Your ultimate October half-term guide
School's out (again - eek!) but panic not. With our bumper Half Term guide you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to entertaining the little terrors. Aaaand breathe...
ZSL Whipsnade are running Boo at the Zoo between 19-31 Oct where kids can make spooky treats for the animals and other creepy crafts, then dance off some energy at the daily pumpkin party. Also in Beds is the chance to meet Marshall from PAW Patrol at Woburn Safari Park on 26 Oct and there’s a Freaky Fun Fest going on at Mead Open Farm (21 Oct – 1 Nov), with tiny terrors tractor rides, special Halloween Shows and a brand new pumpkin patch. At Halloween at Paradise Wildlife Park on 26 Oct kids can to show off their creativity to become the pump-kings of the jungle (and watch the real kings of the jungle chow down on the juicy leftovers).
Staying with the spooky theme, Monstersaurus (from the people behind Aliens Love Underpants) is rearing its head at Luton Library Theatre (22-23 Oct) which tells the story of young inventor Monty and his unstoppable monster-making skills. Also in Luton, you can catch the intriguingly named Eggs on Legs on 27 Oct (it could only be Dr Seuss of course). And from one favourite author to the next, Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns (1-2 Nov) offers young audience members the chance to bring and swap a book with one from the library stage set at the end of this imagination-fuelled performance.
If it’s more traditional stories you’re after, there’s a colourful funny re-telling of Grimm’s, well… grim, tale of Hansel and Gretel at The Old Town Hall in Hemel on 19 Oct, with some wonderful puppetry. Or join Alice down the Rabbit Hole in this all-singing-all-dancing professional production at Rhodes Arts Complex on 26 Oct. And this sounds like a sweet play – Emily Rising is about a little girl who wakes up one morning to find her feet don’t touch the ground. Join her on her lofty adventures at The Radlett Centre on 30 Oct.
Introduce your kids to the world of classical music with this family friendly version of Peter and the Wolf at the Radlett Centre on 1 Nov. It’s only an hour long so hopefully short enough to keep wriggly bottoms still. Then, over at Rhodes Arts Complex, is an operatic version of Jill Murphy’s much loved book Peace at Last performed by Olivier award-winning OperaUpClose with the help of some school children on 28 Oct.
And for something more colourful than cultural, check out kid-friendly comedy genius Jay Foreman’s Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children at The Place Theatre in Bedford on 23 Oct – a modern-day Roald Dahl in lyrical form.
Not for the faint hearted, the Horrid House Tour at Wardown House in Beds is an interactive exploration of its grizzly history complete with ghost stories and a gruesome buffet (no parents allowed!). It’s aimed at ages 8-11 and takes place from 22-23 Oct. Just around the corner at the Stockwood Discovery Centre is a kid-friendly (and wholly inaccurate!) re-telling of Frankenstein (24-25 Oct) involving balloon models and dancing monsters.
Also in Bedfordshire, the Shuttleworth Estate is putting on some spooktacular events including spooky trails and scary stories at the Swiss Garden on 26 Oct; Bumpy Broomsticks and Crafty Cats on 22 Oct, where over 5s can make their own broomstick and feline accomplice; and a chance to take part in some explosive art using Broomstick Rockets and Bonfire Blasters on 23-24 Oct. Plus there’s a pumpkin trail at Dunstable Downs where little ones are invited to find Jack ‘O Lanterns’ friends in the woods (19-31 Oct), and pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, witch bowling (who knows…?!) and broom making at the RSPB Reserve in Sandy on 27 Oct. Don’t forget your fancy dress!
Discover some mysterious goings-on at Spooky Wrest Park from 19 Oct – 3 Nov, where the gruesome guides will be on hand to give creepy house tours, and tell spine-tingling tales on the Spooky Woodland Walks after dark (25-26 Oct) – warm up around the fire pit with hot drinks and toasted marshmallows afterwards.
