ONE OF the North East’s largest venues is helping visitors get in the Christmas spirit this weekend (14 and 15 December), with favourite characters, live music and a panto event.

Winter Wonderland, at Rainton Arena, at Houghton-le-Spring, is home to Santa’s Grotto, a huge traditional Christmas market, fairground rides, wreath making and the region’s biggest real ice rink.

And families planning to hit the ice this weekend will be joined by some very special guests, with popular characters Anna and Elsa taking to the ice throughout Saturday afternoon, followed by Aladdin and Jasmine on Sunday.

Elsewhere at the site, visitors can enjoy live music on Saturday from Chris Walton and Mark Allen in the Alpine Village après ski tipi bar, followed by Toni Anderson and another performance from Mark on Sunday.

And those heading to the event on Sunday morning can book tickets for What an Adventure This Christmas at 10am, for brunch and panto performances from Dame Bella Bluebell and a whole host of fairy tale characters.

Jay Johal, who owns Rainton Arena, believes the activities are a fantastic way for all ages to get in the festive spirit.

“The Christmas countdown is truly underway and we’ve got some brilliant things lined up this weekend,” said Jay.

“There’s plenty to get stuck into across the whole site and we hope to welcome even more visitors in the run up to the big day.”

The Winter Wonderland takes place from 12pm until late Monday to Thursday and 10am to 10pm Friday to Sunday until 23 December.

The event is free to attend, but there is an additional cost for ice skating, visiting Santa’s grotto and What an Adventure This Christmas.

Skating sessions need to be pre-booked, with prices starting at £3 for under fours, £7 for four to 12-year-olds, £7.50 for 13 to 17-year-olds and £8.50 for 18s and over.

Admission to Santa’s Grotto is £10, which includes a ticket for a child and two additional guests, with each youngster receiving a gift.

Tickets for What an Adventure This Christmas cost £9 for adults and £6 for children, with brunch served at 10:45am.

To book, call the venue on 0191 584 8630, email info@raintonarena.co.uk or visit www.raintonarena.co.uk.