Best Things to do in Manchester this year: 2020

Inflatables, cocktails, kilts, and the world's best festivals: this is the only calendar you need for 2020.

Adaptogen Bottomless Yoga Brunch @ The Cotton Factory
Sunday 12th January
Give your ‘new-year-new-me’ the ultimate kick-start, with The Cotton Factory’s complete yoga/juicing/protein/brunching/fitness package. The easiest (and most instagrammable) way to one-up your mates’ dry January. The event includes a health shot on arrival, a 60 minute yoga class, a pressed juice reviver and a Q&A session with Supernova Protein on the brand, adaptogens and fitness, followed by bottomless brunch served by Peru Perdu with Supernova smoothie bowls. In the beautiful setting of The Cotton Factory, feel like you’re an L.A. model on a cold Manchester morning.

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Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2020
Wednesday 22nd – Saturday 25th January
The North’s biggest celebration of beer, lager, pints, wet ones, slurps, jars, scoops – whatever you call ’em – you’re going to have access to A LOT at the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival 2020. Taking place at Manchester Central, CAMRA are going to fill the space with beers and ciders from all over the North, as well as a fair few guest UK and international beers to top it all off. Expect plenty of food to be knocking around too.

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Burns Night @ BrewDog
Saturday 25th January
OK, cancel dry January. It’s Burns Night, baby: the edgier little brother of St. Paddy’s day. Choose to celebrate it with BrewDog and drink Scottish beer all night, try their boiler maker mini-flights, or, dedicate yourself by eating nothing but their special-edition haggis burger. They’re also offering a free pint of Punk IPA to anyone brave enough to sport a kilt on the night. And you might need it. You know what they say…

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Valentine’s Day @ Blind Tyger
Friday 14th February
I don’t want to panic you, but you’ve got a month to find a date for Blind Tyger’s Cocktail Making For Two. The expert bar team will welcome you in with a drink, then let you get behind the bar and see what you can shake up, with your own choice of spirits, liqueurs & mixers. You’ll then take a cocktail giftset home (and maybe something, or someone, else – if you’re lucky). Go with your soulmate, your best mate, or your mam – at only £30 per couple, there’s no excuse not to.

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Back to the Future The Musical
Thursday 20th February – Sunday 17th May
In what could possibly be the most unlikely of musical adaptations (well, apart from Schindler’s List) – Back to the Future heads to the theatre this year with the promise of being a show that will ‘change history’. Whether it will do still remains to be seen, and I suppose there are a couple of musical moments in the film, like when Marty is singing at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance at the end. Hmmm – let’s see eh?

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TEDxManchester 2020
Saturday 29th February
The always excellent TED are heading to the Bridgewater Hall once again this year and as you’d expect – the line-up of guest speakers is impressive. There’s James Bloodworth, a man billed as a ‘Big Tech Investigator’ who’ll be talking about ‘Why The Gig Economy is a SCAM’, alongside Sarah Bridle; a Climate Cosmologist who’ll be looking at how we can change our diet to reduce climate impact. There are loads more including Ged King, Stacey Copeland, David Epstein and more.

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Rain Dance Colour Festival @ Bowlers Exhibition Centre
Saturday 14th March
What even happens between Christmas and Summer? Is it nothing but a blank void? The weird little month of March is now home to Rain Dance Colour Festival – if this doesn’t literally brighten up your Springtime, nothing will. Get ready for this whopper of a list: international DJs, live performers, a street food forest, huge colour bursts and colour play, confetti blasts, and indoor fireworks. Consider it kind of like the colour run, but for those of us who prefer to eat, dance and be happy, rather than exercise and be sad.

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Cirque du Soleil: Crystal
Wednesday 1st – Sunday 5th April
Any trip to Vegas will uncover a wealth of Cirque du Soleil shows, each one complete with a gaggle of bendy, stretchy people who enjoy heights and death-defying jumps. It’s not often that we get to check these masters out over here but this year we are lucky enough to be graced with ‘Crystal’ in April, Cirque’s first acrobatic performance on ice! So, it’ll sort of be a bit like Dancing on Ice but with fewer falls and no Philip Schofield. Win Win.

