Visiting Manchester with the Family

Over in Northwest England, rich with industrial history and die-hard football (or soccer for us Americans) fans, Manchester is a city bursting with diverse attractions. The old-world architecture, Salford Quays dockyards and red-brick buildings may be leftover from a time gone-by, but are now alive with new appeal as shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.

While visiting Manchester, England, there are a few must-stops for families and travelers of all interests, one of which is the Old Trafford. The football stadium is located in Greater Manchester and an iconic locale. While it can house almost 75,000 fans at a time, the Old Trafford is the largest stadium in the United Kingdom and offers tours. If your family is lucky enough to be in the area for a match, get tickets and really immerse yourselves in the local culture — take the chance to finally enjoy a live game as a fan or consider it a crash course in Manchester football.

Another football stop you may want to hit, Etihad Stadium. Formally known as The City of Manchester Stadium, now sponsored by Etihad, the space houses the Manchester City Football Club and always has something on for families and fans of all ages.

Before, after or in lieu of a game, check out the National Football Museum with the kids. Explore the Hall of Fame section and endless memorabilia throughout the exhibits, or get involved with some interactive games. Fans, families and tourists alike can head over to the kids’ discovery zone to test their skills, and, even your own if you’re up for some friendly competition. Entrance is free, but some additional games and attractions may come at a cost.

Manchester Cathedral at sunset

Manchester Cathedral at sunset. © Vicente Soler Marmaneu | Dreamstime.com

Manchester isn’t all football stadiums and fields, however, it’s also a living history tour, filled with museums and incredible landmarks. Take a stroll through Manchester’s Northern Quarter and Spinningfields section and you’ll find astonishing feats in architecture from the Manchester Cathedral and The John Rylands Library to the greenspaces of Piccadilly Gardens and 18th-century canals of Castlefield — now home to a host of restaurants, bars, outdoor music venues and green spaces to rest from a day of sightseeing.

The Northern Quarter of Manchester is a great destination for some fun shopping, music and dining. While you’re in the birthplace of world-famous bands, including New Order, Oasis and The Smiths, you’d be remiss not to pick through vintage records and see live music in open-air venues and local pubs in the area.

Get in a little culture and shopping all in one while checking out artisan pieces for sale at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Stop in the gallery at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art and take in the truly memorable pieces on display.

Another unique activity winter-loving families might enjoy: Chill Factore. The indoor skiing and snowboarding slopes of Chill Factore are a fun way to spend time as a family, no matter the weather, or a good excuse to teach the kids some winter sport skills.

For animal lovers, there’s always Chester Zoo and its resident wildlife. The kids can climb and play on the Treetop Challenge course or visit with the beloved animals roaming the park.

For the shoppers in the family, rest assured, they will be busy. In addition to the fun boutiques in the Northern Quarter, be sure to head to King Street, St. Ann’s Square or the Arndale Centre for great shops and interesting finds to take home.