Manchester was the first stop on our two week UK adventure as a family of 4. Don’t forget to check out the overview of our trip! Flying into Manchester was much cheaper than flying into any Scottish city, so we decided to make it a quick stop on our way to Scotland. We were only in Manchester for a little more than a day, so I wanted to share what to do with one day in Manchester with kids!
I’ll admit, we went into our day in Manchester pretty clueless. I knew we’d be jet lagged and a little out of it, so I didn’t make a grand plan. We had a couple of things we knew we wanted to see, a few that weren’t reasonable with small children and a hope that we’d stumble upon things along the way!
Free City Bus
Before I get started on what to do with one day in Manchester, I wanted to share this awesome FREE resource that will get you from point A to B much faster.
Yes, Manchester has a FREE city bus that comes about every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday. There are several stops all over the city, but the main hub was right here near the Piccadilly Train Station.
There are two different lines you can take with a couple of overlapping stops if you want to switch routes. We saw these buses all over town and think they’re a great way to get around the city – for free! Save your money and use these to visit Manchester in a day with kids!
Manchester in a Day
Science and Industry Museum
Our first stop after dropping our bags at the hotel was the Science and Industry Museum. This was the farthest stop away from our hotel and a great opportunity for the kids to run around and be engaged, so it was our natural starting point.
The Science and Industry Museum is completely free for all ages as are all government funded museums in the UK. That is definitely a plus when traveling with kids! This museum was even more kid friendly than we originally thought. Not only did it have many kid friendly exhibits, they also had shows and demonstrations specifically for children. We listened to one about the sun that had Chloe mesmerized! I’ll admit that it had me fascinated too. The top floor is a permanent exhibit called Experiment designed to be a hands on experience for kids but also fun and engaging for adults. It kept us all busy and entertained for a while playing with sounds, light, vision, electricity and more. Bonus points for the small children’s play area!
Castlefield is a conservation area and neighborhood in Manchester where the former Roman Fort Mamucium once stood. Here the world’s first industrial canal was built in 1794 and the first passenger railway train terminated in 1830. (Thanks Wikipedia for those fun facts!)
We stumbled upon this area after the Science and Industry Museum. There are several green spaces around Castlegate; some with Roman ruins including the old Roman Fort. We didn’t realize it existed until later or we would have wandered off to find it! Behind the museum is where the first passenger train came to an end and the first railway warehouse was build. There’s a lot of space to explore and wander which is perfect for families just needing to get outside on a nice day!
John Rylands Library
A library with kids? I know, it sounds a bit crazy, but The John Rylands Library is set up more like a museum and is worth popping into for at least a few minutes to look around. The architecture is stunning and you must look at the ceiling in every room that you enter! Built in 1900 by John Rylands’ wife as a memorial to him, it now holds world class collections including the oldest known piece of the New Testament! There are also other exhibitions, some permanent and some temporary.
Piccadilly Gardens is the perfect spot to let the kids run around for a bit while you people watch and enjoy the day! It’s located in the city center right by lots of shopping and restaurants. I would recommend grabbing some lunch at a nearby restaurant or from the Street Food Market – highly recommended – right by the gardens. Then you can eat outside, if the weather is nice, while the kids run and play. There is a little playground as well as a fountain for splashing and playing if the weather is appropriate!
Manchester Arndale Shopping
Right near the park at the center of the city is the Manchester Arndale shopping area. If you need to satisfying a shopping fix or just need to get out of the rain, check out this shopping area! The mall is huge: multi-level with lots of shops, restaurants and coffee shops. There is even a dollar store or “Poundland” as it’s actually called in case you need to pick up something you left at home for cheap! There are lots of events and vendors that come and go around this shopping area that you can also be on the lookout for.
We popped in to get out of the rain and to sit down for a few minutes. The kids slept soundly in the stroller, so we grabbed an ice cream and sat down to rest our feet for a bit. Back outside we wandered down the shopping street and I did a little shopping at their HUGE Primark!
Grab a Pint or Gin & Tonic
Since you’re already in the city center, there are tons of pubs around, so grab a table outside and enjoy a drink. You’ve been walking around all day, you deserve it! The patio section of pubs are kid friendly, so don’t shy away just because the kids are along for the ride. It’s a great chance to grab a drink, unwind and enjoy the atmosphere. Plus you want to enjoy the local cuisine and gin is very British. If you happen to spy a grapefruit gin and enjoy the taste of grapefruit, I highly recommend it!
Ardwick Green Park
In case you’re looking for another green space for your little ones, I highly recommend Ardwick Green Park. It’s a little bit further away from the rest of the attractions I’ve mentioned, but it’s the perfect play space for little ones. This park offers multiple playgrounds for different ages, swings for big kids and little ones and lots of sidewalk games like hopscotch! The playground is centered around a large green space with walking trails as well! It’s the perfect little escape if you have some extra time to kill or crazy kiddos.
We actually came here on our next morning in Manchester before we headed for the train station and on to Glasgow. It was still worth a mention in case your hotel room is a short walk like ours.
- Hotel: We stayed at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel. A beautiful hotel that we really enjoyed. The front desk let us check in early and offered us a room at 8:30am! They noticed we had little ones and knew we traveled far. Since there was a room available and let us check in right away. Excellent customer service and we would definitely stay there again!
- Restaurants: Northern Soul Grilled Cheese by the Piccadilly train station was on point. Also, the Street Food Market near the Piccadilly Gardens was delicious with various types of cuisine for a reasonable price.
- Manchester is the perfect city to start or end a journey. It’s easy to get around with just enough sites to see in a day or two!
Other Things to See
- If you’re a Manchester United/City fan or just a soccer fan in general, I definitely recommend visiting one of their stadiums! It wasn’t anywhere near where we were staying or the sights we set out to see, so we passed this time around.
Anything I’ve missed in Manchester that you think are must adds to the list?Please let me know! I’d love to share other things you can do in one day in Manchester with kids.