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

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. 


Wynyard Hall Christmas Shopping Event - One of the Best Christmas Fayres in North East England

*This is a collaborative post

This year, Wynyard Hall kindly invited us along to their Christmas Fayre. Taking place from 16-19 November, I'd heard good things from stallholders and attendees who mentioned that this was an event not to be missed. Unfortunately though, it was not meant to be and it turns out that the fayre was taking place on a weekend Steve was working - I think it's practically impossible to travel to Wynyard Hall from Northumberland via public transport so with we sadly had to decline. Luckily my friend Vicci was able to attend in my place and after reading her review I know this is going to be an event that I don't want to miss next year. Over to Vicci.....

 When an opportunity arose to review a Christmas fayre for North East Family Fun, I knew it was right up my street. As an avid food and craft fayre visitor generally, I jumped at the chance as I had not been to Wynyard Hall before and had been promised it was one of the best.  Well I was not disappointed and can recommend it within my top 3 Christmas fayres within the North east.  

As we drove into the estate of Wynyard Hall, this morning’s crisp clear sunny skies truly magnified the grandeur of the Hall, standing proud, within its surrounding beautiful picturesque landscape. Cars were streaming in, but with the well organised car parking attendants, it did not take us long to get parked up, to be welcomed by the friendly Darlington town crier and walk straight into the main marque. On entering, we were given a useful guide on where to find the stalls distributed around the estate and the name of every exhibitor here today. The main marque hosted a magnitude of Christmas décor and tree decorations, clothes and accessories, artwork, jewellery and children’s toys to name a few. The merchandise were of the highest quality, often unique with plenty of choice for those special Christmas gifts and treasures.

Walking around the bustling aisles, I was particularly encaptured by ‘Zibizi’, a baby gift store from Yarm, selling high quality functional wooden toys for all ages. I was like a child in a sweet shop, let alone my two young boys and the exhibitor was much obliging in letting them look at everything.
Once we had finished perusing the marque, we walked along an avenue of outside market stalls towards a trio of Christmas teepees.  Inside, we took an opportunity to have a rest on haystacks whilst purchasing a gorgeous hog roast bap and warm up by the firepits, whilst being entertained by some very talented live singers.

Afterwards, as we wandered down to the Hall itself, we were all mesmerised by stilt walkers and some Scottish dancing to a bagpipe. The boys were enthralled, particulary when swords were involved.
Walking through the Hall’s entrance, you were immediately drawn to the beautiful interior design. Together with the Christmas décor of the exhibitors, it created a festive atmosphere as each corridor lead to another room full of stalls. It made the experience of going shopping with two young boys more adventurous as it became a game of who could find another room to explore.
They were especially happy to find the conservatory, a large room of food stalls selling a variety of Meats, cheeses, Gins, Whiskies, chocolate and fudge  . . . . . . . . . . . .  I could go on another paragraph!

The boys thoroughly enjoyed trying delicious samples of a wide variety of foods they wouldn’t have normally have batted an eyelid over. In particular, Yockenthwaite Farm impressed us by explaining how oats were made from corn by allowing the boys to demonstrate this process and then giving them a sample of ginger flapjack and a nutty granola.  
My favourite had to be the Magnificant Marshmallow Company. They sold a selection of handmade marshmallows with flavoursome twists. The choice was tantalising ranging from orange choc chip, mint, various berries and gingerbread.  I treated myself to the 3 boxes for £10 deal but I assure you, choosing which flavours was the hardest task of the day. I just wanted them all!

After we had finished looking around the Christmas Fayre stalls, we took the opportunity to explore the grounds of the estate. We walked around the beautiful walled gardens with its fountains and intertwining paths. Near the glasshouse, a resident shop at the top of the gardens, we found some wicker reindeer, teepees and houses for the boys to play around in the leaves and have a chance to run off all their energy. 

Before heading back to the car, we walked past Wynyard on Ice, an outdoor ice rink situated within the parkland. Advance tickets at £8 a person, £9 on the door, for a 45 minute session, we found it bustling with eager adults and children trying to show  off their acquired skills in skating. Both my boys haven’t quite found their skating feet as yet, so they were more interested in the nearby children’s rides where they were quite happy to show me and my husband how fast they could go round in the teacups.

We left the Christmas fayre, laden with bags towards the car, chatting about what are best bits were of the morning. We all agreed we would be back again next year to do it all over again.


The Reindeer Retreat Cafe & Feeding Reindeer at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington

*This is a collaborative post

Reindeer have been visiting Azure Garden Centre in Cramlington for the last five years or so. Situated in the outdoor section (near where the fish used to be) until Christmas Eve, they are nicely settled in now. You don't need to book to visit the reindeer and there are food dispensers (£1) and handwash stations situated nearby as well as a photo station to capture the moment. 

