North East Family Fun

A family of 5 with a zest for life, love of good food & passion for travel

Give the Gift of Experience this Christmas with these North East Gift Vouchers & Annual Passes

*This post contains affiliate links

I love giving experiences as a gift over an actual present - memories last forever and spending time with loved ones is the best way you can treat someone I think. I've put together a few vouchers and annual passes from across North East England that I feel will make wonderful Christmas gifts. Please always check terms and conditions carefully before ordering and note that some of these deals are only available for a limited time. . 

Annual English Heritage Membership for 2 adults and up to 6 children - £57.60 - buy here

We love our English Heritage Membership and think this will make a fab deal for a family - there are lots of properties to visit across North East England from Belsay Hall, Warkworth Castle and Tynemouth Priory to Dunstanburgh Castle, parts of Hadrian's Wall and Lindisfarne Priory. The membership will really come into it's own in the summer when English Heritage host lots of fab events from kite flying to Roman Soldier Training and Medieval Combat. You can also travel further afield and visit places like Stonehenge or Whitby Abbey.

Spa Day, Two Treatments Each and Afternoon Tea for Two at Holiday Inn Gosforth Park for £89 - buy here

I think this would make a lovely gift for a mum and daughter this year - two treatments, afternoon tea and time in a spa for this price is a mega bargain.

John Bishop Tickets - buy here

I LOVE John Bishop and think tickets to his new show will be much appreciated by parents, friends or couples.

Black Friday Deals at Rockliffe Hall including Champagne brunch for 2, spa and foodie breaks - buy here

Rockliffe Hall is one of the best hotels in the North East. It oozes 5 star luxury and visiting their spa, restaurant or staying over feels like a real treat. Save this gift for someone you really wish to spoil this year.

Zoo Keeper Experience at Kirkley Hall - buy here

Suitable for ages 12+, this makes a wonderful gift for teens who are interested in animals or want to gain some hands-on experience.

Three course meal with a glass of wine for 2 at Prezzo - £22 - buy here

This is a fab gift to buy a friend this year if you're in need f a catch-up. Prezzo isn't my favourite restaurant but they are convenient and this price is fantastic.

21 Group Taste Tour - £45 - buy here

The 21 Group Taste Tour is probably the best gift you can buy a North East foodie this Christmas. We recently reviewed the tour over on Mrs Mulled Wine and I'm secretly hoping someone has bought me the experience again for Christmas - yes it is that good!

Tickets to see Jack and the Beanstalk in Times Square - £10 each - buy here

Jack and the Beanstalk starring Denise Welch is a brand new panto in the Times Square Pantodrone this year. Showing until 30 December, it's the perfect gift for families to enjoy between Christmas and New Year.

18 holes of golf for 2 people with a bacon roll and hot drink each at Macdonald Linden Hall - £29 - buy here

Macdonald Linden Hall is always very special to me as it's where Steve and I were married. This deal is fantastic value (it would normally set you back over £100) and perfect for any keen golfers out there.

Family Annual Pass - Life Science Centre Newcastle - buy here

Life Science Centre is super easy to get to and hosts a huge variety of events throughout the year. I love that it's all indoors too and is a gift that can be used in all weathers. From Dino Jaws to Planetarium Shows and the chance to take part in real experiments - this gift will be loved by families with children of all ages.

BrewDog Beer School, Tutored Tasting and Cheese Pairings for 2 - £19.99 - buy here

I'm super tempted to buy this for Steve as beer and cheese are two of his biggest loves! I think this is a fab gift for beer lovers.

Become a friend of Tyneside Cinema - £35 - buy here

This is the perfect gift for cinema lovers. As well as receiving 2 cinema tickets, you're supporting the cinema and will receive £2 off film tickets for a full year.

Afternoon Tea for 2 at Patisserie Valerie - £19 - buy here

I've yet to try afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie but with a city centre location, it's a fab gift choice for those who love cake and rely on public transport.

Visit Ouseburn Farm and support their Wish List - details here

Toddlers especially love a trip to the farm and Ouseburn Farm is a local favourite. It's free to visit but they rely heavily on donations. Why not pledge to take a toddler you know to the farm for a visit and buy a gift from the farm's donation wishlist to show your support?

