I love Christmas and I enjoy local events that allow me to get into the Christmas spirit. But there isn’t an endless pot of money and you can’t do it all. So is Lightopia Manchester worth the outlay? Here’s my take:
What is Lightopia?
Lightopia is described by organisers as “an immersive and visually-dramatic lantern and light festival”. They also describe it as an “interactive outdoor event”.
I would call it a light trail, with a mini light show over a lake. I was expecting lots of Christmassy music too, but I didn’t hear much of that during our stroll.
Where does this light event take place?
Lightopia Manchester is in Heaton Park. For those that aren’t familiar with the area, Heaton Park is a 600-acre space, which is located to the north of the city.
What dates and times can you book?
The dates vary slightly, from year to year, but you can expect it to start around 24 November and to end around 2 January.
Each day the site is open between 5pm and 10pm and last entry is 8:30pm, daily. During the pandemic, visitors had strict arrival times to avoid overcrowding, but things have settled down since.
How much does it cost?
- Adults: from £17.50
- Child (aged 3-16): from £11
- Child (aged 2 or under): free
- Family ticket (two adults and two children): from £49
All tickets are subject to additional transactional and booking fees. It’s also worth mentioning that they often appear on discount websites, so you may be able to get tickets for even less than the price quoted above.
How long does it take to explore Lightopia?
It takes around 90 minutes to walk around the trail, but give yourself three hours minimum. You need to factor in the walk, time to explore and getting in and out of the car park.
Additional tips for a great visit to the festival of light
Heaton Park is a destination that I’d usually drive to, as using the Metrolink service isn’t convenient in terms of where I live. But, I didn’t know that I’d need to purchase additional car parking tickets until a friend mentioned it to me. So I paid an extra £5.30 for a car parking ticket, plus an additional 50p booking fee. I very easily could have ended up turning up to the event without a parking ticket and I would have then been in a pickle, so if you decide to go along, look into the parking set up before you go. Make sure you know which car park you have a spot in too, otherwise you might drive to the wrong one like I did!
If you are able to choose when you arrive, I’d suggest that you get there as early as possible. That way, you will have plenty of time to explore each light display. It also means that the kids hopefully won’t be too tired by the time you reach the end of the trail.
I’d also advise that you pop to the toilet when you enter the park. There are some additional toilet facilities towards the end of the trail, but you won’t find a toilet in the middle, which could be tricky if your six year old decides they need a wee half way through.
I’d pack some snacks too and I’d take some tea in a flask if it’s a particularly cold night.
Is it worth it?
The purpose of this post isn’t for me to talk in detail about the lights. But I will say this; the displays were pretty and there was plenty to look at. During our 2021 visit I was a bit disappointed by the show on the lake, as it didn’t last long and it didn’t have any music to go alongside it. But overall, I’d say that myself and my family enjoyed our visit to Lightopia.
But I don’t think I will be returning any time soon. If I am booking a ticket for a Christmas experience, then I expect to feel festive cheer. I want Christmas music, I want to feel like I’m walking through a winter wonderland. But Lightopia didn’t evoke those feelings in me. It was good, but we could easily have been walking through the trail in February. It just didn’t seem to have any festive sparkle to it.
If Lightopia had that magical festive feel and if there wasn’t a range of other Christmassy activities to do in our area, then perhaps I’d consider returning. But this festival doesn’t light any festive cheer, so it’s a no form me. That said, I have seen that Lightopia has reduced the price of tickets, rather than putting the price up. I think that the new pricing structure (mentioned above) offers much better value and perhaps, if I spotted Lightopia tickets on a discount website in the future, I’d give the tour another go.
Have you been? What did you think?
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