Lisa travelled to Manchester with her daughter, Lois, accompanied by best friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Gracie, to experience all the family fun on offer in the grand North England city of Manchester.
Manchester is easily accessible from most UK cities by train. My best friend, Sarah, and I travelled on Virgin Trains from London Euston with our daughters, Lois and Gracie, both aged seven. We were given a children’s activity pack upon boarding which (happily) kept the girls entertained for the entire journey. We arrived in Manchester excited and raring to explore the city, just over two hours later.
Forget the stereotype of whippets, rain and Boddingtons because Manchester is a buzzing, hip city, with a young, vibrant population. Having met there ourselves as students (back when it was called 'Mad-chester') it was great to get back to our old stomping ground and show our daughters the sights we remember, as well as plenty of new ones. This time, however, we were going to be frequenting the likes of Legoland rather than the Hacienda - and at a much more sociable hour.
We were lucky to have arrived on a sunny day and the city centre pavements were alive with café culture and al fresco dining. Most visitors won’t be so lucky, but fear not. Mancunians are well-prepared for a downpour and there’s a huge array of indoor delights for families to be found in this part of the world.
Where to stay:
We enjoyed an elegant and fun stay at the incredibly central Roomzzz Aparthotel, just off Piccadilly Gardens. Our swish penthouse boasted a double bedroom, as well as two singles on a mezzanine above the living room, which also has a sofa bed. For those wanting to eat in the hotel, the kitchen was well equipped and there was a continental breakfast available to take back to your room at no extra charge. Best of all, everything that Manchester had to offer was right on our doorstep. We would have happily moved in!
What to do:
There is a myriad of things to do in and around Manchester, with or without small people in tow, and on this whistlestop tour we managed to cram in plenty.
First stop was the Imperial War Museum North in Salford Quays, which was easily reached by tram. This impressive building boasts spectacular views of the Twin Cities from the 100ft high Air Shard viewing platform: not an attraction for the faint-hearted. Back on solid ground, the girls loved the Horrible Histories 360 degree Big Picture film, Rotten Rationing, which is a fun and informative way to feed their little brains.
History ticked off the list, our next visit was to the National Football Museum, next to the city's Arndale Centre, a must-see for footie fans young and old. However, not to live up to a female stereotype, our gang's main pull was the fabulous Strike a Pose: 50 Years of Football and Fashion exhibition, which runs until August 27, 2013.
The Intu Trafford Centre is a bus journey away from central Manchester: a mecca for fashion lovers, with every high street shop all in one place. But we weren’t there for that... Legoland Discovery Centre and Sea Life were calling us.
Legoland Discovery Manchester is a smaller indoor version of Windsor’s theme park. Open until 7pm daily, it would serve as a brilliant reward for patient children after a day trailing around the shops. There’s a café for tired parents while the small people run around exploring the 4D cinema, Kingdom Quest laser ride, Forest Pursuit Driving School and more. Almost next door is Sea Life, an aquarium boasting more than 5,000 sea creatures. Our girls were in seventh heaven.
Where we dined
The WaterShard Café & Kitchen at Imperial War Museum North overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal, offering views across Salford Quays of Media City, the BBC’s new headquarters. It was perfect for a light bite and had toys for the children to play with while us weary mothers fuelled up on coffee for the afternoon ahead.
Dough, in the more edgy Northern Quarter, boasts a menu of tasty pizza toppings and different bases choices, sure to tempt fussy eaters. The gluten-free offering was especially delicious.
Giraffe at Intu Trafford Centre, runner-up in the Junior Design Awards 2013 Best Family Restaurant and we could see why. Mouth-watering sandwiches and child-friendly staff. We couldn’t fault the place if we tried.
Why we would go back:
Simply put, there is so much more to see and do. And those extremely comfy beds are still on our mind.
Virgin Trains, London Euston to Manchester, standard single ticket from £12.50.
Roomzzz Aparthotel, Penthouse Suite from £155 per night midweek (£255 on weekends), other rooms from £99.
Imperial War Museum North and the National Football Museum are free to visit.
Legoland Discovery Centre, tickets from £12 per person (free for under-twos) or £8.10 after 4pm, open 10am-7pm daily.
Sea Life Manchester, tickets from £12 per person (free for under-threes), open 10am-5pm daily (last admission at 5pm).
Combi tickets for the two attractions start from £19.74 per person.