FREE and Low Cost Winter Events (with no booking required)

I know this time of year can put a financial strain on many of us and at the moment, booking events can be tricky (I've lost count of the number of times we've had to cancel/re-arrange stuff). So I thought I would share a few ideas for FREE (or low cost) events which can be enjoyed with no booking required over the festive period. 

FREE and Low Cost Winter Events (with no booking required)

Please always double check opening times, dates and information direct with venues before heading out and when making plans as the information in this post may change over time and sadly, last minute event cancellations is not a rare occurrence in these current times.

Hexham Lantern Parade 

Hexham's Lantern Parade takes place at 6pm on Friday 19 November. There will be live music in the marketplace from the Baghdaddies from 6:30pm and guests are invited to bring along their lanterns (no naked flames) and join in the winter parade. Find out more here. 

Redcar Ice Trail 

A FREE Ice Trail is taking place on Redcar High Street on 11 December.

Expect ice sculptures (pick up a free trail sheet from stewards on the day / download in advance), watch live ice carving, ice workshops, letter writing to Santa (with an ice postbox) as well as festive performances, music and walkabout acts across the day. Sounds brill! Find out more here. 

FREE Fenwick's Window 

Fenwick's Window is free to visit across November and December. Find the festive display on Northumberland Street in Newcastle. 

FREE Newcastle Christmas Markets 

Team visiting Fenwick's Window with a browse around Newcastle's Christmas Markets. Located around Monument, the focus is on local traders this year so it should be good. The markets will take place from 2 - 24 December from 9am. 

Visit Santa's Grotto at Dalton Park 

Drop-in Grottos are difficult to find these days, but Dalton Park have decided to go back to the tradition 'join a queue to see Santa' method. Entry to the grotto is £5 per child which includes a Christmas gift. Find out more here. 

Visit Santa's Grotto at The Bridges, Sunderland 

A drop-in grotto is also available at The Bridges, Sunderland. Admission is £2 per child and includes a gift from Santa. The money raised by the grotto will be distributed between local charities. Find out more here. 

FREE Arctic Experience and Ice Skating at Metrocentre 

The Metrocentre has put together a FREE Arctic Experience this year featuring an Arctic Throne for selfies, the chance to enjoy snow indoors AND an indoor synthetic ice rink which is free to enjoy if you sign up to the Metrocentre mailing list here. 

Don't forget to check out the Angry Birds Golf offer pages too. They have some good deals around including 2 people play for the price of 1 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (term time only). 

Christmas Markets 

There are plenty of Christmas Markets to enjoy across the North East this year. Entry to many is FREE. Check out my full Christmas Market guide here. 

FREE Visit the Donkeys at Plantsplus Garden Centre 

You can visit Donkeys at PlantsPlus Garden Centre in the run up to Christmas where they are enjoying a holiday from Hill Top Animal Sanctuary. It's free to pop in (check their Social Media and website for timings and updates). 

There are a few other festive activities taking place at the centre too including a VR Santa's Sleigh Ride (£10 for 6 people - you do need to book ahead where possible).  Find out more about festive activities at Plantsplus here. 

Cullercoats Community Advent Trail 

Cullercoats Community Advent Trail is hosted by Cullercoats residents and free for all to enjoy. The idea is a 'living' advent calendar with festive garden and window displays which will be illuminated every evening from 1-24 December. Follow the trail map and enjoy the trail. Find out more here. 

Christmas Light Switch Ons 

There are various Christmas Light Switch Ons this year which are usually fantastic community events which are free to visit with entertainment and are a chance to feel nice and festive. 
  • 13 November - Dalton Park 
  • 18 November - Trinity Square Gateshead 
  • 18 November - Keel Square Sunderland 
  • 19 November - Blyth 
  • 28 November - Redcar 

FREE Investigating Detectives Interactive Exhibition at The Word 

The Word in South Shields has a brand new exhibition this Winter. Investigating Detectives is available to drop into during opening hours and is interactive with a chance to step into an Orient Express themed film space (where you can hear Ann Cleeves talk about Vera) and try activities such as testing your eye witness skills, learn forensic skills and put your own fingerprints under the microscope. 

Additionally, you can enjoy 'drop in' Christmas crafts for £1 on Saturday 4 & Saturday 11 December (11am-4pm) and Saturday. Find out more here. 

If you wish to extend your day, it is a short walk to South Shields Museum in the town centre which is also FREE to visit with no booking required (check their opening hours before visiting). They have a cute little reptile house and some lovely exhibitions about the region's past. 

Visit the FREE Areas of Seven Stories & Ouseburn Farm 

Did you know there are several areas of Seven Stories where you can now pop into for free? Including hands on exhibitions and activities, storytelling and of course their lovely coffee shop and book shop. This blog post shares more about the free areas at Seven Stories. 

