The biggest event taking place in the whole of England this year is all ours - and we're determined to make the most of it.
The Great Exhibition of the North is, admittedly, a showcase for the entire north of the country, but our region is the one picked to host it: after all, we've more than our fair share of attractions to show off.
It’s both a coup and an honour to be chosen and the result of many months of preparation work by host venues across the North East was seen on Friday, June 22, at the official launch of the 80-day programme.
With the debut of the Tyne's water sculpture, specially-commissioned music, street entertainment and fireworks, we made a great start to the summer celebration as all eyes were focused upon the region.
And the exciting bit now is that we've only just started.
Over its three-month course, the Great Exhibition promises plenty to come and a whopping 3m visitors are expected to turn up to enjoy it.
So both tourists and local residents will want to know exactly what we can expect.
We've drawn up a guide to what's happening and, with more detail set to be unveiled over coming months by organisers - led by destination marketing agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative - it will be worth keeping an eye out here for updates.
What is the Great Exhibition of the North?
It will be the largest event taking place in England this year. It's a free exhibition which will be a global showcase for the great contributions made by the North of England in art and culture, design and innovation.
As the official website says, it “will demonstrate the North’s trailblazing role in shaping the world today with a programme which will surprise, delight and excite audiences from across the UK and beyond”.
What are its dates?
It launched on June 22 - when host venues unveiled their individual displays - and will culminate in a grand finale on the Great North Run weekend, September 8-9.
Where will it take place?
Across Newcastle and Gateshead. It is centred around three major Great Exhibition hubs – Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle and, across the river, Baltic and Sage Gateshead.
Visitors are encouraged to get out and about exploring on foot too, with the opening of three walking trails, each with a focus on arts, design and innovation and threading through a different area.
Key destinations on the routes are being brought to life by performers, visual artists, architects, musicians, scientists, engineers, inventors, writers, creatives thinkers, designers and digital makers.
An app is being launched too to help guide people along the way. Keep an eye out here .
How can I spot what's happening?
You won’t miss the branding proudly displayed across Newcastle and Gateshead. The logo shows arrows pointing north on a background of vivid pink trimmed with royal blue.
What are the upcoming highlights?
It depends on your interests, of course, but there really is something to attract everybody.
Whether you are keen to see the famous Stephenson’s Rocket which is making a special visit ‘home’ or John Lennon’s piano - or perhaps Emily Bronte’s writing desk; a Lowry painting or the oldest surviving FA Cup in the world - there are unique opportunities to get up close and personal with famous exhibits.
Read more about the Rocket's painstaking journey north to our Discovery Museum here:and being unveiled below.
The Great North Museum: Hancock has 10 great reasons of its own to visit, with the launch of its new exhibition Which Way North, and you can read about those below.
And this tells about the arrival of another precious exhibit in town here: Arrival of David Hockney painting in Newcastle creates excitement ahead of its public display
And if music is your main thing then check out Lauren Laverne's Great Northern Soundtrack, a week-long programme being hosted by the Sunderland-born favourite at the Sage until July 1.
Expect gigs, talks and art exhibitions showcasing the best music the North has to offer from Newcastle to Manchester and from Sunderland to Sheffield.
Anything else to know?
The action won't be taking place just in the hub venues. The Great Exhibition's Inspired By project - set up to encourage wide involvement in the event - has sparked some great ideas which will be adding to the buzz across Newcastle and Gateshead.
Wylam Brewery in Exhibition Park, for instance, launched eight new beers to celebrate the launch which have been snapped up but, if you're lucky, you might spot some on sale at independent shops around the region.
And Newcastle's flagship store Fenwick is going all-out with a series of events to celebrate our great north food and drink and one of them promises to be a real eye-catcher - a chance to drink gin in the iconic Fenwick's widow no less.
Read more about that below - and find how leading restaurateur Terry Laybourne is involved in some one-off chef treats in the Food Hall.
Is there a programme?
You can download a PDF of the programme here and if you want a brochure to pick up, they are available in all the participating venues as well as hotels across the city.
You should spot some in other venues across the wider region too.
I wasn't at the launch - can I see any of what I missed?
Actually, yes you can.
The host venues had high-profile openings - Brendan Foster and culture secretary Matt Hancock were among the guests at Great North Museum; Eric Burdon was at Discovery and Michael Ellis MP and TV new presenter Steph McGovern were at Sage Gateshead - but they're now open with free programmes for all to enjoy.
The a spectacular 'Angel of the North' fountain which was switched on at the launch night can be seen at hourly intervals each day, with synchronised lights adding to the spectacle during evening displays.
You may have missed the specially-commissioned anthem, by poet Lemn Sissay , and a film to mark the launch but this will be repeated while launch night performance tracks now can be downloaded.
It means you can recreate the night by watching the fountain and listening to local rock band Maximo Park and more specially-commissioned music from folky singer-songwriter Kate Rusby, the Sage's own chamber orchestra stars Royal Northern Sinfonia and electronic music duo Darkstar. Find out how here .
As for the Friday night drone display and finale fireworks, they unfortunately won't be repeated.
Tell us more about the fountain
Foundations were specially laid for the water sculpture which is 80 metres long – one metre for every day of the Great Exhibition – and as high as the Tyne Bridge.
It's designed by Water Sculptures Ltd, in Morecambe, to resemble The Angel of the North and, as the water rises and falls, its ‘wings’ will open and close.
The fountain is taking centre-stage throughout the exhibition.
Here's when you can see it: When can I see the fountain on the Tyne during the Great Exhibition of the North?
Do we need tickets for the programme?
For certain things, yes, but they're free.
At the Sage, a new animated musical adventure called Bridges has been created by composer and artist Ed Carter and children's TV writer and producer Katie Simmons.
With animation by Novak and music recorded by Royal Northern Sinfonia, the tale follows the journey of a man and a dog in a small fishing boat as they navigate the River Tyne to reach Dunston Staiths. It will run from August 4 to September 2, at 11am and 2pm, and for free tickets call 0191 443 4661.
Here's one riverside treat that will began on the quayside this Monday: Great Exhibition of the North - tickets for Tyne sound adventure up for grabs
How do I get there?
All major cities fly to Newcastle International Airport. See here .
Car hire is available at the airport and the city centre is about a 30 minute drive.
There are car parks within walking distance of Newcastle Quayside. See here .
The Metro links direct from the airport to the city too.
There are 31 trains from London each weekday and the journey is around 2hrs 49mins.
From York there are 34 trains each week day and the journey is little over an hour.
From Edinburgh , there are 26 direct services each week day and the (very scenic) trip last around 1hr 27mins.
If you're travelling by car from Liverpool, Manchester or Leeds , join the the M62 until it turns into the M1.
From the west coast, the scenic route is across the A69.
From London and the south, take the M1 / A1 and you'll get to see The Angel Of The North which will get you in the mood. It's almost a straight line from there into Gateshead and - another iconic sight - over the Tyne Bridge into Newcastle.
From Scotland and the north, head down the A1 and and take the north or west roads.
And you can check your route on the AA route planner here .
Is it suitable for those with disabilities?
All performance spaces will be fully accessible and there is disabled access and facilities at all venues.