10 Free Ways to Get Into the Festive Spirit in the North East

There's so many fabulous family festive activities in the North East at this time of year, but it can soon start to add up, and make a big dent in the Christmas budget. So with just over two weeks left until the big day, here are our top ten FREE ways to get into the Festive Spirit this Christmas in North East England.

1. Fenwick Windows – throughout the festive season

Take a stroll up Northumberland Street in Newcastle to view the annual amazing spectacle of Fenwicks Windows. Available to be enjoyed daily from 8am to 10pm until the New Year. Combine it with a visit to see Santa if you’ve been lucky enough to book a slot, if not make time to see the fabulous Christmas Department. One of my faves. 

It is such a tradition that it even as a free event it makes it into Life In Geordieland's Top 15 things to do before Christmas.

2. Raby Castle, Staindrop - Sunday 11 December

Raby Castle has a Taste of Teesdale this Christmas with a seasonal outdoor market, organised by Barnard Castle Farmers Market, with a hand-picked selection of stalls offering food & drink ideas from around the region. Pick up your real Raby Estates Christmas tree while you're there too! 11am – 4pm. Please note Raby Castle & gardens will remain closed.

3. Christmas Carol Service, St Nicholas Cathedral, Newcastle – Monday December 12

Celebrate the joy of Christmas with charity Crisis who will be welcoming visitors at their annual carol service. Beautiful hymns will be sung by the Cathedral Choir and the work of Crisis will also be celebrated. The carol service is free and there will be a collection in aid of Crisis and the work they do. Doors open at 6pm and there’ll be mince pies and hot chocolate available.

4. intu Metrocentre’s Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Grotto – every day until Christmas Eve

The intu Metrocentre’s free Santa Grotto offers a treat for all good North East girls and boys this festive season until December 24. Every child who visits Santa and his elves at the free Grotto, situated in the lower Qube, Yellow Mall, underneath the giant Christmas tree, receives a free gift.

Samantha from North East Family Fun recently took her family to see the intu Metrocentre Santa read about their experience here.

5. Durham City Centre – Saturday and Sunday 10th and 11th December

This is a festive weekend of traditional Christmas street performers and walkabout acts adding live entertainment to the streets of Durham City, which promises to be a great family-friendly event! Why not head to Palace Green Library too for a drop in Christmas Card sessions between 1pm and 3pm both days.

6. Elf Direction at Sage Gateshead – weekends and the run to Christmas

Enjoy the Christmassy sounds of Sage Gateshead’s very own ‘Elf Band’ during these festive and very fun concourse performances, taking place on December 10-11, 17-18, and 21-24 at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.

7. Get Crafty for Christmas at the region's museums Saturday 10 & 17 December

At the Shipley Art Gallery, you can craft a Christmas card at drop-in sessions between 10am – 5pm on the 10th. Or why not try Christmas wrapping and card printing at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery between 12.30pm – 3pm.

8. Christmas in the Park - Wharton Park, Durham - Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December

Enjoy brass bands in the amphitheatre, meet Christmas characters and watch a festive animal parade at Wharton Park near the train station in Durham between 11am and 3pm. (Please note the event is free but an additional ticket can be bought to see the reindeer and donkeys from the parade up close and get to pet and feed them.)

9. Grand Lantern Parade in Alnwick – Sunday December 18

Led by ‘Spark’, this promises to be a magical evening featuring live music, light and movement. The procession will make its way through The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland - starting at the main car park - and into Alnwick town centre creating a spectacular visual feast for visitors. The parade will start at 5.15pm on December 18 and will last until 6.30pm.

10. Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Durham Cathedral – 22nd and 24 December

Enjoy a traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which always starts in darkness with a solo chorister singing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. These services are a highlight of the Advent and Christmas season and are very popular services, so you are advised to arrive in good time. Starts 7pm on 22nd and 3pm on the 24th.

And if that's not enough you can always amble the streets of our many lovely market towns and city's taking in the Christmas lights, or get away from it all with a festive walk along the coast or across the countryside!

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Are there more free events I should add to this list?

Deb x


  1. Fab list Debbie and it proves that you don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy some Christmas magic x

  2. I know. There are so many festive events that charge - they are great but it all adds up. And I've found that the amount you pay doesn't equate to what the kids think either. Sometimes the free ones are the best.