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15 Things to do in the North East Before Christmas

Hurrah, it’s finally December, I can legitimately get excited about Christmas now, right? Good! Around this time last year I blogged about the things I was looking forward to most over the festive season, there were about six things on that list and I’m pleased to say I managed to tick them all off.

This year I’m setting myself (and you) a much bigger challenge to experience all fifteen of the following Christmassy traditions and events across the North East…

Watch a Panto at One of Our Many Theatres

snow white panto whitley bay

There are so many wonderful theatres to choose from in the North East, from grand, traditional ones like Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and the Sunderland Empire to modern, inspiring theatres live Northern Stage and Whitley Bay Playhouse. Last year I took my family along to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Playhouse, it was my niece and nephew’s first ever panto and they giggled and cheered all the way through, as did I!

I’m still undecided about where to go this year so am going to use this handy guide from North East Family Fun to help me choose.

Go Ice skating at Life Science Centre

wide-view-of-the-rink_778x436

Credit: Life

Every year I vow to skate around this outdoor ice rink without falling on my bum and every year I fail! Maybe 2016 will be the year I finally turn in to the faultless figure skater I’ve always dreamt of being, hmmm, doubtful!

Despite the tumbles, skating at Life is great fun and I highly recommend it! It’s open every day until the 26th February except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

For more details, check out www.life.org.uk/whats-on/skating-at-life

Sip Mulled Wine in Hadrian’s Tipi

If you arrive in to Newcastle by train, Hadrian’s Tipi will be one of the first sights to greet you as you exit the station. Inside the Roman inspired tent is a welcoming winter retreat where mulled wine can be enjoyed by the fire under twinkly fairy lights, it doesn’t get much more festive.

For opening times and reviews check out the Facebook Page for Hadrian’s Tipi.

Hop Aboard the North Pole Express

Credit: AM Calder

Credit: AM Calder

A friend of mine recently took her two little girls to Tanfield Railway for a trip on the North Pole Express and it looked like such a fun day out! I would love to take my nieces and nephew, something tells me the grown ups would enjoy it too!

Tanfield claims to be the world’s oldest railway, no one is quite confident on a precise date for its creation but one thing’s for sure, the four mile journey on the North Pole Express will be a memorable, winter experience! Enjoy mince pies on board, get an early gift from Santa and take in the breath-taking scenery as your steam train trundles through the pictueresque Causey Valley in County Durham. Bliss!

Click HERE to book.

Take a Peek at the Fenwick Window

Credit: Mandy Charlton, see more of her gorgeous pics at www.mandycharltonphotographyblog.com

Credit: Mandy Charlton, see more of her gorgeous pics at http://www.mandycharltonphotographyblog.com/

The reveal of the Fenwick Christmas Window is a long standing tradition in Newcastle and it never fails to make me smile. This year, to mark 150 years of Beatrix Potter, the window displays bring to life her famous tales in spectacular detail. It really is magical and you’re sure to notice something different every time you see it.

Inside Fenwick, there are even more Beatrix Potter delights waiting to be discovered including exclusive Christmas gifts and a rather special pop up cafe inspired by Mrs Tiggy-Winkles’ cottage. Chloe from New Girl in Toon has been for lunch, read about her visit HERE.

Indulge in a Festive Afternoon Tea

Credit: Vermont

Credit: Vermont

One of the best bits about the festive season has to be food and here in Geordieland there are some fabulous places to enjoy an indulgent afternoon tea with a festive twist. Last year I reviewed St Mary’s Inn version and it was divine. This year I’m tempted by The Vermont, a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city and Six, the restaurant on the Baltic rooftop whose festive afternoon tea includes gingerbread cake with mulled wine jelly, yummy!

Shop for Gifts at the Christmas Markets

I am definitely one of those people that finds real joy in Christmas shopping, I love carefully selecting gifts for friends and family and wrapping them all in pretty paper while watching a Christmas film! This year I’m making a conscious effort to shop local so I’ll be scouring the markets for unique finds!

There’s an International Christmas Market on in Newcastle at the moment, around Grey’s Monument and the top of Grainger Street, it will be in town until Sunday 11 December. If the gift stalls don’t take your fancy it’s a great pit stop for lunch as there are LOADS of yummy food stalls.

The day after that market packs up, another one will appear in its place with stall holders from closer to home. Expect home-made jams, pretty scarves, leather bags, hand-thrown pottery and unique jewellery.

Plus, the trusty Grainger Market (our Victorian indoor market) is open every day including Sundays up to Christmas and there really is something for everyone in there!

