Everyone’s favourite little blue engine is making a long-awaited return to Greater Manchester next month, and you can now grab tickets.
After a successful run in 2021, iconic heritage railway service East Lancashire Railway (ELR) has announced that the Thomas the Tank Engine replica train is back by popular demand and will return to its tracks in April and on several dates throughout the year.
Families will be able to hop on board the replica of the cult-classic blue train character for a 45-minute trip through the Greater Manchester countryside.
The journey begins at Bury Train Staion, where you’ll be greeted by The Fat Controller, meet Sir Topham Hatt, say hello to Thomas on the platform, and then climb aboard a carriage, all before Thomas makes a final stop at the beautiful Ramsbottom station.
That’s not all though, as the Day Out With Thomas experience also continues offboard, with performances from Sodor’s cheeky station sweepers Rusty and Dusty at Bury Transport Museum, as well as Thomas-themed activities in the ‘Imagination Station’, and other entertainment events, such as magic shows, and more.
You can also let the fun continue across the road at Bury Transport Museum, where your ticket also gains you entry to enjoy funfair rides, magicians, balloon modelling, and face painting.
Speaking ahead of Thomas’ return, Lorna Massey – Sales & Events Manager at East Lancashire Railway – said: “We are delighted to welcome back Thomas the Tank Engine to the ELR’s tracks over a number of weekends from April to October.
“The Day Out With Thomas events are a key fixture on the ELR’s calendar and one of our most popular experiences as Thomas is a much-loved childhood character for people of all generations, so the event always brings as much joy to children as it does to parents and grandparents.
“As well as taking a trip through Lancashire on Thomas, visitors will also meet Sodor’s Rusty and Dusty and Sir Topham Hatt and enjoy a host of activities offboard, so the experience will be a fun day out for all the family.”
Day Out With Thomas will take place on Saturday 30 April, May Bank Holiday weekend, 6 & 7 August, and then later on in October too.
Tickets start at £13.70 for kids and £22.70 for adults, and you can grab yours here.
Featured Image – Paul Michael Hughes Photography(via ELR)
The best things to do in Greater Manchester this week | 3 – 9 April 2023
It’s goodbye to one month, and hello to another.
Schools are out for the holidays, and we’ve got an extended bank holiday weekend to look forward to this week now Easter is here, so it’s no wonder the Greater Manchester events calendar is absolutely packed with plenty to do.
We’ve cherry-picked a few of the best bits happening across the region 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.
Science and Industry Museum
Monday 3 – Sunday 16 April
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.
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.
A giant outdoor funfair full of vintage fairground rides and a circus is back at the Trafford Centre.
After several hugely successful runs in both 2021 and 2022, the UK’s third largest shopping centre’s outdoor space has “sprung to life” once again just in time for the school holidays, and is back with a whole host of thrilling rides, a glittering circus, and lots of delicious treats for the whole family to enjoy.
Spring Escape has popped up outside the Great Hall, and tickets are now available to buy for the wide range of events on offer.
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.
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.
But the catch is, each of the six hidden eggs all belong to animals that you might not expect to hatch from eggs.
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.
Escape Hunt has launched a new City Hunt adventure just in time for Easter, and it’s giving families the chance to go outdoors, discover our city in a way like never before, and jump down the rabbit hole as it is Alice in Wonderland themed.
The hunt will start at Escape Hunt at the Corn Exchange, and you’ll be set up with an iPad and picnic hamper filled with everything you should need to complete your adventure.
Tickets are now on sale, and what’s more, is that children under eight go completely free.
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.
RHS Garden Bridgewater has got a whole host of family-friendly activities planned throughout the school holidays, but one of the stand-out events has to be the chance to head out on a hunt for giant Easter eggs.
Families can search for giant eggs hidden around the garden to win a chocolate prize.
Running until 16 April, after you’ve had a go at finding all the hidden eggs, there’s also plenty of other activities to get involved with – including craft workshops, interactive performances, and more.
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.
Sir Ian McKellen and John Bishop are coming to The Lowry with their pantomime Mother Goose this week.
The pair play husband and wife on the stage, acting out a story where the couple run an animal sanctuary for waifs and strays inside an abandoned Debenhams – but when Cilla the Goose flies in, everything gets turned on its head.
A cheeky fairytale described as being exactly “the kind of knockabout entertainment that we all need” from start to finish, Mother Goose is a live entertainment spectacle full of fun, musical comedy, star power, and surprises that will “make you honk out loud”.
Selfridges at the Trafford Centre is another place to head to this week if you’re looking to get the family all together and join in the hunt for Easter eggs hidden around the store’s kids and toys department, as “rumour has it, the Easter bunny hid the best eggs at Selfridges.”
There’s eight eggs to find, and chocolate prizes up for grabs, with a whole host of other “surprises” promised along the way.
One of the East Lancashire Railway’s (ELR) fan-favourite events is back this week, and it’s giving families the chance to go on a ‘wizarding adventure’ and ride a Harry Potter-themed train through Greater Manchester.
Aspiring witches and wizards can gather at the ELR for a day of sharing spells and magic-themed fun.
This interactive adventure will see visitors, both young and old, enjoy a range of performances from colourful characters and magical creatures, all before boarding the ‘Wizard Express’ for a two-hour round trip journey through the Irwell Valley of wonders.
Heaton Park’s flagship ‘Big Egg Hunt’ is back this Easter weekend.
From 11am-3pm and for just £3 per ticket, everyone from the tiniest tots to big kids can take part and hunt for eggs hidden around the park.
To take part, all you need to do is visit the Heaton Park reception based in the tunnel at the stable block and follow the map to locate clues that will help you solve the puzzle, and then, to claim your prize, you’ll just need to return to the desk with the completed mystery word puzzle.
Featured Image – Science Museum Group | Trafford Centre | RHS
The Makers Market is coming back to Cutting Room Square every month as of this Sunday
The North West’s hugely popular Makers Market is returning to Ancoat’s Cutting Room Square as of this weekend, marking the start of a monthly community staple.
While Makers Markets have been popping up around the region for years now — Stockport, Cheadle, Salford and Media City; Knutsford, Northern Quarter, Didsbury, Congleton and countless other locations — it’s only ever been at Cutting Room Square just the once as part of a trial run back in November 2022.
However, after going down an absolute treat and just as popular as all the others around Greater Manchester and beyond, the organisers have decided to bring it back on a permanent basis from this weekend onwards. Ancoats just got even better.
Now, as of Sunday, 2 April, city centre residents and those travelling into town will be able to enjoy a regular community market packed with local traders from all over every month. Wonderful stuff.
If for some reason you’ve never come across a Makers Market before, the concept is pretty simple: local businesses and indie traders of all different kinds gather in public spaces like Cutting Room Square, setting up pop-up stalls to sell their wares, whatever they may be.
Whether it’d be homemade food and bakery items, handcrafted prints and textiles, or homeware, second-hand records, flowers and everything in between, there is literally always something for everyone.
More importantly, though, these monthly markets aren’t just another place to shop locally and responsibly, but they genuinely provide a wonderful sense of community, quickly cementing themselves as a regular staple for everyone to look forward to and socialise at.
Typically taking place on the second Sunday of every month and with Cutting Room Square and Ancoats already a popular district for locals and tourists alike, we’re sure the atmosphere is going to be great.
You’ve also got the successful Ancoats Pop Up events scattered throughout the rest of the 2023 calendar too — happy days.
We look forward to a year filled with plenty more markets all around Greater Manchester!
You can check out the full list of traders that will be appearing at this weekend’s Makers Market at Cutting Room Square HERE.