Best things to do (FOR FREE) in the North East

September 29, 2021 4 min read

Sometimes you just want to spend some time taking in a bit of culture but without having to break the bank. Luckily for you when you visit the North East, you can visit a large number of cultural hotspots and not spend a penny to be in any one of them.

So today we’ve compiled a handy list of all of the best places you can visit FOR FREE in the North East and how you can make the most of them.

The Lumiere festival

The travelling Lumiere festival comes around once every 2 years to the wonderful City of Durham and with it, it brings a sensory feast for the eyes.

One of the beautiful displays you can see at the Lumiere festival (source)

But what exactly is the Lumiere festival?

The Lumiere festival is a series of artistic installations that celebrate local, national and international artists who display their skills via the medium of light and sound. Many of these displays are so unique there’s a good chance you’ve never seen anything even close to them before.

Displays have included whale videos projected on artificial waves, smoke laser and fire displays (all at once), projections across the river and onto the side of Durham castle and many more.

The display takes place early in the evening during the winter to maximise the darkness for full dramatic effect. So if you plan on heading down make sure to wrap up warm and plan ahead because you WILL be in with the crowds.

The Hancock Museum

Hancock Museum

Entrance to the Hancock Museum (Google maps)

There are several museums across the North East that are perfect for you history buffs. However, the biggest, and arguably the best, is the Hancock Museum.

The Hancock Museum, also known as the Great North Museum, has a regularly rotating schedule of kids events, local history stories and national displays. However, visitors can always see the permanent display of prehistoric fossils as well as a display dedicated to those animals still living. Ancient history lovers can also visit the Egyptian display to gain a better understanding and appreciation of past lives.

A great part of this museum is that it is partnered with Newcastle University, meaning that education is at the heart of the whole experience. So no matter who you are or what you’ve seen before, there is always something to learn here.

York Railway Museum

York Railway Museum

For a free day out there is so much on offer at the York Railway Museum (Source)

For the railway fanatic in your family, the York Railway Museum is perfect. It’s a bit out of the way compared to the rest of this list, but for free days out, you can’t go wrong. The York Railway museum displays Great Britain's history with the railway and its evolution over time.

With many displays from professionally reconstructed and restored engines, to local and amateur displays. They also host regular special displays of major historical engines such as the world-famous Flying Scotsman. These shows are regular enough that you can visit multiple times in a year and see something new each time.

But it’s not just the train enthusiasts that will have fun there. There’s also plenty of interactive and fun displays for the kids to get their hands on as well. From train rides to interactive train signal simulators, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Feel free to check out our York Collection here.

Take in the sun at the beach

Now no trip to the North East would be complete without visiting the beach at least once. And you are absolutely spoilt for choice.

You can choose to spend your day on the sands at:

  • Tynemouth Beach
  • Seaham Beach
  • South Shields
  • Roker Beach
  • Whitley Bay
  • Cullercoats
  • Seahouses
  • And so many more places…

Of course, what you can do at each beach does vary as some come with the standard arcades and takeaways and some are hidden gems with not a person in sight for miles.

While you can choose to spend a significant amount of money at the beach on food and leisure it costs you absolutely nothing to head there. So grab your picnic blanket, pack the suncream and head on over to the nearest sandy refuge for a day of rest and relaxation. Provided the sun is out of course.

Sunderland Air show

Red Arrow Display team at Sunderland Airshow

The Red Arrows fly over Roker Beach at the Sunderland Airshow

Once per year at Roker Beach you can look to the sky and marvel at the death-defying acrobatics, spirit-rousing military displays and take in the sights and sounds of the Sunderland Air show.

Sunderland Air Show has regularly held displays from the Royal Air Force Red Arrows Display Team, restored World War 2 vehicles and civilian acrobatics display teams. These displays are equal parts stunning, breathtaking and awe-inspiring and it’s hard not to appreciate the skill and dedication it takes to achieve these aerial abilities.

Not only can you witness a powerful aerial display, but you can spend your time in and around the various stalls and stands that pop up along the seafront. And while you’re at it why not treat yourself to some food from one of the travelling vendors dotted around the area as well?

There truly is something for everyone at the Sunderland Air Show.

Special mention: Museum of the Moon at Durham Cathedral

Museum of the Moon display

Museum of the Moon installation (source)

Now, by itself, Durham Cathedral is definitely somewhere you should visit. Not only is it a beautiful example of stone construction, but as a place of worship,  few have it beat.

However, now there is even more to look forward to at this gorgeous building as they have installed a brand new, but limited time, display aptly named “Museum of the Moon”. This celebration of the celestial body will make a trip to Durham worth it, considering the limited time that the display is on.

Moon Display close-up

The display in full (Taken By Corinne at the Cathedral)

The display features a 7m moon installation, full moon experiences late after regular closing times, surround sound experiences and much more.

The exhibit won’t be around for much longer and leaves on 11/11/2021. So if you want to see it, head there soon.

Check out all of our related collections and products here.

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