A UK Family Travel & Lifestyle Blog

50+ Spooktacular Halloween Events & Children's Parties in North East England | October 2017

Halloween is fast approching and if like me, you like to be organised, you'll love my bumper guide to celebrating this festival with kids in North East England. There's everything from potion making to Harry Potter inspired plays, pumpkin carving and fancy dress parties. As always, timings and events can change so please always check details before booking/attending.

14 - 18 October | Wand & Potion Making | Alnwick Garden

Join Alnwick Garden in their crafty cabin for wand and potion making. Find out more

16 October | Spooks & Spiders Halloween Event | Round the Twist

Halloween Special Messy Play. Tickets are £5.95 and include unlimited soft play. Don't forget a towel! Find out more

7 - 31 October | Spooky Trail | Sunderland Winter Gardens

Follow the trail to find spooky stories and collectibles. Trails are available from the museum shop for £2.50 and include a special prize on completion. Find out more

Half Term Week

21 - 25 October | Halloween Scare Zone | Alnwick Garden

The Bamboo Maze will come alive - or should that be undead this week. Parental discretion advised for this one. Find out more here

21 - 29 October | Funny Bones Halloween Fun | Wallington Hall

See how many pumpkins you can spot in the woodland, make a mud mask and book your place on a pumpkin. Find out more here

21 - 29 October | Halloween Spooktacular at Frighthouse Farm | Whitehouse Farm

Lots of extra Halloween themed activities included with admission at Whitehouse Farm this week. Find out more here

21 - 29 October | Pumpkin Week | Belsay Hall

Take part in a spooky trail around the grounds and some special Belsay crafts. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Spooky Face Painting & Spooky Trail at Sage | Sage Gateshead

Head to the Sage between 11am - 2pm and take part in their FREE spooky trail and have your face painted. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Halloween Half Term | Alnwick Castle

With artisans, medieval alchemists, spooky trails and broomstick training. There's loads going on at Alnwick Garden this week. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Spooky Half Term | Warkworth Castle 

Discover the castle's gruesome history with scary story telling and a spooky trail to complete. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Halloween at Seven Stories | Seven Stories

Seven Stories will be decorated in spook-tacular fashion this week. You'll find a range of scary reads in the book shop and spooky story telling upstairs in the attic. Fancy dress is encouraged. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Halloween Half Term | Hall Hill Farm

Make your own scarecrow, carve a pumpkin, watch a puppet show and have your face painted at Hall Hill Farm this week. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Pumpkin Festival | Adventure Valley 

Adventure Valley are hosting their first ever pumpkin festival. Collect a free pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, enjoy pumpkin slingshot and watch a pumpkin puppet show. Find out more

21 - 29 October | The Great Pumpkin Robbery | Brockbushes

Enjoy a 20 minute puppet show before heading into the maze where you'll meet the frog who will help you save Halloween. All children will receive a free pumpkin to take home, pumpkin seeds and a tractor ride back to the car park. Aimed at children aged around 2-7 years. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Halloween Fun at Preston Park | Preston Park Museum & Grounds

Enjoy lots of Halloween fun at Preston Park this week - there's a different activity every day. Choices include freaky face painting, broomstick training, magic school, potion making and a dragon parade. Find out more

21 - 29 October | Halloween Half Term | Down at the Farm

Visit the pumpkin patch, carve your pumpkin, make a scarecrow, watch creepy critters, enter the haunted house, watch a spooky magic show and more. Find out more here

21 - 29 October | Pumpkin Trail | Woodhorn Museum

Find all of the pumpkins dotted around the museum. Complete the trail and receive a small treat. Find out more

21 - 31 October | Halloween Trail at Gibside | Gibside

Trick or treating, creepy crafts and a spooky outdoor trail.  Find out more

21 - 31 October | Halloween Glass - Various Activities | The National Glass Centre

There are different activities each day including make a glass pumpkin, glass pumpkin demos, goulish glass painting and shadow lanterns. Find out more

22 October | Halloween Decorations | Ormesby Hall

Create spooky decorations and Halloween bunting to decorate your home for Halloween. Find out more

23 October | Beastly Britons | Segedenum Roman Fort

Follow clues around the museum and complete a murder mystery, create charms from natural materials to ward off evil spirits and make a goulish head on a stick to take home. Find out more

23 - 25 October | Wendy the Witch | Customs House South Shields

Join Wendy the Witch for this 60 minute family-friendly performance as she tries to find her magic spells. Find out more

23 - 27 October | Boggle Busting Halloween Trail | Cherryburn

Boggles are Northumbrian ghastly spirits. Follow the trail and become an expert boggle buster. Find out more

23 & 24, 27 & 28, 31 October | Halloween Evenings at Beamish | Beamish Museum

There is SO much going on - activities include a best-dressed competition, eyeball soup for sale, a demon dentist, stocks, meet the mad scientist making potions, escapologist Chris Cross, spooky lino painting, the forest of lost souls and more. Find out more here 

24 - 29 October | Potions, Charms and Spells | Hardwick Hall

Grab our trail from the gift shop and take part in a wizarding adventure around the park. Find out more 

25 October | Unicorn Pumpkin Painting | Katie's Garden

Create a pumkin with a difference at Katie's Garden this Halloween. All materials are provided. Find out more here

26 October | Harry Panto & The Chamber Pot of Secrets

A spectacular parody that will leave you wanting Volde-more. Suitable for the whole family with magic tricks galore. Find out more here

