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FREE things to do in Manchester this August

August 3, 2016

free things to do in Manchester


I promised a friend at work some time ago that I would put together a list like this, and now I’ve finally done it!

I’ve had a good hunt around all my usual ‘things to do’ websites and put together a list of 50 free things to do in Greater Manchester this August:


1. Roald Dahl film screenings at Spinningfields

As Roald Dahl’s centenary approaches, Spinningfields is holding a series of free screenings to celebrate some of his best-loved characters.

2. Enjoy some quiet time at Chetham’s library

Founded in 1653, Chethams library is the oldest public library in the English speaking world that still provides access to over 100,000 books all for free.

3. If quiet isn’t your thing, stop for a lunchtime concert instead

Home to some of the country’s best budding musicians, Chethams offer a year round programme of free lunchtime concerts and events. They usually last around 45 minutes and can be solo performances or orchestral ensembles. Be sure to check online first to make sure they’re on that day.

4. Take a step back in time at the Imperial War museum

This iconic aluminium building stands proudly on the edge of the quays and is definitely worth a visit. Exhibitions suitable for the whole family the museum takes you through the history of war and conflict. If available on the day – climb the tower and take in the view!

5. Or go discover the history of Vogue at the Manchester Art Gallery

The art gallery is right in the heart of town and houses nearly 13,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and other art forms. This month you’ll find the Century of Vogue exhibition on the 2nd floor. I first saw this exhibit when it launched in London, where I paid for the privilege. But here in Manchester, it’s free!

6. Go crazy at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

With Manchester celebrating being the host city for the European Science Festival, there is a lot going on at MOSI.

7. Explore the gothic corridors at the John Rylands Library

You can easily mistake the John Rylands Library for a church, this magnificent building has that kind of a look. Inside you’ll find something which could truly enrich your soul – about 200,000 books.

8. Spend a day out at the Manchester Markets

There are so many markets popping up in the city, seasonal ones, makers ones and even food and drink ones.

9. Get interactive at the National Football Museum

The national football museum relocated to the Urbis in 2012 and contains art, football memorabilia and a number of interactive exhibits.

10. Delve into the history of Manchester at the Peoples History Museum

See 200 years of history in the city of Manchester. Starting from the Peterloo massacre of 1819 and travel right through the industrial revolution into the thriving city that Manchester has become today.

11. Enjoy the outdoors at Platt Fields Park

One of many great parks to make this list. Platt Fields is a popular haunt with students. It has a lake, tennis courts, concrete 5-a-side footie pitch, BMX track, skate park AND is home to my Saturday morning park run (South Manchester Park Run).

12. Visit the award-winning Whitworth Art Gallery

Exhibitions run throughout the year showcasing some of the greatest pieces of modern and traditional art.

13. Experience Medieval merriment at the Salford shopping centre Dungeons and Dragons event

One for the kids really, they can become gallant knights for the day by making their own swords and shields. They can also meet a dragon and Sir Aurelious Jones, the Pirate Knight.

14. Get lost in the maize at Red House Farm

I have always wanted to do a maize maze! I can’t wait to visit here. There’s also a farm shop, tea rooms, sandpit, slides etc. You do have to buy a ticket for the maze and barrel train though – but I couldn’t not have this on the list.

15. Carry out your own Northern Quarter street art tour

The trendiest part of Manchester, the Northern Quarter is a hive of life whatever day you choose to visit. One of the great things about the area, is its abundance of street art. With the recent cities of hope series, every corner you turn there is something new to see. Well and truly deserves a day out with the camera.

16. Head a little further South to the gardens of Fletcher Moss 

Fletcher Moss Park and Gardens in located in Didsbury given to the city by a man named Alderman Fletcher Moss. There’s a nature reserve with a variety of birds, rare trees, botanical gardens, tennis courts, football pitches and various events throughout the year.

17. What can’t you do at Heaton Park?

The largest municipal (urban) park in Europe, Heaton Park covers over 600 acres. There’s a golf course, tennis courts, boating lake, animal farm, pitch and putt, ornamental gardens, observatory, adventure playground, trams, flat green Bowling Green and the impressive Heaton Hall. You may have to pay to visit some of these but there are plenty free activities too.

