With the first holiday of the school year upon us, Joanne O’Connor picks events and activities to keep the kids happy next week – and no, they’re not all Halloween themed
London and the south-east
The newly revamped London Dungeons is going big on Halloween, with live shows, special effects and an abundance of pumpkins until 9 November (online tickets from £19.60 adult, £14.95 under-16s , thedungeons.com). But when it comes to the chill factor, an evening narrowboat trip along the Regents Canal and into the pitch-black Islington Tunnel might just have the edge, especially when you discover a “witch” on board (26-27 Oct, booking essential, adults £10, children £8, 020-7713 0836, canalmuseum.org.uk). On a less-scary note, the British Library is bringing its Children’s Illustrated Classics exhibition to life with Peter Pan-themed installations and a live storyteller (29-30 Oct, free, bl.uk), while the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green will encourage children to channel their inner super-hero with mask-making, dressing up, and the chance to test their powers at the Superhero Skills Station (28 Oct-1 Nov, free, museumofchildhood.org.uk).
Find out what our ancestors did before Trick or Treating at the Celtic Harmony Camp in Hertfordshire until Thursday. There’ll be archery, autumn crafts and woodland trails on offer during its Samhain Winter Celebrations week at the recreated Iron Age settlement (26–31 Oct, booking essential, £8pp, 01438 718543, celticharmony.org). The Royal Horticultural Society offers a feast for the senses at its gardens at Hyde Hall in Essex and Wisley in Surrey, including craft sessions, music workshops and a sensory trail (26 Oct–3 Nov admission to Wisley: adult £10.75, five–16s £4.60, under-fives free; family £27.60; to Hyde Hall: adult £7.20, five-16s £3.60, family £19.40, rhs.org.uk).
Fungi forays, pond-dipping and bug hunts are just some of the seasonal activities at the National Wetland Centre in Llanelli (adult £8.70, child four-16 £4.80, family £24.30, wwt.org.uk). On 30 October you can learn how to make your own bat box (£5).
Bodnant Garden in Snowdonia is renowned for its spectacular autumn colour (adult £4.54, child £2.27, nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden), but children will be more interested in storytelling sessions in the Pin Mill, (26 Oct and 2 Nov), a Mythical Creatures trail (31 Oct) and Pumpkin Carving (30–31 Oct). On Halloween itself there’s also a Spooky Night Walk followed by marshmallows toasted on the fire (adult £6, child £2, 31 Oct).
Activities for half-term at Jimmy’s Farm near Ipswich, Suffolk, include sausage making, den-building, a Haunted House Magic Show and a Zombie Battlefield Massacre (admission adult £3.50, child £2.50, family £11.50, events and workshops extra, jimmysfarm.com).
At the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, Suffolk, families can have a go at making printing blocks and printing with found objects, to coincide with a new exhibition on engraver and illustrator Thomas Bewick (29-31 Oct, adults £6.90, children free during half-term, eastanglianlife.org.uk).
Norfolk’s forest adventure park, Bewilderwood, makes a great autumn day out with its treehouses, zipwires and rope bridges. Children can make their own masks and lanterns and the park will stay open later each day for a twilight lantern parade (admission £11.50-£13.50 depending on height, children under 92cm free, 26 Oct–3 Nov, bewilderwood.co.uk).
In Northumberland, Kielder Observatory will be running a series of early-evening events for families, including a talk on the wonders of the universe with a tour of the observatory and, if the skies are clear, a chance to peer through the telescopes (adult £12, under-16s £10, family £35, kielderobservatory.org).
The excellent Manchester Science Festival is back with a range of fascinating workshops until next Sunday (24 Oct–3 Nov, manchestersciencefestival.com). Among the family-friendly – and free – events at this city-wide celebration of scientific innovation, are a music workshop at MOSI Museum of Science and Industry, exploring what makes a catchy tune, an explosive chemistry demonstration at the University of Bolton and bug hunts at the John Rylands Library.
Halloween activities at the Royal Armouries in Leeds include gruesome storytelling sessions, a spooky maze, and a Horrible Horse Show with stunt-riders (26 Oct–2 Nov, museum admission free, events £2–£4 pp, royalarmouries.org).
In Cumbria, the Wordsworth Trust (wordsworth.org.uk) has halloween events to suit all ages, from apple bobbing and storytelling at Dove Cottage in Ambleside today (26 Oct, free with admission to Dove Cottage, adult £7.50, child £4.50, family £17.20) to a spooky sleepovers on Thursday at the Wordsworth Museum (31 Oct, £10pp, for seven–13s).
The beautiful Arnos Vale cemetery near Bristol has an intriguing programme of events for half-term, from art workshops to twilight tours and Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations (some events free, others £10 per family, arnosvale.org.uk).
In north Devon, the quirky Big Sheep attraction will be putting its own stamp on Halloween with a haunted house, pumpkin carving and fancy dress competitions. After dark, the ante is upped with zombie trails, haunted hayrides and a Halloween panto, perfect for older kids (26 Oct–3 Nov, thebigsheep.co.uk).
Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour will be celebrating all things autumnal with guided red squirrels spotting, a spooky Famous Five-themed mystery trail and, on a rare chance to enjoy the island after dark on an Eerie Walk (£15pp) rounded off with hot chocolate and hot dogs (admission adult £5.80, child £2.90, family £14.40, plus ferry fare from Poole or Sandbanks, nationaltrust.org.uk/brownsea-island).
Leicester’s Diwali celebrations are some of the biggest outside of India, with more than 35,000 people attending the recent switch-on of the lights on Belgrave Road, the city’s ‘”Golden Mile”. Celebrations to mark the start of the Hindu New Year range from a Bollywood Dance Workshop at the Curve Theatre (26 Oct, free, curveonline.co.uk) to making clay candleholders at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery (2 Nov, free, leicester.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries). Events culminate on 3 November with fireworks and live entertainment at the Cossington Street Recreation Ground (visitleicester.info/diwali).
The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley has devised a family Gore and Grime trail through the recreated 19th-century village and schoolhouse with opportunities to make a kite and learn traditional street games such as hopscotch and hoop-rolling. On 31 October children can dress up in their scariest costumes and go trick or treating on the cobbled streets, accompanied by magicians, musicians and other street entertainers (adult £15.50, five-16s £8.25, booking required for trick or treat night, 0121 557 9643 bclm.co.uk).
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