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Mad for Manchester – A Child Friendly Break

It is an indisputable fact, disputed only by Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff, that Manchester is Britain’s second city. As such it has fantastic facilities that with a bit of planning can be worked into an unforgettable break for your kids, and thus for you too.
Travel to Manchester is of course simple, the M6 and M62 making it easily accessible by car, its airport one of the biggest (and so much better than the biggest) in the country with lots of internal flights serving it, and trains reaching into the heart of the city. While we’re talking transport, it can even be fun getting around inside the city if you use the Metrolink trams.
If you are coming for a short break you may prefer to restrict the travel once you’ve arrived and head for one of three places: the city centre; the massive Trafford Centre and its surrounds; or Salford Quays. Come for a week and you can fit all three in, though doing child friendly stuff isn’t necessarily cheap (oh, you knew that already).
Manchester city centre is a bustling place with plenty of landmark buildings for parents to gawp at, but for the kids the number one destination would have to be MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry . Depending on the age group one or more of these is bound to appeal: crawling through a Victorian sewer; the 4-D cinema (you feel stuff for the 4th dimension); masses of interactive technological bits; a steam train ride; or the planetarium. And there’s more too. MOSI is on Liverpool Road in Castlefield, five minutes from Deansgate Station and from the nearest tram stop.
Some retail therapy can then be sought at the rebuilt Arndale Centre, 240 shops and 25 eateries, so difficult teens can be bribed – sorry encouraged – to be at their best for the rest of the trip.
Rivalling (some would say definitely bettering) the Arndale as regards the whole mall experience is The Trafford Centre, again easily accessed by public transport. Seemingly endless fashion shops, loads of places to eat, giant cinema and other stuff the teens will again lap up.
But for those of us who develop an allergy to shoes in the third shop visited the Trafford Quays Leisure Village right by the shopping centre has more allure. After 45 minutes on the luge at Chill Factore I knew I was destined to be on the Olympic Squad, though the next day I wasn’t sure how well I would walk again. Brilliant. There are huge snow slopes too for beginners and more experienced skiers, and mugs of steaming chocolate for everyone.
Airkix is another action-packed alternative, indoor skydiving – you’ve seen it on TV, big fans blowing you upwards, clever types swooping and sliding on the air, first-timers struggling until the magic moment it clicks. And for the younger ones, Legoland Discovery Centre has plenty of activities, and naturally innumerable bricks. Last but not least, Aerial Extreme in the leisure village is a treetop-ropewalk adventure – wobbles, screams, squeals and laughter.
Not a million miles away on Trafford Park is Daytona Manchester , an indoor karting area where budding Hamiltons/Buttons/Vettels can give it a go (there’s even Bambino Karting for the 5 – 7 year olds). Cue Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain – dum, da-da-daddle-dum-da-da-dum - and steely-eyed look from dad too, though he will be more frightened by the karting experience than the kids – well, I am. Nearby too is Old Trafford , where fans can experience Man U’s history at the museum, and spend money in the shop.
The third centre is the self-contained Salford Quays . Come and see why overpaid BBC-types griping about moving there have no reason to complain, apart from anything else the architecture is splendid. The Lowry is a brilliant gallery and theatre complex, complete with multi-screen cinema, a place you could spend a whole day with older kids no problem. There is the Imperial War Museum North , museum meaning interactivity and multi-media these days more than things in glass cases. And bribery – encouragement - is easy here too with an outlet mall on offer. If you fancy a bit more peace and quiet, and the opportunity to sit down and enjoy some scenery, there’s a rather special excursion available here too – a Mersey Ferry cruise from the Quays to Liverpool and the Wirral (with a side-trip to the U-Boat Experience near Birkenhead possible at one of the stops).
Alternative venues for some activity include Sale Water Park – sailing, jet-skiing, power-boats and suchlike.
As ever the key to avoiding disaster is planning, and booking specific activities ahead. Do check opening times which can obviously vary with the season for some. Manchester’s hotel provision is fantastic these days, and there are plenty of other options like apartments and so on. Browse our pages to find something in the right area geographically and financially for you, with the facilities you need to make your bit of the day most enjoyable. Mad for it.

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