Straw pigs & pillow fights - where will you go in 2019?
If you are lucky enough to live in or close to Manchester, there are all kinds of exciting events and festivals lined up for families in 2019. From family festivals complete with campfires and pillow fights to celebrations of literature and spooktacularly scary fun, get these dates in your diary now to guarantee you won't miss out on any of the fun!
This year, the Chinese community is welcoming in the year of the Pig, and Manchester as always plans to celebrate in style. With four days of food, fortunes, fireworks and fun lined up, families can expect to enjoy a whole host of free activities going on throughout Manchester.
Chinese lanterns will adorn the city, with Chinese food markets to be found though out the weekend in St Ann's Square, as well as traditional street food stalls in Albert's Square and Chinatown. Whilst you're in St Ann's Square, make sure you bring the kids along to check out the giant straw piglet which has been created by artist Alex Rinsler.
The legendary Dragon Parade will take place on Sunday 10th February, and definitely should not be missed. Kids will be enthralled as they watch a 175-foot dragon weaving its way through the streets of Manchester. It will set off at 12pm from Albert Square, before heading towards Manchester's China Town. Families will be able to watch lion dancing, unicorn performances, a fun fair, take part in Chinese arts and crafts and lots more. This exciting event will culminate with a spectacular fireworks display at 7pm.
The Irish Festival will take place over the first two weeks of Manchester ending on St Patrick's Day, so if you want to embrace your Irish heritage, or are just fancy a little crack, here's your chance.
Although the programme for 2019 hasn't been confirmed yet, if 2018's programme is anything to go by, we'll be able to experience everything from Irish music and dancing lasses, to comedy nights and Irish language classes.
It has been confirmed that the annual Manchester Irish Festival Parade will take place on Sunday 10th March, starting from the Irish World Heritage Centre at 12 noon before making its way into the city centre for around 2pm.
Manchester's longest-running music festival returns for 2019 with a new location. Rather than its usual positioning in Albert Square, this year a lot of the main action will take place in the stretch running from St Ann's Square to New Cathedral Street.
Although the programme is yet to be confirmed, tickets have already been released for some events. Families can expect a host of free music stages and bars, giving parents the ideal chance to introduce the kids to a style of music that's just that little more grown up.
For a weekend of family fun, Geronimo is the place to head to this May. This family festival is aimed at children under 13 and their families, and focuses on giving families a chance to play, learn and create magical memories together.
Families can expect everything from yoga sessions, donkey rides and forest schools to craft sessions, soft play and lots, lots more.
One day tickets are available, but you might struggle to do it all in one day, so if you want to go for longer, the option is there to get weekend tickets too. If you want to enjoy the full experience, camping is available (as well as glamping if camping isn't for you).
Tickets are already on sale, although the programme is yet to be released (expect to see it very soon)
The roots of Manchester's Caribbean Carnival go back a long way, with the celebration first kicking off on the streets of Manchester back in 1972, when a group of mostly St Kits & Nevis and Trinidadian Easter Caribbean immigrants decided to throw an impromptu carnival procession. Now over 40 years later, this event has flourished from around 100 people, into the largest celebration of Caribbean music and arts in the North West.
The parade kicks off at Alexandra Park, and families are strongly encouraged to dance along and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere. Don't forget to enjoy some of the fantastic food on offer: I've heard you can get your hands on some mean jerk chicken.
Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, Just So Festival is quite simply my favourite festival geared at young families. Taking place at Rode Hall in Cheshire, it has grown both in support and ambition over the years. Although day tickets are available, I would honestly urge people to spend the whole weekend....and definitely camp, immersing yourself in the absolute craziness that is Just So.
With outdoor theatre, lots of dancing, circus skills, pillow fights, and plenty more craziness, there's so much to do, and it's a wonderful way of dragging the kids away from their screens and into the great outdoors. In the evenings, families can enjoy songs around the campfire, cosying up in the woods for a film screening...and of course the stunning lantern parade.
Many families dress up, so if you haven't been before, don't worry about standing out....in fact, you're much more likely to stand out if you don't don some ears and a tail!
Although the details of Manchester Pride 2019 are yet to be released, the main event for families is almost certainly the parade, with around 150 floats and 10,000 walking participants recorded in 2018.
Manchester Pride is a huge event in the city's calendar
This year, organisers have hinted that there will be more events targeted specifically at families (as well as BAME LGBT people and women-only events), due to feedback received from consultations in 2018. Focus groups are being established to help shape these new events, so watch this space.
Tickets for Manchester Pride 2019 will go on sale on 31st January 2019.
Manchester Literature Festival offers some exciting events for families which are guaranteed to inspire both those who already have a love a reading and storytelling and those who are on the cusp of discovering the world of books. If you have a child or children that you want to encourage a love of literature, this is the festival for you.
Although this year's programme is yet to be announced, last year families could get involved in Comic Masterclasses, have a tea party with a tiger, enjoy family theatre about the Moomins and spend time in the company with Lauren Child (UK Children's Laureate and creator/illustrator of stories such as Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola.
Halloween in the City is back for 2019, offering plenty of treats as well as tricks for families. Previous years have seen an animatronic spider come to life, spooky dancing workshops, ghastly make-up lessons and ghostly trails. Many shops in the city centre usually join in with the ghastly fun, with ghoulish buildings and windows ready to spook their visitors.
More details will be released nearer the time, but make sure you get this date in your diary so you don't miss out on some spook-tastic fun.
Although I love a trip into Manchester city centre during the Christmas markets for a mug of mulled wine and a mooch around the stalls, since having children, I just find it too stressful with kids in tow. It's also expensive.
If you're not bothered about the stalls, and just fancy wrapping up warm and taking the kids ice skating, why not head to Bolton's Winter Festival instead? Here you will find ice skating at a fraction of the price. In 2018, it cost just £21 for a family of 4 (as opposed to £48 at Manchester Ice Rink). There's usually a Santa's Grotto too, whilst Bolton Council often offers free weekend car parking over the Christmas period. What more could you ask for?