Our favourite places to visit & things to do on a day off in Manchester
Posted on August 14, 2015 by Ihtezaz
Last month the SharpFutures team compiled our “Best Places to eat in Manchester” blog, so next we’ve decided to write about our favourite places to spend a day out (or in) across Greater Manchester.
There’s quite a wide range of activities and places listed below so we hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we enjoy visiting them. All are easily accessible by public transport as well as bike and car – if you need to plan a route then check out the TFGM website.
If you have any further suggestions please Tweet us at @SharpFutures or email us at email@example.com – we’re always keen to find out about new destinations for a day off…
Heaton Park, by Rachael McGuinness
I’ve only recently discovered Heaton Park which is a great (and free) day out, especially if you have kids. It was a lovely sunny day, we packed a picnic, football and off we went with our toddler.
We used the Margaret’s Road entrance and found free parking* inside and an ice cream van in prime position next to the brilliantly equipped kid’s play area. I think there was even a sand pit which we said we would go back to at the end of the day however we got so preoccupied with other areas we didn’t get chance to return.
We headed straight to the animal centre. It was great for a toddler and had just the right amount of animals; ponies, pigs, rabbits, chickens etc. Our son enjoyed laughing and shouting at the (now deaf) rabbits as they hopped around but wisely stayed away from the giddy goats. This kept him entertained for a good 30 minutes (I’ve realised parenthood is all about timings and countdowns to meal times and naps…)
The grounds of the park are beautiful, with rolling hills and brilliant views of Manchester and beyond. We settled on top of a hill and had a picnic followed by a bit of football. There is a lovely looking café on site too which was rammed and the cakes looked delicious but we settled for a Mr Whippy instead…
We finished the visit off with a little explore and a stroll around a lake. I feel like we only visited a tiny part of what the park has to offer so if this weather perks up we will be back again soon!
*parking is free Mon-Fri out of school holidays
Heaton Park, Manchester M25 2SW www.manchester.gov.uk/heatonpark
Museum of Manchester, by Elli Metcalfe
Now being the fashionista that I am (muffled laughter in the background) most who know me would expect me to state that my favourite thing to do in Manchester on my day off would be SHOPPING, spending copious amounts of money on clothes and shoes, most of which I would hardly ever wear!
However, it may shock you to discover that I love nothing better than to browse the bones of dinosaurs, educate myself on Egyptology and visit a Vivarium or two! All of which is possible at the brilliant and interesting Museum of Manchester located on Oxford Road!
The Museum, first set up in 1835 now houses some of the biggest collections in the UK, everything from Earth’s sciences to Birds and insects and it even has a full-size skeleton on a T-Rex named Stan dating back 70 million years! The museum has everything you need and more and caters for both adults and little ones…plus it’s free to get in!
Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/
Trafford Centre by Sophie Hukin
My favourite place to go out for the day in Manchester has to be the Trafford Centre. It is a handy place to visit as there is loads of stuff to do all under one roof and is suitable for a family day out.
I love shopping and The Trafford Centre has to be one of the best places in Manchester for it. The shops have a variety of high street and designer brands so it is perfect for any price range. If you are with kids it is also a perfect place as there are various activities such as laser quest and an ODEON Cinema (Laserquest being my guilty pleasure). The choice of food places is unbelievable. Fast food hall to sit down restaurants to China town it is almost impossible to choose where to go! I recommend five guys as they serve delicious burgers with the best drinks machine ever!!!
Trying to fit everything in at The Trafford Centre could be difficult but the visit is well worth it.
Dumplington, Manchester M17 8AA http://intu.co.uk/traffordcentre
Font Bar, by Lewis Marsh
The Font bar has become a recent favourite of mine; a place I tend to go on a day off with a friend or two to have a catch up, a get-together, or just to satisfy our thirst and hunger!
I was randomly introduced to this place on a meet up due to the great food and drinks at very reasonable prices! Their walls are decorated with local artists’ work which personally I think is a really nice touch!
It’s the little things you know…
From chalk written specials to a relaxing atmosphere through lighting and chilled music; along with great company of course, in my personal opinion The Font bar is worthy of your free time.
Along with all these positives it is also conveniently based only a 5-minute walk from Piccadilly gardens – This, of course, varies depending on your walking speed but either way it’s still relatively close by!
I prefer the daytime 14:00pm – 20:00 as the music played is chilled enough to have a conversation with the person you have gone with, I’m not saying I don’t like loud music (because I love it!) I’m just saying depending on your reasons for wanting to go it is best to be familiar with times.