Over in Herts, Willows Activity Farm are putting on their annual Pumpkin Fest (19 Oct – 3 Nov), there’s a Halloween Trail at Rhodes Arts Complex’s museum (28 Oct – 2 Nov), plus meet the deceased residents of the Ashridge Estate and join them for a dinner party in their spooky woodland cabin, or try some creepy crafts at the visitor centre (21 Oct – 1 Nov). And just across the border in Bucks is Waddesdon Manor’s Horrible Halloween event (26 Oct – 3 Nov), with a terrifying trail, ghostly storytelling and a Spooky afternoon tea.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
If you’d rather not deal with the mess at home, take your tearaways to one of these crafty workshops. The Hat Factory Arts Centre in Luton is running a couple of one-day workshops with artists Lisa Tilley (22 Oct) and Abi Spendlove (24 Oct). And to tie in with its Dreams and Nightmares exhibition there’s a series of creative activities happening at The Higgins Bedford from 22-25 Oct, like making Halloween decorations and clay models, spooky potions and worry monsters.
Staying in Beds, there’s Half Term Crafts at Moggerhanger Park for ages 5+ (21-31 Oct), and for older kids (aged 8-16+) there’s a chance to try decorating pumpkins with calligraphy expert Anneka from Lettered by Annie at Workshop and Play in Ampthill. I fancy having a go at that one (psst… there’s an adults on on 29th, too!)
At the Rhodes Arts Complex museum in Herts they’re looking forward to panto season with the chance to make a fantastical fairytale mask (29-31 Oct) ahead of their production of Sleeping Beauty. Then at Manic Ceramics in Hertford drop the kids off for a craft and pottery workshop (29 Oct – Halloween theme; 30 Oct – 1 Nov – Christmas theme). Also in Hertford at the Mill House there’s messy fun for under 3s and Halloween crafts for 3-7 year olds from 29-31 Oct.
Need those little darlings out from under your feet for a bit longer? Check out one of these holiday camps. If they’re into am dram the Trestle School of Drama in St Albans is running two day-long drama courses themed around Heroes and Villains (29 Oct for for 4-7 year olds) and Adventurers Assemble (30 Oct for 8-14 year olds). Alternatively there’s Theatre Week with Little Voices at Applecroft School in Welwyn Garden City (from 28 Oct) – four whole days of singing, dancing and acting (plus the chance to build confidence and make new friends), culminating in a Halloween performance for the family.
If they prefer concocting potions to treading the boards, there’s Fab Science’s Halloween Spooktacular half term science camps taking place at four different schools across Herts from 29 Oct – 1 Nov. Plus Mad Science offers full and half day camps combining games, science and running around at three schools in Elstree, Hitchin and St Albans (28 Oct – 1 Nov). Finally the award-winning Mother Nature Science camps sound great, with five days of hands-on science, wow-factor demos and take-home experiments all with a Halloween theme, held at Nascot Wood Junior School in Watford (28 Oct – 1 Nov).
MUSEUMS AT NIGHT
As part of the national Museums at Night campaign venues all over the UK are opening their doors after dark, including a couple in our neck of the woods. At the Shuttleworth Estate in Biggleswade they’re lighting up the Swiss Garden to show off its impressive collection of trees, shrubberies and architecture in all their fairytale-like glory from 1-2 Nov. There’ll also be a dramatic light show at the house and crafts for under 12s in the Garden Room.
Then at St Albans Cathedral there’ll be a stunning cosmic installation (28-31 Oct), to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, involving a spectacular projection of NASA imagery across the Nave, enabling visitors to take their own virtual first steps on the moon. Sounds out of this world!
Ok, so this one’s not at a museum but it is happening at night. Townsend Farmhouse in Bedford is opening its doors (or should I say ‘gates’) as part of the National Open Garden Scheme on 26 Oct for a magical, twinkly Divali-themed evening with lanterns galore. Bonus – kids go free!