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Half-term activities 

17 October 2018

The countdown to October half term is on. Holiday dates vary depending on where you live in the UK (it’s earlier in the month in Scotland but later in Wales, Yorkshire, the North East and the West Midlands) but the need to entertain the kids so you don’t all go crazy is universal. Emma Howarth selects some fun ideas


Brick Live

It might feel like your living room floor is home to the world Lego surplus but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Dive into a brick pit, create and race the ultimate Lego car, go on an intergalactic Star Wars adventure or check out the display of giant mythical beasts, this is heaven for master builders young and old.

1–4 November; NEC, Birmingham, B40 1NT; from £20;


Halloween Nights

Tiny toddlers and scare-hungry big kids are equally well catered for at St Fagan’s Halloween fright fest. Roll up for spooky Welsh folk stories, magical craft workshops, live music, jugglers, a lantern parade and the burning of the Wicker Man – which you can join in the creation of earlier in the day – on Gwalia Green.

29–31 October (building of the Wicker Man 27–30 October); St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cathays Park, CF10 3NP; from £8, under-2s free;


Riverford Pumpkin Day

Soak up some wholesome autumnal vibes at Riverford Organic’s annual Pumpkin Day. This laid-back family-friendly event features pumpkin carving (kids’ tickets include a free pumpkin), face-painting, wildlife spotting and plenty of festive food and drink. Riverford also run pumpkin day events at their farms in Hampshire (20 October) and Cambridgeshire (27 October).

27 October, Wash Farm, Buckfastleigh, TQ11 0JU; from £4;


Wilderness Woods

If you go down to the woods this half term you’ll find a Gruffalo trail, magical forest school sessions, potion making, story circles, fireside marshmallows and a family fungus hunt. It’s best to book ahead for specific activities but there’s still plenty to do here if you plump for a spontaneous visit (entry is ‘pay as you feel’): walks, play areas, a brilliant mud kitchen and a café with a roaring fire.

22–26 October; Hadlow Down, East Sussex, TN22 4HJ; from £4.50;


Spooky Castle Magic

Pack your little witches and wizards (ages 7–11) off to Magic School at Lauriston Castle this half term. The event, run in association with Edinburgh International Magic Festival, promises seriously spooky magic tricks with no experience necessary. Younger children might like to check out the wand-making workshop (18 October), while Edinburgh Horror Festival’s Spooky Castle event (28 October) promises freaky fun for all the family.

18, 20, 28 October; Lauriston Castle, 2 Cramond Road, EH4 6AD; from £5;




Westonbirt Autumn Colour

Sometimes you just need to get outside and feast your eyes on some autumn colour. And with over 15,000 Technicolour trees, this is the place to do it. You can pick up a free family trail map or ‘I Spy’ adventure book from the Welcome Centre and there’s even an Autumn Colour Hotline (0300 067 5691) so you can check the foliage is Instagram ready before you head out.

The National Arboretum, Tetbury, GL8 8QS; from £4, under-5s free;


Monster Halloween Ball

Halloween settings don’t come much more atmospheric than Sefton Park’s beautiful Palm House. Join artistic event experts the Lantern Company for three days of cut-above workshops, parades and disco dance-offs. There are mask-making and lantern sessions every day followed by two nightly fancy dress balls/parades (there’s a handy early one for little ones) for showing off those creepy creations.

24–26 October; Palm House, Sefton Park, L17 1AL; from £8.25;


Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Running at both London’s National History Museum and M Shed in Bristol this annual photography show has plenty of kid appeal. From the sublime (Isak Pretorius’s drinking lioness) to the serious (Emily Garthwaite’s caged bear), the 100 selected images are chosen from over 45,000 entries celebrating biodiversity, conservation and the wonder of the natural world.

London: 19 October–30 June 2019; Natural History Museum, SW7 5HD; from £8; Bristol: 20 October–24 February 2019; M Shed, BS1 4RN; from £5, under-12s free;


Halloween Fest

Back for its third year, this free city-centre Halloween festival is as creative as it is creepy. And there’s plenty to keep your little ghouls entertained, too. Join a ghostly world record attempt in Exchange Square, watch a skeleton parade, take on the trick or treat trail, enrol in Magic School or kick back with the CBeebies/CBBC Spooky Special.

27–28 October; Manchester City Centre; free;


Farmer Copley’s Pumpkin Festival

Grab a wheelbarrow and head for the fields at the UK’s largest pumpkin festival where you can pick your own (prices start at £3.50) from a rainbow of varieties. There’s also a carving tent, tractor rides, face-painting, a fancy dress parade (every day at 2.30pm) and pumpkin-themed comestibles galore. Best of all, while there’s a small fee for some activities, entry is free.

6–31 October; Ravensknowle Farm, Pontefract, WF7 5AF; free;

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