New Wakefield St, Manchester M1 5NP https://thefontbar.wordpress.com/
Whitworth Art Gallery, by Dom Corry
It takes a pretty magnificent place in order for me to be compelled to leave the comfort of my warm bed of a weekend that said… I do like ambling about without a direction and ending up in Yorkshire or something, but that’s besides the blog right?
A place in Manchester which really insights a sort of zeal and excitement in me would have to be, the fairly newly opened, Whitworth Art Gallery.
It’s one of those really woozy sort of gallery’s where by you don’t just look at the exhibitions and study them, you can actually wonder about them!!!
I like to call it the house dreams because every room kind has that feeling of super natural and surreal about it, as if every room is a different interpretation of your minds sleeping eye. There was one exhibition in particular which was called ‘Unmanned Nature’ by a fella called Cai Guo-Qiang and it was such an unusual massager of the senses, in the way that it sort of felt like walking in to a strange wilderness of visionary aesthetic and faded desert, one that might include a wise old man on a hill and a sign from the gods or something cliché like that, but it was quite an immersive and relaxing feeling really, there was even a little pond in there…a pond…In a room…that looked vaguely like a naturalistic interpretation of heaven…what on earth (note pun) is not to like?
What’s also a huge plus about this marvellous place is the fact that it’s so huge, so you have a lot more variation and in turn stay there for more than 10 minutes, also there are, like many galleries, constant opening which leaves you more to discover and guarantees a fresh experience each time you go. It is a grand way to use a Saturday afternoon in Manchester for sure and I’d say give it a try.
Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk
Courtyard by Kerry Parker
A good day out in Manchester for me would be Courtyard bar just off Oxford Road. The reason why it would have to be this place is because a couple of reasons!
I’m a bit of a cheap skate and I love it when I can get stuff that’s cheap but really good quality. The food menu is a typical British pub but it’s not very expensive. As for drinks they have a range from beers to cocktails! (Which if you know me – I love cocktails rather than drinking a pint of beer)
It also has two pool tables that don’t cost much to play. There is limited seating inside, but they have a huge back “garden” with plenty of benches and tables to sit around and most the tables have a heater for the more chilly nights!
The staff here are always really relaxed and aren’t afraid to jump into your conversation while your being served.
Chester Street, Manchester, M1 5SH www.courtyardmanchester.co.uk/
IMAX, by Danny Moore
My favourite place to be on a day off in Manchester lately is the IMAX based inside the Printworks in the city centre.
As a Marvel film lover it’s always where I end up going on a day off catching up on the latest Marvel blockbuster reliving my youth of comic books and super heroes. Within the walls is Europe’s second largest IMAX screen at a whopping 26m by 19m it’s the only way I can ever watch a movie anymore. The home TV just doesn’t quite cut it!
Another great thing about the location is that you walk out the doors after an action packed film and you find yourself in the centre of a number of restaurants perfect for grabbing a bite to eat straight after.
Printworks, Withy Grove, Manchester M4 2BS www.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/manchester_printworks/11/
Matt & Phreds – Monday Jam, by Dan Walsh
Matt & Phreds is a live music venue on Tib Street in the Northern Quarter, they have regular and diverse artists playing everything from Salsa to Swing and have even played host to Adele in the past.
I like to sometimes go on a Monday night when they have a Jam session and open mic, one Monday is Blues, the next Jazz and the next is Funk and finally Soul until the next month where it all happens again!
It attracts a wide variety of interesting, talented and creative musicians and singers and is always led by a specialist accompanied by a house band.
There’s a great atmosphere, good selection of drinks and it is always packed (and if you get there before 7pm there’s also pizza available!).
Tib St, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1LW www.mattandphreds.com/
The Lowry Outlet Mall, by Rachael Rothwell
The Lowry Outlet Mall is a large shopping centre located in the refurbished docklands of Salford Quays. The industrial area has been developed into a scenic and beautiful landscape. Only a 15minute tram from the city centre, it is the perfect shopping experience if you are looking for some peace and quiet. The centre is made up of outlet shops from both big known retailers like M&S to independents that can offer a more personalised service. There are a variety of restaurants, bars and a cinema to keep you entertained. Salford is an area that has under gone under a lot of refurbishment recently and is home to MediaCity where the BBC is located. If you are a fan of Coronation Street then the shows stars are often seen shopping in the building
If you have a free day to spend in Manchester, The Lowry Outlet Mall organises some great events, and I highly recommend checking their website. The event I attended recently was The Lowry Outlets Food Festival 2015. The space around the shopping mall was transformed into a market that I’d describe as a food lover’s dream There was a range of stalls selling a variety of delicious foods including macaroons, sausages, home-made jams and of course a stall selling the classic Manchester tart.