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Gung-Ho! @ Heaton Park
Saturday 4th April
It’s the world’s biggest inflatable obstacle course. Fulfil all your Wipeout-orientated fantasies, running through oversized hurdles, looking like a pillock, being narrated by Richard Hammond. Taking it seriously, it’s an intense burst of exercise over 5k of ground. Or, don’t take it seriously, and roll around, swing in the air and get covered in foam with your mates. You’ll need the bank holiday weekend to recover.

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Sounds From The Other City @ Chapel Street, Salford
Saturday 2nd May
The festival season is creeping in, and no better way to kick it off with Sounds From The Other City. Salford’s most-loved venues open their doors to highly-considered and curated line-ups of the finest new alt, indie, rock, bass, new dance, weirdo folk, performance art and noise. Although this years hasn’t been announced yet, it is always a certainty that their acts are the ones-to-watch of the future; past alumni include Alt-J and Marina and The Diamonds. And at £25 a pop, who can really argue?

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PLAY Expo
Saturday 9th & Sunday 10th May
The North’s biggest video gaming expo is back this year and they’re promising that it’ll be bigger and better than ever before. Bold claims indeed. What is it? Well, it’s a huge weekend of gaming, retro consoles and computers, classic arcade machines, pinball, tournaments, cosplay contests, special guests, talks, board games and loads more. If it’s not here it’s not worth even bothering with.

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Dot to Dot Festival @ Manchester
Friday 22nd May
Yes, another festival, but another unmissable festival. Similar to SFTOC above, it’s a metropolitan fest perfect for those on the hunt for new and underground sounds that cut away from the mainstream. The award-winning team pride themselves on showcasing the best new talent on the planet. Who knows? You could be first to unearth the next Foals, or, SBTRKT and brag about it for years to come.

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Trixie Mattel: Grown Up
Thursday 28th May
Drag Queen and YouTube sensation, Trixie Mattel will be heading to the Opera House this May with her one-woman show ‘Grown Up’. I’m not entirely sure what’s in store during the show but you can probably expect plenty of stories, cabaret, singing, dancing and everything else in between. As winner of Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race – you know you’re in good (and perfectly manicured) hands.

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Parklife @ Heaton Park
Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th June
Parklife is an INSTITUTE. You are not an official Mancunian until you have been waiting for a bus home in wellies that hold more rainwater than human foot after dancing to the biggest artists in music ever (Cardi B, Solange and The Streets are only a couple of last years massive names). No matter how hard it tries, the weather can’t drag the high spirits down. It’s a rite of passage that never loses its fun, and only gets bigger and better every year. Wake me up when they’re announcing the line-up for 2020.

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Sister Act
Monday 22nd June – Saturday 4th July
Made famous by Whoopi Goldberg and a fat woman in a nun’s outfit, Sister Act took 1992 by storm – helped in part by a great turn from Harvey Keitel and the usual stoic performance by Dame Maggie Smith. As with most things nowadays (see Back to the Future) it’s been turned into a musical – which probably wasn’t as hard as other films due to the fact that it’s already a quasi-musical in the first place. It’ll be heading to the Palace Theatre for a few weeks in the Summer – don’t miss it.

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Bluedot Festival @ Jodrell Bank Observatory
23-26 July
Bluedot is the perfect inbetween for those who can’t hack the huge crowds of the incredibly popular Parklife, but who still seek great quality line-ups to soundtrack what will inevitably be some of the most magical nights of your life. Against the unique backdrop of Jodrell Bank, an illuminated 42ft telescope, Bluedot will blow your mind with out-of-this-world artists (last year includes Hot Chip and New Order) so you can be doing more than one type of stargazing.

