A city break for a United family
We arrived at the wonderfully air-conditioned Macdonald Manchester Hotel after four-and-a-half unbearably sweaty hours in a car with broken aircon on the hottest day of the year. I’ve never been so glad to park up (in the hotel’s secure car park) and check in to our cool room where we’d be staying for the next couple of nights. After a shower and all four bottles of the mineral water provided, we started to feel human again and able to get into holiday mode.
Being a fan of one of the big Manchester football teams (c’mon the Red Devils!), I had visited the city many times but this was the first time I’d visited with my wife and children. We were keen to explore what Manchester has to offer a young family.
Budget or boutique?
For a family break this won’t break the bank.
Wining and dining
We opted to eat in the on-site, family-friendly Scottish Steakhouse restaurant, which opened for early dining (a must with tired little ones). The décor is appealing, with cow-hide lined chairs, chunky solid wood tables and floor to ceiling windows looking out over central Manchester.
For starter I chose the special of BBQ Old Spot ribs with sesame seeds and coleslaw which were juicy and flavoursome and my wife had the cheese and leek croquettes with mature cheddar fondue. These were so tasty that we had to come back the following night for more. The little jug of cheese sauce also proved a hit with my two-year-old daughter Sarah and the restaurant replenished our supply so she could enjoy it with her main dish too. For my main course I opted for the roasted topside of Highland venison stew, while Sine had the sirloin steak. Both were tender and delicious. From the children’s menu, we ordered the macaroni cheese and the mini burger sliders. Both were received well.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but my wife devoured enough of a “build your own” sundae for both of us, with two flavours of ice cream, brownie chunks and salted caramel sauce.
Breakfast is also served in the restaurant, which offers a hot buffet with all the trimmings plus a substantial continental selection.
Worth getting out of bed for
Travelling seven miles to the 280-store Intu Trafford Centre may sound like a tantrum inducer for the kids but we hit the Legoland Discovery Centre.
Our four-year-old Reuben was like a ninja warrior as he leapt around in excitement through the factory tour explaining the basics of Lego construction; zapping the skeletons and trolls with laser guns on the Kingdom Quest; and cycling to the stars on the Merlin apprentice ride. But the best was the 4D Lego Ninjago film that has the camera whooshing through training with mentor Master Wu – beware it rains, blows a gale and snows throughout to take the experience to a higher plane.
Next door is Sea Life Manchester which combines treasure hunting, games and fact-finding throughout the centre as we amble through the aquarium. A magical 3D floor projection of a turtle’s life from egg to sea welcomes you, before highlights of the shark shipwreck, the colourful coral reef and the smiley stingrays in the bay. This isn’t your run of the mill aquarium, it’s super hi-tech and full of clever interactive features that keep the family engaged and entertained.
We were staying in a spacious family room on the top floor, which had great views of Manchester’s industrial skyline. The room had two plump and comfy kingsize beds, table and chairs and plenty of space for the kids to play with their toys. Unlike my car, the aircon worked beautifully. The en-suite was large, modern with a family-sized power shower and a separate bath. There were ample fluffy towels for us all and Elemis toiletries.
With velvety robes and slippers, a TV with freeview, bottles of mineral water and an extensive room service menu, it was easy to relax in the room. There is also free wifi throughout the hotel.
This is an ideal sanctuary for a city break, with a friendly bar, quality restaurant, spa and family-friendly rooms.
Rates for a classic double bedroom with breakfast included start from £103. London Road, Manchester, M1 2PG, 0344 879 9088; www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk