SANTA IS swapping the North Pole for the North East this year and bringing his grotto, live reindeer and more to a huge, free Christmas festival.
From 29 November to 23 December, Rainton Arena, at Houghton-le-Spring, will host a Winter Wonderland, with an Alpine Village après ski tipi bar, the biggest real ice rink in the region and a traditional German market with a huge range of food and gifts.
And the event is the brainchild of venue owner Jay Johal and events expert Nigel Holliday, who is the man behind some of the region’s favourite festive pop-ups and organises food festivals and events around the country.
Those looking to add a homemade touch to their holiday season can try their hand at making their own wreath, while thrill-seekers can make the most of a range of fairground rides.
There is plenty for families with little ones to enjoy, including Santa’s Grotto, where they can share their Christmas wishes and get a gift from the man in red himself, a chance to feed the reindeer and penguin skating aids available at the ice rink.
And organisers have also revealed a huge programme of entertainment across the three weeks, with festive film mornings, live sports screenings and open mic nights in the tipi every Thursday, hosted by David Stoker.
Nigel Holliday is confident the event has something for everyone.
“You can never go too big at Christmas and we have certainly set our sights high with the Winter Wonderland this year,” he said.
“We’ve created something really versatile and there’s plenty going on, whether someone wants to bring their children to see Santa during the day or meet up with their friends to watch the live music by the fire pit in the evening.”
Jay Johal, believes the venue – which is one of the largest in the North East – is a perfect setting for a Christmas event.
“The Winter Wonderland is shaping up to be something really spectacular and we can’t wait to open the doors and let people see what we have been working on,” he said.
“We have some excellent vendors travelling from far and wide to take part and it’s a brilliant place to pick up a really unique gift for friends and family.”
The Winter Wonderland takes place from 10am to 10pm and is free to attend, but there is an additional cost for ice skating, visiting Santa’s grotto and feeding the reindeer.
Skating sessions need to be pre-booked, with prices starting at £3 for under fours, £7 for four to 12-year-olds, £7.50 for 13 to 17-year-olds and £8.50 for 18s and over.
Admission to Santa’s Grotto is £10, which includes a ticket for a child and two additional guests, with each youngster receiving a gift.
Published on 28 November 2019 by Ben Robinson