As well as visiting the reindeer, there are so many pretty lights and Christmas displays to look at in the centre - little ones will be captivated. My three are quite cynical and have seen a lot of Christmas displays in their lives but they loved walking through the lights and admiring all of the Christmas decorations. It really got us in the mood for Christmas! Here's just a tiny peek at what's on offer: 

The Reindeer Retreat Cafe |  20 November - 3 December 

The Reindeer Retreat Cafe is an additional event to the regular reindeer feeding on offer and must be pre-booked (you can pre-book online here) and is available until 3 December. Sessions can be booked at the following times: 
  • Weekdays 3:45pm & 4:45pm
  • Saturdays 12noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
  • Sundays 12noon, 1pm, 2pm
Tickets cost just £6 per adult (including a roast beef/turkey sandwich and hot drink) and £5 per child (including a children's meal, drink and packet of reindeer food). It's a massive bargain and perfectly priced for an after school treat I think. 

The Reindeer Retreat is a cosy pop-up tipi and it really quite special inside. I was expecting it to be cold but it was lovely and warm with heating (my kids even had to take their coats off). Everyone sits on hay bales and the tipi is lit up with fairy lights and filled with soft toy polar bears and reindeers. Lots of photo opportunities so don't forget your camera.

Food and drinks are pre-ordered on booking and are brought out to you soon after arrival. The whole event was very well organised and run with precision. You wouldn't guess it was their first time. Due to the inexpensive cost, I really didn't have high expectations for the food but we were honestly pleasantly surprised. The kids all enjoyed their children's meals and Steve and I devoured our hot beef sandwiches. The hot chocolates were delicious too and didn't taste cheap (which is so often the case at these kind of events). 

Everyone was in high spirits as we tucked into our food and I commented how Christmassy it all felt. Father Christmas does not visit as part of this event but in a way I think that's nice - sometimes too much pressure comes with a Father Christmas visit and I know many parents like to visit him just once which means the reindeer retreat is a nice and chilled out affair. Our trays were cleared and then John from Azure introduced himself to us. John shared lots of reindeer facts with us that were fascinating for both kids and grown-ups. I had no idea they stamped their hoof in water before drinking it (I'll let John tell you why they do this) and why male deer lose their antlers before the females do. There was a chance for questions too and I found out that they think two of the deer are currently pregnant and Jack asked if the deer named Greedy was actually greedy. Once we were filled with enough reindeer facts to call ourselves official Reindeer experts, we were all handed some special moss from Norway (which is exclusive for Reindeer Retreat guests) to feed the reindeer with. Apparently, this moss is their favourite food. We left the tipi and headed towards the reindeer enclosure where we fed the deer through the fence. They loved the moss and were super cute! 

As the sun was setting, the tipi looked even more magical......

I have to say I think this event was so well executed and I'd recommend to families who are looking for an inexpensive festive treat with a difference. 

Local Christmas Markets at Azure Garden Centre, Cramlington 

During our trip to the Reindeer Retreat, it also happened to be a Christmas market weekend (it runs until 19 November this time and then again 1 - 3 December). The market supports local traders and we picked up some local wildlife photographs from Far Horizons, some cheese from Northumberland Cheese and Game Terrine from Hadrian's Game Larder. It was also fabulous bumping into Handmade by Lolla Mac who create the most beautiful jewellery. If you're looking to support local businesses this Christmas, pop along to the Azure Christmas Market and you won't be disappointed. 

We spent around 90 minutes are Azure and it was completely stress-free which is so unusual for us! There was just no pressure, the atmosphere was lovely, the event was well-paced and organised and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

Let me know if you plan on visiting the reindeer at Azure this year.


Visiting the FREE Santa Claus and festive fun at intu Metrocentre - All you need to know

I think we are spoilt for choice when it comes to visiting Father Christmas and trying to figure out where to visit can take some serious thought. Hopefully, this post may help a little. Father Christmas is FREE to visit at intu Metrocentre and what's more, he's pretty good. The grotto is festive, there's colouring in tables to keep the kids entertained in the queue, kids will receive a very decent Playmobil set as a gift AND Santa and his elf are cheerful and chatty. Plus there's free parking at intu Metrocentre and lots of other ways to keep the little ones entertained during your visit too. What's not to love? 

First of all, a big shout out to the Christmas decorations at intu Metrocentre - they are just so pretty! It's worth a trip just to check them out. The giant light-up reindeer is definitely my favourite and the Christmas tree is the tallest that we've ever seen. 

