ – which is aiming to get people back exercising in 2023 – the fitness, gym technology, and wellness brand is encouraging gyms across the UK to open up their doors free of charge to local communities.
Running until 31 March, Mancs can get moving and make the most of Technogym equipment for free and join them for a series of fun events – including a 12-hour ‘MOVEathon’, as well as various circuit classes.
Corn Exchange has installed a book vending machine inside its stunning atrium space.
Whether you’re in need a book for your commute into the city, want to update your bookshelf at home, grab a page-turner for your holiday, or simply have a good read over a coffee or glass of something at Corn Exchange, the new vending machine has you covered.
Book lovers are invited to head on down with their old books, grab a token for the machine, and Read. Swap. Repeat.
With the aim to help the environment and reduce waste for book lovers, the machine includes a mix of pre-loved books of all genres, and you’ll just need to simply bring in a pre-loved book and swap it for a token with one of the Corn Exchange hosts to access the machine and choose your next read.
Families are encouraged to make the most of Manchester‘s new ‘sky park’ on Castlefield Viaduct during the school holidays.
The New York-inspired elevated urban park on the giant Grade II-listed 330-metre steel viaduct has been closed since December to allow time for the team of National Trust gardeners, volunteers, and community partners to prune, plant, and create new and exciting areas.
On top of the work to add a variety of seasonal planting displays created by, four plots on the viaduct have also been handed over to local community groups and partner organisations to create their own unique gardens for visitors to enjoy.
Manchester’s very-own cookery school Food Sorcery is giving you the chance to transport yourself to the bars of Spain with class dedicated to Spanish tapas and pinchos.
During this three-hour class, chef Jan Cron will guide you through how to create a selection of authentic dishes, including Spanish Tortilla, Padron Peppers, Croquetas de Jamón, and more – all of which you can eat through the class, and take home any left overs.
Suitable for all ability levels, it’s not only a great chance to learn new cooking methods and recipes, but it’s also a great social occasion with like-minded people.
There’s a special Wine & Dine Night at Platzki this week.
Hosted by special guest Polish sommelier, Adam Michocki, the beloved Great Northern Warehouse-based independent restaurant has crafted a comforting four-course set menu, with each dish paired with a Polish wine that perfectly complements the authentic cuisine.
Setting guests back £77 each for the full menu, Adam will guide you through the wines and explain the delicious pairings in more detail.
Fancy catching the last of all the March deals, discounts, and offers in Manchester’s cafes, bars, and restaurants?
Quite a few of the city’s best-loved independents have decided to extend their food deals into March, and this is your last week to make the most of them.
While there’s still some great offers to make the most of, we’re going to keep promoting them, and fortunately for us, there are some awesome set menus, lunch deals, and general discounts going around this month.
If you’re looking for somewhere to grab a bite this week, we’ve rounded up some of the best Manchester restaurant deals to take advantage of.
A live West End recording of one of the best-loved musicals of the last decade is to be screened in two of Greater Manchester‘s biggest cinemas this week.
And you only have one night to catch it.
Theatre lovers and musicals fans will probably want to make their way down to Vue in the Printworks, or Odeon at the Trafford Centre, this Tuesday 28 March as the smash-hit Broadway and West End production, Heathers: The Musical, will be screened for one-night-only as part of a special nationwide cinema event.
Manchester’s largest street food hub’s annual celebration of East Asian street food, desserts, and drinks returns for 2023 this weekend.
Taking place from 5pm this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, five of the city’s very best East Asian street food traders – Korean Grub Club, Osaka Local, Phat Rollz, Wong Dumplings, and Mary’s Cakery Makery – will be cooking all weekend long.
And as per the usual GRUB tradition, all food will be completely plant-based on the Sunday of the three-day annual event.
Pong & Puck is hosting its first-ever bingo night this week – but it’s not like any other, as this one’s a bottomless drag bingo party.
