Manchester! A contender for England’s second city and the home of Coronation Street, Oasis and two Premier League football teams. With a student population of over 90,000, there is so much to do and see within this city. However, as anyone who has ever visited Manchester knows, it rains here. A lot! In fact, in Manchester it rains a whopping 150 days a year, making the city almost famous for its weather alone. So here’s a handy guide to the 13 best indoor activities in Manchester. There’s something to keep everyone entertained during these many cold and rainy days.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Rebecca Bowers.
1. Get crazy at Junkyard Golf
Address: 2 First St, Manchester M15 4RP
Located just a few minutes’ walk away from Deansgate Train Station is Junkyard Golf, the home of indoor crazy golf in the city. A fun afternoon out with friends, family or for a date, this is easily one of the best indoor activities in Manchester.
What makes Junkyard Golf waaaaay better than regular crazy golf is the bars that sell alcohol around the 9-hole courses. It’s perfectly acceptable to drink and put! You can sit in their bar area for a pre or post-game drink. And a fun way to add competition between you and your golf buddies is to make the loser buy the first drinks! However, it’s just as much fun playing without the alcohol. And with three different courses to play on, with Circus, Jungle and Scrapyard themes, you can come back multiple times and still have a great time.!
Junkyard Golf is a relatively inexpensive trip too, with a round of off-peak golf costing just £8.50. There are also student discounts and half-price golf for NHS and emergency service staff. Close to restaurants, bars and the city centre, it’s in the perfect spot for an enjoyable afternoon or evening out.
2. Go bowling at Black Dog Ballroom
Address: Whitworth St W, Manchester M1 5WW
Phone number: 0161 228 2888
Another fun activity to bring out everyone’s competitive streaks, Black Dog Ballroom is similar to Junkyard Golf. Classic childhood activity + alcohol = guaranteed good fun. Open until 2 am most days with five full length ten pin bowling lanes, Black Dog Ballroom is one of the best indoor activities in Manchester for a rainy afternoon or a relaxed night out.
They’ve recently installed a number of retro arcade games to play inside. From Space Invaders to Mortal Kombat, they add an additional exciting element to Dog Bowl. They play throwback hits over the stereo, loud enough to cover up any (drunk!) singing. But also quiet enough to have a chat over, making it suitable for all occasions.
Within the ballroom is a seated dining area, serving burgers, hot dogs, loaded fries and desserts, with a surprising number of vegetarian dishes on offer. If you like a bargain they have a Beer, Bowl and Burger deal for £11, as well as half price with a valid student ID card.
3. Explore Manchester Cathedral
Address: Victoria St, Manchester M3 1SX
Phone number: 0161 833 2220
It took me almost four years of living in Manchester to actually visit the cathedral and I would highly recommend it if you are in the city centre. Situated off Exchange Square and opposite the Arndale Centre, it’s an ideal place to visit. Like many places of worship, it’s free to enter and is full of stunning stained glass and high stone archways. It’s a working cathedral with daily services which you can join in with, or respectfully observe.
Brimming with history, the cathedral itself dates back to the 13th century and was restored after being bombed in World War Two. Unlike many places on this list of indoor activities in Manchester, the cathedral is a very relaxing and thought-provoking place to wander around. If you’re a fan of history, religion or just appreciate beautiful buildings, this is must-see.
4. Go thrift shopping in the Northern Quarter
Address: Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 M4
Just north of Piccadilly Gardens and the city centre is the trendy, vibrant Northern Quarter. Full of independent shops, restaurants, bars and music venues, it’s a real hub for some of the best indoor activities in Manchester. A popular day out amongst Manchester’s student and graduate population is hopping through the many vintage and second-hand stores within the quarter.
Real bargains can be picked up, with Levi jeans and Barbour jackets nestled within wavy shirts and 80s-style jumpers. On the other hand, some of the clothes being sold would have been better left in the 1990s. But there is so much fun to be had trying on ridiculous outfits with your friends. Some of the shops offer Kilo Sales which, for anyone who has not come across this before, is where you pay for your clothes based on their weight. It can be seriously good value for money!
