Paul Smith, lead singer, Maximo Park
I came up the A19 from Teesside to Tyneside as a student and never left. Newcastle is a compact city, and very manageable on foot. If you breach the city limits you can walk across the Town Moor to clear your head, a huge open space that brackets the north of the city, with only free-roaming cattle for company. If you need an independent substitute for your Greggs fix, Pink Lane Bakery provides homemade pasties, cakes and vegan treats. Across the road is the Amnesty Bookshop, which always has interesting stock. For secondhand vinyl, try RPM and Beatdown Records. Culture-wise, check out the Cluny, an excellent music venue; the Star & Shadow, a leftfield, volunteer-run cinema and event space; and Workplace Gallery in Gateshead, which hosts up-and-coming artists and the occasional “happening”.
• Maximo Park play the sold-out opening event on 22 June; Paul Smith DJs at the Parental Guidance Party at Sage Gateshead, 1 July, free, sagegateshead.com
Becky Unthank, singer, the Unthanks
If you’re walking along the Tyne on the Newcastle side, venture a little further and you’ll find the Ouseburn Valley. Kiln, a workshop/kitchen, is one of my favourite places to hang out and eat delicious vegetarian food; you can see craftspeople making and firing pots through the glass wall. The Ouseburn is home to loads of great music venues, pubs, galleries and artist studios, and right in the centre you can find Ouseburn Farm. I recommend the Cumberland Arms for a pint of local beer.
An hour north of Newcastle is Alnwick, a beautiful town with a castle and Barter Books. This treasure trove of secondhand books is housed in a Victorian railway station where you can cosy up by an open fire in one of the old waiting rooms with a cup of tea.
• The Unthanks play Folk on the Tyne, Sage Gateshead, 28 July, £19.60, and are part of Aeons: a Sound Journey for Newcastle, along the River Tyne, 22 June-7 Sept, free but ticketed, getnorth2018.com
Shaun Allan, virtual reality expert from HedgeHog Lab
Mandarin ducks at Washington Wetland Centre. Photograph: Alamy
I’m really looking forward to the River Brew Co development in Gateshead, a new shipping container community under the Tyne Bridge. It will include a brewery and tap room, an open-fire kitchen and a bike store/coffee shop/cocktail bar. For a complete contrast, I recommend the Victorian-era Saltwell Park, south of the town centre – I visit every other day. With seven miles of spotless beach, Druridge Bay, near Amble in Northumberland, is where my family and I spent many a summer’s day in the 1970s. It hasn’t changed much since. Another favourite of mine is Washington Wetland Centre near Sunderland – with otters, flamingos and fluffy ducklings, it’s a great family day out.
• Rocket Reimagined is at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, 22 June-9 Sept, free, discoverymuseum.org.uk
Sophie Connor, architect, Ryder Architecture
Dunstanburgh Castle. Photograph: Alamy
If ever I feel like escaping Newcastle for some fresh sea air and a bit of space, I love visiting Low Newton-by-the-Sea. This 18th-century fishing hamlet on the Northumberland coast is owned by the National Trust and has white-painted fishermen’s cottages set around a village green. There is a long sandy beach with blue-green rockpools, and it is a lovely walk around Embleton Bay to Dunstanburgh Castle. Reward yourself with traditional Craster kipper fishcakes and a pint of ale brewed on site at the Ship Inn.
• Horse to Hyperloop: the Evolution of Design is at Cooper’s Studios, Newcastle, 22 June-9 Sept, getnorth2018.com
Gráinne Sweeney, guest curator, Great North Museum
Howick Hall. Photograph: Alamy
The Northumberland coast has beautiful beaches. One of my favourite is Sugar Sands near Longhoughton. It is usually deserted and is great for kids, birdwatchers and sea kayakers – take a picnic and a wetsuit. For coastal walks, I love the route from Budle Bay to Craster. There are views of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the path takes you past Bamburgh Castle, along sandy beaches such as Beadnell Bay, next to crystal-clear waters. Just south of Craster is Howick Hall , the ancestral seat of Earl Grey – you can walk to another little beach at the bottom of the gardens.
