Don’t believe those you tell you it’s grim up north.

Manchester might have an abundance of rain compared to the rest of Britain, but it also has bags of charm, history and fun. Whether your kids are footie fans who love Lego, you’re married to a music nut with a passion for social history or you adore street food and shopping, everyone will come back buzzing from a weekend here – and not because of its iconic bee symbol.


With an impressive roster of new attractions and cultural offerings having opened their doors since the pandemic – and more still to come – it’s no wonder Manchester was selected as one of National Geographic’s Best of the World destinations for 2023, in the Family Journey category no less. It was also picked as a Lonely Planet Best in Travel destinations for 2023 – a prestigious double endorsement.

But don’t take their word for it. Writer ALEX LLOYD took her husband Thom and sons Ralph, six, and Max, three, to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and the Hacienda to seek out the ideal weekend itinerary for families.

Castlefield area at night. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester
Castlefield area at night. (Image: Marketing Manchester)

Where to stay

Manchester is home to all sorts of cool hotels but our choice was the Hyatt on Booth Street West, near the universities. The area is an easy walking distance to the main attractions without being too busy.

It’s actually two accommodation options in one – the lower floors are a classic Hyatt Regency Hotel, while the upper levels are Hyatt House, an aparthotel. The latter was ideal for our family as it offers hotel comfort with apartment facilities. Our one-bedroom suite included a kitchen complete with hub, sink, dishwasher, fridge and microwave oven, plus all the utensils and a dining table.

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Hyatt House Manchester-WEB (1)
Hyatt House, Manchester
Hyatt House Manchester-WEB (2)
Hyatt House, Manchester

The boys loved their sofa bed in the living area while we had a bedroom with our own TV. The views from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows were a treat, looking right across the city, and guests can make use of the laundry room and gym.

We ordered room service from The Laureate restaurant in the lobby on our first night and it was wonderfully relaxing to chill in our pyjamas and eat together. But of course, you have the option to dine downstairs or grab a drink at The Graduate bar.

You can also enjoy the generous and varied buffet breakfast in this airy and stylish space. The boys were delighted when the staff offered to get them some pancakes made by the chef on the first day.

What to do – Museums

You are utterly spoiled for choice when it comes to museums and attractions in Manchester, and one weekend isn’t enough to do it all, especially if you want to fit in time for shopping at the Arndale Centre, Selfridges or the Northern Quarter.

Science and Industry Museum. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester

Top of our list was the Science and Industry Museum, housed in a former cotton mill. The first floor is packed with exhibits for curious young minds, demonstrating principles like gravity and magnets, which my three-year-old adored.

But my six-year-old son (and his dad) were obsessed with Power Up, a room dedicated to gaming history, with consoles from across the decades. You can try your hand at anything from old Commodore 64 games and Amstrads, to modern virtual reality headsets. There are multiplayer options and all the classics, like Pacman, Sonic and Streetfighter. The museum is free to visit but there’s an extra charge for this area, which has been so popular, it’s run has been extended.

Max gets hands on at the Science + Industry Museum. CREDIT_ Alex Lloyd
Max gets hands on at the Science + Industry Museum.
National Football Museum exterior. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester
National Football Museum exterior. (Image: Marketing Manchester)
Ralph at the National Football Museum. CREDIT_ Alex Lloyd
Ralph at the National Football Museum.

The National Football Museum also allows kids to get hands on, with a number of interactive skills areas on the second floor that you don’t need to be Ronaldo to tackle. Even non-footie fans will get something out of a visit, with the exhibitions looking at the social and cultural history of the sport.

Ralph loved doing the commentator challenge and both boys took rubbings of club logos, as well as had their picture with a Jules Rimet replica. There’s also a special exhibition looking at the women’s game while the first floor has a permanent statue of leading inter-war footballer Lily Parr, installed in 2022.

Poppies at IWM North. CREDIT_ Alex Lloyd
Poppies at IWM North

Just a short tram ride from the city centre is the regenerating dock area of Salford Quays and MediaCity UK, home to the BBC and ITV, as well as gallery and performing arts centre The Lowry and Imperial War Museum North.

After exploring the Blue Peter Garden and crossing the river, head to IWMN for a moving and engaging look at wartime life and the impact of conflict. There are plenty of interactive elements for kids and superb visual effects, including immersive presentations each hour that project onto the gallery walls. There’s also a permanent display of Poppies – a new version of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red that started life outside the Tower of London in 2014.

Blue Peter Garden at MediaCity. CREDIT_ Alex Lloyd
Blue Peter Garden at MediaCity
Imperial War Museum North exterior. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester
Imperial War Museum North exterior. (Image: Marketing Manchester)

Another option that will suit all ages is People’s History Museum, a thought-provoking and fascinating exploration of British democracy in the hometown of the trade union movement. It’s collection of union banners are a particular treat and there are plenty of interactive elements too.