If you want to go on a thrift store browse, I’d recommend starting on Oldham Street, with stores such as Cow, Pop Boutique, and Blue Rinse at your fingertips. Here you’ll also find the indoor market Afflecks which houses a number of independent stores (including a cereal cafe!). With a vast array of cafes and restaurants in the Northern Quarter, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and drink after you have shopped until you drop.
5. The John Rylands Library
Address: 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH
Do not be deceived by the exterior of this building! If you want to feel like you have stepped into Hogwarts, look no further than the John Rylands Library, arguably one of the most enchanting buildings in the city. A public library owned by the University of Manchester, it’s open to visitors and students seven days a week.
You can walk through the dark stone corridors, exhibition rooms full of old books, and the main reading room. In this room, the ceiling is so high they have mirrors to help you view the intricate patterns and carvings. The library is home to more than 250,000 printed volumes and over a million archival items and manuscripts. Expect to find works by John Dalton and Elizabeth Gaskell.
There are seasonal special exhibitions that show off the extensive collections in the library. Previous exhibits include everything from the Reformation to Manchester’s own Peterloo Massacre. For children or your inner child, there’s a dressing up box where you can put on costume pieces and pose for photos in your new outfits. It really does feel like you’ve stepped back in time at the John Rylands!
6. Cloud 23
Address: Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ
Phone number: 0161 870 1688
For a truly memorable experience look no further, or should I say higher, than Cloud 23. This cocktail bar in the Hilton tower sits 23 stories off the ground, offering panoramic views of the city. You can see right across the Mancunian skyline and beyond. Although visibility may be slightly limited on the frequent rainy days! It’s equally beautiful to visit at night and watch the tiny cars and buses speed by below.
I’d recommend booking your spot at Cloud 23 in advance as it’s very popular. Those without reservations often have to queue to get in. The cocktails on offer are on the city’s pricier end but are reflective of the location and the quality. All of them can be made non-alcoholic to cater to everyone too! If you don’t wish to drink, they offer afternoon tea on Fridays and Saturdays with sweet and savoury treats on a tiered stand. For a fancy evening out, or to celebrate a special event, Cloud 23 is certainly one of the most unforgettable indoor activities in Manchester.
7. Science and Industry Museum
Address: Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP
Phone number: 0800 047 8124
Did you know that we have a one-time zone across the UK because of the train lines? That’s just one fact you can wow your friends with thanks to a trip to the Science and Industry Museum. The museum has renovated one of the oldest modern train stations to house exhibits on the history of locomotives in the UK.
Planes, trains and automobiles all have exhibitions in the museum, but you’ll also find exhibits on power, sanitation, computing and communication. I first visited the museum on a rainy afternoon, seeking shelter inside, and had a really good time wandering around the museum. The half a million visitors who go every year can’t be wrong! The museum is free to enter and there’s no need to pre-book. Although if you wish to avoid hordes of school-aged children I’d recommend going on a weekday.
8. The Pankhurst Centre
Address: 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester, M13 9WP
Phone number: 0161 273 5673
Infamous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was born in Moss Side, Manchester and her home has since been transformed into a museum to honour the legacy of Pankhurst and the women she inspired. The very first Women’s Social and Political Union meeting was held here, and it is inspiring to walk around the home of the suffrage movement.
Guided tours are available, either just for the Pankhurst Centre or in conjunction with the home of Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell. The Pankhurst Centre is only open to the public on Thursdays because it is used as a Women’s Aid centre for the rest of the week. In helping victims of domestic abuse, the centre continues the legacy of its namesake by helping women in need.
9. Chill Factore
Address: 7 Trafford Way, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M41 7JA
Phone number: 0161 749 2222
If you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to get their heart racing, then head over to Chill Factore, the UK’s longest indoor ski slope. Due to its size, it’s located outside the city centre and takes about 20 minutes by car from Piccadilly Station. But the variety of activities on offer makes this extra effort worth it!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert to make the most of Chill Factore, as ski and snowboard lessons are available. While fairly pricey at £100 for a 50-minute Off-Peak beginner lesson, this price includes boots, skis and poles and a helmet. Plus, it’s certainly cheaper than flying to the Alps!
Alternatively, the Snow Park offers visitors the chance to race down slopes on inflatable rubber rings and sledges or speed down the Ice Slide. Or if you prefer the challenge of going up rather than down, you can tackle the 12-metre climbing wall. This is one of the most fun-filled indoor activities in Manchester. Perfect for family adventures, an afternoon with friends, or to challenge your date!
