18 November 2021

FATHER Christmas will have plenty to ho ho ho about, when he returns to a leading North East shopping centre this week (Nov 18).

The Bridges at Sunderland has unveiled its plans to bring back its Christmas grotto, which was cancelled last year because of Covid restrictions.

But Santa Claus is now making a welcome return, with the hope that everyone will still be considerate of other people and ensure a visit is a happy and safe experience.

The grotto will open its doors at 11am on Thurs 18 November and remain open until Christmas Eve, giving families who missed out last year the opportunity to make up for lost time.

From 18 Nov to 12 Dec the grotto will be available from 11am to 4pm all weekdays bar Thursdays, where it will remain open until 6pm to coincide with late night shopping, while on Saturdays opening hours are 10-4pm.

From 13 December until 23 December opening hours will extend until 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, closing at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

At weekends the grotto will operate from 10am until 4pm on Saturday and from 11am until 4pm on Sunday.

The first hour on Sundays will be a quiet hour, aimed at those with autism or additional needs and who prefer less noise.

During that time lights and music will be turned off to ensure a calmer experience.

Entrance to the grotto is £2 with the proceeds distributed to local charities and good causes, with all children receiving a gift.

Karen Eve, Centre Director at the Bridges is delighted the grotto is able to return this year.

“We know how much youngsters love the grotto and how disappointing it was that we couldn’t have it last year,” she said.

“But hopefully that means everyone will be able to make up for lost time and come and visit Santa during a visit to the centre.

“We expect to be very busy so we are asking customers to be patient, particularly at peak times such as weekends as it is still very important that we operate in a safe and comfortable environment.

“We are delighted to be able to really bring the spirit of Christmas into the Bridges this year and also give everyone the opportunity to support our retailers.”

Full details are available at