4 photos of museums, parks and street art in Manchester. Text reads free things to do in manchester

21 Free things to do in Manchester with kids

Family days out can get expensive so I’ve pulled together this list of the best free things to do in Manchester with kids to help you keep the costs down a bit if you are running on a tight budget. It’s part of a series of posts I’m working on free days out North West. Find loads more Family days out North West here.

Free things to do in Manchester with toddlers

This post is a guide to free things to do in Manchester with kids of all ages and you’ll find lots of ideas for toddlers as well as older kids. If you do just want ideas for toddlers then I have this post – Free things to do in Manchester with toddlers.

If not read on for free things to do in Manchester with kids of all ages.

Free Manchester museums and art galleries for families

Museums are a great place to take the kids for free and there are a lot to choose from in the city of Manchester. The best news is they are all free and often run events for kids at no or very little cost. Many of these fantastic museums and art galleries run on the support of donations so if you can afford a small donation on your visit, they would appreciate it.

Manchester Museum

This museum recently reopened after undergoing significant renovations. Find out more – Manchester Museum.

The renovation has included a new two-story extension which includes a South Asia gallery and exhibition hall. The museum is also more inclusive than previously with a changing places toilet, prayer space and quiet room as well as a picnic room.

Manchester art gallery

Manchester art gallery has a large collection of art including permanent and temporary exhibitions. As well as fine art, costumes and more, they also run lots of family events and workshops which are generally free or low cost. Find out what’s coming up soon on their website here – Manchester Art Gallery

Imperial war museum North – IWM North

This purpose-built museum in Salford Quays is a great place to take kids who are learning about any of the wars in history. Walk through a timeline of history from the First World War to the present day. Again, although tickets are free, booking in advance is recommended. Find out more and book here.

Manchester museum of science and industry

This museum is also currently undergoing renovations but many areas are still open. If there is a particular gallery you want to visit I would suggest checking the website first here – Science and Industry Museum.

At the MOSI, you can explore 250 years of innovations and ideas that started in Manchester. Learn about the cities heritage with the cotton industry see science and in action in Experiment, a full interactive family gallery.

Metal beams with loads of screens hanging down

People’s History Museum

This is the national museum of democracy where you can learn about the past, present and future of democracy in Britain. There’s loads to explore and plenty of interactive exhibits. They also run regular events.

Find out more here – People’s History Museum

The Lowry

There is a permanent L.S. Lowry exhibition here which is free to enter.

The Carole Nash lookout is a free space for kids to unwind and be creative with lots of different resources in the area. They also run regular children’s events in this area like baby playtime and little creatives.

Find out more here – The Lowry

Stockport Museum

Stockport Museum is again free to visit and has a mixture of galleries including a family one designed to help imaginations run wild. There is also a Mellor Iron Age hilltop settlement and opportunities to find out about medieval times, the textile industry in the Victorian era and the impact of world war 1.

Find out more here – Stockport Museum

Portland Basin Museum

Step back in time on the 1920s street, as the sights and sounds of bygone Tameside are brought to life. Visitors can explore the area’s industrial heritage and discover what life was like down the mines, or on the farm. There is also a Nuts and Bolts play area for children aged under 5 years. Free to enter and free parking.

Find out more here – Portland Basin Museum

Manchester police museum

Funded by Greater Manchester Police, the museum collects and preserves archive material and objects relating to the history of policing in the Greater Manchester area. Visitors can talk to staff and volunteers about policing.
They are open most Tuesdays and run events for families including in half term. They also ‘Dinky Detectives’ group, suitable for preschoolers and toddlers! Drop in from 11.00 – 12.00 or 1.30 – 2.30 in the AV room for play, craft and story time. Find out more and check opening times here – Greater Manchester Police.

Red brick building with blue windows and door.

Ordsall Hall

This historic house and gardens are free to visit throughout the year. You can dress up as a Tudor, discover foods cooked here in the 1500s and pretend to have a feast at the table in the Great Hall.

Dress up as a Tudor, try on some chainmail, discover some of the foods that would have been cooked at the Hall in the 1500s, pretend you are having a feast around the table in our Great Hall. Dress up as a Tudor, try on some chainmail, discover some of the foods that would have been cooked at the Hall in the 1500s, pretend you are having a feast around the table in our Great Hall.

They often have free family events including in the school holidays. Find out what’s on and when they are open here – Ordsall Hall

John Rylands Library

Statue in a traditional building

John Rylands library is another fantastic free place to spend a little bit of time. The building is stunning and kids will feel like they are stepping into Harry Potter in many areas too.

Again they have permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as occasional free events. Make sure you check the opening times before visiting as it is shut some days including Sundays.

It is free to visit. Find out more here – John Rylands Library.

Visit the Northern Quarter

Why not spend an hour or so in Manchester city centre exploring all the amazing street art in the Northern quarter? There’s plenty to be seen around every corner.

Building with graffit all over it

Visit the best Manchester parks

There are loads of great parks in Manchester. Here are some suggestions in case you are looking to try a new one.

  • Heaton park, it’s possible to have a full day out here. There’s plenty of space to walk, two great children’s play areas, cafes, a tram museum, an animal centre (free), a boating lake and more.
  • Wythenshaw park,
  • Alexandra park, Stockport
  • Bramham hall park
  • Bruntwood Park, Cheadle. Bike tracks, woodland walks and a huge play park with something for all ages.
  • Mayfield Park, Manchester

Find the best parks in Manchester here.

RHS Bridgewater

This one is only free if you are an RHS member or if you live in Salford and visit on a Tuesday (until May 2024). It’s worth a visit if you can. Find out more here – Visiting RHS Bridgewater with kids – North West for kids.

Go for a walk

There are loads of places where you can go for a free walk including the beautiful Fletcher Moss (pictured below). Find loads of ideas here – pram-friendly walks Manchester.

Child exploring gardens at Fletcher moss

Wythenshawe park community farm

Did you know there is a lovely small farm at Wythenshawe park that you can look around for free? It’s well worth a visit with young kids and it’s right next to the play area.

Children with umberellas walking past pen of ducks and chickens

Heaton park animal centre

The animal centre is free and open all year round (except Christmas Day). The animals in the centre include chickens, goats, pigs, guinea pigs, rabbits and more exotic species such as alpacas.

City Airport Barton

You’ll find free parking, an outdoor play area and plenty of space for watching aircraft take off. A great way to spend a couple of hours with young kids. Find out more here – Discover City Airport, Eccles

pink/purple background with photos of family attractions and text says North West for kids

Always looking for inspiration for family days out across the North West? Join the Family Days Out North West Facebook group to be part of a community sharing the best family days out across the region. Join here.

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