From Lightwaves to Urban Narnias, there's plenty else going on...
Look, let's be honest, lots of people love Manchester's Christmas Markets - and good luck to 'em. But for those who've already had their fill, there are plenty of other things going on around the city, from light sculptures in Salford Quays to ice sculptures in Cathedral Gardens... and non-sculpture things too.
Here's fifteen to get stuck in to...
ICE VILLAGE | Cathedral Gardens | 9 Nov - 5 Jan
Set against a backdrop of snow-covered trees and twinkling lights, this Manchester debut promises frozen creatures carved from 250 tonnes of ice, Santa’s Grotto, an arctic bar serving hot toddies and chocolate and an ice rink. For more places to get your skates on, head to First Street or Bolton Winter Festival.
CINDERELLA | Oldham Coliseum | 10 Nov - 12 Jan
Oldham Coliseum promises the perfect panto recipe: ‘songs and slapstick, plus a sprinkling of fairy dust…and not a cheesy celebrity in sight’ (you’ll see the latter in Opera House’s version of the national fave, featuring the likes of Les Dennis and Gareth Gates). Other pantos include Sleeping Beauty at The Plaza, Dick Whittington at Bolton Little Theatre and Aladdin at The Dancehouse.
BAR HUTTE | Spinningfields | 14 Nov - 22 Dec
Back in its seasonal Spinningfields home, this cluster of wooden huts promises classic cocktails, daily entertainment and food from Gondola Raclette and Pizza Loco - all served up under a sparkling winter, canopy. Groups can rent out a hut, with added extras like ‘hygge’ (basically blankets and hot water bottles), photo booths and fancy dress.
URBAN NARNIA | Hatch | 15 Nov - 20 Dec
Launching on Thursday 15 November with free gin (always a good start), Hatch’s Urban Narnia season spans multi-genre live music to light graffiti and festive family raves. You’ll also find Christmas crafts, face painting and even a visit from Mr Tumnus and the Fabulous Fauns. Proceedings end on 20 December with a minced pie and mulled wine mingle - what else?
CURATED MAKERS POP-UPS | Citywide | 22 Nov - 7 Dec
Following the success of their handmade pop-up shop in Debenhams earlier this year, Curated Makers are hosting a series of winter events throughout Manchester - all are free entry and promise a roster of local makers spanning jewellery to artwork and homeware. Shop Small at Sugar Junction (22-23 Nov) will be followed by Get F*N Festive (Foundation Coffee House, 30 Nov - 2 Dec) and the Piccadilly Pop-up (3-7 Dec).
WALKING WITH THE SNOWMAN | MediaCity | 23 Nov - 6 Jan
Twelve giant snowmen (designed by local artists) will descend on MediaCity this winter to mark the 40th anniversary of Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman. Free to view, the family-friendly trail comes courtesy of Bee in the City creators Wild in Art, alongside Penguin Ventures, and will raise money for BBC Children in Need.
MAGICAL CHRISTMAS MOVIE EXPERIENCE | Mayfield Depot | 24 Nov - 16 Dec
Mayfield Depot will be transformed into a Narnia-esque enchanted forest for this immersive event - complete with live entertainment, seasonal grub and giant beanbags. Venture through a magical wardrobe and settle down to enjoy the likes of Polar Express, Gremlins and The Greatest Snowman.
ETSY MADE LOCAL | People’s History Museum | 30 Nov - 2 Dec
Back for the third year running, this indie extravaganza - hosted by online marketplace Etsy - will bring over 40 local makers to PHM’s Edwardian Engine Hall, alongside workshops and live entertainment. A special Winter Warmer evening, from 5-8pm on Friday 30th, will launch the event (featuring mulled wine and mince pies, naturally).
For yet more indie gift inspiration - with free entry - check out the Craft Centre’s Christmas Launch (Sat 17 Nov), Manchester Print Fair (Sat 24 Nov), Women’s Institute Festive Bazaar (Tues 27 Nov), Levy Market, Makers Markets (various), Little Northern Contemporary Craft Fair (Sun 2 Dec), MAG's festive late (Wed 5 Dec) and the Indoor Christmas Markets (22-23 Dec).
THE FROST FAIR | The Whitworth | 1-2 December
This year, The Frost Fair is celebrating 250 years of the circus with a weekend of free events - presided over by ringmaster Baron Bazaar. Spanning performances from the Travelling Light Circus to baby workshops with The Circus House and an enthralling firework display from leading outdoor arts company Walk the Plank, the fair also promises vintage fairground amusements, a range of food and drink and plenty more besides.
LIGHTWAVES | MediaCity | 7-16 Dec
MediaCity will again be scattered with illuminated artworks this year, as Lightwaves beams back into the Quays for another showcase of light-based sculpture: from Blackpool illuminations to immersive psychedelic experiences and giant squirrels. There are sixteen to see, all completely free.
CHRISTMAS BARREL OF LAUGHS | Frog & Bucket | 29 Nov - 22 Dec
‘Tis always the season to be jolly at Frog & Bucket, but now more than ever as the comedy club hosts its Barrel of Laughs - featuring optional Christmas meal, after-parties and funny folk spanning Lou Conran to Stu Goldsmith and Kiri Pritchard-McLean.
POP-UP CINEMA | Victoria Baths | 7-10 Dec
An empty swimming pool, deckchairs and a Grade II-listed building...Victoria Baths has a lot more novelty than your average cinema. Pop-up film specialists Village Green have been hosting sell-out events there since 2016, and are back with another festive fling this December - featuring Die Hard, Muppets Christmas Carol, Home Alone, Elf and Love Actually. There’ll be a DJ set before each film, as well as catering from street food vendors and a fully-stocked bar.
THE MANCHESTER FESTIVE HAPPENING: A GOSPEL CHRISTMAS | Albert Hall | Sun 9 Dec
It’s now an annual tradition but The Manchester Festive Happening is doing things a little differently this year, as Manchester Camerata partners with the AMC Gospel Choir to get everyone dancing in their seats. For more classical Chrimbo vibes, The Halle and Manchester Cathedral both have packed seasons, while Love Actually will be accompanied by a live orchestra at Bridgewater Hall on Tues 11 Dec.
AT HOME IN THE 80’S | HOME | 9 - 22 Dec
Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like a cheesy eighties flick for getting into the Yuletide spirit. Even if just to marvel at the dodgy special effects. With that in mind, curator Jeni Hall has gathered some of the era’s family favourites; from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to An American Werewolf in London. As Hall points out, ‘they still have a watchability that today’s low-risk blockbusters just don’t have.’
DOCTOR DOLITTLE | The Lowry | 11 Dec - 5 Jan
Fancy a break from pantomimes? Fortunately there are plenty more shows to keep the family entertained (oh yes there are) including Leslie Bricusse’s acclaimed family musical, starring the eccentric doctor and his exotic menagerie. Others include Slapstick at HOME, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Bolton Octagon, Father Christmas at Waterside Arts Centre and Scary Fairy Saves Christmas with Craig Charles (who'll also be playing some festive funk on 4 Dec). Meanwhile, 53Two is hosting ‘three days of Christmassy brilliance’.