Have you been to manchester with a toddler? This our first time going in search of family friendly things to do. Here’s what we got upto!
As soon as we arrived in Manchester we headed straight for the science and industry museum. I had a few recommendations to go and was told it was great for kids of all ages so my expectations were high.
We were able to hop on a free metro link shuttle bus from outside Piccadilly train station to the museum. Win!
The museum is only around a 20 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station but it was cold and windy so I really appreciated the free metro link shuttle and thought these were so handy for families.
My first impression when we arrived to the science and industry museum was wow! We were greeted by friendly staff and a large map showed us what the museum had to offer. A busy programme for that day included shows, talks, workshops and lots more suitable for all ages.
I was impressed with the kids picnic lunch box options in the cafe as there was a good variety of healthy options including fruit pots. After a quick lunch snack we started over to the air and space hall.
Eric loved wandering around looking at all the planes and so did we! The vintage carriages were beautiful. The hall also had a picnic area.
Next up we headed to Experient! A temporary exhibition about graphene “wonder materials” was taking place on the same level. Wonder materials had intriguing designs to look at and hands on experiments with games to play. We used magnetic building blocks, origami and a dice challenge where we drew a new science invention based on a material and type from faces on the dice. These were suited more towards adults but Eric enjoyed (aka wrecked the place) too!
Experiment! was fantastic. This part of the museum is a small version of Eureka! Many of the same experiments were the same here as they are in Eureka. There was lots of hands on, touchy feely educational displays to spark imagination of little ones. It is suited for babies upto pre-schoolers.
Games to play, musical experiments, light, sensory, colour, sound and the best thing about it was that it is free. We had a fun time with it all, adults can enjoy it as much as children. They also have a small soft play area with coloured bricks to topple, build and throw around.
The experiment hall was so exciting that my son got tired afterwards. We still had so much to do and despite being there all morning had galleries untouched. There is definitely many opportunities for us to go back as we left without seeing a lot. I really want to go to “The Den” which is a sensory garden for under 4’s. They have very good facilities for families with young children, next time I want to try their power packs. Families with babies are suited for with their treasure baskets and blanket bags.
The museum is big with 5 buildings and 3 floors in the main gallery, combined with the daily shows, talks and workshops it makes a full free packed day out. Here’s a map. Kids and adults are catered for and you can’t get bored! I highly recomnend Experiment!; especially if you can’t get to Eureka or don’t have the money for an annual pass just yet. You can get a similar experience that has lots for children to learn with here in Experiment! and it is free.
The rest of our first day
We had a room booked at the Brittania hotel. The location was great; right in the centre of Manchester. We were able to get a good deal from booking.com. I wouldn’t recommend the hotel though. It smelt of cigarettes, needed serious refurb and our room didn’t have a window. It felt unsafe at times and the cleaning staff were stood in the hallways swearing to each other in the morning!
That evening we took a quick visit to the central library before tea time. We ended up spending an hour there, it’s an impressive building and the children’s area has soft play equipment. It was a good option for a free, safe place for Eric to let off some steam and was just up the road from our hotel. We ate in our rooms that evening with food we just bought from the local Tesco to save money.
Sealife centre at Trafford.
Thursday morning we headed straight to the Trafford centre. If you’re going by bus from Piccadilly, get off the stop before the Trafford bus station for sealife or lego land. It’s quicker.
The walk through baton square to sealife was really impressive. You have to admit, even if you are not a fan of shopping centres that the Trafford is appealing to the eye! The art work and the design is so pretty.
We had booked tickets for sealife centre the night before and went for the 10am opening time. I recommend you get there as early as you can, we were one out of a few families in there and it felt very private. It filled up more in the afternoon.
The layout of this sealife centre is perfect for toddlers and cold / wet weather. All of it is inside and modern with lots of space on the walk way paths for little ones to find their feet. Eric was happy enough to walk around taking it all in and we didn’t have to worry about losing him as the rooms were small enough, but not cluttered so we could always see him. There were a few tanks per room with a big variety of big tanks, small tanks and viewing windows. Some of the tanks are low down which are perfect for little children, I sat with Eric and it was a lovely moment.
I felt very relaxed and wanted to stay there all day. I’ve been to sealife before; last year we went to the sealife centre in Scarborough but we didn’t like it. Compared, it was cold, dirty and needed maintenance.
Sealife centre at Trafford is modern, everything is clean and well looked after, the tank displays are beautiful and it’s just the right size so you don’t get bored but are not overwhelmed.
There is a tank at the end full of touchy-feelys, starfish, crabs, etc., good for children. Daily talks and shows take place throughout the day too, but we didn’t catch many of them. We managed one and the employee presenting was passionate and friendly.
We loved it. Here’s a video so you can see what it looks like inside!:
A small soft play at the end finishes the afternoon off nicely, then the options of shopping / cafes / restaurants are aplenty as it’s in the Trafford centre. I liked that option as sometimes family attractions can be in the middle of no where so you’re limited to their facilities.
You could definitely do sealife in a day but we wouldn’t have had time to do the museum and sealife together, but you could do either in just 1 day trip.
Have you been to sealife before? Or the science and industry museum? What did you think?
Thanks for reading!