First things first, it’s still the same game of bingo with prizes to play for and the rest of it, only this one comes with the added bonus of bottomless drinks, pizza, a comedy show, sing-offs, catwalks and more – all of which will be hosted by legendary Manchester drag queen and comedian, Miss Ginger Hunter.
The Bottomless Drag Bingo Party will be happening down at the Great Northern-based venue on Friday 31 March from 7pm, with tickets setting you back £40 per person.
A massive “gaming extravaganza” is happening down at the Science and Industry Museum this month.
An ideal way to keep the little ones educated and entertained while schools are out, the museum has organised a packed programme of gaming, animated adventure, and digital discovery events inspired by its hugely-popular ongoing interactive gaming experience, Power UP.
From Saturday 1 to Sunday 16 April, visitors will be transported inside their favourite games as part of the Actual Reality Arcade – a life-size nostalgic gaming experience that’s promising to “unlock memories” players star in real-life versions of some retro favourite games, including Invaders and Breakout.
Young gaming lovers can also explore a special Pac-Man floor maze, and families can level up together with some super-size gaming too.
The Alternative Indie Wedding Fair is here in Manchester this weekend.
Hosted by ALT Events Co, The Alternative Indie Wedding Fair will see over 20 independent alternative vendors set up shop in the Royal Exchange Theatre in the heart of the city centre on Sunday 2 April, making it the perfect place to get a feel of how you want your special day to be, all while being budget-friendly.
While event organisers say the show is completely sold out, walk-ins are welcome on the day between 1-2pm and 3-4pm if the capacity of the room allows it – but it’s first come first served, so you’ll want to get there on time to avoid disappointment.
A giant outdoor funfair full of vintage fairground rides and a circus is heading back to the Trafford Centre this week.
After several hugely successful runs in both 2021 and 2022, the UK’s third largest shopping centre has announced that its outdoor space is “springing to life” once again as April begins, and will be back with a whole host of thrilling rides, a glittering circus, and lots of delicious treats for the whole family to enjoy.
Spring Escape is returning to the Trafford Centre just in time for the school Easter holidays on 1 April, and as usual, will be popping up outside the Great Hall.
Chester Zoo’s launching an Easter egg hunt with a twist this weekend.
If you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained and educated at the same time while schools are out this Easter, the UK’s largest charity and conservation zoo’s ‘Really Wild Egg Trail’ will see giant 3D eggs hidden over the 128-acre site.
Tut the catch is, each of the six hidden eggs all belong to animals that you might not expect to hatch from eggs.
Featured Image – ATG Tickets | Trafford Centre | GRUB
There’s a big 3D animal egg hunt happening at Chester Zoo this Easter
Chester Zoo is gearing up to launch a new Easter egg hunt when schools are out next month – but there’s a bit of a twist.
With Easter right around the corner, and schools soon to be out across Greater Manchester, if you’re looking for something a little different to do with the kids that keeps them both entertained and educated at the same time, then Chester Zoo has got you covered.
The UK’s largest charity and conservation zoo is launching the ‘Really Wild Egg Trail’ at the start of April.
All set to be a proper “educational adventure”, the trail will see giant 3D eggs hidden around the zoo’s 128-acre site – but the catch is, each of the hidden eggs belong to animals that you might not expect to hatch from eggs.
With an interactive map specially designed by National Geographic, there’ll be a total of six hidden eggs to seek out.
Once little explorers have found all six eggs hidden around the zoo, they can then make their way over to the on-site gift shop to pick up a Nat Geo Kids magazine that’s usually worth £4.99 for free.
“This Easter you can expect something a little different at Chester Zoo,” Customer Development Manager Elinor Trigg said ahead of the start of the trail next month.
“From the largest lizard in the world to tiny invertebrates, this educational adventure will help to shine a spotlight on our world-leading breeding programmes that are helping to save some of the most endangered animals on the planet, while connecting children to the natural world.”
“We’re home to more than 27,000 animals here at our charity zoo,” she continued.
“The trail is a wonderful way to learn more about some incredible, endangered species and, at the same time, take part some Easter-egg fun.”