As we approach the festive break, here’s a bumper edition of recommendations of things to see and do across Greater Manchester over the next fortnight… For even more ideas, visit our What’s On page.  

And if you’re looking ahead to next year, check out our What’s New for 2022 and Beyond ideas. 

1. Catch a brilliant music exhibition before it finishes 

After a successful six month run, you only have only two weeks left to get tickets for the critically acclaimed Use Hearing Protection: The early years of Factory Records exhibition at the Science and Industry Museum, before it finishes on 3 January.  

Over 25,000 people have been along exhibition so far to discover the lesser-known stories of one of Manchester’s most influential record labels. The museum is open most days over the festive break, excluding 24-26 December and 1 January, so pop along and make a day of it – there’s plenty on to keep the kids busy while you reminisce over those Hacienda days! 

2. Book yourself a luxury betwixmas break 

Pack the kids (and pets) off to a relative’s and treat yourself to a luxury night away at one of the city centre’s top hotels. Relax and unwind within the opulent surroundings of Dakota Manchester where you’ll be offered the warmest welcome, exemplary food and plenty of festive cheer. Or why not check in to the 5-star The Edwardian Manchester and enjoy sweeping city views, an indulgent spa treatment or dinner at the award-winning Peter Street Kitchen? Surely deserved after a busy family Christmas. 

3. Stretch those legs and get some fresh air 

A visit to the wonderful RHS Garden Bridgewater has been one of the hottest tickets in town since it opened back in May. It remains busy in the evenings due to the popular light show, Glow, running until 30 December, but if you want to visit during the day it’s a great time to wander the enormous site without the crowds. Open daily except on Christmas Day it’s also the perfect place to stock up if you made a New Year’s Resolution to be more green-fingered, with one of the best garden centres in the north of England.  

Don’t forget that you can also get there using the Express Bus from Piccadilly or Victoria Station – with a combined bus and entry ticket! 

4. Take the kids to see something that isn’t panto 

The extraordinary adaptation of CS Lewis’ much loved The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe continues at The Lowry from now until 15 January with matinees most days. The show re-tells the classic story with a mix of theatricality, humour, music, and puppetry, as audiences’ step through the wardrobe into the icy, enchanted realm of Narnia. 

Of course, we still love panto and there are some brilliant shows taking place right across Greater Manchester’s boroughs over the coming weeks. There’s Aladdin featuring Alexandra Burke at Manchester’s Opera House, Treasure Island at Middleton Arena, Peter Pan at Bolton Octagon, Sleeping Beauty at Salford Arts Centre, Cinderella at Wigan’s The Old Courts, another version of Aladdin at Oldham Coliseum, and many more.  

5. Enjoy a festive Afternoon Tea experience 

Tis the season to be jiggly. Diet starts in January. It doesn’t count at Christmas!  

Whatever the excuse, we won’t judge - Afternoon Tea is a brilliant British tradition and we are all for a festive take on it. 

Over at The Lowry Hotel, their festive twist includes roast turkey and stuffing sandwiches, sage and apple sausage rolls, gingerbread cake, chestnut, and chocolate desserts, and much more including sones over course! Meanwhile, the Afternoon Tea experts at The Midland Hotel have concocted roast beef and smoked salmon sandwiches, spiced rum snowballs, mince pies, and Black Forest gateaux on their menu until 30 December, all served with a glass of sparkling mulled wine. 

6. See the world from a different perspective 

You’ll need to be quick with one as it finishes on Christmas Eve, but what better way to reflect on the past year and incoming future than to set your eye on a seven-metre giant replica of Earth? Hung within the halls of Rochdale’s Number One Riverside building in the town centre, over 10,000 people have already been to see Gaia by artist Luke Jerram, which is part of Rochdale’s commitment to raising awareness about the seriousness of climate change and its implications for the future. 

And of course, you can minimise the environmental impact of your journey to Rochdale by using public transport – Number One Riverside is located next to the Rochdale Town Centre Metrolink stop and the bus station, and only a short walk from the train station. 

7. Bring in the New Year in style 

Still looking for ideas for how to spend New Year Eve? Check out our listings, packed with something for everyone. 

How about Warehouse Project headlined by Fat Boy Slim? Too much? What about an evening enjoying The Music of James Bond at the Bridgewater Hall? A New Year’s Eve Masquerade party at Bredbury Hall in Stockpot? Stand up at the Frog and BucketA 90’s Throwback party

Failing all of those suggestions, go support your local pub or restaurant! 

8. Grab a bargain at the Boxing Day sales 

For those savvy shoppers who wait for Boxing Day to pick up some bargain gifts and treats, there are plenty of options across Greater Manchester.  

The Trafford Centre has confirmed that it will open on Boxing Day – individual stores will set their own opening times but the mall itself will be open from 12pm until 6pm on the day. You could make a day of it by also visiting Sea Life Manchester or Chill Factore

Meanwhile in town, Manchester Arndale will also be open on Boxing Day from 11:30am to 5:30pm, alongside other shops across the city centre. When you’ve finished shopping we recommend popping along to the A Clubhouse Christmas in Spinningfields where you can enjoy karaoke, curling, duelling piano performances, street food, cocktails and more. 

Book now –Winter Beer Festival 

Manchester’s biggest and friendliest street food venue GRUB welcomes back its annual local and independent beer festival on Friday 21 to Sunday 23 January. Based in Manchester’s Green Quarter GRUB has built a reputation for being Manchester’s friendliest and most sustainable street food venue.  

With the basement bar holding over 20 taps and a constant rotation of new beers from local and independent breweries including its neighbours The Runaway Brewery, Blackjack Brewing Co, Beatnikz Republic and more, GRUB is the perfect place for any beer fanatic. 

GRUB’s Winter Beer Fest welcomes the above breweries, as well as guests Squawk Brewing Co and Rivington Brewery Co, who will all bring along a pop-up bar to the venue, showcasing their collection of delicious beers for you to try