• Which Way North is at the Great North Museum, Newcastle, 22 June-9 Sept, free, greatnorthmuseum.org.uk
Steve Mayes, Lego artist
Tynemouth Station Market. Photograph: Alamy
I’d recommend a trip out to the coast at Tynemouth, eight miles east of Newcastle. The high street has a great range of independent shops, bars and restaurants. The market in the Metro station at weekends is worth a visit, not least for the beauty of the station itself. Best of all, though, Tynemouth has Riley’s Fish Shack, down on the beach at King Edward’s Bay. It serves the best food I’ve eaten anywhere, and has an incredible atmosphere – sometimes they have fire pits and deckchairs out on the sand. Another beach, Longsands, gets some good waves if you fancy surfing. Up the Tyne a little is North Shields; the Fish Quay area is well worth a look. Again, there are some great independent bars and restaurants, and working fishing vessels going out, which gives the place real character. You can get great deals on fresh fish, too.
• The Lego Timeline of Northern Innovation is at the Mining Institute, Newcastle, 22 June-9 Sept, mininginstitute.org.uk
Annie Rigby, artistic director, Unfolding Theatre
Weardale Railway. Photograph: Alamy
The thing I love about living in Newcastle is that you don’t need to travel far to reach big, open spaces. A great place to fill your lungs with air is the Weardale moors in the Pennines. It really feels like you’re a million miles away from the city. I like looking at the snow poles (there’s a Weardale ski club) and imagining what it looks like in the depths of winter. The heritage Weardale Railway runs from Witton-le-Wear to Stanhope, where there are brilliant walks. Or, if you fancy taking in the views from a heated outdoor swimming pool, head to Stanhope Pool. The Lord Crewe Arms pub in Blanchland is hard to beat for a pint and some food before you head back to town (or even stay the night).
• Multiverse Arcade is at multiple venues, Newcastle and Gateshead, 22 June-9 Sept, free, unfoldingtheatre.co.uk
Ednie Wilson, creativity development manager, St Mary’s Heritage Centre
Boathouse pub, Wylam. Photograph: Alamy
I go on mum-and-son dates once a week – there are so many lovely places to explore in the villages around Gateshead and Newcastle. A real favourite is Wylam, about 20 minutes from Newcastle by train. Visit Daniel Farm, which has animals including llamas and Clydesdale horses, plus a great cafe and farm shop. The Boathouse pub has brilliant beers from the Hadrian Border Brewery and other north-eastern brewers. I like the Feathers Inn in Hedley on the Hill, which has well-kept beer and lovely food. I recommend the sticky toffee pudding with local ice-cream.
• The Needle Points North is on at St Mary’s Heritage Centre, Gateshead, 23 June-9 Sept, getnorth2018.com
Philip Bernays, chief executive, Theatre Royal
The Broad Chare pub. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian
There are some fantastic places to eat in Newcastle. I recommend the Broad Chare for proper pub food: the menu changes every day but the pies are brilliant, as are the scotch eggs and the pig’s ears. Dabbawal has great Indian street food, and Dat Bat is a craft beer bar serving the best sourdough pizzas. Further afield, Finbarrs in Durham is a fine-dining restaurant with regional produce such as Ribblesdale goat’s curd. At the top end, the Raby Hunt near Darlington is the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in the north-east. The 15-course tasting menu is on another planet – book early and splash out on the wine flight for a special occasion (£115pp excluding wine).
For days out, we always take friends to Crook Hall and Gardens, a medieval hall in Durham – it’s a pleasant place for a wander, and the tea shop serves excellent sponge cake. Bradley Gardens in the Tyne Valley is a restored 18th-century walled garden with some smart shops. Hexham Abbey has incredible medieval paintings, carvings and sculptures – I go weak at the knees for the Celtic crosses.
Northumberland is a great place for cyclists – you can cycle all day along little lanes and hardly see a car. There are some excellent cyclists’ cafes, too – I like Capheaton Tea Rooms (weekends only).
