There’s loads of things to experience in Bolton – but how many have you actually done?
Steeped in heritage and culture both historical and modern, there’s plenty of offerings for all tastes, whether you’re local or just visiting.
We’ve put together a list of 40 things to tick off in and around Bolton to get you started on your way to experiencing the best of the borough.
Some might seem obvious, others you might never have heard of, but all are entirely worth a mention.
Special thanks to the ‘I belong to Bolton’ Facebook group who helped with their suggestions.
How many can you cross off our ultimate Bolton Bucket List?
Watch Bolton Wanderers play at home
They may be some way off the heights reached during the Sam Allardyce era, but Bolton is still immensely proud of its football club.
Four time FA Cup winners and one of the founder members of the Football League, Wanderers is a club steeped in history.
Now in League One, times have been tough for the club in recent years – but a visit to the University of Bolton Stadium is something all Boltonians must experience at least once.
Shop until you drop at Middlebrook
The UK’s largest retail and leisure park has plenty of things to do on a day out.
Whether it is taking in the shops, dining at one of the many restaurants, a trip to the cinema or bowling alley, it’s a popular spot for many Boltonians.
Dine at Britain’s best curry house
Hot Chilli, in Bromley Cross, scooped the champion of champions award at the Asian Restaurant & Takeaway Awards in October.
The restaurant, which has been open since 2011, specialises in eastern Indian cuisine and boasts an extensive menu for all tastes.
Pull off into paradise
When Phoenix Nights, a sitcom set in a working men’s club in Bolton, first aired in the early 2000s it became a major national success and catapulted many of its stars on to bigger and better things.
Bringing us iconic characters such as Brian Potter, Jerry St. Clair and doormen Max and Paddy, the show is still quoted by many to this day.
Fans can actually pay a visit to the Phoenix Club, which is in fact St Gregory’s Social Club in Farnworth, and guided tours are available upon request.
Try a pint at one of the town’s many breweries
Bolton is awash with great breweries at the moment and beer lovers certainly don’t have a shortage of options to choose from.
Two of the finest are Northern Monkey and Bank Top, both of which have opened their own tap rooms in the town, while honourable mentions also go out to Blackedge Brewing Company and Rivington Brewing Company.
Enjoy a hike up the Pike
For many families, an Easter hike up Rivington Pike is an annual tradition.
Hundreds of keen walkers clamber up to the summit, which stands at 1,191 feet, where they are rewarded with spectacular views across Bolton and the West Pennine Moors.
But the views are best enjoyed on a quieter day, away from the crowds. It’s an ideal spot to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Sample local delicacies at Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe
Bolton is blessed with several great bakeries, but a trip to this family-run shop is a must for anyone visiting the town.
Dating back to 1898, Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe has been serving generations of families from its modestly-sized shop on Churchgate.
TripAdvisor users even rate it as the best bakery in Greater Manchester. High praise indeed.
Try the Bolton institution that is Carrs Pasties
Another of Bolton’s finest pasty institutions, Carrs’ products can be found right across the town.
But for the proper experience, you need to visit one of their three shops dotted around the borough.
The family-run bakery counts radio presenter Chris Evans among its admirers; the former Top Gear host has rated their pasties among the finest in the country.
Take part in the Ironman. Or maybe just watch.
Bolton has played host to the biggest Ironman race in the UK 11 times now.
Thousands of entrants descend on the town’s streets each year to take on a gruelling course involving a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a marathon.
If you aren’t quite in shape to take part, you could always join the thousands of others who turn out to line the streets and cheer on those who are.
Last year, a 5k night run was introduced on the Friday, while athletic youngsters can also join in an Ironkids event.
Learn about the history of steam
Bolton Steam Museum boasts one of Britain’s largest collection of working steam mill engines.
The volunteer-run museum delves into the area’s industrial heritage through the engines, which powered Bolton’s mills and helped transform it into the town it is today.
Take a stroll around Jumbles Country Park
Situated about four miles to the north of the town centre, the woodland trail and reservoir is a popular spot for dog walkers and those out for an afternoon stroll.
A sailing club is also based at the reservoir and hosts regular training days and races.
Boasting picturesque views, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than paying a visit to Jumbles.
Shop at Bolton Market
Bolton’s market tradition stretches back hundreds of years to 1251 when the town was granted a charter by King Henry III.
Centuries later, the town’s market continues to thrive, although the range of products on offer has come a long way.
The market moved to its current base in Ashburner Street during the 1930s and boasts hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to cotton reels.
Try some African cuisine at Nkono
One of Bolton Market’s most popular traders is Nkono, a Cameroonian street food stall.
Finding it is no issue as the voice of its larger life than life owner, Alain Job, can often be heard booming through the indoor market hall as he entertains customers.
Nkono opened back in 2014 and quickly became a hit. With a range of exotic dishes, many of which are accompanied by jollof rice and sweet dumplings, it soon established itself as one of the town’s best eateries.
If you’re feeling especially experimental, why not try one of their goat curries?
