What can I do with the kids this October half term?
Not sure what to do with the little (and big) blighters this half term? Look no further. From ghost trails to putting on a play, there's loads of stuff on locally for kids of all ages.
It’s the spookiest time of the year! Which means prime pumpkin-picking time: head to the PYO at Millets Farm near Abingdon from now up until 31 Oct. You can also grab some gourds at Peterley Manor Farm, Great Missenden, as it’s running select pumpkin picking sessions on 16-17 and 23-24 Oct.
Then, it’s safe to say the family attractions of Bucks and Oxon are feeling the spooky spirit — settle in as we rattle them off. First up: Waterperry Gardens in Waterperry, near Oxford is running a Scarecrow Trail from 16-31 Oct, where kids have to find 10 themed Halloween scarecrows hidden throughout the gardens and collect a prize. (There’s also a garden centre, café, gift shop and art gallery, for bored mums).
Elsewhere, there’s The Moon Witch’s Halloween Adventure at Tumblestone Hollow, Stonor Park, on from 20-31 Oct, which celebrates the upcoming publication of the Park’s book The Moon Witch and the Thief. Expect spooky puzzles to solve, ghoulish surprises, pumpkins to carve, and plenty of treats.
Over at Waddesdon Manor you can join in with the Halloween celebrations from 23-31 Oct. This includes a themed trail safari experience, a special twilight safari experience, and a ghoulish afternoon tea. Or, at Cogges Farm, Witney, also from 23-31 Oct, kids can explore the Witch’s House (a transformed Manor House), and solve a series of themed puzzles.
Ghost Fest 2021 is back at The Oxford Castle and Prison, which means spooky tours through 1000 years of history, and of course the resident wizard Merlin (would love to see that job application). Bring a torch and get ready to wander through the dark. Tours start with the weekend of the 16-17 Oct, and then continue from 22-31 Oct.
From 23-31 Oct, there’s also Half Term Halloween Entertainment at Blenheim Palace: ghost train, pumpkin carving, scary stories, bat trail, and Frightful Fire performances in the Great Court.
The Wycombe Museum is running Discover and Make Halloween sessions on 26 and 28 Oct, for kids 4-11, where they can make their own Halloween masks and learn about Wycombe’s own spooky history. This is followed by a Halloween Ghost Hunt on 31 Oct, where costumes are encouraged and there’ll be lots of crafts to tackle and ghosts to spot.
Nearby, the Wycombe Swan have a Family Fun Day, also 31 Oct, involving backstage tours children’s arts & crafts activities, face painting, and lots more — plus the chance to win tickets to its upcoming pantomime, Peter Pan.
For something even more creative, The Story Museum in Oxford is running a series of Halloween-themed story day courses for kids aged 8-12 (games, dressing up, quizzes, arts, crafts, etc). Choose between Spells & Magic (27 Oct), Things That Go Bump in the Night (28 Oct), and Dracula Day (29 Oct).
The festivities continue with Pumpkin Carving Extravaganza and spooky themed kids’ teas at Missenden Abbey, 28-29 Oct. There are optional extra afternoon tea for adults, too.
Over at the MK Gallery, the fun’s happening on 30 Oct with plenty of ghoulish family games and activities. Expect pumpkin rolling in the Gallery’s Playscape outdoor playground, a spot-the-spider trail, a silent disco and more. Plus, you can catch a showing of The Addams Family 2 at the gallery’s cinema, 11am.
Little train obsessives will also be psyched by the Trick or Treat at The Railway weekend (30-31 Oct) at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. There are various stations across the site where you can pick up a treat (or a trick…), and there are Family Steaming Day tickets up for grabs for the best dressed costume. Cholsey & Wallingford Railway will also be running Halloween trains, tickets and dates to be released soon.
For a spooky adrenaline rush, take them over to Wendover Woods on 29-31 Oct or Black Park between 25-30 Oct for a sundown session at Go Ape, offered especially for Oct Half Term. Starting at 5pm, this means swinging through the trees in the dark — for your daredevil teens. Wimps need not apply!
