From Christmas-themed supper clubs to Love Actually Live, we’ve got some crackers this Xmas

While not everyone will feel as grouchy as Gordo about Manchester's annual invasion of festive wooden huts, there does eventually come a time when the novelty of overpriced tat, wet feet and shuffling along at ten seconds an hour will wear off - trust us. 

Fortunately, we’ve found a multitude of alternatives with no anaemic paella or Krankies in sight…

MANCHESTER ICE RINK | First Street | 16 November - 23 December

Move over Cathedral Gardens, there’s a new ice rink in town - far from the madding crowds of the markets. What’s more, visitors get discounts at the likes of Wood and Junkyard Golf Club. Best get your skates on. First Street, M15 4FN (various times; tickets from £12 at                              

A CHRISTMAS CAROL | Bolton Octagon | 17 November - 13 January

One of the most adapted festive novels of all time, Charles Dickens’ tale of miserly Ebenezer and his ghostly comeuppance remains as compelling now as it was in the nineteenth century. Starring Marc Small as Scrooge, this Octagon season special promises an enchanting treat for all the family. Bolton Octagon, Howell Croft South, BL1 1SB (various times; tickets from £12 at

SEASON OF SPARKLE | Lowry Outlet | 23 November - 17 December

From elf workshops to local makers and even Mrs Claus in a giant Christmas pudding, the Lowry Outlet has Christmas all wrapped up. More info hereLowry Outlet, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AH (various times; free). 

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Off to market? Why not buy local

ELF ADVENTURE CHALLENGE | Great Northern Warehouse | 25 November - 24 December

Struggling with how to entertain the kids over the holidays? Fortunately, Santa has sent over a group of elves whose sole purpose is to do just that (for a fee mind). Children will learn everything from preparing Santas’s sleigh to making toys ready for Christmas Eve, all in the quest to be an honorary elf. Great Northern Warehouse, 235 Deansgate, M3 4EN (various times; tickets £12 at

ETSY MADE LOCAL | People’s History Museum | 1-3 December

The popular online marketplace is no longer just online, with a national initiative that brings local makers and artisans to a town near you over Chrimbo. Manchester’s fair returns to PHM’s Edwardian Engine Hall, with over 40 traders spanning homeware to jewellery and unique art - launching with a winter warmer on Friday 1 December. People's History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, M3 3ER (5-8pm Fri, from 11pm Sat-Sun; free)

FROSTED BY MAGIC| Heaton Hall | 2-17 December

Following two successful years presenting Whispers Of A Christmas Tale, Tangled Dance Company are back with another spellbinding promenade in which the ‘tailors of Illusion’ work their magic to untangle the growing roots of greed and restore the warmth of Christmas. Heaton Hall, Middleton Road, Higher Blackley, M25 2SW (2pm & 4pm; tickets from £6 at

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Encounter a world of wizards in 'Frosted by Magic'

BOLTON WINTER FESTIVAL | Bolton | 2 December - 7 January

Bolton may be most renowned for its food fest but its annual winter whirl is fast catching up. Expect covered ice rink, snow slide and a less gruelling (more local) version of the Manchester markets. Various; check the website

CHRISTMAS BRINNER | Redbank | Thursday 7 December

Bored of the usual roast dinner? MIMOD’s Kitchen has cooked up a festive supper club with none of the turkey but all the trimmings: savoury strudel, handmade cheese straws, white pudding hash with goose-fat potatoes, plum pecan pie and Baileys pudding…ooh yes. The Portico’s Victorian-inspired feast sounds pretty special too. RedBank Co, 22 Redbank, M4 4HF (7pm; tickets £33 from

THE BEAR | Waterside Arts Centre | 7 December - 6 January

One night when she's fast asleep, an enormous snowy white bear climbs into Tilly's bedroom - but Tilly's not scared. With dazzling puppetry, dreamy storytelling and dozens of laughs, this reimagining of Raymond Briggs’ timeless classic will warm the cockles. 1 Waterside, Sale, M33 7ZF (various times; tickets from £12.50 at

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The Bear

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE | Mayfield | 8-9 December

It’s not often you can watch a rom-com on a 30ft screen in a former railway station - with ‘live dancers, festive music and gospel choirs’ for good measure - but so it is with the inaugural Love Actually Live. Naturally, there’ll be cocktails and street food too. Mayfield, Fairfield Street (5.30pm & 9pm; tickets £14.99 at

POP-UP CINEMA | Victoria Baths | 8-17 December

From abandoned railway stations to reimagined swimming baths now, with more cinema in unlikely occasions: this time ensconced in a deckchair, in the Grade II-listed surrounds of Victoria Baths. As ever, each film will be accompanied by festive tunes, nosh and a fully-stocked bar. Victoria Baths, Hathersage Road, Chorlton-on-Medlock, M13 OFE (tickets from £11 at

WINTER WONDERLAND| EventCity | 9 December - 1 January

The UK’s largest indoor Christmas wonderland is back, transforming 22,000 sq m of EventCity into a sparking seasonal spectacular with over 50 attractions - from workshops to circuses and traditional rides - all under one roof. 

EventCity, Phoenix Way, Stretford, M41 7TB (various times; tickets from £15/under threes free at

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Victoria Baths will host a pop-up Christmas cinema

THE MANCHESTER FESTIVE HAPPENING | Albert Hall | Sunday 10 December

After something more adult-friendly? Albert Hall hosts Manchester Camerata’s annual concert alongside the AMC Gospel Choir festive favourites, culminating in another feel-good sing-along. As ever, there’ll be a healthy dose of mulled wine and mince pies too. Albert Hall, 27 Peter Street, M2 5QR (3pm; tickets from £22 at 

THE SIEGE OF CHRISTMAS | Contact Theatre | 13-20 December  

Back by popular demand, Contact’s high-energy interactive and immersive family show - one of the Oxford Road venue's last before closing until 2019 - is once again on a mission to save the spirit Christmas. ‘Suitable for young audiences and the taller people that look after them.’ Contact, Oxford Road, M15 6JA (various times; tickets from £5 at


Rainer Hersch’s comedy orchestra command over 1 million monthly views on YouTube - now’s your chance to see them live in all their naff glory, with a jamboree of classic Christmas No.1’s. Bridgewater Hall, Lower Mosley Street, M2 3WS (7.30pm; tickets from £17 at

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The Albert Hall will host Manchester Camerata’s annual concert

And since ‘tis the season of goodwill, why not...


Alongside annual staples like The Snowman, Bridgewater Hall has a host of fundraising concerts this time of year, as does Manchester Cathedral.  


Z-arts are running their annual campaign to give Manchester’s looked-after children a theatrical treat this Christmas - just £12 will buy a ticket and an interval ice cream. Charities like Wood Street Mission and Mission Christmas are on the hunt for presents, or you could even host a Christmas dinner


Nicely Kitchen’s vegan Christmas Night Out (8 Dec) promises disco, dancing, some of their favourite makers and the ‘best food of your life’ - half of all proceeds go to Dogs 4 Rescue.


From Jingle Bell jog in MediaCity to the Santa Dash in Heaton Park, seems we can’t get enough of running around in Santa suits looking like prats. At least all funds from Wythy’s (10 Dec) go towards the community sports fest.


Three of Manchester's leading live lit nights - Bad Language, First Draft and The Real Story - are collaborating for a ‘literary turducken’ (20 Dec) of spoken word, music and comedy. It’s PAYF, with funds to a local cause.