A highlight of the day was the various workshops, conducted by celebrity chefs. Two popular guests were Paul Hollywood and Gok Wan. Gok is normally known for fashion but did a master class, cooking steamed scallops, Yuk sung, and chicken and prawn gyoza dumplings.
Paul is one of the star judges of the BBCs the Great British Bake Off, which I am a huge fan of. The event catered for children too and held its own kid’s cookery school, so no one was left out.
If you were looking for something a bit out of the ordinary you could grab a bite to eat at the Camp Cooks food van. It is exactly what it says in the name, and added some fun to the event
There are events happening all the time and are advertised on their website. The next event is the Waterside Food and Craft Market, 15th-16th of August.
Salford Quays, M50 3AH www.lowryoutlet.co.uk
Worsley Woods, by Shu-Ling Li
“Remember everyone, our parkrun wouldn’t happen without its volunteers, so let’s give them a big thank you on your way around and we’ll get you off in 5-4-3-2-1!”
These are the words that have started my Saturday mornings for the past year and a half. Every Saturday at 9am I join my fellow Parkrunners along the Worsley Woods start line, bracing ourselves for another 5k run, come wind, rain, snow or shine. Whether you’re a jogger, plodder, sprinter or straight forward power walker, 5 kilometres in 17 minutes feels just the same as 5 kilometres in 40 minutes- we tell ourselves it gets easier but it doesn’t. You simply get better.
Yes it’s a struggle getting up and out of bed every Saturday morning when all you want to do is curl up under your duvet and pretend your Parkrun personal bests don’t matter, but they do! Nothing beats the exhilaration of knowing you’re only 150 metres away from the finish line as you sprint your way past friendly rivals and cajoling spectators, until finally you hear the timekeeper’s stop watch beep like a chorus of hallelujah as your time is recorded and you can at long last relax!
I first joined my local Parkrun after I entered the 2014 Manchester 10k, as an avid runner, this was the first official race I’d ever signed up for. Not knowing what to expect I knew I needed more practice than my regular leisurely jogs; where I could gauge my stamina and meet people with similar interests. Even if you’re not a confident runner, no one at Parkrun gets left behind. With an encouraging volunteer group there’s always a tail runner to guide you right back to the finish line.
What’s great about Parkrun are the people you meet along the way, I’ve met some really supportive friends that have helped run my times down from 24.48 minutes to 21.35 minutes in just over a year. I’ve even taken my dog along for the ride; who are more than welcome to join in and run alongside you! The fact that Parkrun is an entirely volunteer lead activity highlights just how many people enjoy being involved in the group even if they’re not running themselves.
Put it this way- if it took you an average of 40 minutes to jog 5 kilometres once every week that’s 2.8% of your entire day! Can you really not afford to spare less than 3 percent of your whole day for an activity that’s completely free?
Salford, M30 8AR
The Ritz, by Sally Hirshman
I have chosen the Ritz becausethis summer I was lucky enough to be one of the stall holders at Heresy and Heelz’s ‘Alternative and Burlesque Fairs’ that was held at The Ritz.
On their website, Heresy and Heelz describe their fairs as bringing up to 70 stalls of ‘burlesque, vintage, rockabilly, gothic, alternative, fetish, steampunk, neo-Victorian clothing, accessories, jewellery and artwork’. A friend of mine creates gothic, Edgar Allan Poe inspired artwork, and as she was away she asked me to run her stall for her.
I’ve been to a few vintage fairs before and always enjoy exploring the stalls. There was also entertainment staggered throughout the day, which included burlesque acts, cabaret, aerial and pole dancers as well as a little tea shop with lovely home-baked cakes.
I’d heard a lot about The Ritz as a concert venue and nightclub (with sticky floors!), but had never been before. The setting is perfect for such an event, with its raised stage and 1st floor balcony which meant that people could gather there for a view of the day’s entertainment. I did get a chance to explore the other stalls and I treated myself to a gothic-flower hair piece as well as some amazing ‘Jaffa cake’ cake! The performers were all very good, particularly the host – Miss Liberty Pink, who did a very impressive rendition of ‘Hey Big Spender’.
More than anything, I think that spending the day at the fair opened my eyes to how big the alternative scene is here in Manchester. Each person I observed from my stall had a unique style, or else their own twist on one. There were Punks, Goths, Steampunks, fetishists and more. The next Alternative and Burlesque fair at The Ritz will be on Saturday 5th December 2015 from 12pm-6pm, and I would recommend that anyone looking for a fun way to spend a few hours on a Saturday drops in (over 18s only though!).