26 & 27 October | Pumpkin Carving | Wallington Hall

Carve a spooky lantern design during a special carving session. Find out more

26 October - 31 October | Hocus Pocus | The Word, South Shields

Join The Word for a spooktacular storytelling session where you'll be taken on a magical potion stirring journey. Find out more here

26, 27, 28 October | Museums at Night | Across Newcastle

Explore art, history and heritage in some of Newcastle's most-loved museums at night as part of this special event. Find out more here

26, 27, 28 October | Hallowe'en Fun | Souter Lighthouse

Trick or treating, spooky crafts and a special Halloween trail Find out more here

26, 27, 28 October | Pumpkin Carving | Gibside

Join the pumpkin carving team at Gibside and create your own spooky lantern to take home. Find out more

27 October | Spooky Night at The Museum | Discovery Museum

Join the Discovery Museum for a special family-friendly Halloween party. There will be bewitching tales, bug handling, creepy crafts, a devilish disco, face painting, games and more. Find out more

27 & 28 October | All Hallows' | Auckland Castle

Join this special 40 minute family-friendly torch-lit trail through the deer park.  Find out more

27 - 29 October | Back from the dead | The Linskill Centre

The Linskill zombies are back from the dead with more screams and horror than ever before. Find out more

Halloween Weekend

28 October | Halloween Party | The Jolly Bowman

Join the Jolly Bowman for party games, face painting and lots of Halloween fun at their family party. Find out more here

28 October | Beer & Fright Night | Gibside Beer Garden

Expect the usual Friday night fun at Gibside but with extra cobwebs, dressing up and fun foodie puns. Find out more

28 October | The Keel Row Halloween Party | The Keel Row

The Keel Row pub are back with their famous family Halloween party with a free spooky buffet, party games, kids punch, disco and more. Find out more

28 October | Pumpkin Fun Workshop | Blackfriars

Spend the day at Blackfriars carving pumpkins and enjoying some delicious Pumpkin soup and Pumpkin pie for lunch. Find out more

28 & 29 October | Tanfield Ghost Train | Tanfield Railway

The Tanfield Ghost Train will involve witches potions, fangtastic food and station clowns! Find out more

28 & 29 October | Pumpkintastic Weekend | Kirkley Hall Zoo

Bring along a pumpkin and join in with Kirkley Hall's carving competition - you can even leave some pumkin behind for the animals to enjoy. Find out more here

28 & 29 October | Terrible Tales & Halloween Birds of Prey | Woodhorn

There will be Birds of Prey demonstrating their skills and spooky stories from Northumberland's past taking place across the weekend.  Find out more

28 & 29 October | Children's Halloween | Crook Hall & Garden

Complete a treasure hunt with tricks and treats along the way - watch out for the white lady and the witch locked in the tower.  Find out more here

28 October | Kids Halloween Party | The Wheatsheaf, Benton

An afternoon of Halloween fun with games, prizes and fancy dress. Find out more

29 October | Halloween Special | Stephenson Railway Museum

There'll be a witch hunt around the museum and the Stephenson trains will be decorated in spectacular Halloween fashion. Find out more

29 October | Family Halloween Party | Blue Flames Sporting Club

Dress up and join Blue Flames for their annual Halloween party with disco and games. Find out more here

29 October | Halloween at the Hall | Seaton Delaval Hall

Bring your pumpkin and join in with the parade, enter competitions and listen to spooky storytelling in the woods. Find out more

30 October | Halloween Baby Boogie Disco | Round the Twist

Enjoy a Halloween disco in the dark for babies aged under 18 months. Includes unlimited entry to soft play. Find out more 


31 October | Funnybones Halloween Party | Round the Twist

Join Round the Twist for a Glow in the Dark Disco, Treasure Hunt, Graveyard Room, Soft Play and more! Find out more

31 October | Halloween Spooky Walk | Preston Park Museum & Grounds

Hop aboard the fear bus and join Preston Park for an extra spooky walk with lots of surprises around their ground. Find out more

Why I've finally rejoined the gym after 8 years off

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

Last week I re-joined the gym after around 8 years. I was pretty scared to take my induction but it was absolutely fine and I survived! Back in the day, I used a gym from age 16. Boys and alcohol took over for a few years but I rejoined when Harry was born and continued until Heidi was a baby and Harry was a toddler. It was pretty easy then as I worked part-time, my local gym offered childcare, I had my own car and lots of willing babysitters. I really loved it and I am certain that all the advice that tells you that exercise is important not only your physical health but also your emotional wellbeing is true. Going to the gym feels pretty indulgent too - as parents when else do you get a full 30 minutes - 1 hour to yourself to listen to Beyonce?? 

It's not really an excuse but then Jack came along and I was suddenly running around after 3 children and the gym really was the last thing on my mind. The years passed by and we moved away from the gym with childcare, I no longer had my own car and if you fast forward to the present day, I work full-time on my blog whilst juggling looking after 3 kids with little help so trying to squeeze in the gym seems almost impossible at times and the whole thing was just pushed to the back of my mind.

