What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Looking for family fun and days out in North East England this May? We've found lots of free events and activities taking place across Northumberland, Tyneside, Durham and Teesside offering free family fun this month. These include festivals such as Balloons InDurham, Stockton Stages and The Late Shows as well as special days at Locomotion, Kielder and the Stephenson Museum, and a special performance to re-open Middlesbrough Town Hall.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

What's On in May

Free Family Fun in North East England

Quayside Seaside 

Every day

Newcastle Quayside

One of NewcastleGateshead’s most iconic spaces is transformed into a seaside paradise complete with deckchairs, palm trees, candy-striped beach huts, golden sand and a kids' climbing wall. A new addition to the Quayside Seaside for 2018 is a playground area equipped with a slide and a fireman’s pole, which is sure to be a big hit with children aged between 3-7 years. Kick back, relax and while away a summer’s day in this city centre oasis.

This year - sun-worshippers and hardy Quayside Seaside beachgoers will be able to enjoy first-class fish and chips from local pop-up Little Fishy which will take pride of place in the popular onsite container restaurant, and throughout the summer, there will a packed programme of events and activities happening on and around the Thomas Cook Airlines Quayside Seaside. 
Full details of the activity programme  
What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Guided Butterfly Walk

Saturday 5 May 11am - 12.30pm

Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve, County Durham

Enjoy a guided butterfly walk around Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve with the Durham Wildlife Trust. See what beautiful butterflies you can spot and Rainton Meadows Assistant Jenny will be on hand to explain about the different butterflies and answer any questions you may have. Please book your place online.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Festival of Steam

Saturday 5 - Monday 7 MayLocomotion: The National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham

The  Steam Season opens with a spectacular three-day celebration of magnificent engines. Experience the awe-inspiring power of steam at Locomotion this May, as Locomotion say farewell and welcome to some special engines. The new guest locomotive, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn's Eustace Forth, takes to the rails for the summer, while Furness Railway No. 20 bids its final farewell before being withdrawn for an overhaul. A supporting cast of steam transport vehicles will be on outdoor display in light steam—some with cab access—creating an unforgettable atmosphere.

Inside the Collection Building, ignite your curiosity with steam era-themed model railways, giving a glimpse into the landscapes of the golden age of steam. Explore the world around you through a range of sensory experiences created by Same Difference's steampunk Sense-O-Matic street theatre performances, scheduled for 11.00, 13.00 and 15.00 daily.

The Learning team will be hosting family activities including a craft activity from 11.00-15.00 and a demonstration of the forces behind steam power from 12.00-14.00.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Cabinet of Curiosity

Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 May, 1pm - 3pm 

Palace Green Library, Durham City

Find your favourite animal on display in our archaeology gallery and create a mask for that animal.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Wild at Kielder

Sunday 6 & Monday 7 May 

Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland

Get the family together and discover your wild side at Kielder for a two-day event of exploration in nature! ‘Wild at Kielder’ on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th May is a bank holiday weekend full of wildlife-themed activities all over Kielder Water and Forest Park. There will be a varied range of activities suitable for the whole family – some are FREE 'just turn up' and others are bookable in advance to avoid disappointment! Activities include wild food foraging, various stargazing events at Kielder Observatory, wildlife cruises, fieldwork and ecology learning, workshops on how to survive the wild, family fun interactive walks with alpacas and getting up close and personal with the wildlife in the hides dotted across Kielder and much, MUCH more (including a few Gruffalo spottings)! 
Find the full programme on the website 

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

1940s Weekend – Railway at War

Sunday 6 & Monday 7 May 11am – 3pm

Stephenson Museum, North Tyneside

Let them transport you back in time with the sights, sounds and smells of the forties. The Museum will be brought to life by re-enactors who’ll recreate the everyday spirit of the period. Get in the mood of the era with a 40s style 'do' by Hepkat Kitten Vintage Hairstyling and jitterbug to the dance tunes of the time with DJ Steve Pickard.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Durham Regatta

12-13 May 8am - 6pm 

Durham City

Durham City Regatta is the first of three popular regattas held in Durham, a two-day regatta which regularly boats around 250 entries on Saturday, racing over a 700m course. Sunday is a more relaxed occasion with racing over a shorter 500-metre course.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Kielder Vintage and Classic Car Rally

13 May 11am to 4pm

Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland

Vintage tractors, classic cars and motorbikes are the order of the day at the annual Kielder show. Kielder Castle will also be holding a craft fair we will have stalls with varied crafts including wildlife art, jewellery and hand-carved items from Malawi. There will also be a raffle to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance, with prizes kindly donated by stallholders. It will be open from 11am to 4pm. All welcome. Entry is free

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

The Late Shows 

Friday 18 - Saturday 19 May 2018 7pm – 11pm


Supported by Port of Tyne this is a free late-night culture crawl taking place in NewcastleGateshead over the weekend of Friday 18 - Saturday 19 May 2018. During The Late Shows, museums, galleries, studio collectives and landmark historical buildings come together to offer visitors one-off events including hands-on workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, performances and parties. It's all about encouraging people to do something cultural with their evening in celebration of the national event Museums at Night. Friday night is for Ouseburn Valley venues only, 7-11pm. Saturday night's main event takes place at venues across central Newcastle and Gateshead. Newcastle and Ouseburn venues are open 7-11pm whereas venues in Gateshead open from 6pm on Saturday so you can start your evening there and fit even more in. Head to The Lates Shows website t discover all the family-friendly venues.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Haltwhistle Plant Festival/ Craft Fair

19 May 9.30am - 3.30pm 

Haltwhistle Swimming and Leisure Centre, Northumberland

An annual specialist nurseries plant festival, which is a very popular event for all keen gardeners. Also included are a wide range of attractive craft stalls and a pop-up cafe serving locally sourced and Fair Trade food all day.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Plumes and Pom Poms!