Last but not least, free-to-visit Manchester Museum reopened in February 2022 after a £15m redevelopment that includes a new permanent South Asia Gallery and dinosaur display. It’s one of the largest university museums in the UK and the neo-Gothic building was designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, the brains behind London’s Natural History Museum.

Lowry Exterior. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester
Lowry, Manchester (Image: Marketing Manchester)

What to do - Culture

As you’d expect from the hometown of Lowry, The Smiths and Oasis, Manchester has a thriving arts scene and plenty for culture vultures to enjoy.

Manchester Art Gallery has its new Fashion Gallery, while The Whitworth and Salford Museum & Art Gallery are all worthy of your time, and HOME is a muti-discipline space with theatres, cinemas and galleries, plus restaurants and bars. The Royal Exchange and Manchester Opera House have packed calendars too.

Arts venue The Factory opened in June 2023 – a new permanent home for the Manchester International Festival – and music fans should check out Band on the Wall. The acclaimed venue has an exhibition space about its role in bringing global music to Britain.

Street art in Manchester. CREDIT_ Alex Lloyd
Street art in Manchester.

What to do - Attractions

For families wanting more active or thrill-seeking entertainment, there’s a host of high octane options. The Chill Factore is the UK’s longest indoor ski slope and is just next door to Play Factore. Football fans can book visits to Old Trafford or the Eithad stadiums, and Old Trafford cricket ground has tours available too.

If you head to the Trafford Centre, you’ll not just find shopping – there’s both a Legoland Discovery Centre and SeaLife Centre.

Castlefield area at night. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester copy
Castlefield area at night, Manchester (Image: Marketing Manchester)

What to do – Outdoors

They used to say it’s grim up north, but now Manchester is going green, with a host of new outdoor spaces opening for locals and visitors.

The most curious is Castlefield Viaduct, a stone’s throw from the Science and Industry Museum, a former elevated railway line which was been repurposed by the National Trust as the city’s answer to New York High Line.

It opened in summer 2022 for a one-year pilot and has been so popular, it will continue until December 2024 at least. Access is by pre-booked guided tour until mid-afternoon, then walk ups are available, along with special events. Trains and trams continue to rumble past as you enjoy the sustainable flower beds and herb gardens, along with areas to sit and relax.

Mayfield Park also opened in 2022, located close to Manchester Piccadilly Station, around the former Mayfield station, a freight depot and overflow. It is the first urban park in the city in a century and is incredibly well thought out, with a stepped grassy area for sitting and a natural play area for kids.

RHS Garden Bridgewater is to the west of the city, in Salford, and is a glorious 154-acre botanical garden set inside the historic grounds of Worsley New Hall, once visited by Queen Victoria. It’s the ideal spot for a long walk and has an orchard, walled garden, the Chinese Streamside Garden and a woodland play area, plus regular seasonal events like RHS Glow.

There are plenty of urban walks to enjoy too, along the canals and winding through the city streets. Ensure your explorations take you past the Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Garden, statue of Emmeline Pankhurst at St Peter’s Square and the quirky Vimto monument in Vimto Park – a perfect picture opportunity.

emmeline-pankhurst-statue. CREDIT_ Marketing Manchester
Emmeline Pankhurst Statue (Image: Marketing Manchester)

Where to dine

Mayfield Depot is home to Escape to Freight Island, an indoor and outdoor street food and events destination that is ideal for families. On Sundays, you can attend Better Days from midday to 8pm and get a top-notch roast accompanied by DJs and activities like facepainting and crafts for the kids.

Hatch is another permanent food market on Oxford Road, which hosts live music while you dine under the railway line, or head to buzzy Indian street food and beer hall Bundobust. Mackie Mayor is another relaxed option, with food stands within a renovated Victorian meat market.

The Corn Exchange near Manchester Victoria Station and the National Football Museum is a spectacular destination to dine but with plenty of kids-friendly choices, such as Cosy Club and Pizza Express. In the summer, children will love the fountains to one side on Exchange Square and the landscape green space of Cathedral Square to the other.

Navarro Lounge and Federal (which has three branches) are excellent brunch or lunch options, along with Moose Coffee, while you can get the best ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and Siop Shop is famed for its doughnuts


Getting there

Manchester is perfectly placed for visitors from around the UK, around 200 miles from London and Cardiff, 150 miles from Newcastle and 220 miles from Edinburgh. There are regular direct trains from many major cities and flights into Manchester Airport, which is 20 minutes into the city centre.

> Find out more about what to do in Greater Manchester and upcoming special events at For prices and availability at Hyatt House or Hyatt Regency Manchester, visit