Festive characters, special deals and support for local charities are all on offer across Sunderland, as the city’s seasonal AR trail is unveiled.

From now until 6 January, visitors to the city centre can use the free Sunderland Experience app to track down a whole host of Christmas related creatures at key locations.

From jolly nutcrackers to elves, polar bears, reindeers and Santa and Mrs Claus, families can spend a cost-free family fun day out, searching for the magical creatures.

And once each character is found, it also unlocks a special deal or discount which can be enjoyed in the city.

Angelo’s restaurant, Brew and Bake, Harry’s Game Shack, Hotel Chocolat and Sunderland Bowl are just some of the participating businesses which have offers on the app.

Along with the virtual figures, shoppers are being encouraged to find the four huge, real stockings which are at various locations.

Each of the five feet long stockings is in support of a local charity – Hope4Kidz, Red Sky Foundation, Foodbank Sunderland and the Foundation of Light – and a QR code on them allows people to donate to their chosen good cause.

The AR trail is part of the festive activities organised by Sunderland BID in conjunction with Sunderland City Council, as part of the Christmas in the City programme.

Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, is hoping that lots of people will participate.

“Our Christmas AR trail is always very popular and is a great way to entertain youngsters of all ages for free,” she said.

“The fact that each character that’s found unlocks a great deal is an added bonus at a time of year when we know money can be tight.

“The giant stockings are also a great way of being able to make a donation to some of the city’s most worthwhile causes, where the money raised is used close to home.”

Councillor Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Vibrant City said: “It’s brilliant to see this popular festive trail making a welcome return to the city centre.

“We know that families are looking for free and fun things to do at this time of year and the AR trail ticks all the boxes, as well as providing a welcome boost for local charities and some great special offers from city centre businesses.

“It’s another great example of everything there is to enjoy in the city centre this Christmas.”

The Sunderland Experience app is free to download and is available at the app or play store.