Sunderland has a long history of glass-making and this modern glass and steel building is dedicated to the creation, exploration and presentation of glass. Just up the road is St Peter's, the first church in the country to use stained glass back in
674 AD. The centre houses galleries, artists' studios, production facilities, a craft and design shop and a café and restaurant.
If your children like snowdomes now is the time to visit as nearly every area of the building is taken over by an exhibition of more than 3,000 of them. These include the first one ever made, for the Paris Expo in 1889, as well as designer versions such as a Patrick Cox snowdome-heeled shoe. See the "Living Snowdome" - a huge fluorescent structure in a darkened, strobe-lit room that children can crawl through. During the Christmas holidays and February half-term, families can join workshops where children over eight can make snowflake mirrors.
There are glass-blowing demonstrations three times a day; at noon, 2pm and 4pm. The centre runs a variety of courses for adults, including beginner's stained glass, jewellery making and glass-blowing. If you need a special present for someone The Gallery Shop sells high quality glass items made in the UK, such as vases and paper weights as well as cards, marbles, books and games.
Throwingstones, the wonderfully named café
and restaurant overlooking the river, has become a destination in its own right. Open daily 10am-5pm for drinks and snacks in the morning and afternoon.
It also serves lunch including vegetarian options and children's meals. Booking recommended, particularly on Sundays when it is popular with families.
Fully accessible, with toilets adapted for people with disabilities, parking and baby-changing facilities. There are induction loops and disabled parking spaces.
Open daily 10am - 5pm (except Christmas Day and New Year's Day). Free entry.
How to get there
The National Glass Centre, Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL (0191-515 5555; national glasscentre.com).
By rail: Sunderland station is a 20-minute walk, St Peter's metro station is seven minutes' walk away.
By road: signposted from the A1231, A19 and all major roads into the city. Car parking is free.
By foot: You can join the St Peter's Sculpture Trail, which takes you along the River Wear to the marina, beach and seafront in 15 minutes.