18. And if the suns out, head to the beach

This August, Come to the Beach returns to Heaton Park for the holidays with a giant beach area complete with deck chairs, buckets and spades, face painting, children’s entertainment and kids entertainment on a weekend, and it’s own seaside fun park complete with traditional family rides and attractions. And thankfully, there’s no entrance fee!

19. Meet artisan traders at Levy Market

Held in Levenshulme every Saturday (& occasional Friday evenings) from March to December, you’ll find a great range of artisan traders selling all sorts from delicious street food through to unique gifts and homeware. A community run enterprise, is always bustling with people, you’ll usually see some great street entertainment too.

20. Take part in your own walking tour

I have experienced a guided walking tour in Manchester and it was fabulous, I’d definitely recommend it – even if you’ve lived here for years I’m sure you’ll still learn something. But if you are strapped for cash, you can simply download the walking tour app and explore this great city at your own pace.

21. Escape the City buzz at Prestwich Forest Park

With 200 hectares of open space and woodland there’s lots to explore and it’s a great place to burn some energy. A perfect place to walk, cycle or even a picnic. There is also a great children’s play area and nature trail.

22. View the Neo-Gothic architecture of Manchester Town Hall

At the heart of Albert Square, Manchester Town Hall is one of the most revered Grade I listed building in the UK. Open every day except Sunday, visitors can walk round the various rooms and enjoy some of the stunning murals which adorn the walls.

23. Planespotting at Runway visitor park

Whilst the park itself is free to enter, if you happen to be driving the parking is not cheap! It’s advisable to park elsewhere and walk in. A perfect day out for kids, plane spotters or anyone feeling a bit of wanderlust.

24. Meet some ex-coppers at the Police Museum

Hidden away at the end of Newton Street the Police museum takes you through the history of crime and policing in the city. There are real cells and it’s staffed by volunteer ex-policemen.

25. See some ancient wonders at the Manchester museum

The Manchester museum houses a collection of Egyptian mummies, ancient artifacts collected from around the world and a sublime animal gallery, showcasing stuffed animals (NOT my thing) and it also has a vivarium.

26. Take a stroll around Castlefield Urban Heritage Park

Grab your camera and capture shots of beautiful old houseboats along the canals, grand viaducts and even the remains of a Roman fort.

27. Make new friends at the Donkey Sanctuary

Get up-close and personal with these friendly, adorable animals, with experienced experts on hand to answer any questions. Come on, who doesn’t want to spend time with a donkey?

28. Check out AMAZING local artist Stanley Chow at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art

The centre is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a limited edition shop featuring the works of celebrated print artist Stanley Chow. Instangram presents 30 exclusive designs of food, objects and locations that resonate with Chow’s experience of growing up amongst Manchester’s British Chinese – whilst parodying the popular social network in his signature playful style.

29. See the Women in Print exhibition at Rudy’s pizza

Women in Print is an exhibition of work by sixteen local designers, print-makers and illustrators that celebrates the life and achievements of sixteen iconic female figures who’ve made a significant contribution to Manchester. And you’re already in the perfect place to enjoy pizza. Win win!

30. Pub quiz with a twist, take part in a Cards against humanity tournament

You’ll find them on Wednesdays, pop down to Hold Fast where a £50 bar tab is up for grabs. Not one for the kids, but hey I think I’ve given them enough other choices on here.

31. How about trying a robot workshop?

Brighter Sound and Noisy Toys present a full day of free robot building workshops at Band on the Wall on the 10th August. The build will involve engineering, circuitry, coding and music, and when it’s finished it will provide an essential part of the Robot Orchestra – and your work can feature in it. Join the quest to build the recycled Robot Orchestra! – it’s free but you need to book a place.

32. Get your party outfits on for the Caribbean Carnival 

The Manchester Caribbean Carnival is back at Alexandra Park on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th of August. Music, food, entertainment it’s bound to be a fun day for all.