The thing is though, in your 30s (or any time of life really), your health should always be a priority. The ONLY thing that works to improve my health and fitness is going to the gym and it's the only thing I ever stick to. Once I get started, I actually love it too. I joined my local council gym which is £32 per month so not too expensive at all. I plan to go just twice a week to start off with and hopefully as I get more organised move this to three times. If I walk the kids to school, walk to the gym, complete a 45 minute workout and then walk home, I should be back at my desk by 11am which means I am only taking 3.5 hours out of my work time to do this. It also means that I'll be walking 6 miles per day on top of my workout on gym days. September always feels like a good time for a fresh start and now that I've been working full-time from home for two years now, I feel comfortable enough to make some more time for myself and that the world won't end because of it.

I'm not exactly skinny though and I think one of the barriers for me to overcome has been not knowing where to buy decent gym clothes that look ok and are supportive. I'm a size 18-20 and it's not like I can just pop to JD Sports. I also had the problem of buying a sports bra - I'm  a 38 HH and it's not an easy task. Even M&S or Bravissimo don't stock a Sports Bra in that size. So the mission was on to find somewhere! 

Before our trip to Florida, I popped into Simply Be at the MetroCentre for the first time ever and I was actually impressed with the range on offer and how comfortable their clothes were. I picked up this gorgeous Maxi dress for £35 which is now my new favourite holiday dress. I picked up a few bits and bobs in fact and loved every single piece - even their denim range fit me perfectly and didn't feel like it was digging in at all. I vowed to go back when I needed to update my wardrobe again. 

I wasn't sure if Simply Be also offered gym clothing too so checked online and was delighted to see a full range of active wear. They offer everything from a variety of leggings in sizes 10 - 32 to sports tops, joggers and swimwear. I even managed to find a Sports Bra that fits (whoop whoop). Here's my new gym kit below. I love it! 

My gym membership includes unlimited swim (which will please the kids) and unlimited classes too. There is so much choice though and I am a little overwhelmed as there are over 100 to choose from. Let me know if there are any from this timetable you'd recommend to beginners like me. 

So there you have it, I'm now one of those annoying people who will probably start checking into the gym on Facebook and posting pics of my workout on Insta Stories. Don't hate me too much! 


Where to watch a Fireworks Display | North East England 2017

It's almost that time of year! I love Bonfire night and there are plenty of places to enjoy an organised display across our region this year. Please remember that this post has been written in advance and timings can change so please always check details with venue direct before booking/making a trip. Let me know if there are any displays I've missed and I'll add them to the post.

2 November | Fireworks at the Fort | Segedenum Roman Fort | FREE display

FREE entry to the museum, fort and cafe from 4pm. The spectacular display to the back drop of the river Tyne will begin at 6:30pm. Find out more here

3 November | Seaham Fireworks | Seaham | FREE display

Head to George Elmy Lifeboat Way for the best views. Event runs from 6:30pm - 7:45pm. Find out more here

4 November | St Cuthbert's Hospice Fireworks | Framwellgate School, Durham

The skies will be lit up during this firework spectacular which is sponsored by Ramside Hall and aims to raise £ for St Cuthbert's Hospice. Expect food stalls and fairground rides too. Gates open at 6pm with the fireworks display scheduled for 7:30pm. Tickets are £5 per adult, £3 per children and under 2's are free. Family tickets are available. Find out more here

4 November | Hexham Round Table Bonfire & Fireworks | Sele, Hexham | FREE display

Bonfire will be lit at 6:30pm with fireworks being set off from 7pm. Find out more here

4 November | Metro Radio Saltwell Fireworks | Saltwell Park

Live music, metrognomes, a huge bonfire, a fantastic display and fairground rides will provide an evening of entertainment from 5pm. Tickets are £3 each and should be pre-booked. Find out more here. 

5 November | Blue Flames Fireworks | Blue Flames Sporting Club 

Gates open at 4pm and the display starts at 6:30pm. As well as fireworks you can expect fairground rides, bouncy castles, hot food stalls, a bar and more. Tickets cost £4 per adult and £3 per child if booked in advance (£1 more if paying on the gate). Find out more here

5 November | Firework Extravaganza | Harwick Hall

You don't need to book in advance to enjoy this event, simply turn up and pay on the door (£4 per ticket - children under 12 are free). Expect food stalls, children's rides and fireworks. Doors open 6pm and fireworks begin at 7:15pm. Find out more here

5 December | Sunderland Illuminations Closing Party | Cliffe Park | FREE display

The best viewing point for this free display will be at Cliffe Park or along the sea front. Spectacular fireworks will mark the end of Sunderland Illuminations for 2017. Starts at 6pm. Find out more. 

5 November | Riverside Fireworks | Riverside Park, Chester le Street

This year's display is witches and wizards themed and set to music. There will be a fancy dress competition, fun fair, live music, food and refreshments. Tickets are £5 each (children under 6 are free). Limited car parking £5 per car. Find out more here.

5 November | The Links Whitley Bay | FREE display

Enjoy fairground rides and refreshments from 6pm with a spectacular 15 minute display at 7pm. Free to attend. Find out more here. 

6 November | Bonfire Night at Beamish Hall | Beamish Hall Hotel

An authentic samba band will build the atmosphere and a bonfire will be lit before a spectacular display fills the skies. Expect snacks, food and stalls too. Tickets are £3 each (under 3s go free). Limited parking at £5 per car. Find out more here

Remember to wrap up warm and stay safe! 


Sometimes you just have a bad day

Do you ever have one of those days that just gets on your nerves for no particular reason? Well yesterday was one such day.

I woke up, dressed and put my phone on charge for an hour as I normally do while I catch up on emails from my laptop. We had plans to spend the day in town shopping for Harry's birthday presents and were looking forward to a delicious lunch at Colonol Porters.

