The Best 20 Things To Do in 2020 | Living North

Our Top 20 Things To Do in 2020!


image of 20 things to do
A new year is an opportunity to welcome in new experiences, and the North East is simply bursting with them. Here’s our top 20 things to see and do in the North East and Yorkshire in 2020
image of Gaping Gill
image of Kielder Observatory

If you’re looking for… Culture 

Then discover… The Bowes Museum 

Having recently celebrated 150 years since the laying of its foundation stone, The Bowes Museum, it would appear, has only improved with age. This magnificent building’s three floors are chock-a-block with treasures of all shapes and sizes. It also welcomes fascinating touring exhibitions from some of the most prestigious institutions around the world, so you can be sure that however many times you visit, you’ll always come away having learned something new. For the romantics out there, be sure not to miss the Bowes’ next big exhibition, Pre-Raphaelite Knights, from 1st February–3rd May.

Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12 8NP

01833 690606


If you’re looking for… A medieval fortress 

Then discover… Brancepeth Castle

While many of us here can recount historic tales of Bamburgh, Alnwick and Dunstanburgh, far fewer of us are familiar with another North East stronghold: Brancepeth Castle. But it was there that, 450 years ago, one of the most significant, if unsuccessful, revolts against the British monarchy took place: the Rising of the North. From April through to November, enjoy a tour from the medieval cellars right up to the parapets, as you hear about the history hidden within the castle’s stony walls.  

Brancepeth, Durham DH7 8DF


If you’re looking for… Live music   

Then discover… The Cluny 

Before they sell out the academy or the arena, they come to The Cluny. Mumford & Sons, Kate Nash, Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines all passed through this iconic venue as before really hitting the big time, but the best thing about The Cluny is the variety on offer here – you’ll also see some cracking fringe talent in an intimate setting that really ramps up the atmosphere. Next gig here in our calendar? Willie & The Bandits on 6th March. Care to join us? 

36 Lime Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle NE1 2PQ

0191 230 4474


If you’re looking for… A show-stopper 

Then discover… The Phantom of the Opera at the Sunderland Empire 

One of the most successful musicals in entertainment history, The Phantom of the Opera has more than 70 major theatre awards to its name, but it is the testament of audiences around the world which really sell this spectacular production. Telling the renowned tale of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the Paris Opera House and becomes mesmerised by the talent and beauty of a young soprano, all the action onstage is supported by a soaringly romantic and equally haunting score. Do. Not. Miss. This. 

4th November–5th December 2020 

Sunderland Empire, 4–5 High Street West, Sunderland SR1 3EX

0844 871 3022


If you’re looking for… Local pride 

Then discover… The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering

Northumberland boasts such a wealth of traditional culture, and the organisers of The Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering are here to show modern festival-goers that the old ones are still the best. Returning for their 53rd gathering in 2020, the festival promises three days of street entertainment, music, dance, crafts, battle re-enactments, competitions, walks, talks, and traditional activities for all ages to get involved in. 

17th–19th April

Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 1PQ

01670 513308


If you’re looking for… Forest walks 

Then discover… Hamsterley Forest

Many of us may think that once you’ve seen one forest you’ve seen them all, but we’d argue that line of thinking misses the woods for the trees. Sprawling the sides of a sheltered valley, Hamsterley Forest boasts four different walking trails, four cycling trails, two horse-riding routes, play areas and a café in which to refuel. So from wildlife watching to stargazing, adventure play for all the family to a heart-pumping mountain bike experience, there is something here that promises to keep everyone busy.

Bedburn, Hamsterley, County Durham DL13 3NL

01388 488312


If you’re looking for… All the fun of the farm 

Then discover… Newham Grange Farm

This farm was first mentioned in the Domesday Book way back in 1086, so it’s safe to assume they have a tried and tested formula for success. These days you’re far more likely to find adventurers whizzing by on go karts than medieval knights on horseback, but you can be sure that all your traditional farmyard animals – and some not-so-traditional (we’re looking at you, wallabies) – have made their homes here. Kids can run off some extra steam around the mysterious willow maze, in the sand pit, or by embarking upon the magical Woodland Walk.

Wykeham Way, Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough TS8 0TG 

01642 515729


If you’re looking for… A country estate 

Then discover… Raby Castle 

On the approach to Raby Castle, you are greeted by the medieval turrets of this magnificent fortress rising up from the trees. Landscaped ornamental gardens echo forgotten Georgian pastimes, and the herds of wild deer grazing in the parkland conjure a sense of calm splendour. But as well as its rich history, visitors of all ages will now find walking and cycling routes aplenty, an adventure playground among the estate’s vast woodlands, and the Stables Café and Shop. All this in addition to an annual programme of events. Sign us up. 

