Free Christmas things to do with the kids in Manchester in 2022

Save money and have fun this Christmas at these free events for children in Greater Manchester.
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Christmas has always been an expensive time of year and this year is no exception. And with the cost of living crisis and rising energy bills at the forefront of everyone’s mind, this year is set to be especially tough. But having fun this Christmas does not have to cost a fortune.

There are plenty of free events for kids happening this festive season in Greater Manchester. Here are some of our suggestions.


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Every Sunday from now until 18 December, a host of roaming performers will be taking to the streets of Manchester for a program of Festive Sundays. Some of the characters and creations include the Snow Globe, Living Lampposts, Mirror Men, Snow Fox Stilt Walkers, Penguins, Crumpet the Elf, Fat Cat Brass Band and an LED light-up band.

On 11 December, there is a yet-to-be-announced surprise coming to Manchester city centre, so keep your eyes peeled for that. All the times and specific locations for the Sunday street performances can be found on the Manchester City Council website.

The Arndale Centre is also hosting multiple free events and activities for children this festive season. The program includes craft workshops, TikTok dance classes, silent disco and silent storytime with Santa. Kids will also have the chance to make their own chocolate lollies, watch a film at the Candy Cane Cinema, and give their parents a makeover with the Paint a Parent event.

All this will take place at Candy Cane Central, in the upper mall, near The Works. Events are walk-in only and first-come-first-serve. More information can be found on the Arndale website.

It’s not Christmas in Manchester until the giant Santa arrives. Credit: Manchester City CouncilIt’s not Christmas in Manchester until the giant Santa arrives. Credit: Manchester City Council
It’s not Christmas in Manchester until the giant Santa arrives. Credit: Manchester City Council
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If you’re interested in history and crafts, the Portico Library has a free family workshop event on 3 December, 1-5pm, where you can make your own Victorian Christmas card.

Also on 3 December, 1-5pm, Moss Side Millennium Powerhouse is hosting a Winter Fair and light switch-on, where there will be a free prize draw, arts and crafts activities, music, games and performances.


The light show Lightwaves is returning to Salford Quays, running from Thursday 1 December to Sunday 4 December, 4-10pm. There will be lots of colourful installations, including the headline artwork Navvies, inspired by the role of the Irish labourers who worked on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal.

The historic Tudor mansion Ordsall Hall will be hosting a Winter Festival on 11 December, 12-3pm. There will be live performances, activities and refreshments, as well as visit from Santa himself.

Floating Earth by Luke Jerram at the Lightwaves festival. Photo: Chris PayneFloating Earth by Luke Jerram at the Lightwaves festival. Photo: Chris Payne
Floating Earth by Luke Jerram at the Lightwaves festival. Photo: Chris Payne


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There are several free Christmas events coming up in December at Rochdale’s Smallbridge Library, starting with a snow globe making workshop on 10 December, 11am-12pm. To book your place, contact [email protected], stating your name, your child’s name, their age and your contact details. Bookings must be made by 9 December.

On 19 and 20 December, the library is hosting a children’s board game event, where children can also colour in their own festive bookmarks, and there will be another christmas event on 22 December, including games and crafts. Children will also get to take home a Christmas goody bag. This event is suitable for children aged 3-8. You can book your free place via Eventbrite. The deadline for registering is 4pm, Wednesday 21 December.


There will be a free afternoon of winter activities for kids at Leigh Town Hall on Wednesday 21 December, including fun winter activities and crafts as well as a special festive sensory story session from the Short Story Lady. You can reserve a place on Eventbrite here.


Trafford Palazzo are kicking off their festive season with their free Christmas at TP Street launch event on 26 November. Inspired by the classic film Miracle on 34th Street, there will be live music, children’s entertainment, Christmas crafts including ‘Letters to Santa’ workshops and visits from ‘The Cheeky Elves.’ This event kicks off a whole four-week program of events, so keep checking their website for more information.

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