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‘The Gincident’ Gin Cocktail Cruise @ Castlefield Bowl
Friday 10th July
If festivals aren’t your sort of pace, I think this definitely will be. I won’t add any frills or bells (because I don’t need to). It’s simply a cruise down the River Irwell with 7 gin-heavy drinks, and huge sharing platters of cured meats, cheeses and freshly baked bread on a summer evening. Whether it be the ultimate summer cool-down for you and your mates, or a romantic cruise for two, this event puts normal gin-drinking to absolute shame.

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Manchester Pride – The Big Weekend
Friday 28th – Monday 31st August
An unmissable event every year – get it on your calendars, stat. Pride is not only pretty much the best weekend of the year in Manchester, but is one of the most culturally important events year-round. Make sure when you’re partying in your hot pants and getting glittered beyond recognition to support the charities out on the streets challenging discrimination in Greater Manchester. That’s partying in the name of greater good.

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The Gin & Rum Festival @ Manchester Cathedral
Friday 4th & Saturday 5th September
So, summer’s officially over. And what’s the perfect remedy to post-holiday blues? Gin, obviously. For your £15 ticket, you get two free 50ml miniature spirit bottles, a glass (worth £5) and bag, a knowledgeable Gin and Rum guide to steer you through the festival, unlimited Schweppes tonics and mixers, and, masterclasses from local and international Gin and Rum makers. The festival will fill the iconic Manchester Cathedral with music from their award-winning resident DJ and street food from on-site vendors. Who says festivals are better in Summer?

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The Village Screen Halloween @ Victoria Baths
Saturday 31st October
When you’re too old to go to strangers’ houses to demand free confectionery, the Village Screen at Victoria Baths sounds like a great replacement. Every year, they screen horror classics for you to experience in the ultimate way: with a pop-up bar serving themed cocktails, wine, fizz, beer and hot drinks. Last year, Village Screen’s resident DJ played tunes for the punters before they settled down to watch The Conjouring, joined by local food vendors. If you’re a horror-head, or willing to take the plunge to watch with the lights out – this is how you should spend your Halloween.

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Escape Rooms @ Breakout Manchester
Sure, you can do this all year round, but what better day to book in than Saturday 31st October? There’s nothing more Halloween-y than being locked in a deeply unsettling room which you have to escape, or face probable death (if horror movies have taught me anything). Why not try the ‘Cursed Carnival’ room, if clowns and dolls are your thing. Or, if coulrophobia still follows you from that one childhood party, try the abandoned-hospital themed room, ‘Disturbed.’ Sounds like a jolly good time.

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Bonfire Night @ 20 Stories
Thursday 5th November
A severely underrated calendar date is 5th November. No pressure of presents, or resolutions, or biblical undertones (in fact, there’s something quietly anarchic about the whole thing). Just a night on which everyone chooses whatever they want to do. However, I would recommend choosing to book in at 20 Stories for the night. As one of the highest bars and restaurants in Manchester, you are guaranteeing yourself the best view in town of 360 degree pyrotechnics. Make a meal of it (literally), or just go for drinks, and have your Bonfire Night your way.

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Elton John
Tuesday 17th & Saturday 28th November
If he manages to live this long – this will probably be your last chance to catch Elton John live in the flesh ever – so make sure you shell out for a ticket! There’s not much point in giving this geezer an introduction – everyone in the world knows who he is and knows his songs – so I won’t bother. He’s playing two dates at the Manchester Arena so you’ve got double the opportunity to catch him.

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A Refuge Christmas Carol @ The Refuge
December
I agree – way too early to be discussing next year’s Christmas. I’m sure we’ve all had enough and are already halfway into our shorts and bikinis with anticipation for warmer days. However, A Refuge Christmas Carol is seriously worth waiting for. A month full of incredibly diverse activities – from the family friendly to the booziest boogies, with a few choirs and drag queens thrown in for good measure. Last year saw the likes of wreath-making and town-crying (guest featuring our editor Ben Brown, obvs). I already know what I want for Christmas next year.

December bonus round: their NYE events are always pretty great too.

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