10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

Happy New Year everyone and to celebrate I am continuing the popular – FREE family event post into 2017. Every month I’ll highlight some of the great FREE events, places, attractions and things to do with your family across Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside,  Teesside, Durham, and Northumberland.

North East England has so much on offer there are many great paid for attractions and events as well but as we tighten our belts after the festive season here are some events you can enjoy for free in January.

1. Asteroid - 'Seeriously' fun optical games at Great North Museum
    Saturday 7 January 11.30am – 3pm

Pop along and help the Great North Museum test some fun games with researchers from Newcastle University. There will be optical illusions, bean bag targets and distortion goggles for a fun filled day of optical games!

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

2. Augmented Reality Trail at Durham City Centre

    Until Saturday 7 January
Launched in December, this augmented reality trail across Durham is a great fun way for both children and adults to explore the city. Download the free app for your phone, then keep your eyes peeled as you walk around Durham's historic streets and shops. Take some snaps and hey presto, see who pops up!

The first of its kind outside of London, the digital trail that ends on January 7, encourages visitors to hunt for posters to find festive 3D characters. There is a total of seven posters and fun characters to find which are unlocked as the app scans the secret codes within the posters. Visitors are also able to take photos of themselves with the augmented reality characters and share with friends on social media.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

3. Make Your Own Mini Masterpiece at Woodhorn, Northumberland
    Saturday’s & Sunday’s throughout January 12noon – 3pm

Have a go at making your own miniature work of art inspired by the current David Watson exhibition - Steel, Flesh and Bone: The Industrial paintings of David Watson. You can even make your own tiny easel to put it on!

David Watson has spent his life immersed in and making paintings about, the connected industries of steel and shipbuilding, industries fed by the northern coalfields. Watson’s work captures a north east working world and way of life now lost. 

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

4. Reading Hack at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields

    Thursday 12 January 4pm – 5.30pm

South Tyneside’s new state-of-the-art cultural venue, situated in the heart of South Shields, is brimming with exciting new experiences, activities, and facilities for people of all ages to enjoy. On Thursday 12 January, young people aged 12-16 are invited to combine the latest tech and reading at a free event where they can make an animation, design a comic book, create a novel-inspired Minecraft or turn your favourite book into a film.
10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

5. Benedict Biscop Day at Sunderland Museum & Wintergardens

    Saturday 14 January 11am – 12.30pm & 1.30pm – 3pm

Drop by Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on Benedict Biscop Day and celebrate the life of Sunderland’s patron saint Benedict Biscop with a family activity day including stained glass window crafts and an Anglo-Saxon treasure hunt.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

6. Go Stargazing at Hamsterley Forest

    First clear night between Tuesday 17 January & 19 January 2017

The dark skies above Hamsterley Forest make for a great place to stargaze. The Milky Way is clearly visible arching across the skies and thousands of more stars can be seen compared to our towns and cities.

Learn how to find your way around the night sky and how to locate fascinating objects including those our eyes alone cannot see — you are welcome to bring binoculars or a telescope! Hot drinks will be available for a small fee and the event itself is free or charge. A car parking ticket will be required.

To see the stars depends on the weather, therefore this event will be short-notice and run from 7pm on a “first clear night” basis.

Click for more information or to register your interest in attending this event and to receive a notification when the exact date is known (1 or 2 days before).

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

7. Glass Blowing Demonstrations at Sunderland Glass Centre


See the amazing daily glass blowing, lathe and flame working demonstrations which are free and run throughout the day. Experience the heat of the 1000 degree furnace and watch their expert glass making team craft stunning pieces before your eyes. 

  • Flame Working: 11.00 and 15.45 (15 mins)
  • Glass Blowing: 12.00, 13.30 and 15.00 (30 mins) 
  • Glass Lathe: 13.00 (30 mins) (Excluding Tuesdays)
For more info:

 10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

8 & 9. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Every weekend

Family QuestEvery Saturday between 11.30-12.30 you can spend some creative time with the BALTIC Crew to find out more about contemporary art in an informal and imaginative way. Families can take mini tours, play games and enjoy fun creative activities all linked to current exhibitions.

On Saturday and |sunday afternoons join the Busy B's team between 2pm and 4pm and get creative with these drop-in sessions with activities for young artists inspired by our exhibitions. 

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

10. Chinese New Year in Durham, Newcastle & Sunderland28 & 29 January

The Chinese New Year has been associated with the Chinese Zodiac since the Spring Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC). The Chinese Zodiac runs on a cycle of 12 years, which each year being named after an animal. The 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2017 will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster.

Durham City Centre
On 28 January there will be celebrations at various locations across Durham City. The dance of the Chinese lion is a tradition in Durham City Centre each Chinese New Year.  This colourful and noisy entertainment will feature performers from Ocean’s Apart Kung Fu Club.  The lion will perform an energetic routine before eating the lucky lettuce, chewing it and spitting it out to a chosen recipient. 

On the same day at Sunderland Museum & Wintergardens between 11-am – 3pm just drop in. There will be traditional lion dances and Chinese crafts, with Lion dances starting at 11am and 1pm from the museum entrance.

On 29 January there will be Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle. Around Chinatown on Stowell Street between 11am and 4pm, the city will come alive with a vibrant and colourful party complete with dragon and lion dances, firecrackers, children’s activities, performances and stalls to celebrate the Year of the Rooster.

10 Free Family Events in January in North East England

Please let me know if there are other free events I should add to this list.

Deb x

Please note details and times subject to change. Please check with event organisers.


  1. Ohh! Fantastic. These are some great ideas for days out. I am determined to get to Woodhorn soon. It's only up the road from me :) x

  2. Isn't it so easy to forget what is on our doorstep :)

  3. great roundup! love the durham trail sounds like fun!

    1. It does doesn't it - completely passed me by before Xmas too :)

  4. Great list!! comes at a fab time when we are all broke and looking for things to do! Cat

    1. It doesn't replace all the other fab places to go that do have a charge, but it's nice to know there are still free events so that not every trip out costs money x

  5. Hi! Thanks for featuring my Go Stargazing event at Hamsterley!

  6. Thanks for featuring my Go Stargazing event at Hamsterley! :)

    1. You are very welcome - hope its goes well :)