1 hour Bird of Prey Experience with North East Falconry - £16 - buy here

No matter how many times we visit a Birds of Prey experience, we always love it and never get bored. I think this makes a wonderful gift for animal lovers or tricky to buy for teens.

Steak dinner and a bottle of wine for 2 at The Copthorne Hotel for £29 - buy here

2 steaks and a bottle of wine on the Quayside will make a lovely gift for couples - throw in babysitting too if they've got kids and they'll love you forever.

Overnight stay for 2 at The County Hotel Newcastle with a bottle of Prosecco, breakfast and late check out - £69 - buy here

I remember when my mam bought Steve and I voucher for a stay in hotel one Christmas and it was honesly one of the best gifts ever. This deal includes a bottle of fizz, breakfast and late checkout and is a massive bargain.

G&T Afternoon Tea for 2 at The Copthorne Hotel for £19 - buy here

This will make a lovely gift for any Gin lover out there - I love the twist on afternoon tea and the location offers wonderful views of the Quayside.

Burger, chips and a drink for 2 at The Northumbrian Piper - £10 - buy here

My parents love a drive out to a country pub and I think this voucher makes a fab little top up present or stocking filler.

Spa day and 2 course lunch for 2 at Doxford Hall - £55 - buy here

One of my friends was married at Doxford Hall last year and it's a gorgeous place - a spa day and 2 course lunch will go down a treat with couples or your friends this year. 

Let me know if you'd like to receive any of these North East Experiences under the tree this Christmas. 


Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

*This is a collaborative post

I will begin this review by saying that Turtle Bay in Newcastle is one of our favourite restaurants - the staff are always fantastic, the food is spot on (and they're not shy of spice if you pick a hotter dish), the reggae music and Caribbean decor are both fun and relaxing and there's a decent selection of cocktails which are buy one get one free during happy hour. What's not to love? We were recently invited along to preview their All Day Caribbean Christmas menu which is available from 11:30am - 11pm every day for groups of 8 or more from now until the end of December. It's super easy to book a Christmas get together or party online - simply use the online booking system here and you'll be emailed a booking form where you can pre-select your dishes. 

Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

Last year I think I managed to wade my way through no less than 8 traditional turkey dinners from the end of November to Christmas day and to be honest when Christmas Day arrived I was sick of the sight of it and it didn't feel nearly as special. Like most of us, I'm a busy girl and I have a few Christmas parties to attend this year - most of them are a traditional affair with turkey and all the trimmings and while the first turkey dinner of the year tastes like heaven on a plate, after this it kind of gets a bit boring. I love that Turtle Bay offer something a little different and their Christmas menus are probably the most interesting I've seen.

Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

With the all-day dining package (£24 for 4 courses), you'll be welcomed with individual platters of nibbles - perfect if you've rushed straight from the office to get ready and starting to feel peckish. Garlic and Herb Flatbread, Baked Chickpeas and Spicy Pork Rinds were all super morish - the Pork Rinds were my favourite. Kind of reminded me of a bacon flavour quaver but in a good way. They weren't too hard on the teeth either. We dined during Happy Hour so obviously, I made the most of BOGOF cocktails. I went with the Koko Colada this time as the sprinkling of nutmeg on top reminded me of Christmas. They were delicious and pretty strong too. Happy Hour is until 7pm every day and from 9:30pm-close Sunday-Thursday and 10pm until close Friday & Saturday.

Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

Of course for the non-drinkers, there are a range of soft drinks available too. I love the attention to detail. The atmosphere in Turtle Bay is definitely aimed towards having a good time. I've dined with the kids here a few times in the past (under 14s are welcome before 9pm) and have never had any issues with drunkenness but it still feels like a party atmosphere - we love the music in Turtle Bay and all of us always end up singing and dancing along. If you can't stand the thought of the best of Christmas Hits being played in the background during your festive get together this year, Turtle Bay provides a very refreshing alternative. I swear it took all of Steve's willpower to not stand up and have a little dance when Murder She Wrote by Chaka Demus & Pliers started playing. I highly recommend keeping the party going and listening to the Turtle Bay playlist on Spotify during your journey home.

Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

The food at Turtle Bay never disappoints and I was all set to say my chilli squid was the best squid I've ever tasted but then I ordered squid from Longsands Fish Kitchen the following day and that was even better so I can't make that claim now. It's a strong 9/10 though - not at all chewy, nice and spicy and a generous portion. It does not feel or taste like the kind of squid you normally get in a chain restaurant. Steve went for the Mango Pit Wings which had been marinated for 24 hours. He declared them some of the best wings he's ever had - the meat just fell off the bone and there was just the right amount of char on the skin.

Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

Onto mains I could not resist the Guyanese Curry Duck. Packed with scotch bonnets (but actually not too hot that it's unbearable - it was milder than the curries I normally eat) with a nice hint of orange, this dish tasted nice and festive and again was generous in size. Served with Caribbean bread to mop up the juices, this is a dish I wouldn't mind replicating myself as an alternative to Boxing Day Turkey Curry.

Seve was torn between pretty much everything on the menu and had taken a while to decide. He ended up with the Tomahawk Pork Chop which had been marinated with cinnamon allspice and served with fries and pineapple chow. I had a little bite of this and I do think it was on the dry side (although I didn't try the pineapple with it which is perhaps what's intended). Steve absolutely loved it though and said the spice was unusual and it was nice to have something a little different. Fries at Turtle Bay always go down a treat and there are plenty of them too. 

A slight breather between courses and our server brought us over a jug of water as we waited for desserts. I really wanted to order the upside down rum cake but as Steve is a huge rum lover I let him go with this one this time. I wish I'd ordered it too as it was just SO good. Full of booze but light enough to enjoy after three courses, I'd recommend this dish to anyone who visits.

I went with the Black Treacle Pudding which was nice, but it didn't have the wow factor that the rum cake had - go with the rum people!

Just look at Steve's smug face with his rum cake.......

The kids tried the dark chocolate brownie which I worried might have been a little rich for them but it wasn't and they all said it was delicious. I didn't get a look-in so you'll just have to take their word for it.

If you're planning a big family festive get together over a weekend or perhaps a Christmas meal with friends before panto,  my three give Turtle Bay the thumbs up. They ordered burgers on this occasion which can be customised for picky eaters. You can read our review of the children's menu in more detail here.

If a full 4-course meal all seems like a little too much and you're looking for something a little lighter. Turtle Bay offers a range of festive dining options this year. From festive platters and areas to hire for drinks to a bargain 3-course lunch menu for £15, there's an option to suit all budgets and requirements. 

If you're looking for a Christmas meal out in a central Newcastle location where turkey and tinsel are nowhere to be seen but you will be guaranteed a good time with fantastic staff, music you want to sing along too, a good range of cocktails and some pretty tasty food, Turtle Bay will more than meet your requirements. I especially recommend the squid and rum upside down cake. It's the next best thing to enjoying a real Caribbean Christmas. 

Let me know if you're a fan of Turtle Bay and if any of their festive dishes are tempting you this Christmas.


What's on in the North East for Kids & Families | 25 & 26 November 2017

Yeah for the weekend! We're going to pop down to Manor Walks on Saturday for their Christmas Light Switch On and will be heading to the coast on Sunday - fingers crossed for no rain! If you're looking for more ideas for days out in North East England - why not join my FREE North East Days Out Facebook Group here. Whatever you're up to, have a good one!

From 23 November | Robinson Crusoe at Gala Theatre Durham | Find out more here

25 November | Manor Walks Christmas Light Switch On | Find out more here

25 - 26 November | Olaf's Frozen Adventure Weekend (various cinemas - check your local for details)

25 - 26 November | Get Crafty - Create a stocking at Souter Lighthouse | Find out more here

25 - 26 November | Ouseburn Open Studios Monster Making | Find out more here

26 November | Durham Christmas Lights Switch On | Find out more here

26 November | Sunderland Diwali Festival | Find out more here

26 November | Make Christmas Cards at Seaton Delaval Hall | Find out more here

26 November | The Polar Express at Moonlight Drive-in Cinema, Darlington | Find out more here

Other ideas for the weekend: 


Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack Review, Parent's Guide & Giveaway

*We were sent this item to review

Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack Review, Parent's Guide & Giveaway

What is Lightseekers?