At 10:30am it was time to leave. I picked up my coat, bag and phone only to find that my phone had not been charging and I only had 25% battery left. Grrrr! I picked up my power bank and headed to the car to then find that my power bank cable had broken. Spending a day without my phone when I hadn't planned on it - especially as I wanted to take photos of lunch to blog about it did not put me in the best of fettles!

South Gosforth is closed at the moment so we had to divert from our usual route and travelled via the A1 only to find as soon as we joined the road, the traffic was nose to tail as there had been an accident. We crawled along the road at a snail's pace. I always stress when I need to take a day off and away from my laptop anyway as I can't help but think of all the work that awaits my return and I'll have to do in the evening instead. Thinking of this whilst sitting in a traffic jam is not the best way to spend my morning.

Once in town I plugged my phone into one of the free charger lockers at intu Eldon Square (thank god for them) and we managed a little bit of shopping. We popped into a mobile phone shop to ask about adding a phone to our account for Harry but the process seemed to take forever - it's never a case of just popping into somewhere anymore is it? There are sofas where you need to wait in a queue for an advisor and then they need to ring someone.......In my head I assumed we'd be in and out but instead I ended up leaving Steve to it as I was tired of waiting and popped to WH Smith for a browse instead.

Before we knew it, it was 1pm and we were starting to get pushed for time. At this point we were starving and I couldn't be bothered to walk all the way down to the Quayside. Steve was insistent though as had his heart set on Colonel Porters so we started walking. We got to Colonel Porters only to find it was closed. The doors were locked and there were no signs outside. I checked Social Media and they should have been open. They had even 'liked' Steve's Tweet about looking forward to lunch there. Urgh I can't stand restaurants with poor communication and dodgy opening hours! At this point, I was furious that we'd walked all this way when we were pushed for time for nothing and it was at this point that the heavens decided to open. It was a warm day when we left the house and I was only wearing a denim jacket. We walked back up to monument and were soaked by the time we got there.

Well, there was only one thing for it. I needed something to cheer me up and declared we were going to PorterHouse Butcher & Grill in Fenwick. I had a feeling they wouldn't let me down and they didn't. Steak at PorterHouse is of the highest quality and I splashed out £23 on a Sirloin. Spending money on myself usually gets me out of a grump so I wasn't bothered about the high price tag. The seating in the restaurant was comfortable, service was super speedy and my steak was the best I'd eaten in a long time. Worth spending a little extra on. Steak is cooked on a charcoal-fired Josper grill which really gives your steak a proper char-grilled taste - it's like it's been cooked on a proper BBQ only 100x better. Obviously, my steak was perfectly cooked and it was served with the best hipster fries (with parmesan and truffle oil which had been perfectly seasoned) and a range of mustards and sauces. Steve ordered the less expensive Steak & Eggs with HP Sauce (£14.50) which was equally as good. These aren't the best pictures as I was dying to just tuck in but I'm going to share them anyway to give you an idea of what to expect.

Sometimes you just have a bad day - Lunch at PorterHouse Grill in Fenwick Food hall changed my fortune!

Sitting in Fenwick food hall and eating good food with Steve is definitely one of my happy places. We popped to the Ouseburn Coffee stand after lunch for a quick espresso before heading home and honestly, all was fine with the world again and my bad mood disappeared.

This day so could have continued badly so thanks to PorterHouse for changing my fortune. If you're getting frustrated with the crowds of Newcastle or would like to experience what I think is the best place for steak and fries in town, check out PorterHouse Grill in Fenwick Foodhall and you won't be disapoointed.

A Guide to What's On in the North East for Kids | 16 & 17 September 2017

Welcome to the weekend! Lots going on ranging from spotting the Flying Scotsman to live music, fairies in the woods and food festivals. If you'd like to receive my weekly what's on guide as a weekly email, please subscribe to my free mailing list here. 

16 & 17 September | Roald Dahl Weekend at Seven Stories

Seven Stories is celebrating all things Roald Dahl this weekend with Dahl-themed storytime, themed crafts and more. Why not come along dressed as your favourite character? Find out more here

16 & 17 September | Autumn Steam Gala with the Flying Scotsman at Shildon Railway Museum

Shildon Railway Museum is hosting the world-famous Flying Scotsman this weekend and it's a rare chance to see this magnificent engine up close. Entry to the museum is free and train rides are chargeable. Find out more here

16 & 17 September | Alnwick Food Festival | Market Square 

This free family festival will feature lots of food and drink stalls plus lots of family entertainment ranging from alpacas to face painting, live music, fire eating, Charlie the Clown and more. Find out more here. Find out more here

16 September | Live Music at Seaton Delaval Hall

Tune Army Lukes Band will be entertaining the crowds between 1pm and 3pm at Seaton Delaval Hall today.

16 September | Guided walk - Housesteads to Sycamore Gap

Suitable for ages 10+, join this guided 5 mile walk to 2016's tree of the year. Places should be pre-booked. Find out more here 

17 September | Woollen Woods | Chopwell Woods

Head down to Chopwell Woods between 11am - 4pm and discover woollen fairies and creatures throughout. FREE family event. Find out more here

17 September | Car Boot Sale at Souter Lighthouse 

Souter Lighthouse is hosting it's regular car boot sale from 10am - 3pm today. Entry by donation for buyers or £10 per car for sellers. No need to book, simply turn up. Find out more here

Have a good weekend! 

