A selection of family friendly activities for this half term holiday
Most parents never thought they'd be offering up thanks to the gods of soft play. But after a year of lockdown the thought of throwing the kids into a padded room and sitting back with a cup of coffee is music to most parents' ears.
Failing that, any activity will do as long as we are out of the damn house.
While lots of places are opening back up, they are doing so in a much more limited capacity to be able to take COVID-safe precautions. We've focused here on outdoor spots (with a few rainproof options thrown in for good measure) and advise booking ahead and checking all links before making plans. Some schools are having a two-week holiday so we've looked throughout June. Happy half term everyone!
HOMEGROUND | CITY CENTRE | 29 MAY ONWARDS
Just in time for half-term, arts behemoth HOME will launch a brand new outdoor venue, Homeground. This Saturday, The Circus House are offering kids the chance to take part in skills including juggling, diabolo and even getting up in the air on an aerial hoop. A couple of weeks on and Z-Arts take over the stage for the weekend, including a performance of The Hare and The Moon by The Fabularium Astronomers or a fun-filled stage version of Alice in Wonderland that will run for the next couple of months. Older kids might enjoy the bonkers adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream or like to partake in Schlomo's Beatboxing for Kids. Prices vary.
ALIEN HUNTING | JODRELL BANK | 24 APRIL - 20 JUNE
Cue floaty music: aliens have invaded Jodrell Bank! Seek them out across the gardens (all in view of that mighty telescope) in this self-guided family activity taking place outdoors. Hunt them all and discover the hidden clue to finding life in space. The Alien Hunt is free with admission.
HERITAGE BUS RIDE | MUSEUM OF TRANSPORT GREATER MANCHESTER | 6 JUNE
Every parent of a transport-mad kid needs to know about this museum tucked just outside the city centre in Cheetham Hill. The MOTGM is celebrating reopening on 6 June with free rides on a heritage bus. Entry is £5 for adults but under 16s go free.
PRESTON LIVE ARTS FESTIVAL | VARIOUS | 21-30 JUNE
It's time to start moving around the North West with late June a good time to make a stop-off in Preston for the town's live arts festival. With an emphasis on something for all the family, the nine-day programme of events will showcase the best in homegrown talent (and puns). There'll be magic and illusions (Hey Presto-n!), local productions of West End classics (Prest-End!) and comedy via Live from The Guild Hall (/end of puns). Tickets are now on sale with concessions for key workers.
SNORKEL WITH SHARKS | SEA LIFE MANCHESTER | FROM 22 MAY
If you love sharks but hate social distancing, boy oh boy do SEA LIFE Manchester have the activity for you. The new shark snorkelling experience gives visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with over a thousand sea creatures from the safety of a perspex cage. Snorkellers can expect to see a variety of shark types as well as stingrays, giant green sea turtles and 30 species of fish. Suitable for swimmers aged 10+, tickets cost £40 per person for a 20-minute session and can be booked for two to four people from the same household bubble.
TOP SECRET: FROM CIPHERS TO CYBER SECURITY | MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY | 19 MAY-31 AUGUST
Top Secret explores over a century's worth of intelligence work through hand-written documents, declassified files and incredible artefacts from GCHQ's and the Science Museum Group's historic collections. Kids can test their codebreaking skills in the interactive puzzle zone and learn about the gadgets and devices used to conceal and decode crucial messages. Free but booking required.
CRANFORD THE CAT | ELIZABETH GASKELL'S HOUSE | 26 MAY-6 JUNE
In a nod to Elizabeth’s cat Cranford, there is a new activity trail packed full of jokes and activities for the kids at the esteemed author's house. Explore at your own pace to find the feline friends and discover each cat adorned by an outfit made by the volunteers, who have all had fun creating their literary-inspired ensembles. Free but book ahead.
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA/MOG | Z-ARTS | VARIOUS TIMES
Of all the children's characters, The Tiger Who Came to Tea rivals The Very Hungry Caterpillar in the gourmand stakes. The debonair feline consumes all the biscuits, all the cakes AND all the beer, absolutely no regrets. Z-Arts have dedicated a 3-D exhibition to Judith Kerr's best-loved characters (Mog the Forgetful Cat and Katinka also feature) perfect for anyone trying to think up an excuse to go for a sausage and chip supper. £8 for kids/£30 for a family ticket.
GET UP AND GROW | RHS BRIDGEWATER |29 MAY–6 JUNE
We loved our first look at RHS Bridgewater, now the whole family can enjoy this stunning mega-garden, with Greenshoots yoga sessions for children and the Pif-Paf theatre company on Monday 31 May and Tuesday 1 June performing Bee Cart – an interactive show all about bees. Incredible Education will host family workshops on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 June, plus storytelling sessions for under 5s, bee-themed workshops and more family growing activities to enjoy. All activities included with admission.
FESTIVAL OF LIBRARIES SUNDAY FUNDAY | CENTRAL LIBRARY | 13 JUNE
We are all happy to see libraries back, so celebrate their return with a special mix of crafts and performance plus a chance to meet some of your favourite characters. Suitable for families with children under the age of 12. Free but strictly book ahead.
SATURNALIA | PROJEKTSMCR | 10-12 JUNE
For three days only CYC, Level Up and HighRise Theatre takes over a skate park in possibly the coolest theatre show around, featuring an ensemble of multi-talented performers including DJs, MCs, poets, dancers, musicians and storytellers. Suitable for children 12+ with tickets from £7 up.
While some of the places we usually love for kids are not yet fully geared up for their return, we can still enjoy some ace online activities.
Manchester Museum, which is sold out IRL, has lots of online resources including this live nature mobiles tutorial.
The Whitworth remains closed but you can still head to the grounds with this downloadable Welly Walk.
The People's History Museum is open but you can enjoy its My First Protest Song session aimed at kids from the comfort of your own home.
We've mentioned the Alien Hunt, but Jodrell Bank's online family stargazing puts a new spin on zoom activities.
The National Football Museum has thought up a fun take on the online art class for football-mad boys and girls as Millie guides them through creating their own sticker album.
Read next: Top things to do in Manchester: June 2021
Read again: A three-week indie arts fest is coming to Ancoats this summer
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