I'll be honest with you when I say I hadn't heard of Lightseekers until we visited Forbidden Planet in Newcastle recently and there was a huge Lightseekers display in their window and all of the staff were wearing Lightseekers t-shirts. It may not be big with us uncool parents but when it comes to gamers, Lightseekers is a pretty big deal.

Lightseekers is an adventure role-playing game which you play via a free app on your smartphone or tablet. There are worlds to discover through adventure or action game modes. It kind of reminds me of Avatar a little bit. But Lightseekers is so much more than just a game, there are real smart figures to collect which can sync up with your phone or tablet and actually become part of the game. There are trading cards to collect and scan which increase your character's in-game abilities and a comic series too.

What is included in the Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack? 

The Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack contains everything you need to get started (well actually you also need a smartphone/tablet with 1GB available memory, WiFi and Bluetooth but you know what I mean) . There are comprehensive instructions that even a technophobe like me can understand,  5 augmented reality trading cards, hero cards, 2 weapons, a charging cable (you'll be pleased to hear that Lightseekers DO NOT require batteries) and of course the 7" Mari Smart figure. 

What else can I buy and collect? 

If you check out the Lightseekers Store on Amazon, there are SO many add-ons you can buy and collect. I think a Lightseekers Starter Pack would be a good game to buy a 7/8-year-old and then you can buy add-ons and additional figures for birthdays/future Christmas' ect.....

There are also stand-alone games which compliment the online game - one example is this Storm Card Starter Deck Game. The game includes over 385 Lightseekers cards which you can use to battle your friends with and scan for in-game abilities. At under £20, this is a nice little add-on to the main game I think and perfect if your children's friends at school or siblings are all Lightseekers fans.

What did North East Family Fun think of the Lightseekers Starter Pack? 

Lightseekers is aimed at children aged 8+ but to be honest it is Jack (aged 6) who loves this game the most. He plays it on our old iPhone after school and I would say it's actually replaced Minecraft as his favourite game. Jack's spent many hours playing iPhone games and could pick up the instructions without any help from me. Jack likes that you can explore lots of different levels and the hub world and loves that you can link up the figures too. There was part of the game where he had to fly the figure through the sky in his hands and this corresponded to the game on the screen in front of him which he found to be super cool. As a parent, I love that there are no in-app purchases or adverts too. This game has not been a one-hit wonder for Jack and he enjoys playing it for an hour after school.

Harry (11) likes that you can add in characters from real life in this game (it reminds him of Skylanders) and likes the challenge of exploring new worlds - there is always something new to discover. He doesn't play it as much as Jack but does definitely enjoy it and when I asked if his friends would like it too he said yes. 

Anything else I need to know about Lightseekers? 

We struggled to download the game at first as did not realise it required 1GB of available memory - we cleared some space on our phones though and managed it so it wasn't too much of an issue.

You can check online here if your phone or tablet is compatible with Lightseekers. Amazon Fire tablets are a bargain at the moment if you're looking to upgrade.

You can learn more about the Mari Starter Pack in this YouTube video:

I really liked that the game is free to download and you can play it without the figures too - maybe try your children with this first and see if they like it before splashing out on the add-ons and starter kits. I also really appreciate that despite being free, there are no in-app purchases or adverts which provides excellent peace of mind.

Lightseekers has been tipped as one of the top toys for Christmas 2017 and I can definitely see why. The adventure game element, the fact that you can play for free on a tablet or smartphone and all of the characters and cards you can purchase to enhance your gaming experience is a winning combination.

Win a Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack

Enter our giveaway for your chance to win your very own Lightseekers Mari Starter Pack. You can enter using one or more options below and daily entry is available via 'Tweet about the giveaway' if you'd like to increase your chances. Good luck! 

