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Guide

Free things to do in Manchester on a rainy day

7 months ago

It’s raining, you’re skint, and the kids are off school. Welcome to summer 2023. Thankfully, not all family days out have to empty your bank account. There are plenty of free things to do in Manchester that don’t involve going to the park (again) or forcing your offspring on a nature walk in a downpour.

Here we’ve gathered together 14 free days out for families in Manchester where you won’t get wet (unless you’re taking advantage of the free children’s swim sessions that is – Manchester Aquatics Centre is one of the venues offering these).

All these museums, galleries and visitor attractions are free entry. And while most will ask for a donation to help them stay open, it’s worth remembering that simply by adding to their visitor numbers, you’re helping them secure public funding, so you don’t need to feel bad if you can’t afford to contribute financially.

  • Bolton Museum in Bolton city centre
    Bolton

    Bolton Museum

    Museums

    Bolton Museum is much more than just your standard local history-focused collection. Because of its links with the cotton trade, this unassuming town has an internationally recognised collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.

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  • Oldham

    Gallery Oldham

    Art Galleries

    Gallery Oldham in the town’s Cultural Quarter features artworks and items from Oldham’s diverse collections alongside newly commissioned art, international work, touring exhibitions and work produced with local communities.

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  • Northern Quarter

    Greater Manchester Police Museum

    Museums

    Greater Manchester Police Museum is housed in an 1879 police station with original cells and charge office. Downstairs, you can look at displays of police vehicles, equipment and evidence whilst upstairs there is an 1895 magistrate’s court so you can play judge – or criminal.

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  • The Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays
    Book Now Salford Quays

    Imperial War Museum North

    Museums

    This quayside location in Trafford Park was bombed heavily during WW2 so it’s especially appropriate that it was chosen as the home of the Imperial War Museum North. 

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  • The Lowry is an art gallery and theatres at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester
    Salford Quays

    The Lowry

    Comedy Venues

    Flagship arts venue The Lowry was at the heart of 1990s’ plans to breathe new life back into Salford Quays. Now in its third decade, it’s maintained its reputation as one of Greater Manchester’s top visitor attractions thanks to a lively, ever-evolving programme of art, music, theatre, comedy and more.

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  • Manchester Art Gallery in Manchester city centre
    Manchester City Centre

    Manchester Art Gallery

    Art Galleries

    Mosey down Mosley Street between Piccadilly Gardens and St Peter’s Square, and you can’t miss the Greek columns that flank the front of Manchester Art Gallery. It’s one of Manchester’s most visited cultural attractions thanks to its central location and extensive collection of historical and contemporary art.

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  • Manchester Museum
    Oxford Road

    Manchester Museum

    Museums

    Manchester Museum reopened in February 2023 following a £15m transformation to make it more inclusive and more imaginative in how it tells its stories.

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  • Ordsall Hall in Salford
    Salford

    Ordsall Hall

    Historic Buildings & Sites

    Ordsall Hall is a piece of Tudor history just a short walk from the contemporary comings and goings of Salford Quays. Please note: it’s closed on Bank Holiday Monday.

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  • The door to 62 Nelson Street, where the Pankhurst family lived, and now the home of the Pankhurst Centre museum.
    Book Now Oxford Road

    The Pankhurst Centre

    Museums

    The Pankhurst Centre is the former home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her family. Open to the public on Thursday and Sundays, it’s now a museum dedicated to the story of the fight for women’s right to vote.

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  • The People's History Museum in Manchester.
    Spinningfields

    People’s History Museum

    Museums

    The People’s History Museum tells the story of the development of democracy in Britain. It’s the only museum in the UK that focuses on the revolutionaries, reformers, workers, voters, and citizens who believed in ideas worth fighting for, like equality, social justice and co-operation.

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  • Canal boats outside Portland Basin Museum in Ashton-under-Lyne
    Ashton-under-Lyne

    Portland Basin Museum

    Historic Buildings & Sites

    Step inside the restored nineteenth-century Ashton Canal Warehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne and you’ll find the Portland Basin Museum. With exciting, accessible exhibitions, it’s a great place to learn about the people, history and places that have shaped Tameside’s past.

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  • Salford

    Salford Museum & Art Gallery

    Art Galleries

    Salford Museum and Art Gallery was the UK’s first free public library when it opened in 1850. The building was formerly a private mansion built in the 1790’s known as Lark Hill, which gave its name to Lark Hill Place, an immersive Victorian street within the museum.

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  • The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester
    Castlefield

    Science and Industry Museum

    Museums

    Much like the once mighty industrial power of the North, Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum has shrunk noticeably over the years. But it’s still well worth a visit.

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  • The Whitworth is one of Manchester's leading art galleries
    Oxford Road

    The Whitworth

    Art Galleries

    Any art lover’s trip to Manchester would not be complete without a morning or afternoon spent gazing at the walls (and wallpaper collections) of The Whitworth.

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