10 of the best days out in Manchester and the North West of England for families
From Lego and Beatrix Potter-themed attractions to aquariums and safaris, we’ve rounded up the best days out for families in Manchester and the North West to suit a range of budgets and interests
Famously friendly and with great transport links, the North West of England offers a wide range of days out for families with young children. From exciting cities like Liverpool and Manchester to the outstanding beauty of The Lake District, there’s something for everyone.
Since the weather can be erratic, we’ve included a mix of options for families with young children for those inevitable rainy days, including Sea Life in Blackpool and Liverpool’s World Museum, along with Chester Zoo and Sefton Park for when the sun comes out. And whether you’re scrimping or splurging, we’ve found something for every budget. Be aware that booking ahead is often essential and that advance tickets are often cheaper.
Looking for more days out inspiration across the UK? Check out MadeForMums' roundups of the best days out in the North East of England, and best family days out in Scotland. If you're heading south, look for the best family-friendly attractions in Cornwall, and best family days out in Devon too.
Best family days out in Manchester and the North West of England - at a glance
- Best for younger children: Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for sports fans: Manchester United Museum & Tour - Buy tickets, Kids Pass, Picniq
- Best for adventure: Knowsley Safari - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for rainy days: World Museum, Liverpool - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best budget outdoor attraction: Sefton Park, Liverpool - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for wildlife: Chester Zoo, Chester - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for Peter Rabbit: The World of Beatrix Potter - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for play: Ice Cream Farm - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best for children of all ages: Sea Life, Blackpool - Buy tickets, Picniq
- Best budget indoor attraction: Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester - Buy tickets, Picniq
1. Legoland Discovery Centre
— Best for younger children
Family ticket from £65 | Reschedule for free up to 24 hours before your arrival time | Best for ages 1-12 | All-weather attraction | Free onsite parking | Trafford Park 2.3 miles
Lego is a perennial favourite and Manchester’s Legoland Discovery Centre has plenty of options to entertain smaller members of the family.
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Housed within the Trafford Centre, it’s an indoor Lego playground with added attractions like a 4D Cinema, Lego-themed play areas, plus Miniland, an interactive city featuring many landmarks of the North West built from over 1.5 million bricks. The Lego Factory is entertaining and informative and there’s also the immersive Lego VR experience, but it’s not included with your admission ticket and will set you back an additional £6 each (4+ only).
The smallest members of the family aren’t forgotten – they can get building with chunky Duplo bricks in toddler soft play areas. It can be busy and noisy, so if the little ones get overwhelmed there’s a quiet route that allows you to bypass the Rave Cave.
MFM reviewer Elizabeth says: “Expect to queue for entrance and most of the attractions. Most TripAdvisor reviewers note that queuing ruined their experience." We suggest visiting after 4pm for a quieter experience (or last entry at 3pm on peak days).
Pros: A good range of hands-on fun, plus a few entertaining rides
Cons: Busy and noisy and you’ll probably have to queue, the shopping centre location isn’t ideal
Read the full MFM Legoland Discovery Centre family days out review
2. Manchester United Museum
— Best for sports fans
Family ticket from £86 | Best for ages 5-12+ | All-weather attraction | Free onsite parking | Trafford Bar station 0.8 miles
Football-mad kids will be over the moon to get a look behind the scenes at Manchester United, one of England’s all-time greatest sports clubs. Little ones can learn about the club's history and achievements through interactive exhibits in the museum, before walking out through the players' tunnel to visit the dugouts and see the pitch.
Our MFM reviewer, Elizabeth says: “The guides are really knowledgeable and make the tours feel fun, informative and friendly. They’re skilled at interacting with fans, even if they’re really young.”
Pros: Great insight into the club for young fans
Cons: It’s expensive and buggies aren’t allowed - if you have a baby with you take a baby carrier
Read the full MFM Manchester United Museum family days out review
3. Knowsley Safari
— Best for adventure
Family tickets from £48 | Best for all ages | All-weather attraction | Free onsite parking | Prescot station 1.6 miles | Wheelchair and buggy hire available
Knowsley’s 5-mile wild animal safari drive is the longest in the UK and is currently home to over 750 animals, from cheeky baboons to a pride of lions. The drive takes about an hour to complete and you can go round as many times as you like.
Along with the safari drive, there’s a range of close-up animal experiences, including meerkats and giraffes, and there’s a foot safari if you’d rather walk or don’t have a car. And if you’re worried about your car being dismantled by monkeys, there’s a monkey-free option (but surely the monkey mayhem is part of the fun!).