Staindrop, County Durham DL2 3AH

01833 660202


If you’re looking for… A new experience 

Then discover… Falconry Days 

If the thought of handling some of the world’s most impressive birds of prey gets your heart all a-flutter, then Falconry Days in Hexham is the place for you. Immerse yourself in the beautiful tranquility of Northumberland’s National Park and spend hours learning how to handle, feed and fly some of the park’s native birds of prey: from Barn Owls to Kestrels, Buzzards, Goshawks and even the world-famous Peregrine Falcon.

Lady Hill Farm, Simonburn, Hexham NE48 3EE

01434 689681


If you’re looking for… Something out of this world 

Then discover… Kielder Observatory 

This astronomical facility sits within the largest protected dark sky park in Europe, so if you’re going to enjoy an evening of truly spectacular stargazing anywhere, then it’s going to be here. Kielder Observatory boasts an unrivalled programme of stellar events all year round, and with some of the best equipment in the business at your fingertips, you’ll soon be transported to a galaxy far, far away.  

Black Fell, off Shilling Pot, Kielder NE48 1EJ

0191 265 5510


If you’re looking for… 

A Sporting Chance  

Then discover… Eagles Community Arena

This purpose-built community sports arena is the new multi-million pound home for the North East’s most successful sports team, the Newcastle Eagles, and the team’s award-winning charity, the Eagles Community Foundation. Now offering educational and recreational opportunities to all ages and abilities across the community, the Eagles Community Arena is your be-all for b-ball – whether you’re looking to watch sporting superstars or shoot some hoops yourself. 

Scotswood Road, Newcastle NE4 7AF

0191 245 3880 


If you’re looking for… Local heritage 

Then discover… Penshaw Monument 

It is too easy for us to overlook those landmarks of the region that we see on, if not a daily, then certainly a weekly basis, and we feel this has become the case for the Penshaw Monument. Built as a requiem to the Earl of Durham in 1844, the folly can be seen from miles around – but how many of us really know its history? Isn’t it time we found out more? Plus, once you’ve had your fill of the past, soak up the present by exploring Penshaw Wood and leave the hustle and bustle of daily life behind. 

Chester Road, Penshaw DH4 7NJ

0191 416 6879


If you’re looking for… Ancient history 

Then discover… Vindolanda 

Everybody knows just how important Hadrian’s Wall is to British history, and Vindolanda – the most-excavated site on the Roman frontier – is the best place to discover just what life was like at the edge of the Roman world. Celebrating it’s 50th anniversary as a charitable trust in 2020, at Vindolanda you can even spot some real archaeologists digging away. Make sure you visit the main museum, too, to see Britains’s top treasure: the Vindolanda writing tablets.

Chesterholm Museum, Bardon Mill, Hexham NE47 7JN

01434 344277


If you’re looking for… Something unexpected 

Then discover… Auckland Castle 

The 900-year-old Auckland Castle – once home to the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham – has been restored to its peak 18th century glory, and now the fun can really begin: drop by to see a brand new side to the history of the North East, and and discover how layers of history have been peeled back to reveal one of the best-preserved bishops’ palaces in Europe. 

Bishop Auckland, County Durham DL14 7NP

01388 743750



If you’re looking for… Somewhere to dig 

Then discover… Diggerland

A theme park with a difference, Diggerland promises buckets of fun for everyone. While operating all sorts of brilliant activities involving real construction machinery – including digging for buried treasure or playing skittles – don’t be fooled into think diggers are the only ride in this town. There are also plenty of other fantastic family activities to try your hand at: like driving mini Land Rovers, racing go-karts or enjoying the indoor play area.

Langley Park, County Durham DH7 9TT

08712 277007


If you’re looking for… Something different 

Then discover… Northern Stage 

Northern Stage are more than a theatre: they are a community, of artists, writers, makers, digital creators and businesses where ideas meet and futures can change. So if you’re looking for something theatrical that isn’t necessarily ‘theatre’, you’ve come to the right place. Don’t miss the Great Northern Poetry Slam 2020 on 10th March, where 16 of the best slam poets in the North battle it out on stage for the top honour, all hosted by Glasto favourite Kieren King. 

