10 merry Mackem moments not to be missed

03 December 2015

It's without doubt the most magical time of the year; snowflakes and twinkling lights, carols and mince pies … and all that shopping.

But while little ones’ eyes might be on the North Pole, there’s a wealth of festive fun closer to home to suit all ages and all pockets.

Here are 10 great reasons why this Christmas you’ll find all you could possibly want – from shopping to panto laughs, even an outdoor ice rink – right here in Sunderland’s winter wonderland.


  1. Who wants to spend Christmas fighting over the last Santa sweater in the shop? For the first time ever Sunderland’s Keel Square and Vaux site has turned into festive Frost Village. Warm up with a cheery glass of Gluhwein and a taste of Continental Bratwurst while soaking up the traditional Christmas atmosphere.
  2. A gift of socks is lovely, but at the Frost Village Christmas Market in Keel Square you’ll find more than two dozen charming wood cabins stocked with unusual gifts, crafts, continental treats and Christmas goodies, right up to Christmas Eve.
  3. You can’t have Christmas without the Panto. Boo the baddies, sing and laugh along with the cast of Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire from December 11 to January 3.
  4. The North Pole is chilly and far away. Much better to visit Santa in his grotto in The Bridges Shopping Centre. Once the kids have put in their festive orders, there’s under cover shopping, late night opening and free evening parking on Thursdays, plus lots of in-store events and deals.
  5. Where else can you channel your inner Torvill and Dean under twinkling festive lights to your favourite Christmas songs? Frost Village outdoor ice rink has lessons for rusty skaters and beginners, junior Polar Bear sessions and disco nights under the stars. The icy fun lasts right up to Christmas Eve.
  6. You’ll put the brakes on hefty parking charges by shopping in Sunderland. Parking is free after 3pm Thursday – Saturday at Sunderland City Council on and off street car parks.
  7. Finding that unique Christmas gift is a breeze thanks to Sunderland city centre’s many independent shops – plus you’ll be helping local traders. Try Avenue in Olive Street for children’s designer outfits and Katie’s Garden in High Street West, Sunniside, which specialises in quirky vintage items and holds regular craft sessions - you could even make your own gifts.
  8. Shopping is hungry work. Luckily Sunderland city centre has dozens of high quality restaurants, bars and cafes. Spice up Christmas at Papadoms in High Street West for delicious Indian street food or enjoy the aromatic flavours of South East Asia at Thai Bay in Sunniside.
  9.  When the shopping’s done, play it for laughs at the Frost Village funfair . The Vaux site is transformed into a festive playground with traditional carousel, waltzers and white knuckle rides until 4pm on Christmas Eve.
  10. That’s not all - from Christmas crafts to exhibitions, Sunderland has dozens of events and places to visit. Check www.experienceithere.co.uk for more reasons to stay in Sunderland this Christmas.


By Sandra Dick

photo credits Dean Matthews