With its glut of malls, museums, and music venues, Manchester isn’t a place that gets dull easily. But if you're planning a longer trip, or maybe you’re a local searching for some fresh weekend activities, there’s no shortage of intriguing attractions on its doorstep.
National parks, handsome heritage sites, and golden coastlines all provide a little respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Pack up the car or head to the train station and get ready to explore the best day trip destinations from Manchester.
Liverpool is packed with culture
Why go: Great museums in one of the UK's best cities for nightlife
Another northern city with a distinct cultural identity is Liverpool. Locals – known as Scousers – couldn’t be prouder of their home. And who could blame them? There are plenty of attractions, including a world-renowned football club. The buzzing nightlife scene has helped elevate the city to one of the best places to go for adults near Manchester.
Liverpool was once one of the richest cities in Europe. Wander around the Georgian Quarter that’s lined with elegant townhouses or venture through the incongruously modern Liverpool ONE shopping area to the Royal Albert Dock. It’s steeped in history and home to several museums and galleries, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Tate Liverpool.
Elsewhere, you’ll spot neon artwork by Tracey Emin in the immense Liverpool Cathedral and a slew of cool bars and restaurants in the recently regenerated Baltic Triangle. Is your go-to karaoke song “Hey Jude”? Don’t skip the Beatles Story. It might be cheesy, but it’s jam-packed with Fab Four memorabilia and even has a full-size mock-up of Abbey Road Studios.
How to get to Liverpool from Manchester: Liverpool is close to Manchester, with just 35 miles (56km) separating them. Catch a direct train from Manchester’s three major stations or drive there in under an hour.
The Peak District is perfect for a scenic day out
Why go: Epic hiking trails and cozy pubs
For fresh air and scenic mountain vistas as far as the eye can see, you can’t beat a trip to the Peak District. It’s one of several national parks accessible from Manchester and a haven for hikers of all abilities.
Edale is the destination of choice for daytrippers thanks to its direct train route from Manchester. From there, trek up Mam Tor and walk along Great Ridge to Back Tor, or drop down into idyllic Castleton. Explore the village’s ruined Peveril Castle – a former royal hunting lodge – and tuck into a hearty pub lunch at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn.
Alternatively, you could hike to Kinder Scout, the highest point in the region. There's a circular route from Edale station that takes around five hours to complete. It’s steep in places and sometimes unmarked, so a map is a must.
How to get to the Peak District from Manchester: Edale is 30 miles (48km) east of the city. Trains take 50 minutes from Manchester Victoria, while the drive is about an hour.
Hebden Bridge is a top day trip by train
Why go: Tap into your creative side
You’ll find the charming locale of Hebden Bridge tucked away in the West Yorkshire countryside. Once an industrial town that fell into disrepair, an influx of artists, photographers and writers descended upon its beautiful cobbled streets in the 1980s and revitalized the entire area. Hebden Bridge is now an eclectic gem and is one of the top day trip destinations from Manchester by train.
In addition to its charming canalside pubs, quaint tea rooms, and independent shops (including the old mill that now houses vintage stores and artists' studios), Hebden Bridge is well-known for its creative links. Many of its past and present residents have been writers and musicians, including Ed Sheeran and Benjamin Myers.
If you have time, walk up the hill into Heptonstall. The sleepy village is one of the oldest in the region and its cemetery – complete with an eerie yet beautiful ruined church – is the final resting place of Sylvia Plath.
How to get to Hebden Bridge from Manchester: Hebden Bridge is 29 miles (47km) from Manchester. Trains from Manchester Victoria take around 30 minutes or you can drive in 55 minutes.
York's interactive museums are great for a family day out
Why go: Soak up a tapestry of history
York is one of the top places to visit within two hours of Manchester, thanks in part to its incredible history. Walls that once protected the city from invading Vikings encircle a web of medieval streets, while traditional 16th-century pubs house Roman relics in their basements.
York Minster is an unmissable behemoth on the city’s skyline and a must-see for first-timers. It’s a particularly good destination for family day trips. Kids will no doubt enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Yorvik Viking Centre and the tantalizing workshops on offer at York’s Chocolate Story.
Elsewhere, stroll down the cobbles of The Shambles where wonky, timber-framed buildings hide boutique shops selling everything from old-fashioned sweets to Harry Potter souvenirs. Hungry? Grab a homemade pie from the Hairy Fig deli or indulge in a classic cream tea at Bettys.
How to get to York from Manchester: Despite being 74 miles (120km) northeast of Manchester, York can be reached in 80 minutes by rail and about 90 minutes by road.
Tatton Park has acres of gardens, woodland, and parkland
Why go: Explore Tatton Hall’s leafy grounds
If lazy jaunts around elegant manor houses are more your thing, put Tatton Park on your radar. Situated on the fringes of oldy-worldy Knutsford in rural Cheshire, it’s a brilliant example of Tudor architecture and is completely enveloped by lush woodland.
While the National Trust Tatton Hall, its landscaped gardens, and farm (a hit with kids) are ticketed, the 1000+ acres of parkland are free to enter on foot or bicycle. Tatton Park hosts some brilliant events throughout the year, too. Brides- and grooms-to-be should check out the Wedding Show in January/February, while gourmands can look forward to the UK-wide Foodies Festival making an appearance in July.
How to get to Tatton Park from Manchester: Tatton Park is only 17 miles (27km) from the city. The drive takes 30 minutes in good traffic. You can also get a train to Knutsford and either catch a bus to the hall or walk a mile through the park.
Spend a day at the seaside at Formby Beach
Why go: Rare wildlife in sandy dunes
Formby Beach sits up the coast from Liverpool and its rolling dunes form part of a National Trust site. On sunny days, people from far and wide flock to Formby to sunbathe, picnic, and play games on the sand. Those brave enough to face a swim in the bracing Irish Sea will find a section staffed by lifeguards between June and September. A fragrant pine forest also fringes the dunes and you might just spot rare red squirrels scampering into the trees.
How to get to Formby Beach from Manchester: Formby sits 45 miles (72km) west of Manchester. There’s a station in Formby town, but the journey includes a change in Liverpool. Driving is much easier and takes 60–90 minutes.
Chester is the best day out with kids
Why go: Roman history, a beautiful riverside, and an epic zoo
Chester is one of the best days out near Manchester for families with kids. The attractive city hosts ancient Roman City Walls and a lovely riverside where you can hire pedalos and savor ice cream from locally-loved Snugburys. What’s more, Chester is the location of the UK’s largest and most impressive zoo.
Chester Zoo sits a five-minute drive from the city center (or a 25-minute bus ride) and features over 20,000 creatures, from cheeky meerkats to rare white rhinos. In recognition of its responsibility to animal welfare, the zoo runs various conservation programs focused on preventing the extinction of numerous endangered species.
How to get to Chester from Manchester: Chester is 40 miles (64km) southwest of Manchester. Hop on a train from Manchester Victoria, Oxford Road or Piccadilly and arrive an hour later. Or, drive in the same amount of time.
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