Barras Bridge, Newcastle NE1 7RH

0191 230 5151


If you’re looking for… Art 

Then discover… Laing Art Gallery 

The Laing Art Gallery continues to play as integral a role in our cultural life now as it did when it was first instated in 1901, now calling itself home to an internationally-important collection of oil paintings and watercolours that have official ‘Designated’ status. More than this, the gallery runs an enviable programme of high profile, toured-in exhibitions through partnerships with some of the leading artistic institutions across the globe – bringing world-class artwork to the North East all year round. 

New Bridge Street, Newcastle NE1 8AG

0191 278 1611



If you’re looking for… Greenery 

Then discover… Durham University’s Botanic Garden

Set among stunning mature woodlands on the southern outskirts of Durham City, Durham University’s 10-hectare Botanic Garden offers landscapes for every season – from summer scenes to winter wonderlands – and its natural beauty further fascinates by being augmented by artwork and a number of horticultural research projects. And with family activities on offer all year round, from green-finger crafts to storytelling, you’re sure to have a blooming marvellous day out here. 

Hollingside Lane, South Road, Durham DH1 3TN

0191 334 2887


If you’re looking for… Lots of nature 

Then discover… RSPB Saltholme

Perfect for birdwatching beginners, the wetlands and grasslands at RSPB Saltholme are a really important habitat for wintering wildfowl and waders including golden plover, lapwing and widgeon. It’s also home to one of the largest inland breeding colonies of common tern, which nest on the cockle-shell covered islands in the pools, while the neighbouring meadows host sheep, cattle and hares among other natural landlubbers. Seaton Carew Road, Stockton TS2 1TU,

01642 546625


If you’re looking for… Water sports 

Then discover… Tees Barrage International White Water Centre

An exhilarating family experience (intended for children over 10) awaits you at Tees Barrage. With a white-water rafting offering that promises the perfect day out for thrill-seekers, although the centre attracts water-sport enthusiasts from far and wide, experience isn’t necessary, as the expert trainers here will set you off on your adventure at a suitable-difficulty level.

Tees Barrage Way, Stockton TS18 2QW

01642 678000


If you’re looking for… Some history

Then discover… Wentworth Woodhouse 

Dating back to 1735, this Grade I-listed stately home has the longest façade of any country house in England, 87 acres of grounds, and a fascinating history to boot – the mansion was taken over for use by Military Intelligence during the Second World War. Take a tour and learn more about the people who called this magnificent house home, or check out their programme of events. On Valentine’s Day, for example, they’re hosting a special screening of The Darkest Hour… in the very state room that features in the film. 

Wentworth, Rotherham S62 7TQ

01226 351161


If you’re looking for… A medieval fortress 

Then discover… Richmond Castle 

Built to subdue the ‘unruly North’, this Norman fortress now offers one of the best views of this still pretty wild (and proud to be so) corner of England. It has dominated the skyline of Richmond for more than 900 years, providing a fertile source of inspiration for artists like JMW Turner, who recreated its battlements at sunrise in a luminous watercolour now housed in the British Museum. The castle’s formal ‘cockpit’ garden, which you’ll approach through a thick stone wall, is a secret hideaway sure to delight.

Richmond DL10 4QW

03703 331181


If you’re looking for… A fishy story 

Then discover… The Deep 

There is more than four billion years of ocean history on display at this world-renowned attraction. Take in the Lagoon of Light, home to an array of tropical fish and coral; the Endless Ocean, where you can watch sharks, rays and sea turtles; the Amazon Flooded Forest, home to catfish and the black pacu (a vegetarian relative of the piranha); and the Underwater Viewing Tunnel, 10 metres beneath the surface of the water.

Tower Street, Hull HU1 4DP

01482 381000


If you’re looking for… A reason to get out and about 

Then discover… Alfresco Adventures 

While it’s hard to envisage right now, with grey and miserable weather continuing to batter our windows outside, getting out and about is not only important to our wellbeing, but makes for a fantastic family bonding opportunity too. In our humble opinion, there are few better outdoor activity providers than Alfresco Adventures. Whether you fancy dipping your paddle into canoeing or kayaking, testing your nerves with gorge walking, scrambling, rock climbing or abseiling, or if archery, raft building, mountain biking, paddle boarding, navigation or ice climbing happen to take your fancy, then this place is for you. 

Hudson House, Reeth, Richmond DL11 6TB

07842 633232 


If you’re looking for… A star of the screen 

Then discover… Castle Howard 

Considered to be one of the finest stately homes in Britain, Castle Howard has: more than 1,000 acres of grounds that boast temples, fountains, lakes, a walled garden and new adventure playground Skelf Island; exhibitions that tell the estate’s story through times of war, tragedy and triumph; and a programme of events such as festivals, classic car shows and even jousting tournaments for which you simply won’t find a more spectacular backdrop. Don’t miss a real highlight of the estate’s programme: The Brideshead Festival, from 26th–29th June, which celebrates Evelyn Waugh’s seminal novel as it turns 75 with a stellar line up of talks, screenings, performances and exclusive tours. 

Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA

01653 648333 


If you’re looking for… Something out of this world 

Then discover… Yorkshire’s dark skies 

The big, open skies of the North York Moors are breathtaking enough by day, but look up at night and you’ll be amazed at the dark sky panorama. One of the best spots in the country for stargazing, the North York Moors National Park has three Dark Skies Discovery sites from which you’ll be able to spy up to 2,000 stars at any given time: The Moors National Park Centre, Sutton Bank National Park Centre and Dalby Observatories in Dalby Forest. And with the Dark Skies Festival from 14th February–1st March, there’s a whole host of special events to get involved in – fancy a heart-racing tour of the treetops with a Go Ape! zip-wire into the darkness, anyone? 

North York Moors National Park

01439 772700


If you’re looking for… Inspiration 

Then discover… The National Science and Media Museum

Aiming to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future, the galleries and exhibitions at The National Science and Media Museum illuminate what are world-famous collections in photography, film and television in the world’s first UNESCO City of Film. Don’t miss their current exhibition, The Forgotten Showman, which runs until 29th March and uncovers the life of Robert Paul – the forgotten pioneer of cinematography, who invented British cinema.

Bradford BD1 1NQ

01274 202030 


If you’re looking for… Adventure 

Then discover… Gaping Gill 

The largest underground cave chamber in Britain, Gaping Gill is so cavernous that St Paul’s Cathedral could even fit inside. The main shaft from the surface to the floor of the chamber is about 98 metres deep, and normally contains an impressive waterfall cascading down from Fell Beck. Oh, and we should probably mention, it’s entirely vertical – so if you’re wanting to visit, you better prepare to be winched. Usually only accessible to the most experienced of explorers, every year, on two separate weeks, Bradford and Craven Pothole Clubs provide said winch to allow visitors to be lowered down the shaft on a boatswain’s chair. You can’t book in advance, so be sure to keep an eye on the clubs’ websites for details, arrive nice and early on your chosen day, and bring your waterproof.

Ingleborough, North Yorkshire. 

Access via Clapdale Drive, Lancaster LA2 8EE

Winch meet: 23rd–29th May,

Winch meet: 14th–21st August, 


If you’re looking for… A show-stopper 

Then discover… Strictly Ballroom 

Based on the award-winning film, and with direction from Britain’s favourite TV judge, Craig Revel Horwood, Strictly Ballroom The Musical will have audiences kicking up their heels when it foxtrots its way to The Grand Opera House York from 23rd–28th November – so make sure you book your tickets nice and early. When rebellious dancer Scott starts dancing with beginner Fran, he soon realises that to win, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom. Featuring break-into-song numbers such as Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, and Time After Time, as well as new songs by acclaimed artists such as Sia, this show-stopping spectacle is sure to make for an unforgettable evening under the glitter ball. 

Cumberland Street, York YO1 9SW

0844 871 3024 


If you’re looking for… World-famous waterfalls 

Then discover… Aysgarth Falls 

The three-stepped waterfalls at Aysgarth have been a tourist attraction for more than 200 years; Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy visited while they waited for their coach horses to be changed, and they were even featured in Hollywood blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (starring Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman). There are several easy paths winding through the Freeholders’ Wood nature reserve to the Falls and, if you’re lucky, you might see some of the resident roe deer here. 

Aysgarth, Leyburn DL8 3TH

01969 662910 


If you’re looking for… A fight 

Then discover… Royal Armouries Museum

If you’ve got time, why not shoot along to the national museum of arms and armour on Leeds’ waterfront to see more than 8,500 artefacts that have been used in war, hunting, tournaments and self-defence throughout history. Weapon-handling workshops, archery and live demonstrations keep the little ones on their toes, while there’s a crossbow range for those older wannabe warriors. 

Armouries Drive, Leeds LS10 1LT

0113 220 1994 


If you’re looking for… Nature and nurture 

Then discover… Lotherton 

With its Grand Regency House, extensive grounds, red deer park, bird garden, nature trails, historic stables and two children’s play areas, Lotherton is the perfect place for a family day out – especially once you factor in its Wildlife World. With a slightly more exotic array than the farmyard friends you’d usually expect from a Yorkshire landscape, here you can watch penguins frolic in their pool, flamingos padding about the place, and the resident capybaras and tapirs as they chill out, all while learning about how each animal lives and and what we can do to protect their future. 