19-20 May 1pm- 3pm 

Palace Green Library, Durham City

Make a military plume inspired by those in the DLI Collection Gallery to adorn your own headband.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Balloons in Durham

25-28 May 

Houghall College and across Durham City

There's more info about the full programme of events coming soon, but expect to see early morning and evening launches taking off from East Durham College Houghall Campus, tethered balloons on Palace Green next to Durham Cathedral, as well as plenty of other family-friendly entertainment for people to enjoy across the City. Up, up and away… Balloons InDurham is going to be bigger and better than ever before!

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England


The reopening of the Middlesbrough Town Hall by Southpaw Dance Company

Friday 25 to Sunday 27 May 2018 - 7.30pm
Friday 2pm - Saturday & Sunday 2pm and 7.30pm

Middlesbrough Town Hall

To celebrate the reopening of the Town Hall, Middlesbrough Council have commissioned Southpaw Dance Company to create a spectacular site-specific performance which will bring the new building to life. Erimus takes its inspiration from Middlesbrough’s motto, We Shall Be, and will celebrate the future of Middlesbrough Town Hall, exploring what it means to be from Middlesbrough, celebrating Middlesbrough’s rich cultural identity and how the Town Hall acts as a beacon for all things culture in the Town. Told in Southpaw’s distinctive narrative style, the performance will highlight the history of the building and lead audiences into previously unknown areas, such as the cells and courtroom, culminating in a large-scale mass movement finale, with projection mapping and text derived from conversations with Middlesbrough residents and participants in the show.

Tickets are free but must be booked for each person attending. Please note Erimus is a promenade performance. The audience is required to move around different parts of the building during the show and is therefore not suitable for small children. The organisers strongly advise anyone attending in a wheelchair or with mobility issues to book a place for a companion to accompany them (if possible)

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Meccano Magic

27-28 May 10am - 4pm

Locomotion: National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham 

Inspire your inner creative with fantastic displays of static, mechanised and remote-controlled Meccano models. The North East Meccano Society presents a day of model delights, with displays and activities for Meccano fans young and old. Children can get hands-on in a special activity area, where they can use their creativity to learn more about construction and engineering.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Fun Flags

26-27 May 1pm- 3pm 

Palace Green Library, Durham City 

Design your own battalion flag to remember your visit to the DLI Collection Gallery.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Victorian Playground: Half Term Fun

29 May 2018 - 1 June 2018 10am - 4pm 

St Marys Heritage Centre, Gateshead

Bring the kids to St Mary's for some good old fashioned family fun! We have a range of Victorian toys and games for you to try. Have a go with a yo-yo, cup and ball or a spinning top, see what you can create with a thaumatrope or try your luck with skittles and dominoes. Activities are available all day, just drop in. Refreshments also available.

Meccano Magic

Make & Take Thursday

Thursday 31 May 11am-3pm

Stephenson Museum, North Tyneside

With George Stephenson’s birthday on 9 June and the imminent return to Tyneside of his famous engine Rocket, the Stephenson Museum is inviting you to celebrate the achievements of George and Robert Stephenson. Visitors will be able to create their own High Level Bridge pop up pictures and construct mini cork locomotive models like their very own ‘Billy’ engine. 

So, make Thursdays a Stephenson day. Bring your youngsters down to the Museum on Thursday during the half term holidays where they can try their hand at our craft activities, explore the Museum's collection, and take a heritage train ride (additional charge applies). Suitable for 3-7year-olds.

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Stockton Stages – Music & Comedy Festival

Wednesday 30 May to Saturday 2 June 

Stockton High Street

As part of the Stockton Stages Festival, there is FREE town centre entertainment for all the family on Friday, plus a full day of FREE live music and comedy on Saturday, all on Stockton high street! 

Friday 1 June 2pm – 7pm
Join Apollo Arts, Matty’s Bistro, Urban Kaos and The Wildcats of Kilkenny in a crescendo of family activity and entertainment guaranteed to start the weekend off with a smile.
  • 2.00pm – 4pm. Join the artists and creative team of Apollo Arts as we fill the space with arty, messy, slimy, crafty, circussy, musicking workshops. Get involved as they help you to create a backdrop, drumming group and more for the afternoon’s finale! Try your hand at circus skills or join Matty’s Bistro and learn to prepare some healthy summertime street food. Loads more and all complemented with a live platform for some of Stockton’s youngest musicians to show what they can do!!!
  • 4pm – 5pm – Urban Kaos create the ultimate family disco. All the songs and actions that make Summer holiday nights fly by – right in the heart of town. And learn a dance for the afternoon finale! The Grooviest party in Stockton!
  • 5.30 – 6:45pm – The Wildcats of Kilkenny Family Knees Up! Completely synonymous with festivals and events in their beloved Stockton-on-Tees, we present the Wildcats live and loud in your high street. Not just for the children – we are pretty sure that this is going to go down in high street history as the lads jig and bounce you into the weekend. And – just because it is Stockton Stages, enjoy the biggest participatory finale Mike and the lads have ever tried. Choirs, drummers, brass, dancers… this is going to be Stockton at it’s very finest!

Saturday 10:30 - 15:00 2 June
Some of the best comedy acts from the National comedy circuit will be doing their funny thing for families in Stockton. But without the rude bits! Join Howard Read (of Little Howard of CBBC fame, The Slammer), Paul Duncan McGarrity (an actual funny archaeologist!!!), Chris Betts (he’s got a beard!) and our favourite family comedy compere Mr Tiernan Douieb!

What's On in May - Free Family Fun in North East England

Whatever you choose to do in May I hope you have lots of family fun!

Deb x

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