**Prize is one Mari Lightseekers Starter Pack. UK entries only. Prize will be delivered to a UK mainland address. No cash alternative. No refunds. Prize is non-transferable. Employees of Lightseekers and North East Family Fun are not eligible to win. Giveaway ends at midnight on 10 December 2017. One random winner will be selected from all valid entries and notified via email. Judges decision is final.** 


HP Sprocket Photo Printer White Gold Gift Set - A Must-have Christmas Gift for Teens with EVERYTHING included

*This item was sent to us for review and features affiliate links

Picture the scene on Christmas morning - you receive a fun instant printer on Christmas morning only to discover it needs batteries or you need to buy ink or a special type of paper. This has happened to us with all sorts of gifts so many times and it's actually rare that gadgets like this can be used straight from the box. Nothing is more disappointing than opening a gift and not being able to use it straight away - well with the HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set, you can. This instant photo printer gift set contains everything you need to print fun, instant photos and stickers and more. It's this year's must-have gift for ages 13-24 and I can see why. We've been putting an HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set through its paces and have been really impressed - it's one of those products that just works. It does exactly what it says on the tin with no glitches, errors or disappointments. 

The HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set offers much better value than the stand-alone Sprocket Printer. First of all, the box it is all packed into is beautifully designed and I think this sets the tone for the entire gift set. Inside the gift set, you'll find an HP Sprocket Photo Printer, 10 sheets of HP Zink Paper (the Sprocket does not use any ink at all - the technology is in the paper), a USB charging cable, a photo album, a carry case and a voucher which can be used to customise your Sprocket Printer. 

I love the clean simplistic design of this printer and the carry case is super cute too. The HP Sprocket Photo Printer is actually smaller than most mobile phones (it's smaller than my Google Pixel Phone) and is super portable (especially in it's own carry case). It's perfectly designed to slip into your bag and instantly celebrate those special moments with friends, parties, days out, special occasions and more.

The HP Sprocket Photo Printer is super easy to use. Simply download the app (Android or Apple), connect to your phone via Bluetooth and then instantly print photos or stickers from your phone camera roll, Facebook or even Instagram. Photos are completely dry as soon as they're printed and you can customise and add emojis or fun borders, text and art to your photos using the Sprocket app before printing too. There are no wires needed for printing and it all works seamlessly.

We used our Sprocket to #reinventmememories from our trip to Florida this summer and printed some of our favourite photos straight from my phone. Print time was around 10 seconds and we were all impressed with the quality. The photos are a similar size to a credit card and perfect for keeping in a wallet or purse as well as sticking into a photo album or using as a sticker to customise just about anything.

I also like that the HP Sprocket Photo Printer encourages teens to be sociable. Multiple phones can easily connect to the printer so you're not restricted to using just one phone or device. Perfect for those moments when your phone dies but you still want a photo to remember a special moment - connecting another phone (as long as they can download the app and have Bluetooth enabled) is super easy.

I normally try to find negatives in my review posts but I'm really struggling to find any if I'm honest. At a push, I would say that buying Zink Photo Paper after you've used the initial 10 sheets is a touch on the expensive side (currently £7.26 for 20 sheets) but I think considering the fact you don't need to buy ink and the level of technology involved, this isn't too bad. For comparison, I remember buying a disposable camera for £7.99 not that many years ago.

Watch the HP Sprocket Photo Printer in action and discover how easy it is to use here:

You can find out more about the HP Sprocket Photo Printer here and purchase an HP Sprocket Photo Printer Gift Set here. For a gift that will create lots of smiles on Christmas Day morning and beyond, I really can't recommend enough. I can already see ours being used to record our Christmas Day moments - from carving the turkey to dad falling asleep by the fire - I can't wait to have fun printing special memories from Christmas Day and beyond.....


The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Markets & Fairs in North East England | December 2017

It's almost Christmas! Yeah! I Love, Love, Love the month of December and will be visiting as many Christmas Markets as possible. I've put together a list of some of the best Christmas Markets, Fayres and Shopping events happening across the region throughout December. Let me know in the comments if you know of any others.