10. National Football Museum
Address: Urbis Building Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, Manchester M4 3BG
Phone number: 0161 605 8200
As well as being home to two of the biggest football clubs in England, Manchester houses the National Football Museum, a must-see for any footie fan. Just off Exchange Square, the Urbis Building is a striking glass structure with more than 140,000 football-related items within its walls. Exhibitions include the story of the football shirt through 200 jerseys, replicas of the Jules Rimet and Premier League trophies, and FA Cup Winners’ Medals from throughout the 20th century.
They also have interactive events such as a Wembley Penalty Shootout, with analysis of your kick’s speed, power and precision, the Match of the Day Commentary Challenge and Pass Master games. If you or your friends have always wondered who would have made it as a professional football player, now is the chance to prove yourself.
You can view the whole of the museum in around an hour. But to make the most of the opportunities, you’ll want to dedicate a longer time. City of Manchester residents have free access to the museum. Otherwise, it is £10.50 to book online. Tickets give unlimited access for a year so you can visit multiple times to see the latest exhibitions. Although it is a little way away from the Etihad and Old Trafford Stadiums, it would be the perfect accompaniment to any football matchday.
11. Bongo’s Bingo
Address: Albert Hall, 27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR
Think that bingo is just a game your grandmother plays? Think again! Bongo’s Bingo is a crazy hybrid of the retirement-home game and a nightclub event. You play to win bizarre prizes that change weekly. They’ve been as wide-ranging as a life-size cardboard cut-out of Ainsley Harriot, a bottle of Baileys, £200 cash and fancy dress costumes.
A night out at Bongo’s Bingo includes playing a number of rounds of bingo, with a dance-off between contestants, 90’s music singalongs and raves between rounds. Taking place once a week at the Albert Hall, it’s a hilarious evening out in itself. Or it works as a great warm-up to get your night started. A testament to how much fun it is how quickly the tickets sell out. You have to plan ahead for this very funny night!
12. The Washhouse
Address: 19 Shudehill, Manchester M4 2AF
Phone number: 0161 839 5287
The first rule of The Washhouse is don’t tell anyone about The Washhouse. Except when writing an article about the best indoor activities in Manchester. What looks like an ordinary laundrette full of washing machines and fading linoleum, is in fact a Prohibition-style Speakeasy.
It’s hard to describe the adventure of going into The Washhouse without ruining some of its charm, but I can tell you it involves speaking secret codes and doors hidden in plain sight. With leather booths, low lighting and exposed brick walls, you feel like you could be in 1920s New York.
They have an extensive range of cocktails and mocktails, local and international spirits, wine, beer, and champagne. If you want a one of a kind time out, this will tick all the boxes. You must book your table by calling in advance. Their number can be found on their website, alongside all the cleaning services they most certainly do NOT offer!
13. The Crystal Maze
Address: The Crystal Maze Studios, Lower Byrom St, Manchester M3 4FP
Phone number: 0161 791 0727
Have you ever wanted to be on TV, but are scared of making a fool of yourself in front of millions? Well here is your ideal day out. At the Crystal Maze LIVE Experience, you can take part in the classic 1990’s TV show. With your team of friends, you’ll face mental and physical challenges in the Aztec, Industrial, Futuristic and Medieval Zones to earn crystals. The more crystals you earn, the better chance you have in The Crystal Dome.
Lasting 75 minutes, it’s a fully immersive activity with challenges for all ages and skillsets. The Crystal Maze LIVE only has two locations in the UK, so it’s a great experience to go for when visiting Manchester. All applicants must be over 1.2 metres tall and must be physically fit enough to stand for the duration, and walk up and downstairs. As long as you are able to meet these criteria, it’s a great way to have fun with friends and feel like you are starring in a TV show.
Next time you are planning a city break, or are visiting Manchester to see friends or for work, I hope this handy guide of the best indoor activities in Manchester helps you enjoy the city whatever the weather. As many of these indoor activities in Manchester are free, they are also great if you’re on a tight budget. Manchester is a great city, brimming with culture and experiences. So make sure it’s at the top of your should be top of your list of UK city breaks!