Christmas is such a magical time for little ones. From Santa to snowflakes, it’s a time of year full of excitement, joy and wonder for kids of all ages. All parents want for Christmas is to see the faces of their little ones light up as they take in the most wonderful time of the year but keeping them entertained though out the build-up to the big day can sometimes be a challenge. As the Christmas holidays approach, many parents will be left looking for festive activities to captivate the little ones and help make this festive season fantastic.

Luckily, across Greater Manchester this Christmas you’ll find lots of activities to keep little ones busy and make their Christmas one to remember. Some events are free, while some need you to purchase a ticket. However, they’re all full of seasonal sparkle that little ones will love.

Family next to a Santa

Festive Sundays

Alongside Manchester’s world-famous Christmas markets, the city centre will be putting on a seasonal spectacular every Sunday in the run-up to Christmas. Kids will adore the sparkling street performances and entertainers, so much so they won’t even mind being brought along for some Christmas shopping. There will be roaming puppets, supersized penguins, illuminated bands and so much more. Festive Sundays begin on Sunday, November 13 and will run on Sunday afternoons up until Sunday 18 November, with new surprises each week across Manchester Arndale, Exchange Square, Market Street, King Street, St Ann’s Square and Deansgate. Learn more about Festive Sundays here. 

Skate Manchester

Maybe your kids would like to take to the ice this Christmas! Well, grab your skates because Skate Manchester is back for 2022. With twinkling lights, the smell of gingerbread, Christmas songs playing on repeat and so much more, this is a Manchester tradition that makes the winter season. The stunning outdoor but covered ice rink will be in the heart of the city at Cathedral Gardens, from 21 October 2022 until 2 January 2023. This year its new ice path means your family can skate around our beautiful Christmas tree, surely it can’t get more festive than that! Prices start from £12.50.

Jump on board East Lancashire Railway

Treat the family to an enchanting voyage through the magical Irwell Valley with one of the Santa Specials with East Lancashire Railway. Bury Station will be turned into a winter wonderland with singing polar bears, a magic tree, elves and even an appearance from Mrs Claus. Kids will have a ball meeting their favourite Christmas characters and singing along to seasonal songs while they wait for Santa to make his way to your carriage. If they’re nice, he may even bring them a special gift. There will also be mince pies and festive treats for the whole family to enjoy for a truly magical day out. The East Lancashire Railway Santa Special will take place on weekends between Saturday 26 November and Saturday 24 December. Learn more.

Winter Funland

This Christmas let the kids experience all the fun of the fair as Winter Funland is back for 2022. The indoor carnival at Trafford Park will run from Sunday 18 December to Monday 2 January. Each ticket will include unlimited rides and a skate on the ice rink. This carnival is aimed at those under 9 so there will be plenty of family-friendly rides and activities ready to make your Christmas merry and bright. Tickets cost £19.50 for children and adults.

Pantomime Time

Taking the kids to the pantomime is a Christmas tradition in many families and it’s one that is full of laughs and festive fun. This year, Manchester Opera House is showing the Pantomime adventures of Peter Pan with special guest star, Jason Manford. Join Peter Pan as he sets sail on a brand-new adventure this Christmas. With amazing special effects, stunning sets, beautiful costumes and barrel-loads of laughter, The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan will take your whole family on a swashbuckling trip to Neverland like never before! However, if you’d like to take the kids to a pantomime closer to home, check out our list of the best festive theatre across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester.

Glow RHS Bridgewater

Nothing will light up their faces this Christmas like a festive light show and this Christmas season you can let it glow at Salford’s RHS Garden Bridgewater. Glow is RHS Garden Bridgewater’s after-dark showcase and it promises to be enchanting. The garden will be lit up in breathtaking light displays with a sparkling new trail full of festive colour and glitter. There’s a magical family discovery trail inspired by local folklore, a dramatic fountain display, colourful projections and more.

Glow 2022 runs from Wednesday to Saturday between Wednesday 16 November and Saturday 17 December then from Tuesdays to Fridays between Tuesday 20 December and Friday 30 December. Prebooked tickets only with an adult non-member costing £12 and Children between 5 and 16 £6, and under 5s go free. Book Now. 