Parent tester Nikki, mum to 2 children (3-years-old and 7-months-old) says: “We love Knowsley Safari, the membership makes it excellent value for money. There’s so much to do, the drive safari is good on cold or rainy days. They also have a foot safari, train, fairground rides, sea lion show and my son’s favourite - the sand pit! You can drive through the monkey enclosure if you’re brave enough, but there is also a car-friendly route and a baboon bus for those that don’t drive! They also offer other experiences throughout the year at Halloween and Christmas. It’s such a good size that we could spend all day here or just a few hours.”
Pros: Great for all ages, you can do the Safari Drive as many times as you want until the last entry time
Cons: Your car could be damaged by monkeys (though this can be avoided)
4. World Museum, Liverpool
— Best for rainy days
Free museum entry, family Planetarium tickets from £10 | Best for ages 5-12+ | All-weather attraction | William Brown St Pay & Display 0.1 mile | Lime St station 0.6 miles
The World Museum really lives up to its name, housing around 80,000 artefacts from across the ancient world. But if that sounds a bit too much like school for your little ones, there’s also the Bug House, Aquarium, Planetarium and full-size dinosaur skeletons.
The Dino Diner display investigates dinosaur teeth, their food and even what they left behind as droppings. Along with a varied programme, the Planetarium also hosts baby-friendly screenings and relaxed screenings for those with sensory sensitivities.
There really is something for everyone.
Pros: Interesting and educational for the whole family. Located opposite St John’s Gardens, which is a lovely spot for a picnic or just to sit and chill if the museum is busy
Cons: Can be very busy, particularly the special exhibitions, often a long wait for the single lift
5. Sefton Park, Liverpool
— Best budget day out
Free entry | Best for all ages | Best in good weather | Open 24-hours a day, all-year round | Onsite parking | St Michael’s station 1 mile
Classified as a Grade-I listed park by English Heritage, 235 acre Sefton Park is man-made but looks like a natural landscape. With caves and waterfalls, fountains and statues, wide paths, shady areas and open fields, it’s a lovely place to spend time on a dry day. The two cafés can get very busy, particularly at weekends and school holidays, but Lark Lane is close by so you could pop out to a café or pick up a picnic on the way.
The beautifully restored Palm House features plants from around the world and also often hosts special events from plays to candlelight concerts, sports days and a craft club. Entry is free.
Pros: Beautiful, spacious park with good transport links and amenities
Cons: There’s only one children’s playground and it can get very busy
6. Chester Zoo
— Best for wildlife
Family ticket £104.52 | Best for all ages | Free onsite parking | 15% discount on tickets if you travel by bicycle | Chester station 2 miles | Self-drive electric scooters and wheelchairs available to hire
Chester Zoo has been a North West family destination for almost a century. With over 21,000 animals and 500 different species, including some of the world’s most endangered, you can easily spend a full day here.
Because the habitats are so big - which is a good thing for the residents - the animals are sometimes difficult to spot or hiding away, so if you go determined to see a particular favourite, you may be disappointed.
Parent Tester Katie, mum to 3 children (7 years, 3 years, and 11-months-old) says: “We absolutely love Chester Zoo, there is so much to do for children, from animals to play parks. We have membership passes and we often go. The downside is that sometimes the kids want to play in the parks, so we only see a couple animals but the range of animals makes it worth it.”
MFM reviewer Fiona, who visited with her sons aged 10 and 5 and daughter, aged 8, says: “With all the walking around required, you’ll probably want to treat your children to a drink or an ice cream so don’t forget to budget for that – not to mention food if you’re planning to buy food at the zoo.”
Pros: Wide range of animals, wide range of food options, things to do away from the animals!
Cons: It’s expensive, can be a long day so smaller children may get tired
Read the full MFM Chester Zoo review
7. The World of Beatrix Potter
— Best for Peter Rabbit fans
Family tickets from £26 | Best for ages 2-9 | All-weather attraction | Rayrigg Road Car Park 0.1 miles | Windermere station 1.5 miles
Bookworms will be delighted to see Beatrix Potter’s charming stories brought to life through interactive exhibits and an activity trail. Little ones can look for carrots in the award-winning Peter Rabbit Garden, which feels like walking into one of Potter’s illustrations.
For an additional charge, you can watch a musical in the Peter Rabbit theatre (more suitable for children aged 3+).