After visiting Seven Stories, it is worth popping across to Ouseburn Farm which is FREE to visit. We love saying hello to the animals here. 

Visit the Christmas Department at Azure Garden Centre (FREE) 

Azure Garden Centre in Cramlington is home to one of the best displays of Christmas decorations in the North East in my opinion. There are gorgeous twinkly lights and lots of themed magical displays. It is free to visit and browse at any time during opening hours. Find out more here. 

If the weather is ok, Northumberlandia is close by if you fancy stretching your legs nearby and enjoying a hot chocolate from the cafe there. 

Visit the FREE Museums & Galleries in Newcastle 

These museums and galleries are brilliant to visit at any time. Here are some winter highlights (with no booking required): 

Kids Club or Meerkat Movies at your Local Cinema  

In the run up to Christmas, most cinema chains run kids clubs on weekends and across school holidays where tickets are typically £2.50-£3 each. Films shown are not new releases but in December there are usually a free Christmas films that are a couple of years old included in this offer. We used to do this regularly when the kids were little and it was a cheap day out when the weather wasn't great. 

Alternatively, many cinemas are part of Meerkat Movies where you can enjoy 2 for 1 films on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Our local (Vue Cramlington) is £4.99 per ticket as a standard price so when combined with this deal, it's a bargain at £2.50 each, especially as it includes new releases (my kids are dying to see the new Spider-Man in December). 

Go Loco Miniature Railway 

This cute festive railway will be popping up at various locations around the North East. You don't need to book and fares are typically a couple of £. Find out where they'll be next here. 

Visit Bailiffgate Museum in Alnwick 

Did you know that Bailiffgate was recognised as the BEST family-friendly museum in the whole of the UK and won this prestigious national award from Kids in Museums this year? 

They do close for Winter from 12 Dec - 11 January. Admission is reasonable at £4 per adult and £1 per child (under 5s go free) and visitors can enjoy a range of exhibitions across two floors sharing the history of Alnwick. Every child under 12 receives a complimentary 'Mouse Hunter' pack on arrival which includes a trail sheet (find the mice in the museum), pencil, stickers and pictures to colour. Find out more here. 

Bailiffgate is easy to combine with a trip to nearby Barter Books (kids will love the mini train running around the bookcases) and Hulne Park which are both free attractions in Alnwick. 

A Magical Victorian Christmas at Preston Park 

Credit : Preston Park 

You do need to pay to visit Preston Park but I think it offers brilliant value at £5 per adult and £3 per child for unlimited visits across the year (under 3s go free and various discounts available). 

As well as their usual museum, adventure playground, walled garden and Victorian Street, they have additional activities available across selected weekends which are available at no additional cost including: 

  • Meet the Reindeers 
  • Drop in Festive Crafts 
  • Victorian Street Christmas Decorations 

Snow White's Enchanted Forest Trail at Sunderland Winter Gardens

This festive trail links in with Sunderland's Panto and costs £2.50 per trail (purchase from museum reception). Find the hidden treasures in the forest and release Snow White from her enchanted sleep and there will be a small prize waiting for you at the end.  Find out more here. 

Toast Marshmallows on the Firepits at Derwent Waterside Park 

The fire pit at Derwent Waterside Park will be lit every Saturday and Sunday in the run up to Christmas (obvs weather dependent). You can purchase a giant bag of marshmallows and sticks from the onsite shop to enjoy with the family. There are loos and a fantastic adventure playground here too. Find out more here. 

Woodhorn Winter Trail 

You do need to pay to visit Woodhorn, but personally, I do think it's a bit of a bargain at £6-£7 per adult for unlimited visits across the year and U16s go free. 

Woody's Winter Trail is included with your annual pass at no additional cost and as you explore the museum, Woody (the winter deer) will light the museum up with festive cheer. Find all of the trail answers and you'll be rewarded with a sweet treat. Find out more here. 

National Trust Events 

I know lots of readers are National Trust Members so I thought it would be useful to give a quick overview of events taking place this winter which are available at no additional/ a small cost and do not require pre-booking: 

  • Seaton Delaval Hall 

Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail 

  • Gibside 
Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail 

  • Cragside 

Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail 

  • Wallington 
Christmas Crafts, Christmas Music in the Central Hall, Mrs Christmas Storytelling, Christmas in the House, Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail 
  • Souter Lighthouse 
Design Your Own Christmas T-Shirt, Design Your Own Christmas Stocking, Christmas Craft Fair, Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail 

  • Ormesby Hall 
An enchanted winter, storytelling with Mrs Claus, Christmas baking, Percy the Park Keeper's Winter Wander Trail. 

  • Penshaw Monument 
Lumiere 2021 from 18-21 November. 

English Heritage Events 

Likewise, the following events are included with English Heritage membership at no additional / a small cost with no booking required: 

Other Christmas Posts you may like: 


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