The Ultimate Guide to Hosting an Oktoberfest Party at Home (+ Hofmeister Giveaway)

*This is a collaborative post and features affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details

Oktoberfest 2017 runs from 16 September - 3 October and I can't wait! We celebrated with a special Oktoberfest meal at the Broad Chare last year and it certainly gave us the Oktoberfest bug. The Broad Chare will be running this menu again from 5-13 October if you fancy trying it yourself.

I'd love, love, love to visit the official festival in Munich  but that trip will have to remain on our travel bucket list for now. There are plenty of ways you can enjoy Oktoberfest without making a trip to Germany though and if you scroll to the bottom of this post, you can enter my giveaway to win two cases of Hofmeister Helles Lager which will certainly add to your at home celebrations.

Oktoberfest is the world's largest beer festival and traveling funfair. Held in Munich on an annual basis, more than 6 million people attend from around the world each year. Wow that's a lot of people! Over 7 million litres of beer are served throughout the festival and visitors can enjoy traditional German food, fairground rides, side stalls and games. 

How to Celebrate Oktoberfest at Home 

Unfortunately, we can't make it to Germany this year but all is not lost and we're planning on throwing a mini Oktoberfest party at home instead. We're stocking up on our new favourite German beer, Hofmeister which is slow brewed to perfection in the heart of the Bavarian forest. We've sampled a few bottles over the past few weeks in the run up to this post and I have to say, Hofmeister may actually be my new favourite drink. It's super light and goes down very easily. I'd describe it as easy drinking, refreshing and not too hoppy. 

I like to drink my beer straight from the bottle but if you'd like to drink like a pro and pour it the Bavarian way, Hofmeister has produced a handy guide to pouring the perfect beer here. Apparently, if you pour your beer into a glass like this you'll release more aromas. I still prefer to drink straight from a chilled bottle and I'd love to hear if you think it tastes better from a glass. 

Of course, you'll also need some awesome Oktoberfest food to enjoy with your Bavarian beer. I highly recommend baking your own Pretzels - they honestly go so well with beer! Or if you'd really like to push the boat out, you can maybe create your own show stopping Black Forest Gateau. You can even get the kids involved and make Birnenfannjuchen - a traditional German Pear & Ginger Pancake. Here's an easy recipe to follow from Hodge Podge Days. 

Check out this site for lots more traditional Oktoberfest recipes - you'll find everything from Strudel to Sauerkraut and Bratwurst. 

Shop Oktoberfest

I love these Oktoberfest props and costumes which will definitely add a little bit of fun to your party! 


You can find Oktoberfest playlists on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. 

Oktoberfest Giveaway 

The lovely folk at Hofmeister have provided us with not one but two cases of Hofmeister Helles Lager to giveaway to one lucky winner. Obviously, you need to be over 18 to enter this giveaway and please drink responsibly! UK entries only. Enter via rafflecopter below. Daily entry is available via Twitter.

Terms and Conditions:

*Prize is 2 x cases of Hofmeister beer (24 x 330ml bottles in total)
*Strictly over 18s only. Please drink responsibly
 *UK Mainland Postage is included.  No refunds will be given. There is no cash alternative.
*Giveaway ends midnight 24/9/17. One winner will be selected at random from all valid entries and notified via email.
*Giveaway excludes employees and family members associated with Egmont Publishing and North East Family Fun

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The Ultimate Guide to Hosting an Oktoberfest Party at Home


10 Reasons to Visit York in December

York is only around a 1 hour train journey from Newcastle Upon Tyne and it's a city I love visiting in December - it's perfect for a day trip. York's cobbled narrow streets, array of independent boutiques and architecture certainly add to that festive feeling. I usually visit every couple of years and a trip is certainly on the cards this December. You probably don't need any convincing, but here are 10 reasons to visit York in December:

1 - St Nicholas Fair 

St Nicholas Fair runs from 16th November - 22nd Decmeber 2017. Meander through the festive chalets and market stalls under twinkling lights and purchase Christmas gifts or festive food from stallholders. This year will see a special Yorkshire Yuletide Village pop up which will focus on Yorkshire-made gifts and crafts. Find the markets in York City Centre, particularly Parliament Square, St Sampsons Square, the Shambles and Coppergate.

2 - Festive treats from Bettys

World-famous Bettys will be selling lots of festive treats from their York stores in December. Expect homemade Christmas puddings, Christmas cakes, Christmas truffles, Gingerbread, Hot Chocolate and more.

3 - Christmas shopping at York's Designer Outlet

It's easy to hop on a bus from the city centre and visit York Designer Outlet for some Christmas bargains. Expect everything from Adidas to Cadbury's, Claire's, Levi's and Joules. There's also Yorkshire's Winter Wonderland to enjoy but more about that later.....

4 - Hot Chocolate from Cocoa House

Where better to enjoy a hot chocolate than York's Cocoa House? Their recipe dates back to 1644 and is made in the traditional way so expect your drink to be warm, thick and luxurious. There are various options to choose from too.

5 - Yorkshire's Winter Wonderland

Yorkshire's Winter Wonderland (at York's Designer Outlet) is home to the North's biggest outdoor ice rink. Spanning 975 metres with a 30 ft Christmas Tree in it's centre, it's certainly a sight to behold. As well as skating there's a winter fun fair, Santa's funfair and a heated alpine chalet serving hot drinks and snacks.

