Sunderland Festival of Light



Sunderland Festival of Light

Sunderland Festival of Light will return to its original home of Roker Park this Autumn. The event will open on 14 October and run every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until November 13th as well as every day throughout October Half Term. 



We visited Sunderland Festival of Lights on opening weekend and thought I would share some top tips for visiting alongside tips from readers. Hope you find them useful: 


Parking / Public Transport 

I've had mixed reports about parking on the sea front. Some say it's busy, other say they have managed the park no problem. In previous years we have always booked an early time slot and managed to park on the sea front in Harbour View Car Park (see further down this post for details and postcodes). Some of the streets are closed next to Roker Park but they have attendants and I believe if you are a resident or have a Blue Badge they will let you thought. 

This time, we parked at Stadium of Light Metro Car Park (postcode SR5 1JE). It is an easy 15 minute walk from Roker Park. We parked at 6:30pm and there were loads of spaces plus it was free. From the car park, cross over the bridge and then it's pretty much down one road to Roker Park. If you are travelling by public transport, remember up to three children aged 11 or under travel free for every fare paying adult on the Metro now. 


Buses seemed to be running right along the sea front as normal and bus stops weren't busy but there is no park and ride this year. 

Lots of people mention parking at Morrisons but I am reluctant to recommend as there are restrictions and a parking eye so if you do this, do so at your own risk. 


Food and Drink Options 

In Roker Park itself there is a little food village with a Greek Van, Crepe/Hot Chocolate Van and a stall selling German Sausages plus an ice cream van further around the park. The catering vans take cash or card and there is uncovered seating. Example prices: 

*Nutella Crepe £5 
*Hot Chocolate £3.50 
*Greek Wrap £7.50 
*German smoked sausage in a bun with a bottle of coke £7.50 

You can take your own picnic into the park and your own drinks too. Somebody suggested taking a flask of hot chocolate which I think is a great idea if you are on a budget. You could also take your own flask of hot dogs. There are more food stalls on the sea front near the big wheel / fun fair. 



Roker Methodist Church 

Roker Methodist Church on the corner of Roker Park has set up a stall outside serving hot dogs for the bargain price of £1 as well as a selection of drinks. They will be there every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening 5:30pm-9:30pm. Money raised will help to support the church and the work they do. You pass the church if you walk back to the Metro Station so this might be a sweetener for the kids. 



Grannie Annies 

There are several local businesses in the area but Grannie Annies seems to be the place most recommend and they are just a 2 minute walk from the park. Kids meals are £3.95, they have a sweet shop attached selling sweets for £1 and flashy toys for £4 (they are also dog friendly). 


Model Railway

There is a small model railway running next to the loos/playground in the top corner of the park (ask stewards for directions if you can't find it). This is ran by volunteers and subject to weather conditions. It is FREE but cash donations are very welcome so bring a few £ if you can. On the evening of our visit, it closed at 8pm so get there well before 8pm if you fancy it. 

Flashy Toys 

Apparently there are official and unofficial vendors in the vicinity. Official vendors are selling light up toys for £5-£7 and take cash or card. They did look spectacular but there's no denying it's pricey, especially if you have multiple kids. One tip was to buy your own flashy toys from Poundland / similar before you visit if you are on a budget. I used to like buying a tube of glow stick bracelets/necklaces to make up and wear too. 

One Way System / Finding Everything 

There is one way in and one way out of the park (entrance is the main entrance opposite the sea, exit is a little further along). The exit is next to the Helter Skelter so have a good walk around the park and make sure you see everything and head to the Helter Skelter last. 

Fairground Rides 

The Helter Skelter in the park is £3 for one turn (cash only) and if your children are under a certain height (I think it was around 1.35m - it was just a line so difficult to judge), an adult must accompany them and pay too. This means for most kids under 7, you will pay £6 for one turn on the Helter Skelter. Teens are not permitted to take younger kids on either (we tried!) has to be someone over 18. 