Visiting Santa Claus at intu Metrocentre

You'll find the Christmas Grotto next to the Yellow Customer Service desk in the lower Qube opposite Argos. You can't miss the entrance right by the giant light-up reindeer. You don't need to book or pay anything - it's completely free and you simply turn up during opening hours and join the queue. 

Here's all the essential info you need to know. You can book online for signing Santa here.

We visited on a Sunday evening at around 4pm and the queue was around 20 minutes long (there are helpful signs letting you know how long you'll have to wait). There are colouring tables and sheets to keep little ones entertained while you wait and the time passed super quickly.

Once you've made it to the front of the queue, a friendly elf will welcome your family into Santa's grotto.

Father Christmas is lovely  - he took the time to chat with Heidi and Jack (read this post to find out why Harry wasn't with us) and asked them what they'd like for Christmas and what they were doing at school. Heidi and Jack really warmed to him.

There's plenty of opportunities for photos too and I liked that I could stand at the back to get these more candid shots as well as join in and chat with Santa and the kids too (mostly about Jack's behaviour - I'm afraid I'm one of those parents who uses Santa as a bribe to be good at this time of year).

Our chat lasted 3-5 minutes and at the end, Father Christmas handed Heidi and Jack their very own Playmobil set. Heidi received the tooth fairy set which is currently selling for £2.99 on Amazon and Jack received the Pirate and cannon (also £2.99). I honestly can't believe this is all completely FREE of charge. Heidi and Jack were chuffed to pieces with their gifts, I mean what child doesn't love Playmobil? The figures kept them busy as we waited for dinner at MOD Pizza later on in the evening too. Children under 18 months will receive a roll along toy. 

Kids Club and Family Films at Odeon 

There's lots of fun you can add to your visit to Father Christmas and really make the most of your day. We watched Paddington 2 at the Odeon and loved it. If you're looking for an ideal movie to watch with the kids, we can't recommend Paddington enough - I think it's actually better than the first one!

A quick heads up that if you book to see 'Olaf's Frozen Adventure' at Odeon Metrocentre at 10am on  25 - 26 November, every child will receive a FREE Olaf Lego figure and a £5 voucher to redeem at the Lego Store. Terms and conditions apply, see here for details.  if you're looking to save money, Odeon Kids club show family films every weekend morning and tickets cost just £3.25 each. 

Family-friendly dining at intu Metrocentre 

*We received a complimentary meal at MOD Pizza

There are loads of places to dine with the kids at intu Metrocentre - our go-to places are Carluccio's, Yo Sushi or BarBurrito. We were recently invited along to try MOD Pizza with the kids and were really impressed so will add them to our list of recommendations too. MOD Pizza is perfect if you're looking for a quick pizza and like to try lots of different toppings. Pizzas are all made to order and you can order as many or little toppings as you like for the same price.

We also like the unlimited soda machine - you can try 37 different combinations. I went for the cherry fanta (throw-back to Florida). 

My three loved crafting their own pizza at MOD. You order at the counter and move along the stations asking the staff to add toppings as you go. It's fab for kids as they can physically see what is going on their pizza. Jack made me laugh as he kept asking for more sweetcorn! The pizzas are cooked in a matter of minutes and brought straight to your table. The service is personal too - your name is written on your pizza so there's no chance of a mix-up.

If you forward this video to 6 minutes 30 seconds you'll be able to catch a glmpse of some of the festive decorations and watch us select our MOD pizza toppings.

Heidi and I are pretty boring and like our pizzas plain and simple. I think on my next visit I will pick a few toppings though as my pizza did taste on the bland side.

A special shout out to the dipping sauces you can order on the side. The pizza dipping sauce was my absolute fave where as Steve preffered the hot sauce.

Steve's pizza included the not so popular combination of pineapple and pesto....hmm not sure I'd choose that but I guess that's the beuty of being allowed to create any combination you like. Harry normally sticks with Pepperoni but added some other meats this time and Jack loaded his pizza with chicken and sweetcorn.

The pizzas arrived piping hot but as soon as they had cooled enough they were ready for us to tuck in. Not the best pizza we've ever eaten but most definitely not the worse either and we thought they were perfect for dining with kids as they were so quick and easy plus good for picky eaters. We were able to bring our leftovers home in a pizza box too. We all left MOD Pizza saying we'll be back when we need a quick pizza fix during our next shopping trip. 

Make sure you follow the MOD Pizza Facebook page as they often run Kids Eat Free promotions.

We loved our little trip to intu Metrocentre and would 100% recommend you add a trip to enjoy a bite to eat, a family movie and of course a visit to meet Father Christmas and receive a FREE Playmobil toy. 

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