Family at RHS Glow

Claus the Musical

This Christmas, Salford’s The Lowry Theatre is hosting a brand-new musical, and it promises to be as magical as Christmas itself. From the writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and based on the beloved children’s book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum, Claus The Musical will capture the hearts and imagination of the whole family. With spellbinding songs from Andy Collyer, heart-warming storytelling, enchanting sets, and a whole load of festive fun discover the story of Claus and how he became a man forever in our hearts, and on Christmas Eve, forever in our skies. Running from Wednesday 14 December to Thursday 8 Jan, tickets start from £22.50. Book now. 

Tinseltown Trafford Centre

This Christmas, The Trafford Centre is hosting a magical haven of festive fun. Tinseltown is full of sparkle and fun for the whole family. Tinseltown is full of wonderful activities, live entertainment and Christmas characters to get you in the Christmas spirit. With a festive fairground, a spectacular ice show, a winter ice rink, Christmas outdoor cinema every Saturday and the chance to spend Christmas with Paddington, what more could kids want this Christmas? Running from Friday 18 November to Monday 2 January, get your skates on if you don’t want to miss out on the fun at The Trafford Centre. Learn more.

Winter Festival at Ordsall Hall

Ordsall Hall is truly beautiful at Christmas time. When the halls are decked and Christmas is coming, there’s something even more magical about the historic hall in Salford. This year, Ordsall Hall will be inviting families to celebrate at its first-ever Winter Festival on Sunday 11 December. This free festival will take place inside the hall and in the gardens with live performances, activities and refreshments for the whole family. There’s even a rumour that Father Christmas may join the festivities. Learn more.

Free events at the Arndale

This year Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre will be hosting a series of free, seasonal activities for little ones of all ages. Some of the activities on offer include learning the latest TikTok dances with Eli the Elf, Silent Storytime with Santa, Christmas Craft Club and more. There will also be a Candy Cane Cinema that hosts everything from baby sensory sessions to sing-a-long films. There’s a whole host of fun to be had at Manchester Arndale this Christmas and it’s all completely free. Find out more.


It wouldn’t be Christmas in Manchester without the award-winning Lightopia. This year the spectacular light show is returning to Heaton park and it’s brighter than ever, in fact, it’s Europe’s largest lantern and light festival. Bring your kids on a journey through the Lightopia Christmas Story which focuses on hope, new beginnings and rebirth. Watch their faces light up as they take in fabulous illuminations, mesmerising installations and an incredible immersive water show that will add some magic to the festive season.

Lightopia runs from Thursday 24 November to Friday 2 January between 5 pm and 10 pm daily, with the last entry at 8:30 pm. Tickets are £22.50 per adult, £14.50 per child and children under 3 go free. Family tickets are available. Book Now. 

Visit Santa in his Grotto

Kids love nothing more at Christmas time than visiting Santa in his Grotto. It’s a chance to meet the main man and experience the magic of Father Christmas first-hand, as well as to tell Santa about everything that’s on their Christmas list. All parents will love to see their child’s face fill with joy as they meet the legend that is Santa Claus, and here is a definitive list of the most quirky grottos across Greater Manchester to make this visit to Santa the most memorable yet.

A Very Merry Octonauts Christmas

Join the Octonauts for a special Christmas mission at SEA LIFE Manchester and get ready for festive fun under the sea. The intrepid explorers need families to help with a scavenger hunt and answer the Christmas conundrums hidden around the aquarium! There are prizes for completing the mission. Plus, there will also be the chance to meet Peso, take cool photos, enjoy Octonauts-themed crafts and enjoy Christmas decorations around the aquarium. Tickets are included with SEA LIFE admission and the Octonauts event runs from Saturday 3 December to Saturday 31 December. Learn more

Christmas Bricktacular

This year, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester is hosting a LEGO-tastic Christmas that the whole family can enjoy. Enjoy festive-themed activities, rides, build and play zones and a 4D cinema experience at the ultimate LEGO playground. There will be a winter wonderland scavenger hunt, a chance to build a LEGO Christmas decoration, dance parties to rock around the Christmas tree and the chance to win treats on the advent wheel. Plus, you can upgrade your ticket to visit Santa at the LEGO North Pole. The Christmas Bricktacular runs from Saturday 3 December to Friday 30 December and the event is included with admission, with additional costs to upgrade to meet Santa. Learn more.

For a roundup of the best free Christmas events across Greater Manchester, click here.

To find out about more events across the city-region, visit our What’s On page.