33. Admire the busy world of worker bees at Dower House

Bees are the symbol of Manchester and at Dower House you can see them go about their every day work. Open every Sunday at Heaton Park, it’s an unusual but symbolic day out.

34. Visit the Lowry Arts centre, to see Lowry of course

Where else are you going to find the worlds largest public collection of paintings and drawings by LS Lowry??

35. Play games at the Manchester Central Library

I’ve got a fair few libraries on this list, but they’re all so different! Here at the recently refurbished Central Library you can source family history, play on gaming consoles – you can even have a go on a musical instrument. (Although the services are free you may need to be a library card holder)

36. Window shopping at the Trafford Centre

So I know shopping isn’t free, but visiting the centre is. As is the parking. During the summer, Trafford also hosts a number of events for adults and families so check out their website to see if there’s anything that interests you.

37. Have a picnic in the Peak District

So the Peak District is not exactly city centre, but trust me it is definitely worth the drive into the wild. Lace up those hiking boots  pack a picnic and get going on an adventure. I visited Mam Tor for the first time this month, the scenery was outstanding!

38. Dog spotting at Chorlton Water Park

I don’t mean that in a creepy way, but Chorlton Water Park is full of adorable pooches! When the sun shines, the walk around the lake is a peaceful one, usually interrupted by the sound of four legs running full speed to chase a stick (or a swan as we witnessed on our last visit?!? don’t worry both dog and swan were safe)

39. Find a local activity on

I’ve mentioned a number of parks on this list, but if you visit the ParkLives website, you’ll find a handy list of all the free scheduled activities for everyone to enjoy.

40. I’m just going to casually drop this in… there’s even a Pokemon Go party

I’m sorry I couldn’t resist. I’ll say no more. Google can take it from here. Tickets are on Skiddle.

41. Grab tickets to be part of a tv audience

With more and more shows moving up North to be filmed, there are many opportunities to bag yourself a seat in the audience. Websites like Applause store lets you apply for tickets to some of your favourites. (Jeremy Kyle anyone?)

42. Get crafty at the Arts and Crafts centre

Just like the artists quarter in Barcelona, the shops here all have working studios within them. You can meet the makers and see them work.

43. Look for style inspiration at the Gallery of Costume

The gallery contains one of the finest costume collections in the country. Here you’ll find clothes worn by men, women and children from the 17thC to the present-day

44. See how Elizabeth Gaskell and her family lived

This famous author’s family home has been beautifully restored and boasts spectacular period rooms, a villa garden and tea room for visitors to enjoy. They even organise activities for you to join in with.

45. How about an afternoon at Home?

I’m talking about the city’s newest art venue, Home. With the closure of the Cornerhouse, Home is now the place to go for Independent films and productions. There are free gallery exhibitions to check out and the space outside is a great place to relax.

46. After you’ve been to Home, catch sunset over the city

Once you’ve enjoyed a look around Home, nip into the car park opposite and take the lift right to the top. You’ll find yourself looking out over our spectacular city, it’s pretty special.

47. Visit the Old Granada Studios

Now a platform for creativity, innovation and urban exploration. There’s always something trendy on here, Social darts anyone?

48. Follow a nature trail at Hollingworth Lake Country Park

Another great park, this time in Rochdale. Once again, there is plenty to do here: go boating, a nature reserve, trails, events, guided walks, visitor centre, community arts, environmental exhibitions, play and lots of picnic areas.

49. Re-live the most powerful women’s movement at the Pankhurst centre

Strong emphasis on women in my list, but hey I am one so what the heck. This building on Nelson Street was the birthplace of the Suffragette Movement, a permanent reminder of women’s struggle to become full and equal citizens.

50. And… Breathe

The air’s pretty good up North, the atmosphere in the city is electric and the best thing about the whole inhale, exhale thing? Like everything else on this list, it’s totally free.

(And necessary. Very necessary)


*** Check out my instagram if you want to see pics on some of the above that I haven’t yet blogged about ***

Can you think of anything else I may have missed off? What are your favourite things to do in Manchester? 

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