And — okay, more wincy than wild — the adorable Kew Little Pigs in Amersham is running pig keeper courses for 9-16 year-olds on 25, 26, & 27 Oct. There’s pig keeping and an agility course, plus a goodie bag with pig toy, and chocolate, all for £80. Jill the pig has just had piglets, so it’s prime cute piggy time on the farm! And, on the Halloween weekend, the farm’s running a Fancy Dress competition where anyone who visits the farm wearing fancy dress gets a free piggy poster. Plus — ideal for those of us that love a bargain — National Lottery players who purchase a Lotto ticket this month will be able to redeem a £25 voucher against Kew Little Pigs entry tickets. This means you can take your kids to a Piggy Pet & Play session for just £7!
SOMETHING WITH HERITAGE
Even with the headline Waddesdon, Blenheim, and Stonor aside, there are castles and stately homes aplenty in our neck of the woods. Broughton Castle, near Banbury, is one of our favourite local spots, not too touristy with smaller crowds, and large gardens for the kids to bomb about in. A 15-minute drive down the road there’s Upton House or over near Chipping Norton there’s Chastleton House which has plenty of space to run around in, and a Halloween Trail running from 23 Oct. Or there’s Buscot Park, near Faringdon– the formal gardens really are stunning with loads of different areas to explore (the Walled Garden and Peto Water Garden are top of our list).
Other heritage buildings worth a meander are Claydon House near Buckingham (amazing 18th century interiors – the kids can lie on Florence Nightingale’s bed), and over in Berks, Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame) is a great day out. If you want the upper class treatment there, you can book yourself and the kids on for a Film Set Castle Autumn Guided Tour, and see up-close where the period dramas were filmed, explore the Egyptian exhibition, and enjoy refreshments prepared especially for you by the real life butlers.
Over at the Wycombe Museum, it’s Medieval Combat Day on Sun 17 Oct, so muster your little knights and have a go at archery, medieval dancing, authentic food demonstrations, and watch some spectacular demonstrations.
Meanwhile, discerning teens might enjoy seeing comedian Robin Ince, who co-hosts the comedy / science podcast The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox, talk about how he developed a fascination with science later in life (and his related new book The Importance of Being Interested) at Blackwells in Oxford on 18 Oct. It’s set to be witty and entertaining, whilst also appropriately pro-education for those of us, you know, pushing an agenda.
For the budding film-makers of Oxfordshire, we’ve got the perfect half term activity. The Goring & Streatley GAP Festival has launched a brand new Children’s Film Festival; entries of short films made by Oxon (and Berks) kids of any school age are being accepted from now until 10 Dec. After being judged, the winning videos will be shown at a special red carpet premier event on the last night of the main GAP Festival on Sunday 12 June. Swanky! Get those future Spielbergs to work now…
Or, if they’re more of a budding thespian, the Creation Theatre is putting on its now customary (and really well-regarded) Put on a Digital Play in a Week, this time with a seasonal spooky twist, 25-29 Oct. It’s aimed at ages 5-16, and involves daily workshops delivered live over Zoom by professional actors and theatre-makers.
Then the Bucks County Museum is showing the exhibition Reincarnated Rubbish – Endangered and Extinct until 30 Oct. This is a collection of humorous and imaginative sculptures of animals, exotic birds, dinosaurs and the like, all made out of recycled rubbish. Sure to get creative minds buzzing, and no need to book ahead.
And heading out of county — hey, it’s allowed! — there’s a great exhibition on Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules coming to Somerset House, London from 21 Oct. Just a zippy train ride away, and a charming exploration of how a beloved icon of British comics fired up successive generations to break the rules.
SOMETHING TO WATCH
Introduce your (grudging) teens to a bit of classic literature by taking them to a thrilling adaption of dark psychological classic Jekyll and Hyde, on at The Chipping Norton Theatre, 19-20 Oct. You can use the seasonal aspect to sell them on it: who doesn’t love a bit of misty 19th century murder on an October’s eve?
Then, there’s a performance of The Princess and the Pea on at The Story Museum in Oxford on 29 Oct — a 60 minute show involving humour and memorable songs, that premiered in 2014 and actually toured internationally. Suitable for ages 3+.