Of course, since it’s the Lake District, the setting is beautiful and once you’ve visited the exhibition, you can take a steam train or sail across Lake Windermere.
MFM reviewer Katherine says: “A delightful, enchanting attraction that will transport you to an almost magical place. My kids forgot all about wanting to play on my phone as they were swept up in the adventures of all the different animals and loved discovering the answers on the activity trail. Yes, it was busy, so if you can visit during term-time, do; if not, steel yourself for crowds but know that the memories your children make at The World of Beatrix Potter will be worth a few jostles.”
Pros: Captures children’s imagination in a beautiful setting
Cons: There’s no pre-booking so you may have to queue plus there’s no on-site parking
Read the full MFM The World of Beatrix Potter review
8. Ice Cream Farm
— Best for play
Family tickets Entry is £2.50 per person (£1.50 after 3.30pm; under-ones are free), additional tickets required for some attractions | Best for ages 2-4, 5-8 | Free on-site carpark | Nearest train station is Chester
Children will be thrilled to learn that The Ice Cream Farm is home to the world’s largest ice cream shop, offering scoops of more than 50 flavours. Should they need more persuading, you can let fact fans know that the site holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest ice cream shop in the world and also offers the biggest indoor sand and water play area in Europe. Plus there are outdoor activities including mini Land-Rovers and crazy golf – you do have to pay for these in addition to the entry fee, but you can buy a Play Pass to make it more cost effective.
If young ones have had their fill of ice cream, there’s a selection of food outlets and a designated picnic area for something more substantial. But if you just can’t get enough, you can buy tubs to take home with you, with flavours including Bakewell Tart, Jammy Dodger and Popping Candy.
Parent tester Katie, mum to 3 children (7 years, 3 years, and 11-months-old) says: “We love The Ice Cream Farm. They have a very small entrance fee and once you’re in there is a massive play park as well as other attractions (which have a small fee too, you can get passes to reduce the cost). There is a lot of choice, with options including soft play, sand and water play, gem hunting, go karts and much more. There is also an older kid zone. The choice of ice cream is amazing and they even have dairy free. It also only has one entrance and one separate exit, which is reassuring when little kids run off.”
Pros: Free return visit if it rains for 3+ hours
Cons: The kids may overdo it on the ice cream
Read the full MFM Ice Cream Farm review
9. Sea Life Blackpool
— Best for children of varied ages
Family ticket from £71 (advance booking is essential) | Cashless attraction | Best for ages 5-12+ | All-weather attraction | Central Car Park 0.3 miles | Blackpool North station 0.5 miles
Little ones will delight in this underwater world, walking through an ocean tunnel to see sharks and turtles, exploring man-made shipwrecks that have been taken over by marine life and maybe even touching some creatures in the rock pools.
Despite the name, it’s not just sea life on display here: small children can get hands-on with an array of insects and other life too, such as Giant African land snails, cockroaches, praying mantises and giant grubs.
It takes around two hours to get around the entire exhibit, so it’s a good option for a rainy day but if the sun comes out, Sea Life is conveniently located on Blackpool Promenade so it won’t take long to get back to the beach.
Pros: You can reschedule your tickets for free if your plans change
Cons: Often overcrowded
10. Science and Industry Museum, Manchester
— Best budget indoor attraction
Free but timed admission tickets required | Best for all ages | All-weather attraction | Euro Car Parks 2 miles | Deansgate 0.2 miles
From the world's oldest surviving passenger railway station to exhibits that bring the textile industry to life, The Museum of Science and Industry is a brilliant introduction to Manchester’s Industrial history. If you’re headed there at the weekend, little ones will love the Mini Movers session, learning how our bodies work like machines. For older children there’s a demonstration of a replica of Baby, the first computer to store and run a program, which was developed in Manchester. (Check the website for times.)
But it’s not just about Manchester. There’s also an interactive science exhibit where children can get stuck in building bridges, making music and creating glow-in-the-dark art, plus a beautiful new garden specifically designed to maximise sustainability.
MOSI is located in the centre of Manchester, close to shops, cafes and other attractions.
Pros: Entertaining and educational
Cons: An essential restoration programme is currently taking place so some exhibitions and areas may be closed. Pay and display parking nearby is limited
How we tested
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews plus feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested attractions, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best – we help you discover what is best for your family.
About the author
Keris Stainton has been a professional writer and a home educating parent for over ten years and has written about parenting for a host of magazines and websites. After growing up in the North West, she recently moved back to her home town by the sea - and won’t stop going on about it.
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