Christmas is officially on its way to Sunderland, with a packed programme of festive events for families.

Sunderland BID, in partnership with Sunderland City Council, is about to launch Christmas in the City, featuring a number of activities planned in the run up to the big day and beyond.

On 17 November Sunderland Light Switch On will take place at Keel Square, with special guests including Kevin Phillips, performers from Sunderland Empire’s panto and Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr Alison Smith.

The event will be hosted by Metro Radio Breakfast Show presenters, Karen and Steve, with the switch on running from 5pm to 7pm.

That same day will also see the opening of Santa’s Grotto at the Bridges and the launch of the BID’s Christmas in the City Trail, accessed via the free Sunderland Experience app.

The annual trail, which runs until 6 January, will have seven augmented reality festive figures to find, as well as four real-life 6ft Christmas stockings that will be placed at various city centre businesses.

The stockings will also give visitors the opportunity to support local charities, as each one will feature a QR code which can be scanned to give a donation.

On 26 November, Sunniside Gardens will play host to a Local Heroes Pop Up Food Market with a Christmas twist, while the ever-popular Reindeer Dash is also making a welcome return on 27 November at the Bridges, in support of The Foundation of Light and Red Sky Foundation.

Everyone who takes part gets a set of antlers and a red nose and can then put their best hoof forward to run the 1k course around the centre.

Ticket prices are £4.50 for children and £6.50 for adults, which can be booked at

Christmas is coming to Mackie’s Corner on 10 December, with free tasters, entertainment and special offers, while sports fans can enjoy a post-Christmas Boxing Day treat when SAFC takes on Blackburn Rovers.

For fans of live entertainment, there will be a pantomime and a variety of shows throughout Christmas at the Auditorium and the Point and visitors to the Bridges can also watch out for colourful characters who will be popping up around the centre over the festive season.

Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, believes the programme will be full of festive cheer.

“We know it might be a tough year for a lot of people so we’ve made sure that there are lots of fun activities that are a low cost or no cost at all,” she said.

“The AR trail is always popular and it’s something that parents can do with their children right up until January, so it’s a great way to keep them occupied.

“We hope that this programme will also encourage people to come into the city centre, join in and support local traders at the same time.”

Councillor Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City, said: “The countdown to Christmas is officially underway in Sunderland and there is so much to enjoy in the city in the run up to the big day.

“Whether you’re looking for some delicious food and drinks, entertainment for the little ones or if you want to get active this winter, there’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy in Sunderland this Christmas.”

For more information on the programme visit