For anyone interested in visiting The Ritz, they constantly have concerts, club nights and even live wrestling on!
Manchester City Centre M1 5NQ http://theritzmanchester.com/
Piccadilly tap, by Kristian Baines
This small bar that has just recently opened has quickly became one of my favourite places to enjoy a drink. Be it before a day/evening out in Manchester, or waiting for the next train (sometimes even missing it). I find myself repeatedly returning to this venue.
Located just outside Piccadilly Train station at Gateway House, they possess a vast amount of different craft beer and ales available. There are alternate drinks available including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, so there is truly something available for everyone.
With a selection of 7 cask beers and 20 keg beers, there is always something to choose from. Due to the rotating of stock they have, there is always being something new for when you return. This is all housed in a calm and contemporary environment. One key design I particularly like is the massive chalk board which has all the beers available on the wall, giving you the feeling similar to being a child in a sweet shop with all the selection available. It’s due to all these aspects which make it an awesome place to just take it easy from the hustle and bustle of city live and have a good beer.
Gateway House, Manchester M1 2GH www.piccadillytap.com
Jump Nation, by Vanessa Roth
On my days off I love going to Jump Nation! It’s the perfect place to let off some steam and just let loose. It’s the biggest indoor trampoline park in Europe and its right by Trafford Park. Whenever I go with friends we always have a fun time attempting to do backflips! I’ve also been with my little cousins who loved it (warning: do not give young kids sweets before letting them on the trampolines, because kids + sugar rush is a hectic mix!)
But seriously, if you want to try something out of the ordinary, I would highly recommend it for a good laugh!
Trafford Park M17 1WA www.jumpnation.com
Affleck’s Palace, by Leroy Numa
Not only does it house Manchester’s biggest Alternative Shopping Emporium: – Affleck’s Palace but it has countless of little gems within it. Whether it be pubs, bars, Indie clothing stores or comic book stores, all can be found within the Northern Quarter. So whether it be a night out or you are just looking to try something new Northern Quarter is the place for you.
Another of my personal favourites is the Nexus art cafe located on Dale Street.
It is a small hip cafe that has an absolutely amazing vibe to it. My only does it look cosy and welcoming but it also has board games for you and your friends to play while you’re chilling and books for you to read if you are in your own.
Manchester City Centre M4 1PW www.afflecks.com
Gorilla, by Aleena Sharif
About the place…
This place serve food, have a couple of bars and is a small venue where they host events (I went to see Skream a couple of months ago). They also do private bookings/hire and have cool neighbours of other interesting places to spend your day- or night for that matter! (Dog bowl, Ritz, food places, more clubs etc.)
Atmosphere and people…
The atmosphere is good, it was packed with people and good vibes when I walked in- which is usually a sign that the place is popular! Although the prices may be slightly high for the food, they serve only the best and it is worth the price! It seems like this one of THE places to be for the urban people of Manchester. Gorilla have it all covered under one roof! The people and staff are really friendly, as well as helpful. The venue hall/club was relaxed and I was able to make it to the front of the crowd and watch Skream perform his house set. The staff were very friendly, they even invited me and my Brother on the stage! The staff would join in and blend in with the crowd- but always be there to help when needed. People were getting on the stage near the DJ decks and dancing, some started talking to me and there was nothing but good vibes! It wasn’t a struggle to get to a bar, as there was a bar both upstairs and downstairs inside the club area, and 2 or 3 bars in the front area! There was also a cloakroom for it you have goods with you and nowhere to put them.
The decor, first impressions and location…
The decor is cool! It’s cosy but contemporary, with a kind of urban industrial look to it. There is an upstairs lounge area with a mini bar which is like a loft, a downstairs main bar and seating area, a separate room with more seating and the club/venue hall. I love the grey tones with the wooden and metal furniture, it is just a nice place to be. It is situated in a good spot too! It is not far from the Dog Bowl and is positioned underneath the bridge on Whitworth Street.
You can pop in for a relaxed meal or night out- or book a special event taking place or hire it for your own usage!