6 - York's Ice Trail 

Visit York between 9th & 10th December and you'll be able to take part in the UK's largest outdoor ice trail. There are over 40 festive figures to find around the city and there'll be the chance to win some fantastic prizes. You can warm up with hot chocolate, mulled wine and street food en-route.

7 - Winter BBQ and Warm Cider at Thor's Tipi 

A trip to York in December simply has to include a visit to Thor's Tipi - a pop-up Nordic bar with warming fires, cosy furs and a winter garden. Enjoy beers, mulled wine and warm cider and order some food from the winter BBQ to refuel.

8 - The Shambles

The Shambles is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe and home to cheerful cafes, small boutiques and artisan crafts. Often described as one of the most picturesque streets in the UK, I bet it looks even more beautiful with a sprinkling of snow.

9 - Drink Mulled Wine at The Punch Bowl 

The Punch Bowl is one of my favourite pubs in York. Head to Stonegate to visit this 17th Century Pub which is full of history and character. It's even said to be haunted! A festive menu is available throughout December and rumour has it that their mulled wine is up there with the best.

10 - York Minster

If you'd like to remember the true meaning of Christmas, head to York Minster which I think is one of the world's most magnificent Cathedrals. You can take a tour, attend a service or enjoy a special Christmas performance.

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10 Reasons to Visit York in December


1867 at Tyne Theatre & Opera House - a unique, immersive experience for theatre & history lovers

*We were invited to a press performance of this show. Please see my disclosure policy for details

As I was driving back from Newcastle in the dark this evening, I had to switch my headlights on for the first time this year and I couldn't help but feel excited about the months ahead. Autumn/Winter is a fantastic time of year for theatre and the Tyne Theatre & Opera House & 27 Productions has kicked the season off with a cracking week of one-off and unique performance/experience/tours in special celebration of the theatre's 150th birthday. 

1867 at Tyne Theatre & Opera House Review - a unique, immersive experience for theatre & history lovers

It's no secret that the Tyne Theatre & Opera House is one of my favourite theatres. Standing proudly on Westgate Road, the building is steeped in history both inside and out. 1867 aims to bring some of the theatre's history back to life and is part theatre tour, part history lesson and part live theatre. There are two performances daily (2:30pm and 7:30pm) until 17th September and if you love theatre or have ever watched a show here, I would urge you to buy a ticket as you gain a massive insight into theatre life, the history of the building and how it works today. 

1867 is a 45 - 60 minute walking tour (although there is one part where you get to sit in the stalls) around the theatre. It's an intimate performance with limited tickets available for each show and you don't just get to be up and close to the action, you actually get to be part of it. The performance begins with audience members being provided with a special headset which guides you around the theatre and shares tales of the theatre's past. You'll bump into various theatre cast members along the way too. It's an odd mix of up-close theatre, the unknown and a self-guided tour. It works well though.

The tour takes you from the theatre bar to the stage door, past dressing rooms and even into the basement. I don't want to give too much away but can't help but share a couple of my highlights. We stumbled upon a stage hand on the actual theatre stage (which by the way is around 10 times bigger than I expected) and were introduced to the theatre chairman. As he shared with us a few tales from the theatre's history (I had no idea it was a picture house for 60 years), the safety curtain started to raise and we got to experience what it must feel like to be an actual actor on stage at curtain up. It was all very exciting! 

Another huge highlight was being taken down into the theatre's basement. It's a pinch yourself moment as you get to see all of the theatre's workings up close - something the general public would never get to see. I had no idea that so much work went into the trap door we usually see at the panto! I'll be watching this year's show with a brand new insight now. A stage hand invited us to take a peek up close and told stories of past performances which involved horses on stage and up to 190 crew working behind the scenes. It's really easy to imagine the theatre in action. 

1867 at Tyne Theatre & Opera House Review - a unique, immersive experience for theatre & history lovers

We 'stumbled' upon a rehearsal of Macbeth and listened intently as we learned about the theatre's big fire in the 80s. You can still see the charred beams by the side of the stage too. 

1867 at Tyne Theatre & Opera House Review - a unique, immersive experience for theatre & history lovers

I absolutely LOVED the experience and if you are interested in the history of Newcastle, theatres or just fancy a peek at how trap-doors work, I would definitely recommend. My only criticism is that the experience felt like it was over quite quickly. At around 45 minutes long, it's the shortest performance I've watched in a long time. They do manage to pack a lot in though and I've spent my evening tonight sharing my newly found theatre knowledge with Steve. I know the rest of the family are going to get a little bored of me pointing out that I've actually been behind the scenes when we next watch a show ( and the time after that ). I feel like taking this special behind the scenes tour is a real privilege and I am so pleased I had the chance. I really enjoyed being on the wrong side of the stage and as I am super nosey by nature, it was fantastic being able to have a nose around places the public don't normally get to see.

1867 runs until 17th September. Tickets are £20 each. The performance is suitable for adults and children aged 14+ (minors must be accompanied). Due to the nature of the show, it is not suitable for those with mobility issues.


Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee 2 Book Launch | We Play in Real Life at Plessey Woods

*This is a collaborative post. Please see my disclosure policy for details

To celebrate the launch of 'Star Wars Where's the Wookiee 2', we decided to have a bit of fun and play the game in real life. The kids dressed up in their Wookie onesies and we headed to Plessey Woods (aka the forest moon of Endor) where a couple of Ewoks agreed to join in with the fun. 

