Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for many North East residents without a visit to Newcastle

PUBLISHED: 16:38 27 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:26 20 February 2013

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for many North East residents without a visit to Newcastle

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for many North East residents without a visit to Newcastle

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas for many North East residents without a visit to Newcastle to enjoy great shopping, to see the lights or just to soak up the festive atmosphere. Andrew Smith gets into the spirit.

Enchanted parks
A highlight of NewcastleGateshead Initiatives Winter Festival, Enchanted Parks returns for its seventh successive year from Wednesday to Sunday, December 5th-9th.

The popular event sees Gatesheads famous Victorian park, Saltwell Park, brought to life with installations ranging from visual arts, performance, sculpture and interactive works.
The theme for this years Enchanted Parks draws on Victorian splendour and gothic imagery.

Carol Bell, Head of Culture and Major Events at NewcastleGateshead Initiative and producer of Enchanted Parks said: Were putting forward a fresh and alternative festive message this year; were almost stepping back in time to remember Christmases of the past.

The Victoriana theme for this years Enchanted Parks evolved as we looked at the proposals submitted by artists. It became a recurring theme and one which fitted perfectly with the location.

Again, were working with some of the best artists from the North East to deliver another spectacular event. Enchanted Parks has been taken to peoples hearts and is fast becoming a regular festive tradition and long may it continue.

Some of the artists involved in this years Enchanted Parks include Ross Ashton and
Tickets are free for children (under 16s, who must be accompanied by an adult) and 6 for adults. Information on how to purchase tickets is available from

Newcastle Christmas lights
Paralympic gold medal swimmer Josef Craig, from Jarrow, switched on the citys Christmas lights this year. The 15-year-old 400m freestyle world record holder was guest of honour at the event, which was supported by Capital FM.

Grainger Street, Nun Street, Nelson Street, Newgate Street, Neville Street, Dean Street and the Quayside are also illuminated thanks to Business Improvement District company, NE1 Ltd.

Ice skating
Families can enjoy a host of activities around the ice rink at the Centre For Life, at Times Square, close to Newcastle Central Station.

Skating@Life is part of the Centre for Lifes winter programme, which also includes a festive 4D Motion Ride, Sleigh Ride, a look at the story of the Christmas Star in the planeterium as well as shows in the Science Theatre, activities for the under sevens and parties and events for adults.

And after enjoying their skating, visitors can warm up with a delicious hot chocolate, meal or snack in the Times Square Cafe. Skating@Life will be open until February 24th.

Christmas markets
This year the Continental Market will take place from November 23rd until Saturday December 1st at Greys Monument, Grey Street and Grainger Street.

The traditional Christmas Market will take place between Wednesday December 5th and Sunday December 9th, at Greys Monument, Grey Street, Grainger Street and Old Eldon Square.

The Christmas Market showcases the best food and craft producers in the North East. There are beers, home-made jams, delicious cakes and handmade chocolates. And once youve bought something great to eat, you can find special gifts such as scarves, leather bags, hand thrown pottery and jewellery.

Eldon Square Christmas Lights
The display of lights in the Eldon Square shopping centre was switched on by ITV Tyne Tees presenters Pam Royle and Ian Payne. Following the switch-on Pam and Ian led a Christmas carol sing-a-long supported by the Newcastle City Temple Band of the Salvation Army.

Eldon Square is open until 9pm on weekdays until December 21st, closing at 7pm on Saturdays and 5pm on Sundays. The shopping centre is open from 9am until 5pm on Christmas Eve and is closed on Christmas Day. Shops will be open on Boxing Day from 9am until 6pm

Times may be hard and money tight, but that wont dampen the Geordie spirit in the slightest this Christmas. The festive season provides just the excuse if ever one is needed for Newcastle, the party city, to throw off the shackles of restraint and recession and bring on the fun, big time.

While the draught of the economic downturn continues to chill town centres across the country, Newcastle has reported an upsurge of two million additional visitors to the Eldon Square shopping since the launch of the Alive After Five initiative, which offers shoppers later opening hours and free car parking from 5pm.

In contrast to town and city centres across the UK, which are reporting a downturn in footfall of three per cent, Newcastles main shopping thoroughfare of Northumberland Street is showing a footfall increase of more than five per cent.

So if ever there was a time to jingle the bells for a bumper Christmas party in the North East, this is it.

Newcastle has lined up an impressive calendar of events and attractions to ensure that residents and visitors alike enjoy the merriest of Christmases.

There are Christmas and continental markets, late shopping until 9pm every weekday in the city centre, huge displays of Christmas lights on the streets and in the shopping malls, ice skating and other street entertainment, Fenwicks famous Christmas window, a choice of ever-popular pantomimes and hundreds of opportunities to wine, dine and party right across the city.

Just over the Tyne, Gateshead is once again staging its Winter Festival, Enchanted Parks, which this year steps back in time to recall Christmas from a Victorian era.

And, in a much-cherished custom stretching back decades, Newcastle has been donated a gift of a huge Christmas tree by the people of Bergen, in Norway. The lights on the tree, which will be displayed outside the Civic Centre, will be switched on November 29th, just in time for the customary influx of Christmas shoppers from across the North Sea.

North East Life has selected a variety of events to highlight that should appeal to a wide range of tastes but for more comprehensive details of all that is going on, check the websites of Newcastle City Council, the NewcastleGateshead Initiative and the venues themselves.

Christmas shows
A selection of shows to enjoy around the city

Aladdin, at Newcastle Theatre Royal, from November 27th to January 19th.
A long time ago in the far off city of Newcastle, just north of Peking, lived a boy called Aladdin. Join him on a magical carpet ride for another lavish Theatre Royal pantomime, starring favourites Clive Webb (Mr Twankey), Danny Adams (Aladdin) and Chris Hayward (The Empress of China). Produced by Qdos Entertainment, the worlds largest pantomime producer, Aladdin is staged by the same team that has presented the last seven record-breaking pantomimes at Newcastle Theatre Royal.
Ring 08448 112121 to check availability and ticket reservations.

Robin Hood and the BaBabes in the Wood, at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre, from December 7th to January 6th.

The Tyne Theatre is promoting their offering as a traditional family panto at family prices.
Robin Hood attempts to outwit the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, freeing the unfortunate babes in the wood and their hapless nanny and also trying to romance the beautiful Maid Marion along the way - all with the help, or in Robins case, hindrance of his motley crew of Merry Men. Ring 0844 493 9999

The Borrowers, at Northern Stage from December 3rd to December 29th.

The Borrowers is the extraordinary story of some rather small, very clever folk who run into trouble when human beans work out what theyre up to. This classic story will be brought to life on Northern Stages main stage, with puppets, live music and straight-talking charm.

The Little Detective Agency and the CaCase of the Festive Thief, at Northern Stage from November 17th to January 5th.

Meet the Littles a big sister and her baby brother. They are at Grannys house for the Christmas holidays. Staying with granny is the best. She lives near the beach and a mysterious sounding place called Smugglers Cove. This Christmas it turns out that granny is involved in a real life mystery, one that is confusing the adults a lot.
And so the very first real case for the Little Detective Agency is set to take the audience on an unexpected adventure full of mysterious characters, baffled grown-ups and a very pesky festive thief.
For both Northern Stage productions, ring 0191 230 5151 for times and prices.

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