Learn about the history of Turton Tower
Set in relaxing woodlands on the edge of a popular walking area, the distinctive 15th century English country house has fascinating period rooms displaying a huge collection of decorative woodwork, paintings and furniture – all re-telling the lives of the families who lived there.
Dig for hidden gems at X Records
An institution in the town since the 1980s, this record shop serves as a treasure trove for Bolton’s music lovers.
Head down to its Bridge Street base and get lost in its vast collection of records. You might even find yourself a bargain.
Spend an afternoon with family at Moss Bank Park
A sprawling park with a large play area including a sand pit area for children, the park is an ideal destination for a family afternoon out.
While the much-loved children’s zoo and tropical butterfly house are no more, there are plenty of other attractions to keep kids entertained including a mini steam train, crazy golf and fairground rides.
Feed the animals at Smithills Open Farm
Smithills has a wide range of animals from pigs and cows to snakes and owls.
As well as families, large groups of children visit from schools and nurseries with some coming from miles away to say hello, feed and cuddle the animals.
Children get the chance to feed the lambs and there are plenty of other hands on opportunities with snakes and chicks.
The venue also offers tractor rides, on toy ones as well as the real thing, and donkey rides too.
With bouncy castles, a sand pit and adventure playground it’s a popular place for day visits and children’s birthday parties.
Check out the town’s street art
Some spectacular murals have sprouted up around Bolton over the last year or so.
The local artist behind them is Kazer, a joiner by trade who got into graffiti-style art after watching a series of YouTube.
You’ll find some of his eye-catching designs adorning the walls of several of the town’s pubs, including the Sweet Green Tavern, The Greyhound, and The Beer School in Westhoughton.
Enjoy a tour of Smithills Hall
Set in restored formal gardens and a 2,000 acre estate leading to the West Pennine Moors, the beautiful old hall is an architectural gem dating back to the 14th century.
Travel in time through medieval, Tudor and Victorian rooms or enjoy the various walks on offer in the splendid surrounding countryside.
Sample a local delicacy at Rice n Three
The phenomenon that is rice and three has spread right across Greater Manchester since its creation at some point in the 1980s.
A base of rice topped with a choice of three curries, it’s affordable, filling and homely, making it the fast food go-to for many.
Rice and three’s origins are uncertain, but Bolton may well lay claim to it.
The Essa family bought the Northern Quarter’s This and That in the 1980s after coming to Manchester from Uganda claim rice and three as their creation.
They later sold the cafe and took the idea to Bolton, where they have since opened two restaurants, in Bradshawgate and Deane Road.
Is it really the original rice and three? Maybe. Is it tasty? Most definitely. It’s affordable too – one meat, two veg and rice costs just £5.00.
Visit the shops at Market Place
Originally designed and opened in 1855, the Bolton Market Hall was said to be ‘the largest covered market in the kingdom’.
It was reopened as Market Place Shopping Centre by Queen Elizabeth ll in 1988 and has undergone a £25 million refurbishment transforming it into the town centre’s shopping heart.
Some of the biggest high street names can be found there, including Debenhams, Next, H&M and Zara.
Enjoy an evening in The Vaults
The Vaults dining and leisure venue opened below Market Place back in 2016 and has fast become the go-to socialising spot for many Bolton families.
Based in the renovated Victorian vaults, which are part of the original market halls, several restaurant chains can be found there, including Nandos and Prezzo.
Watch a film at the Light Cinema
One of just a handful across the UK, the town centre venue was opened by independent cinema chain The Light back in 2016.
Dubbed ‘sociable cinema’, the whole experience is a little more laid back than your standard cinema trip, with reclining seats, and you can even have a drink from the bar in there too.
Learn from the top chefs at food and drink festival
Taking place across the August bank holiday weekend, the annual event is one of the biggest food and drink events in the north west.
Some of the world’s best-known celebrity chefs have appeared at the event to entertain crowds with cookery demos and book signings in recent years, with James Martin even hailing it the best festival of its kind in the UK.
There are markets aplenty too, with the streets around Victoria Square and Le Mans Crescent packed with street food stalls (including Thai, toasties, Polish BBQs, Italian desserts, Green meze, and Yorkshire pudding wraps) and produce to take away with you.
Visit Barrow Bridge
A picturesque model village to the north of Moss Bank Park, Barrow Bridge was created during the Industrial Revolution to house workers at nearby mills.
The cotton mills have long since gone, but the quaint cottages remain. The charming village is a haven of tranquility and is a perfect spot for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Explore the town’s paranormal activity
Bolton is apparently a hotbed for paranormal activity.
Ghost Walker Extraordinaire Flecky Bennett offers a number of ghost walks throughout the town, which are part history, part theatre and part paranormal.
Covering haunted bookshops and pubs, as well as the Bolton Massacre, all the stories you hear are based on real people and actual events.
Unlock the mysteries of Ancient Egypt
Bolton’s connection to Ancient Egypt is little-known, but its collection of treasures is one of the country’s finest.