There is a small fairground at Cliffe Park which you can't miss as you will see the big wheel on the sea front. We didn't visit so I don't have many tips but a reader did mention the big wheel was £15 cash or card for a family ticket which they said was worth it (or £5 per adult / £4 per child). You don't need a ticket to visit the fairground. Food and drinks are also for sale here, hot dogs were £3. 

Additionally, The Dinosaur King will be visiting Cliffe Park with dinosaurs every hour on the following dates. We have seen similar before and they're great! These are free to see with no ticket required. 




Dogs are welcome 

Dogs are welcome to join you at Roker Park and there were lots of dogs there enjoying a family night out. I love that dogs are included! They don't need a ticket. Obviously it may be busy in places and it is dark so keep this in mind when deciding if it's right for your dog. 

Covid advice 

All tickets are via email, there are hand sanitising stations and different exit and entry points. We visited on a sold out Friday night and capacity has definitely been reduced. It didn't feel busy and the only time we were close to other people was as we queued for the pancake man. Nobody was wearing face coverings (including us) but it is an outdoor event that wasn't crowded. You do not need to prove your COVID/vaccination status to attend. Tickets must be booked in advance and cannot be purchased on the gate. 

Other Essential Info

There are plenty of toilets and Roker Park is accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs. I would recommend bringing a pushchair if your little one is likely to run off as it is dark in parts of the park and although not overly crowded, there are obviously lots of people there. 

Review 

We thought the event was 'ok'. Not amazing, not terrible and worth the price we paid for tickets. It is nice for a little walk out in the evening and I love that it was dog friendly. Costs can mount up but with a bit of planning, you can save £ using some of the tips mentioned above and you don't need to spend anything when you are there. I would recommend most for families with children under 7 who still love to see magical lights. It is definitely worth a visit if you've never been before and if you live close by. 

If you have older kids and need to travel a fair distance to get there, I would probably say it's not something I would rush out to book unless you know your kids still like this kind of thing. 

The main themes are around Halloween, Dinosaurs, Classic Disney and Magic Lights. There is a mix of old and new installations this year. 


How to Buy Tickets & Prices 

 The festival will include old favourites alongside some new features this year.

As well as the festival in Roker Park, Sunderland Illuminations will run across Roker & Seaburn seafront every evening from 14 October. The festival is open from 5pm-9pm with last entry at 7:45pm. Entry times are staggered to assist with COVID guidelines. 

During Half Term, a 'Quiet Hour' will run from 4pm-5pm which is ideal for visitors looking for a quieter and more relaxed experience. 

It is essential that you pre-book your tickets for this event. No tickets will be available on the gate so please do plan ahead. Tickets are very reasonable at £3 each and under 2s go free. Group & family discounts are available for those booking with a group of more than 3 people. 

Group discounts include: 
  • £8 (in total) for a group of 3 
  • £10 (in total)  for a group of 4 
  • £12 (in total) for a group of 5
As far as I can see, there are no booking fees (yeah!) 

Tickets are on sale now. Find out more and book online here. 






Roker Park is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs and there are usually light up flashy toys for sale, refreshments available and sometimes a few fairground rides available too. It's a lovely night out. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own food and drinks/ a picnic (why not try these DIY hotdogs?

There are toilets and baby change facilities on site. 

For those who like to plan ahead, the festival usually operates a park & ride system but this year, this will not be going ahead due to reduced capacity. We have parked at Harbour View Car Park (SR6 0RQ) and walked along the seafront in the past.

Other recommended car parks include: 
  • Harbour View (postcode SR6 0ZZ)
  • Marine Walk (SR6 0PL)
  • Dykelands Road (SR6 7QE)

Travel by Metro is also an option with Seaburn or Stadium of Light Metro being around a 15 minute walk away (up to three kids aged 11 and under travel free with every fare paying adult). 





Our trip to Sunderland Illuminations first featured on my blog back in 2014. If you fancy a trip down memory lane, you can read that post here. I am sure those photos were taken with a Blackberry phone and it was typed up on my phone too! How times change. 



Tickets are on sale now. Find out more and book online here. 


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Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , respect the local area. leave no trace, take litter home, park responsibly and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Always check updated opening hours / protocols with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed since this post was published. 


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