It seems ironic that the best family outings that we had over the long Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend last month were not at all Jubilee-related. I’ve already told you about my trip to the ballet with the geekdaughter, and whilst it’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this one, today I want to tell you about how much fun we had at what seemed at first a very unlikely destination. When some friends of ours who have a son a couple of months older than the geekson invited us to go to the Manchester Airport visitor park I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but we agreed to go along any way.
The entrance to the visitor park is pretty well hidden – there is one sign off the main road, but it’s very easy to miss. You’re more likely to spot the sign for the Romper pub (which incidentally is a very nice place to eat, and very child-friendly) than you are to spot the sign for the visitor park. You drive down a narrow lane that looks like it’s going to peter out at any minute, and then suddenly you arrive. There is plenty of parking space, and the various planes dotted around the car park got the kids excited from the first minute.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do at the visitor park. Obviously the main focus is the great panoramic view of the main runway – we never had to wait more than a couple of minutes between planes taking off or landing. There are several viewing platforms, but we found we had a great view without needing to stand on one of those. There’s a high, secure fence running the length of the viewing area, so I was happy to let both kids have a bit of a run around. The geekdaughter discovered the joy of rolling down a grassy slope after copying some older children that were already doing that, and the geekson was in his element just watching the runway activity. There were a lot of people around when we arrived, and we got chatting to a few of them who explained that it was almost time for the huge Emirates A380 to take off, which was quite a sight. They were right – it was amazing to watch, and if you can time your visit to see it it’s well worth it. Apparently people just come out to see that, as once it had left about half the people left the viewing platforms and there was suddenly quite a queue to leave the car park.
When the kids had had enough watching the planes we explored the rest of the visitor park. There were a couple of planes we could walk in to and explore, including a Concorde (but there’s an extra charge for that and you have to book). There’s a good outdoor play area for the kids, which the geekdaughter particularly enjoyed, although it was really better suited for slightly older kids, and a restaurant (which we didn’t try) and takeaway fast food counter (which served a passable cup of coffee). If you’d rather take your own food there are picnic tables and a lot of grass for picnicking. There’s also a shop selling a selection of plane-related toys and books.
We were lucky that the weather was good for our visit – with most of this attraction being outdoor it’s probably not the best place to go in the rain.
I had no doubts at all that the geekson would enjoy the outing, as he is a big fan of all vehicular transport, but I was impressed by how much the geekdaughter enjoyed it. She doesn’t usually like doing any one thing for too long, but she spent a good amount of time watching the planes, and then the play area kept her quiet for even longer! Even I found it an enjoyable outing, and the geekdaddy was in his element! It’s definitely somewhere we will go back to.
Parking costs £3 per hour to a maximum of £12 (if you walk, cycle or arrive by public transport then entry is free), and you can find loads of information on the visitor centre website.