The centre of Darlington hosts an intriguing juxtaposition of unconventional shops and major high street names side by side.
From exclusive designer boutiques to large retail chains to the more unusual independent retailers on show, the town has made a conscious effort to broaden its shopping appeal to make it stand out as something beyond your average high street. Its popularity and bustling atmosphere is a testament to this approach's success.
For lovers of the arts Darlington has a number of venues that host drama and music events throughout the year. The much-visited Civic Centre which hosts anything from musicals and pantomimes to contemporary drama and dance is perhaps the best known, but smaller venues such as the Darlington Arts Centre and the Forum Music Centre can boast interesting and eclectic programmes that range from rock concerts to independent film screenings to experimental drama and stand-up comedy.
The award-winning 'Art in the Yards' project, which runs year-round, is a fascinating exhibition that showcases large-scale painting and sculpture by local students in a series of rustic, medieval-style courtyards hidden close to the town's shopping district.
Darlington's industrial history, especially its links with the early railways, are showcased in The Head of Steam museum. Exhibits on show include many original locomotives from the so-called 'Golden Age of Steam' and many examples of railway memorabilia, with a variety of interactive computer displays to guide visitors through the full historical impact of the advent of steam-power.