Bolton Museum’s multi-million pound Egyptology gallery reopened last year following a £3.8 million refurbishment and more than 275,000 have stepped back into the land of the Pharoahs since then.
One of the oldest pubs in Britain, Ye Olde Man & Scythe is thought to have been built in Churchgate some time before 1251.
But its place in the town’s history was cemented in 1651 when the Earl of Derby, James Stanley, was executed outside the pub for his part in the Bolton Massacre, which led to the death of 1,600 people.
The royalist spent the final hours of his life in the pub, which his family owned at the time, and it still contains the chair he supposedly sat on before being taken outside to be beheaded.
His spirit is also said to linger in the pub and has seen it named one of the country’s most haunted.
Catch a show at The Albert Halls
Located within Bolton Town Hall, the 670-theatre is a popular spot for families looking to enjoy a pre-Christmas pantomime.
The iconic building is perhaps best known as the setting for Peter Kay’s stand-up DVD, ‘Live At The Bolton Albert Halls’, which was filmed there in 2003.
A recent refurbishment included the addition of a new restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote, which has promised to champion ‘proper northern, old-fashioned food’.
Visit Hall i’th’ Wood Museum
Originally built as a half-timbered hall in the 15th century, this handsome building was owned by wealthy yeomen and merchants.
Later rented out, it was home to a young Samuel Crompton whose Spinning Mule invention revolutionised the cotton industry. Links with Crompton remain in its interactive museum.
Take a stroll around Queens Park
Just north east of the town centre, this Victorian park is a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle.
For generations, it has been a place where Bolton families have gone to play, relax, have a picnic and feed the ducks.
Opened in 1866 by the Earl of Bradford, it has undergone a £4.3 million refurbishment in recent years.
It now boasts a children’s play area, a cafe, as well a series of grade II listed statues, including one of the former prime minister Benjamin Disraeli.
Spend an idyllic afternoon at Turton and Entwistle Reservoir
This breathtaking beautyspot, tucked away down quiet country lanes on the moors north of Bolton, is the perfect spot for an afternoon walk.
A path runs around the edge of the reservoir, while other trails lead off into the surrounding woods.
The reservoir contains almost 3,4 million litres of water and, with along with nearby Wayoh Reservoir, provides about 50% of Bolton’s drinking water.
Grab a scoop at Holden’s Ice Cream
With flavours including Vimto, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, Eccles Cake and Manchester Tart, there are plenty of reasons to venture out to Edgworth for a scoop of this home made ice cream.
Known locally for their special family recipe they have been making their ice cream in the same premises since the 1930s.
Rock out at The Alma Inn
This Bradshawgate pub is a haven for lovers of rock, punk and metal music and hosts live gigs every weekend.
The 250-capacity venue is usually crammed with loyal regulars trying to catch the next big upcoming bands.
It’s reputation isn’t a secret, though. In 2015, it was shortlisted as one one of Britain’s best small music venues by music magazine NME.
Catch a show at The Octagon Theatre
The theatre is currently undergoing a major makeover, but is expected to throw open its doors again in the summer.
Dominic Monaghan and Sue Johnston are among the famous names to have trod the boards at the celebrated venue.
A diverse range of events are held throughout the year, ranging from classic and contemporary plays to musicals and festive productions for youngsters.
Fish and chips at Olympus
A popular pre-theatre spot, the town centre chippy is often ranked among Bolton’s best and has been attracting visitors from across the North West for more than 30 years.
The family run restaurant offers great fish and chip meals and has seating for more than 200 people, as well as a takeaway next door.
Tackle Go Ape in Rivington
Explore the forest canopy via a treetop rope course on the outskirts of Bolton.
The Go Ape adventure is a must-go attraction for a thrilling day out.
It’s a hit with adrenaline lovers as they embark on the challenging course featuring 13-metre-high platforms.
So get your trainers on and be prepared for the thrill of your life.
See the sights on a night out in Bradshawgate
Bolton’s nightlife comes in for a fair bit of stick, but it is still a good place to let your hair down.
Many bars and clubs can be found off Bradshawgate, which comes to life as revellers descend on the town centre on a Friday and Saturday evening.
Pay homage to Fred Dibnah
One of Bolton’s most famous sons, the celebrity steeplejack found national fame through his BBC programmes celebrating Britain’s industrial heritage and the golden age of steam.
Following Fred’s death, his grade II listed former home was converted into a heritage centre so that fans could see his tools and machinery.
It closed in 2018 and the property is currently up for auction, but Fred’s legacy is still preserved in his hometown where a statue of him takes pride of place in the town centre.
Marvel at Le Mans Crescent
The jewel in Bolton town centre’s crown, Le Mans Crescent is an architectural triumph on par with anywhere else in the North West
The grade II listed crescent is currently home to Bolton Museum, Art Gallery, Central Library and Aquarium, while plans are afoot to transform the former magistrates’ court into a luxury boutique hotel.
In recent years it has also proved a popular filming location for television dramas, including Peaky Blinders and Bancroft.