The Ultimate Guide to Christmas Markets & Fairs in North East England | December 2017

20 November - 10 December | Newcastle International Christmas Market at Monument | Find out more here

1 - 3 December | Tyneside Winter Wonderland at the Linkskill Centre | Find out more here

1- 3 December | Christmas Market at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington | Find out more here

1 - 3 December | Durham Christmas Festival | Find out more here

1 December | The Grainger Market Christmas Shopping Night | Find out more here

2 December | Christmas Cracker at The Sage | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Blyth Christmas Markets | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Alnwick Christmas Market | Find out more here

2 - 3 December | Christmas Bazaar at Preston Park | Find out more here

2 December | Kells Lane Festive Food Market | Find out more here

2 December | Whitley Bay Station Christmas Fayre | Find out more here

4 - 9 December | Seaham Christmas Market | Find out more here

9 - 10 December | North Shields Victorian Christmas Market | Find out more here

9 - 10 December | Woodhorn Christmas Market | Find out more here

10 December | Berwick Christmas Market | Find out more here

11 - 17 December | Newcastle Christmas Market | Find out more here

If you love Christmas, make sure you join our FREE Facebook Group for North East Christmas Lovers - it's a fab place to chat about all things Christmas and make recommendations/ask for advice.


Why you should plan some downtime into your December (and how to do it)

Looking at my December schedule I want to cry. We're reviewing no less than 8 pantos, visiting 4 Christmas events, organising a Christmas meal for 10 bloggers and another Christmas meal for 50 friends and family, it's my birthday, it's Jack's birthday, there are three different Christmas shows to watch at school, another nativity at church, school parties, Christmas parties....AND I'm nowhere near finished Christmas shopping or wrapping. Ahhhhh! I'm not complaining as I love this time of year and adore Panto and Christmas days out so I am really looking forward to December. I know it's the busiest month of the year though and I know I am very likely to have multiple meltdowns if I don't plan ahead, get organised and plan some chill time too.

I know I'm not alone and most parents will feel frazzled at this time of year so here are 5 ways to take some down time - I urge you to prioritise yourself this December and indulge in a few of these activities to help the festive season run as smoothly as possible.

1 - Christmas Wrapping Party

Oh my days I HATE wrapping gifts. It's so annoying, goes on forever, feels a little pointless at times and it hurts my back! Steve hates it even more than I do. This year I'm going to try and make this chore as fun as possible and I'm heading over to my mams house for a Christmas Wrapping Party. We're going to order a takeaway, put some Christmas tunes on, open a bottle of Prosecco and wrap together. I'm hoping this will make the chore a lot more fun and less stressful. Another idea would be to get together with a group of friends and turn it into a girls night - get the dads to take the kids out somewhere so you can all do it in peace.

2 - Watch your favourite Christmas movie alone

When the kids are at school and Steve is at work I'm going to switch off my laptop and phone, make myself a hot chocolate and snuggle up on the sofa to watch Love Actually in complete silence. Utter bliss!

3 - Watch a family Christmas movie 

Likewise, I think it's important for the kids to have some down time too and if we've had a busy weekend I'm planning on bringing our duvets downstairs and watching some of our festive favourites together with no distractions. I've already stocked up on popcorn in anticipation.

4 - Take a non-festive walk or trip to the beach

Sometimes at this time of year it can feel like your brain is going to explode with all things Christmas and I think it's nice to plan something with the family that is not festive at all. There's an added pressure of attending a festive event I think and it's nice to enjoy a day out in December without this. Why not try one of these woodland walks or take a winter walk along the coast and stop for fish and chips - we did this recently at Blyth Beach and loved it. There was no pressure, it was nice and simple and the fresh air did us the world of good.

5 -  Treat yourself to some expensive bath oil

I know, I know, you'll probably receive bath products for Christmas but honestly, you need them far more in December than January. Treat yourself to a proper bath when you can - bath oil, candles, relaxing music, face mask - the works. December is a month made for slow living and not the time to be taking quick showers every day.

I bet you're reading all of this nodding along and thinking YES - I should do this! Well, it's no good reading about it - you need to actually do it too. Get your diaries and calendars out and find a time to schedule some down time - write it into your diaries so nothing gets booked in its place and when the day comes around, make sure you actually prioritise your downtime and make sure it doesn't get overlooked.

I'd love to hear your ideas for downtime in December too. 

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