Go on a Christmas Night Oot in the Toon

Credit: NGI

Credit: NGI

The Geordies love to let their hair down, especially at Christmas! No doubt the plethora of bars on Grey Street and around the Quayside will be packed with party goers over the next few weeks. I’ll be joining my colleagues for a knees up at the Bridge Tavern next Friday, it’s one of my favourite Newcastle pubs and I’m sure we’ll all be in to the festive spirit by the end of the night (mainly Rum and Vodka!)

Pray for Snow and Go Sledging on Cow Hill

Friends Céara, Alice and Corinna having fun in the snow at cow Hill

Friends Céara, Alice and Corinna having fun in the snow at Cow Hill

I know it makes travelling a nightmare, it closes schools and wrecks our roofs but come one, who doesn’t love a white Christmas? If we are lucky enough to get a down pour this December then I’ll be digging out my sledge and heading for Cow Hill next to the Town Moor in Newcastle. I’m just a big kid really!

Dance the Night Away with Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

jools holland newcastle

I absolutely love the sounds that fill Newcastle’s City Hall when Jools Holland and his band are in town! It’s feel good, toe tapping music that you can’t help but bop along to. Jools makes a habit of ending his annual tour in Newcastle and this year his final two concerts fall on the 20th and 21st December. James and I will definitely be there with (jingle) bells on! If you fancy joining us you can get tickets HERE.

Wander in Wonder at Enchanted Parks

Me and Mrs Cupcake at Enchanted Parks 2015

Me and Mrs Cupcake at Enchanted Parks 2015

I’ve raved about Enchanted Parks several times on this blog over the last few years, it truly is a unique and surprising family night out. Saltwell Park is the perfect venue as it’s a magical place at any time of year! Check out my review from last year’s Alice in Wonderland themed event HERE and if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for one of this year’s sold out Enchanted Park evenings I hope you have a wonderful time!

Watch a Christmas Film at Tyneside Cinema


We all have a favourite Christmas film don’t we? Mine has to be It’s a Wonderful Life and watching it at the The Tyneside Cinema (loveliest cinema in all the land!) has become a bit of a festive tradition for James and I, they show it every year. It seems we’re not the only ones to have added this to our list of must do festive events as tickets to see It’s a Wonderful Life often sell out months in advance.

Don’t worry though, there are loads of other Christmas classics being screened over the next few weeks including Home Alone, Scrooged and White Christmas. Check out the full list HERE.

Enjoy a Pop-fest at Metro Radio Christmas Live

I remember when I was kid I used to beg to go to the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party (anyone else remember that?) but these days the biggest annual pop party has to be ‘Metro Radio Christmas Live’. This year it looks set to be bigger and better than ever when it takes over the arena in Newcastle on the 16th December!

Olly Murs and John Legend will be headlining (swoon!) and other confirmed acts include Jonas Blue and Britain’s Got Talent star Calum Scott. Tickets are available online, from the booking hotline  0844 493 6666 or in person from the Metro Radio Arena Box Office.

Carol Service at St Nicholas Cathedral

St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear

Credit: NGI

If you prefer your music to be more traditional at this time of year then I urge you to discover the joy of a carol service at the beautiful St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle. I attended one of these services a couple of years ago and it helped to remind me what Christmas is all about. I’ll be there again on the evening of the 12th December for a service in aid of the homeless charity Crisis. It’s free to attend but donations are of course welcome. To register visit www.crisis.org.uk/carolservice or call 0191 222 0622.

Walk Off All Those Mince Pies at Beamish

Credit: Beamish Museum

Credit: Beamish Museum

I’m totally guilty of over-indulging at Christmas but I know just the place to blow away the cobwebs and walk off a few calories… Beamish is one of my favourite local tourist attractions but I have yet to visit in winter. I hear it’s even more picturesque at this time of year as pretty fairly lights and traditional wreaths adorn the historic buildings. The shops are filled with tasty seasonal treats and the sound of carol singing fills the air. There’s even a winter fun fair with a real ice rink, how perfect does that sound?

As well as being a beautiful setting for a winter walk there are loads of special events taking place at Beamish in the run up to Christmas and in to early January, check out www.beamish.org.uk/events/christmas-at-beamish for all the details!

Right, I’m off to get the decorations from the loft but if you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends and feel free to add any other ideas by leaving a comment below. Merry Christmas!!

About Author

Rachel Kershaw

I'm a proud ambassador for all that's great about Geordieland and love sharing the best of what NewcastleGateshead has to offer. I may not be a Geordie born and bred but I've lived here for a over a decade and am proud to call this fabulous region my home!

3 Comments

  1. Fab round up Rachel and thanks for including my panto guide. We’re going to Enchanted parks for the first time ever this year (and on my birthday). Can’t wait!

  2. Some great ideas here. We are going on the Tanfield Express on Saturday and I can’t wait to see the kids faces. I still need to see the fenwicks window too

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