These two cheeky Ewoks (Wicket and Chirpa) heard a whisper that three Wookiees had crashed their space ship on the Forest Moon of Endor and worried for their safety, decided to start a search party through the forest to find them. 

Wicket and Chirpa searched high and low and could not spot any signs of any Wookiees........

But then something caught Wicket's eye.......a lone Wookiee seemed to be resting in the forest. 

Yeah! Wookiee #1 (Harry-bacca) was so happy to find someone to help him - he had been separated from his pack in the crash. Wicket jumped in his pocket and led the way to find the others. 

Together, Harry-bacca, Wicket and Chirpa searched the forest for signs of Wookiee life, they looked behind trees, down holes and even scanned the river. 

It was only when they remembered to look up that they spotted Wookiee #2 (Heidi-bacca) who has a penchant for climbing trees. Hurrah! Only one more Wookiee left to find. Wookiee #3 (Jack-bacca) is the baby of the Wookiee family and time really was of the essence as it was starting to get dark and they were all worried he might be feeling scared. 

The Wookiee and Ewok search party scoured the woods for Jack-bacca for what felt like hours. Eventually, they found him sitting on the forest floor reading his favourite book (Star Wars: Where the Wookie 2 in case you hadn't guessed) without a care in the world. 

Now that everyone had been located, it was time for Harry-bacca, Heidi-bacca and Jack-bacca to say goodbye to their Ewok friends Wicket and Chirpa until next time. The Wookiees presented the Ewoks with their new book as a special thank you for their help before climbing aboard their ship (which thankfully hadn't been damaged in the crash) and heading back home to Kashyyyk for a well earned cup of tea.

What do the Ewoks think of their new book? 

The Ewoks had never received such a lovely gift and adore their new book. Chirpa would definitely recommend it to any Star Wars fans - young and old! This fun book will provide hours of entertainment as you search for Chewbacca and his friends across various locations.  If you're a fan of Rogue One, you'll be delighted to hear that locations from the film appear in the book too.

Wicket thinks that Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee 2 is a nice book for keeping kids of all ages entertained during long journeys across the galaxy and is confident it will keep children quiet for at least 20 minutes at a time if their grown ups would like some peace and quiet. As well as searching for Wookiees, parents can set the children additional challenges (eg count the number of times R2D2 makes an appearance) and it really is a book that you can come back to time and time again.

Where to Buy

You can buy Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee (original) and Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee 2 from Amazon and most good book stores. 

Giveaway | Win Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee Book Bundle 

Enter our rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win a copy of Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee (original) and Star Wars : Where's the Wookiee book 2. You can enter daily via Twitter. One winner will be selected at random from all valid entries. Good luck! 


22 lodges with hot tubs within a 2 hour drive of Newcastle Upon Tyne

Who doesn't love a weekend break in a quiet lodge, log cabin or cottage with a hot tub attached? A hot tub is usually high on people's list of requirements when booking a short break and readers will often ask for ideas and recommendations so I decided to put together a list of 22 places you can stay that are within a 2 hour drive of Newcastle and all come with their very own hot tub. Let me know which one you fancy!

1 - South Causey Inn, County Durham

South Causey Inn offer a selection of unique and quirky accommodation options and many come with their own hot tub. We stayed in their gorgeous Treehouse suite last year and their renovated double decker London bus is certainly popular. Private rooms are situated in the pub's grounds and you can pop in for a bite to eat or order room service. There are lovely gardens to potter around too with a duck pond, kitchen garden and a few animals to meet too.

  • Distance from Newcastle =  8.6 miles
  • Drive time = 19 minutes
  • Sleeps from 2-6  per room. Multiple rooms can be booked together
  • www.southcausey.co.uk

2 - Crab Manor Hotel

We've stayed at the Crab Manor near Thirsk a couple of times now and definitely recommend booking well in advance as they are super popular. All rooms can access a shared hot tub or there are a fair few that have their own private hot tub too. Rooms are themed and there is something for everyone. We like the lodges which are hidden in the hotel's grounds. If you love seafood, the award winning Crab & Lobster pub and restaurant is on your doorstep (and they serve a cracking breakfast) and complimentary pre-dinner canapes are served in the Crab Manor lounge for overnight guests to enjoy. You can find a hidden beer tap and help yourself to beer too! You can check out our review of the Crab & Lobster restaurant here. 

3 - Herding Hill Farm

Herding Hill Farm sits on Hadrian's Wall and offers private hot tubs attached to some of their WigWams or in their lodge accommodation. These are perfect for families who wish to really get away from it all. There's a play area, alpaca farm, small bar and pizza delivery available on site.

4 - HIgh Hemmel House, Embleton 

We are so excited to be staying here later this year. The house sleeps up to eight guests and is a short stroll away from Embleton beach and village. There's a wood burning stove and hot tub and the cottage looks perfect for larger families.

5 - Griffin Forest, near York

Griffin Forest is another favourite of ours. If you can picture what you imagine a woodland lodge to look like, the lodges at Griffin Forest will be it. The woods are home to badgers, deer, squirrels and foxes and many will come right up to your lodge. I love the little touches that are included in staying here such as wine and chocolates on arrival. Perfect!

6 - Felmoor Park

Felmoor Park near Morpeth is conveniently located just off the A1 and is a popular spot with locals looking for a short break. There are a wide selection of log cabins available to rent with deluxe models including a private hot tub and scandanavian style rain shower.

