Next month, Sunderland is set to undergo a magical winter makeover, embracing its inaugural ice festival.

As part of the city’s bustling Christmas lineup, Sunderland BID has revealed exciting plans for a temporary skating rink to grace Keel Square on the weekend of December 9th.

Along with general skating sessions, there will be the opportunity for younger skaters to take to the rink alongside some of their favourite princesses.

And then, on 16 and 17 December, the square will become a centrepiece for everything festive and frozen.

Against a backdrop of impressive ice sculptures, visitors will have the chance to meet Santa Claus and take part in special letter-writing workshops, before posting their Christmas wish lists through a special letterbox made entirely of ice.

And the highlight will be a live carving of Santa’s sleigh on 16 December.

There will also be screenings of popular Christmas movies and other family-based entertainment.

The ice festival is the latest addition to the Christmas programme, compiled in partnership with Sunderland City Council.

Sunderland Sparkles: Unveiling the Spectacular Ice Festival!
Winter Ice Sculpture Trails uk

Other highlights include the BID’s Christmas Stocking Trail, accessed via the free Sunderland Experience app, which runs from Thursday (16 November) until 7 January.

There are seven augmented reality festive figures to find, as well as four real-life, six-foot-high Christmas stockings decorated by different schools and placed at various city centre businesses.

On 3 December, children and the young at heart can take part in the ever-popular Reindeer Dash at the Bridges, in support of local charities.

And on 17 December, Sunniside Gardens will play host to a pop-up food market with a Christmas twist, with stalls selling a wide variety of locally sourced dishes and produce.

Other attractions in the city include the return of the Bridges’ Christmas grotto and a return of the centre’s virtual reality experience with a new, seasonal theme and a Makers and Bakers Market featuring a range of food and gifts on 2 December.

Visitors can also enjoy one of the highlights of the festive calendar – Sunderland Empire’s celebrated pantomime, which is Beauty and the Beast this year and runs from 8 December to New Year’s Eve.

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Christmas Snowman ice sculpture

“Our Christmas programme just keeps getting bigger,” said Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, “and the ice festival will really be at the heart of it all.

“More details will follow in the coming weeks but it’s shaping up to be a magical Christmas here in Sunderland.”

Councillor John Price, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City added: “We’ve got a really exciting programme of activities taking place in the city centre this winter, and a pop-up skating rink is sure to be popular with families in the countdown to Christmas.

“Whether you’re looking to keep children entertained, want to enjoy some festive films, or try some delicious local food, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy so I would encourage everyone to head over to Sunderland BID’s website to learn more about what’s on.”

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