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Thursday, 6 October 2016

What's on in the North East | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016

This post featuring my recommendations for Christmas in the North East is receiving a lot of traffic at the moment. However these recommendations are all from 2015 and are outdated now so I thought it was about time I shared my top Christmas recommendations for Christmas 2016. Here we go:-

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016

1 - The Best Santa Train in the North East

There is a lot of deliberation over this in the North East and I can only speak from experience. I love the Tanfield Railway and found it to be very good value for money when we joined them a few years ago. It's half the price of some of the other train experiences in our region but just as fun.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Tanfield Railway North Pole Express

2 - The Best Family Christmas Meal in the North East

This is a real tough one. We have booked South Causey Inn for their Santa Sunday this year. There isn't a festive menu as such (the regular Sunday lunch menu is served) but there are lots of festive extras including a visit from Santa Claus, pony trekking in the gardens and festive face painting - all completely free of charge with any booking. I would also love to try Festive Afternoon Tea in the Great Hall at Jesmond Dene House - JDH really know how to celebrate Christmas!

In the past few years I have tried festive dining at the Rising Sun and would highly recommend - it's all home cooked with local produce and you can take your own wine/beer at no additional cost. For a proper family get together I would recommend the Keel Row at Seaton Delaval. A warm welcome is always guaranteed and there are lots of toys to keep the children entertained. Finally, in central Newcastle, I really don't think you can beat The Botanist. Such a magical venue but even more so over Christmas.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Keel Row Pub Christmas Decorations

3 - The Best Pantomime in the North East

I would struggle to choose just one Panto if I'm honest! My children head to the Theatre Royal with school every year and LOVE it. Because of this, I've never been myself but I do know it can be one of the scarier pantomimes for younger children. Personally, I adore pantomime at the Playhouse Whitley Bay. I like how there are lots of jokes for grown ups as well as kids and this year, Shane Lynch is starring in Aladdin. Screaming during the Ghostbusters routine is a yearly highlight for the kids.

If traditional panto is more your thing, I would highly recommend the Tyne Theatre and Opera House and Newcastle Panto Company. This show is always about as traditional as Panto can get with lots of jokes, audience participation and plenty of 'he's behind you's'. This year, Beauty and the Beast will take to the stage.

If you are looking for an alternative Christmas show, Northern Stage always comes up trumps. This year, it's James and the Giant Peach and they also produce a cracking show for toddlers, pre-schoolers and babies which is well worth checking out.

Finally, I haven't been myself, but a lot of people tell me that the Christmas Shows at the Customs House in South Shields are also very good value for money (it's Jack and the Beanstalk this year).

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Whitley Bay Playhouse Panto

4 - The Best Christmas Experience for Toddlers in the North East

I always recommend the under 4's show at Northern Stage. It is such a warm and inclusive environment and there are lots of other babies and toddlers there so you don't feel out of place and as if you need to keep your little one quiet. It's very informal with no reserved seating but the shows are always captivating for little ones with music, puppetry and song. This year's show is Luna and tickets are from just £10. 

This year there is also going to be a Snowdogs Christmas party at Seven Stories for under 4's. There will be songs, activities, stories and performances with a sprinkling of Snowdog magic. Tickets are £3 each (available here) and selling fast.

Finally, another fantastic day out for toddlers (and in fact older children) is Whitehouse Farm. It's not too expensive and the sort of place you can spend the full day. As well as all of the usual animals and play areas, there are lots of Christmas extras including magic shows, decorating cookies with Mrs Claus, writing a letter to Santa Claus and meeting the main man himself. Many people have also recommended Adventure Valley however I haven't visited over Christmas myself so I can't personally recommend.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Christmas at Whitehouse Farm

5 - How to Help Charity At Christmas in the North East

There are lots of ways to help a local charity at Christmas whether this be volunteering your time at a local soup kitchen or buying gifts from charity shops. This year we are joining in with the Jingle Bell Walk which takes place on 1st December and raises money for the Chris Lucus Trust. The charity walk leaves the Civic Centre and ends on the Newcastle Quayside (approximately 2.5 miles). Tickets are £6 each and include a Christmas hot, hot chocolate and cookie plus a small gift for children.