7 - Kielder Waterside

Select a Premier Lodge at Kielder Waterside Lodges and you'll be treated to your own private hot tub to enjoy under some of the darkest skies in the world. There are lots of facilities to enjoy on site including a pub, heated indoor pool, cycle trails, gym, adventure playgrounds, mini golf and more. Some of the site's platinum lodges include even more luxury with underfloor heating, star gazing pods, fluffy robes and fancy coffee machines.

8 - The Lodge in Cumbria, Canopy and Stars

This secluded cabin is perfect for those who want to get away from it all and are looking to live slow and in the wild. Spot deer, pheasants or even salmon swimming upstream and enjoy the hot tub, cosy armchairs and log burner in the evening.

9 - Village Farm, Alnwick

Village Farm near Alnwick is home to a luxury collection of holiday cottages - many feature their own hot tub. The on-site facilities are fantastic too with a swimming pool, spa, games room, horse riding, adventure playground and more.

10 - Woodland Lakes Lodges Thirsk

Woodland Lakes Lodges describe themselves as a contemporary collection of waterside lodges in the heart of North Yorkshire. VIP lodges include their own hot tubs and are well appointed around the site's 13 fishing lakes. Thirsk and York are just a short drive away and there's a restaurant and bar on site.

11 - Thanet Well Lodge Retreat, Ullswater

Tharnet Well Lodges offer first class accommodation near Penrith. Numerous lakes are within easy reach and the lodges offer a peaceful retreat with stunning views of the surrounding countryside and wildlife on your doorstep. Check out their luxury lodges if you'd like a hot tub.

12 - Lambley Farm Cottages

You'll find Lambley Farm Cottages near Haltwhistle. There are 5 to choose from, each with their own character and charm and Kingfisher Cottage comes with it's own 5 person hot tub. Expect lots of traditional features and high quality furnishings.

13 - Mount Hooley Lodge, Alston

Mount Hooley Lodge is a secluded lodge situated in an area of outstanding beauty in the heart of the penines. Accommodation can all be found on one level and the stunning views make it feel as if you are sitting on top of the world. Alston is England's highest market town and is a lovely place to explore with it's cobbled streets and craft shops.

14 - Barforth Hall Dairy, Barnard Castle

Barforth Hall Dairy is available to book through Sykes Cottages. There's a beautiful garden complete with it's own hot tub, a wood burning stove and a number of trails lead right from the cottage doorstep. There's a family of alpacas living on-site and stabling can be arranged. The cottage is well located for visiting High Force, Hamsterley Forest & The Bowes Museum.

15 - Malton Grange Lodges

These lodges are part of an exclusive 15 acre development bordering the North Yorkshire Moors. All lodges come with their own outdoor hot rub
  • Distance from Newcastle = 85 miles
  • Drive time = 1 hour 42 minutes
  • Sleeps 4
  • www.hoseasons.co.uk

16 -  Escape Hot Tub House, Washington

Escape Hot Tub House is located next to the owner's beauty spa so the perfect spot for a girl's weekend break. There are 4 double bedrooms and you'll find an open fire and hot tub on the patio. There's lots of comfy outdoor seating too.
17 - Forest Holidays Yorkshire

There are two Forest Holiday locations in Yorkshire - Keldy on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and Cropton just minutes away from North Yorkshire Steam Railway. Both parks offer a beautiful woodland setting with a range of facilities where you can really relax and get away from it all. Cabins sleep up to 10 and range from snug hideaways for 2 to sprawling treehouses with their own hot tub.

18 - Flowery Dell Lodges, Richmond

Flowery Dell Lodges are just one mile away from Richmond and perfect for a romantic and peaceful getaway. Some lodges feature hot tubs and saunas and special extra treats such as fresh flowers and in-lodge beauty treatments can be arranged.

19 - Center Parcs Whinfell Forest

Center Parcs Whinfell is one of my favourite places to stay and home to one of my favourite spas. Some of their lodges come with private hot tubs and saunas and you'll be spoilt for choice with on-site activities to enjoy.
  • Distance from Newcastle = 78 miles
  • Drive time = 1 hour 34 minutes 
  • Sleeps up to 8
  • www.centerparcs.co.uk
20 - Pickering Lodges

Situated around two large lakes, Pickering Lodges are just the right place to relax and enjoy a spot of shopping in the market town. There's a children's play area and glass fronted bar and grill on site (they also deliver).
  • Distance from Newcastle = 88 miles
  • Drive time = 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Sleeps up to 6
  • www.Hoseasons.co.uk

21 - Roulotte Retreat, Melrose Scottish Borders

Roulotte Retreat is home to 6 gorgeous Roulotte Gypsy Caravans. They look so sweet! If you book 'Zenaya' you'll be treated to a special eco hot tub. Perfect for a romantic getaway.

22 - The Tranquil Otter, The Lakes

The Tranquil Otter offers a rural retreat where guests can relax on their lodge deckingin a hot tub overlooking a private lake. Enjoy local walks and wildlife or country pubs and each lodge has it's own boat which is moored next to your lodge and free for you to use and enjoy the lake.

Phew! That's some list. Let me know if you've stayed in any of these places and if you'd recommend or if there's anywhere else I should add to my list. 

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22 lodges with hot tubs within a 2 hour drive of Newcastle Upon Tyne

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