• Every Thing Every Time, by artist Naho Matsuda, is outside Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, 22 June-9 Sept, free, getnorth2018.com
Abbey Stobbs and Allison Birt, both 17, Young Company, Northern Stage
Ernest cafe-bar, Ouseburn, Newcastle. Photograph: Steven Aitchison
In a city as bustling as Newcastle, my favourite thing is to escape to the seaside – go the Pulp Fiction cafe in Whitley Bay for a smoothie and enjoy the fresh sea air. AS
The Freshly Squeezed open mic night at Ernest cafe-bar in the Ouseburn on a Thursday night is a chill place to be. It’s full of students and occasionally gospel singers all gathered into a back room with a disco ball, low lighting, bean bags and benches. You’ll hear a mix of godawful singing, beautiful harmonies and mint poetry. If you take the mic, you even get a free drink! AB
• Where Do We Stand, part of Self-build Utopias, is at Northern Stage, Newcastle, 27 Aug-2 Sept, free, northernstage.co.uk
Ed Carter, musician
Longstone lighthouse, Farne Islands. Photograph: Getty Images
My top recommendation for a day trip has to be heading north to Seahouses, and taking a boat to see the resident puffins on the Farne Islands. Witnessing these incredible birds take to the skies is enough to convince anyone that they should in fact be flightless (further evidenced by the fact they live in burrows, which they timeshare with the local rabbits). As well as puffins, seals, guillemots and arctic terns, you can also see the lighthouse from which 22-year-old Grace Darling and her father undertook a legendary lifeboat rescue in 1838.
To the south of the Tyne you can visit the picture-postcard Souter Lighthouse at Lizard Point in Marsden – the first lighthouse in the world to be built specifically to house an electric lamp. Then round the day off with a drink in Marsden Grotto, a bar in a cave at the bottom of a nearby cliff, which was reputedly first inhabited by a man known as Jack the Blaster. However, my grandfather regularly complained about once having been stuck in the lift there in 1941, so do so at your own risk.
• Bridges is at Sage Gateshead, 22 June- 9 Sept, free, sagegateshead.com
David Eagle, singer, the Young’Uns
Steetley pier, Headland beach, Hartlepool. Photograph: Alamy
Hartlepool Headland is a really magical place. It’s the oldest part of Hartlepool with so much heritage – you can visit St Hilda’s church, built in the 12th century on the site of the saint’s seventh-century monastery. Sandwell Gate is the only surviving gateway in the 14th-century town walls – it’s a lovely sheltered area to stand and look out to sea. The Heugh Battery was used to defend the town from German bombardment in December 1914, when 130 people were killed; it is now a museum. Great pubs include the Harbour of Refuge, AKA the Pot House, and the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which also has five rooms. Don’t miss Verrill’s Fish Shop, the best chippy in town – Frasier’s Kelsey Grammer is a regular (his wife is from Hartlepool).
• The Young’Uns play Folk on the Tyne with the Unthanks and the Wilsons, Sage Gateshead, 28 July, £19.60, sagegateshead.com
Linda Conlon, chief executive, Life
Durham Castle. Photograph: University of Durham
In Notes on a Small Island, Bill Bryson described Durham as “perfect” – and it’s hard to disagree. It’s a compact and beautiful city that is easy to explore on foot. Highlights include the breathtaking cathedral and castle, which together are a world heritage site. Have a wander around the quaint cobbled streets – there are plenty of little shops, boutiques and cafes to explore. The Mugwump on Saddler Street has been a must-visit shop since the 1960s and is great for picking up unusual gifts, cards and clothes. The market hall is a beautifully restored Victorian indoor space where independent traders sell antiques and local produce. Take the three-mile riverside walk, a circular path flanked by the cathedral and castle (and a favourite stroll for my cockapoo Bertie).
• Robots: Then and Now is at the Life Science Centre, Newcastle, until 2 Dec, £15, life.org.uk
Holli Keeble, chief executive, Tyneside Cinema
The gardens at Seaton Delaval Hall. Photograph: PA
We have some fabulous National Trust properties in the north-east. The best for families are the recently restored Seaton Delaval Hall (don’t miss the fabulous Pillars of Dawn exhibition there with Canadian artist Kelly Richardson, to 15 July); Wallington near Morpeth, which has an adventure playground in a “wild” wood; and Gibside in the Derwent Valley, which holds open-air theatre performances in the walled garden over the summer.
• The Remake a Take movie trail is at the Tyneside Cinema and other venues, 22 June-9 Sept, free, getnorth2018.com
• The Great Exhibition of the North (22 June-9 September) is the biggest event in England this year. The three-month programme of gigs, exhibitions, shows and workshops is designed to celebrate the region’s artists, designers and inventors, getnorth2018.com