Awards and what people say…
Winner of ‘The Best Burger in Manchester & nominated for ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards. And there’s a 700 capacity venue in the tunnel at the back playing host to bands, club nights, comedy and theatre. ‘Manchester’s only venue where the walls are covered with what look like the controls from a 1950s Spacelab’ The Guardian
‘It’s not easy to be this good at so many different things, but Gorilla manages to pull it off and then some. No matter what the day, the time, or the occasion, Gorilla has it covered. From the spot-on decor to the sophisticated drinks menu and creative food offering, there’s a real sense of quality that runs through everything that Gorilla does, which forms the basis of its entire appeal. One of the best bars in Manchester.’ Designmynight Manchester
‘Should there ever be an award category, we already have the winner of Best Food & Concert Venue in Manchester.’ Manchester Confidential
Whitworth Street, Manchester. M1 5WW www.thisisgorilla.com/
Tandle Hills, by Kirsty Harper
I have visited many parks and gardens over the years, due to my love of the outdoors and wanting to give my children a view on everything life has to offer, but I am lucky enough to say one of my favourite parks and most beautiful views I have seen is less than half a mile away from my home, Tandle Hills.
When you approach Tandle Hills Country Park you would just think you going down a very long suburban road with a park at the end, but it‘s not just a park. I have always looked a Tandle Hills as a magical place for all ages no matter what the weather or time of year.
My favourite time to be in Tandle Hills is when it has been snowing, the steepness of the hills and the amount of them make hours of fun for any family. I have made many memories there like the time when my son William and I went down a hill on a sledge, we picked up momentum very quickly, the sledge went in a different direction to where I aimed and I nearly took our heads off with a pine tree, oops!
The snow gets very deep too, so while I was having a snowball fight with my partner Paul he pick up the compacted remains of child’s ruined snow fortress and dropped it on my head, I was knocked clean over by the weight of it into a large snow drift and left feeling a little dazed.
Tandle Hills also has a nature walk which is an adventure in itself, I think the full walk is around 1.5 miles and has some stunning views, you can see for miles around. The amount of trees the park has makes it feel mystical, especially on a frosty morning. The best time to be in the forest is in the autumn time, the rich colours of all the plants changing for the winter and the wonderful smells refresh you in a sometimes gloomy season. Remember to take your umbrella though.
The summer in the park is a relaxed a beautiful place to spend the day, the park with a giant slide that’s always got a cue to get on it, the café selling all the ice creams you’d want and the food is pretty nice too. I like to take a picnic though, it’s much more fun. The rivers and streams bring all sorts of wild life out, the dogs love to cool down in them on a hot day.
I would be able to go on about this brilliant country park all day long, but the best way to find out is to take a trip, it will be worth it!
Country Park Oldham OL2 5UX
East Lancashire Railway by Tom Clarke
My recommendation for a day out in Greater Manchester has to be the amazing East Lancashire Railway – a volunteer-run independent railway that connects Bury to Rawtenstall.
There’s a variety of trains that operate on the line, from steam engines through to 1970s British Rail diesels, all travelling through restored stations up through East Lancashire.
You can purchase authentically traditional tickets and ride the trains all day between the various stops on route – the line runs most weeks of the year with special events around Christmas and throughout the summer. You can get to Bury via Metrolink from Victoria or a there’s bus services connecting from all across Greater Manchester – the East Lancs Railway start point is just 5 minutes’ walk from the main Bury transport interchange.
Each station has a good range of walks and country pubs nearby but of special interest is the highly rated Levanter Restaurant in Ramsbottom, a back-street Spanish tapas bar that’s always full and deservedly so. Definitely worth checking out after a walk up to Peel’s Tower, which looks over Ramsbottom back to Manchester (you can make out some key landmarks on a good day). After a healthy tapas & red wine lunch then a visit to the world’s last Temperance Bar up the tracks in Rawtenstall is highly recommended.
You can then travel back along the line in super stylish carriages. What’s not to like?
More info on The East Lancashire Railway can be found at www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/
Wythenshawe Park by Lauren Hira
Just 6 and a half miles South of Manchester City Centre lies Wythenshawe Park, my favourite place for a family day out.
Several miles of woodland / open field walks, an indoor horticultural center, 3 Grade II listed buildings (North Lodge, Orwell Statue, Wythenshawe Hall) a Horse-riding center, children’s playground, courtyard cafe and a community farm there’s something for everyone – our favourite being the fantastic all-ability cycling center – over 200 machines which anyone can ride & race each other around the 400m athletic track.
There are also tennis courts & Pitch & Putt (actually don’t bother with the pitch n putt, it’s pretty lumpy!)
We can often be found scoffing a picnic, climbing trees or playing hide n seek in the courtyard gardens. There are also many seasonal community events such as spectacular firework displays, Shakespeare in the park & many school holiday actives for kids – check out event listings here.
Wythenshawe M23 0AB