Lotherton Lane, Aberford, Leeds LS25 3EB

0113 378 2959 


If you’re looking for… Something unexpected 

Then discover… The Forbidden Corner

The Forbidden Corner was originally built as a private folly and only later opened to the pubic. Now anyone can explore its unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises in the four-acre garden of Tupgill Park in the Yorkshire Dales. The Temple of the Underworld, the Eye of the Needle and a huge pyramid of translucent glass are just a few of the treats in store around the twists and turns of these tricky pathways. 

Tupgill Park Estate, Coverham, Leyburn DL8 4TJ 

01969 640638 


If you’re looking for… A new experience 

Then discover… SMJ Falconry

If the thought of handling some of the world’s most impressive birds of prey gets your heart all a-flutter, then this is the place for you. Immerse yourself in the beautiful ‘Brontë Country’ landscapes of Oxenhope and spend hours learning how to handle, feed and fly some of the birds of prey that make their home here: from falcons, kestrels and kites to Harris hawks, owls, an eagle and even a vulture.

Hawksbridge Lane, Oxenhope BD22 9QY

01535 646800 


If you’re looking for… Something educational 

Then discover… Eden Camp 

Renowned as one of the most immersive Second World War museums in the country, Eden Camp is built on a real POW camp, with 29 huts of gritty history, a ‘Dig for Victory’ garden and a military garage. Visitors can explore the sights, sounds and smells of the war in incredible detail: from the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party to the Blitz, women at war, the Home Front and post-WWII conflicts.

Malton YO17 6RT 

01653 697777 


If you’re looking for… Art 

Then discover… The Hepworth Wakefield 

The former Art Fund Museum Of The Year offers a celebration of Yorkshire’s cultural heritage, presenting major exhibitions of contemporary art alongside space dedicated solely to exploring the work of the gallery’s namesake, Barbara Hepworth (Wakefield local and one of the most important artists of the 20th century). The Hepworth is also home to the city’s art collection: an impressive compendium of modern British art. Be sure not to miss their New Departures event on 18th January – a unique day of musical performance, poetry, film and discussion exploring the influence of 19th- and 20th-century experimental music and literature on the works of David Hockney and Alan Davie, and the creative circles they moved in. 

Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW 

01924 247360 


If you’re looking for… Remarkable ruins  

Then discover… Bolton Abbey 

Arguably the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Yorkshire’s many landscapes, the 30,000 acres of beautiful countryside that belongs to 

Bolton Abbey boasts more than 80 miles of footpaths to walk. Explore the ruins of the Priory and discover a landscape full of history and legend; amble along the riverside, woodland and moorland paths; or simply relax beside the river with a picnic and watch the children play. Whatever you’re after, Bolton Abbey has it all.

Skipton BD236EX

01756 718 000 


If you’re looking for… Local heritage 

Then discover… National Coal Mining Museum

Pop on a hard hat, grab your battery lamp and descend 140 metres underground to explore the history of Yorkshire’s coal industry. A former miner will lead you through history, as you experience all the sights and sounds of a working coal mine, then drop into the forge at Hope Pit Workshop to see the museum’s resident blacksmiths demonstrating their mind- and metal-bending skills.

Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, Wakefield WF4 4RH

01924 848806


If you’re looking for… Something deep 

Then discover… Standedge Tunnel

Standedge Tunnel is the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in Britain. Reopening in spring after a winter break, board a family-friendly tour boat to explore ‘one of the seven wonders of the waterways’ and pop into the visitor centre, housed in an old warehouse, to discover how ancient waterways played a key part in the Industrial Revolution – and how they helped to shape our county. 

Waters Road, Huddersfield HD7 6NQ 

01484 844298 


If you’re looking for… Live music   

Then discover… Tramlines 

Tramlines is the biggest party Sheffield’s ever seen. Nominated for Best Major Festival and Best Metropolitan Festival at this year’s UK Festival Awards, there’s arguably no better value, three-day festival in the country. Over just one weekend – 31st July–2nd August 2020 – you’ll be privy to an unbelievable line up of more than 70 artists across four stages. You’ll also have a wealth of comedy, a pop-up cinema, a family area and a delicious food and drink line-up at your fingertips too.

Hillsborough Park, Parkside Road, Sheffield S6 2AB




Published in: January 2020

Follow us on Instagram

Never miss an issue... Subscribe

Social Channels

Follow us on Instagram