6 - The Best Places to Visit Santa in the North East

Now this is a tough one! I asked this question in my North East Christmas Facebook Group and a lot of people mentioned the Santa in the Naughty Little Elf at the Custom's House so he could be worth checking out. For me, I loved the setting and the whole experience of visiting Santa Claus in his Arctic Hut at the Rising Sun Country Park - it was lovely and intimate and cosy and really quite magical. If you can stand the queues (or plan a quiet time), Santa Claus at Beamish is also recommended by most who have visited.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Christmas at Rising Sun Country Park

7 - The Best FREE Festive Activities in the North East

Fenwicks Window has to be the no1 Christmas activity that can't be missed. I can't wait to see what the theme is going to be this year. We always visit at the very end of November and have a special 'treat tea' in town after school.

Most of the North East's free museums run free Christmas activities throughout December - I'll write a more detailed post nearer the time but Christmas at the Shipley has caught my eye. Every Saturday in December you can head over for a free mince pie and hot drink plus browse the museum's gift shop before joining in with special Christmas activities.

Finally, the North East is home to some fabulous Christmas markets (again - a more detailed post coming soon) and there is generally some sort of free entertainment available from ice sculpting, dancing and Punch and Judy to carol singing and Birds of Prey displays. I love the North Shields Victorian Market which falls on 10th-11th December this year.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Fenwicks Window

8 - Where to Blow the Budget on Christmas in the North East

Sometimes it's nice to just blow the budget and enjoy a magical Christmas in the North East. This year you can visit Kielder Winter Wonderland (tickets are £36 each) or Enchanted Christmas at Hardwick Hall which at £26.50 per child isn't as hard on your pocket (check out our review from last year here).

I have also heard so many lovely things about The Snowman at the Sage but at £100+ for our family, it has to fall into the 'blow the budget' category too.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Enchanted Christmas

9 - The Best Christmas Day Trips 

I think Christmas is the perfect time for a little day trip. My number one recommendation for families would be A Magical Christmas at Thomasland. Drayton Manor really is magical at this time of year - children will get to meet Santa in a castle, the Fat Controller will sing carols as it snows and Tidmouth Sheds look beautiful with their Christmas decorations. There's normally a festive 4D cinema and soft play too so plenty of places to hide inside if it does get too cold. Oh and there's a fireworks display as darkness falls too.

I would also recommend a trip to Edinburgh and most people in our North East Christmas Facebook group say that the Santa Claus at Edinburgh Christmas is UNBELIEVABLE. Finally, we love London at Christmas time and you can't beat a trip to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland to get into the festive spirit.

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Chestnuts from Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

10 - The Best Christmas Markets in the North East

I will be writing a more detailed post about this soon but if I had to choose my favourite Christmas markets in the North East it would have to be the Living North Christmas Fayre (which to me signals the start of Christmas properly - this year falls on 1st-4th December) and for something outdoors I adore the Victorian North Shields Christmas Market (10th & 11th December)

What's on in the North East for kids | Our Top Recommendations for Christmas 2016 - Living North Christmas Fayre

Please let me know in comments which Christmas experiences you recommend and if you love Christmas, don't forget to join our North East Christmas Facebook Group and like my North East Christmas Facebook Page.

What's On in the North East | Our top recommendations for Christmas 2016



  1. Fab post!! I'm going to use this as my basis for planning what we do this year so thanks! So many great suggestions. We are already booked up for Tanfield after feeling polar express was a rip off last year. Arlo is OBSESSED with Thomas and I really want to take him at Xmas now you've said this but Lena is a nightmare on car journeys so we've been putting it off. Hmmm. That Rising Sun place looks great, off to do a Google on that now. Brill post, good work! Sharing this tomorrow on facey.

    1. Thank you so much Nyomi - my children all loved Thomas too and we've been to Thomasland 4 times altogether - it's lovely at Christmas time. We stayed in the Thomasland hotel and if you can afford it, it's a real treat. You can catch the train there with no changes if that's easier xx

  2. Great round up. I didn't even know the Rising Sun did Christmas dinners, will have to investigate

  3. Yay - I am so excited for Christmas and there looks like there is a lot to do in your area. I love going to Christmas markets.

  4. Peoples theatre amdram panto always worth a visit doesn't cost an arm and a leg either

  5. I am actually so jealous that I don't live up North, it seems like there's never anything great to do down South and everything you've mentioned sounds so good! My dad came from Newcastle and he always said that there was a better atmosphere at Christmas time at home unlike in London x

  6. Fab post so many lovely ideas, I've booked the snow dogs at seven stories I think my toddler will love it :)

  7. Oh my gosh why don't I live up north!!! I want to do all of these things xx


I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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