The great October half-term escape
Filled with fear at the thought of entertaining the kids this Halloween half term? Hit the road and enjoy 14 of our fave days out across the Muddy counties.
Oxon: Blenheim Palace
Socially distance tricks and treats are on offer at Blenheim Palace this October half term, with spooky statues, scary stories, fire performers, ghostly train rides, tours and even turnip carving. Visitors will be able to access the Pleasure Gardens by taking a ride on the Miniature Train through the Frightful Tunnel, where activities will include family spooky stories and creepy folk tales told along on a walk to the Formal Gardens.
WARKS: Warwick Castle
It’s business as usual at this spectacular family attraction with both the grounds and castle open (although you’ll have to wear face masks inside). For half-term, the venue will be transformed into a haunted castle brimming with ghouls and ghosts (the building is 1,100 years old so there are plenty lurking), along with spooky(ish) activities for little ones. New for 2020, there’s also The Castle After Dark (book or you’ll be disappointed) with evening access to the grounds, local street food stalls, scare mazes and live music.
NATIONWIDE: Where’s Wally? Spooky Museum Search
Taking place in 75 museums nationwide and organised by Walker Books and Kids in Museums, to celebrate the release of the new book, Where’s Wally? Spooky Spotlight Search, this hunt will bring an extra element of fun to museum visits this half term. There will be mini Wally stands hidden alongside letters to spell out a spooky phrase, with prizes available for all who complete the challenge. Reading Museum, the Ashmoleon in Oxford, London’s V&A and Southampton City Art Gallery are just a few taking part.
BUCKS: Kew Little Pigs
Prepare yourself for mega-cuteness. Micro-pig breeder Olivia and her team are the geniuses behind Kew Little Pigs, a farm in Amersham that gives you hands-on experiences such as Pet and Play and Mini-Pig Keeping. You can even (whisper it) buy your own pig. Pre-booking essential.
WILTS: Longleat Safari Park
For wild animals that aren’t of your own creation, head to Longleat for the zoo’s drive-through safari. It’s ideal for social distancing (just watch out for the monkeys – they have been known to steal sandwiches) and is guaranteed to captivate the kids for an afternoon thanks to the tigers, rhinos, zebras and lions. Booking essential.
BERKS: Windsor Castle
The Queen’s weekend hangout, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – pretty impressive, right? Inside the castle you can see a new display of Princess Beatrice’s ‘something borrowed’ vintage Norman Hartnell wedding dress (until 22 Nov), famously worn by her Granny to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia at the Odeon Leicester Square in 1962. Plus, there’s also a collection of WWII pantomime pictures, painted as backdrop for the shows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret performed to raise funds for troops at the front (they’re usually covered by portraits). There is a timed ticket system and booking is essential.
LONDON: Science Museum
At this super-cool museum, kids will be fascinated by the The Equinor Gallery (part of the museum’s Wonderlab exhibition) which features 50 interactive elements. You can also visit the new addition, ‘Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries’, which features one of the largest medical collections in the world including the first MRI scanner, Fleming’s penicillin mould and specially commissioned artwork including Marc Quinn’s ‘Self-Conscious Gene’ and portraits by award-winning photographer Siân Davey. Entrance is free but booking is essential.
BERKS: Wellington Country Park
This family fun palace has got it all. Particularly good for under-8s, it contains an awesome adventure play area with giant zip wire, dinosaurs, mini golf, animal farm, jumbo bouncy pillow, miniature railway and so much more. There’s also a superb cafe serving quality local produce, much it from the Wellington Estate itself. Hallo-Welly-Ween is an annual favourite. Join Wanda the Witch on a Halloween hat hunt around the park, all aboard the haunted train ride, followed by pumpkin carving, creepy crafting and much more.
HANTS: Marwell Zoo
Marwell is always a good day out, with a chance to see tigers, flamingos and other exotic animals. Half-term is also your last chance to check out the Supersized exhibition featuring ginormous lego models of curious animals (ever heard of the venomous blue-ringed octopus?) in 25 locations across the park.
This cleverly transformed Victorian warehouse contains a climbing wall and indoor man-made cave so if you’re harbouring a young Ranulph Fiennes, chances are you’ll discover that here as they scale the impressive 13m wall or ditch the ropes to go bouldering in the lower levels. You can book in as a small group of the same household or a social bubble.
The former gaff of The Jungle Book creator Rudyard Kipling, this 17th-century National Trust property has re-opened the gardens, ground floor and Mulberry Cafe for take-out food and drinks. Pre-booking essential.
SURREY: Hampton Court Palace
The stunning former home of Henry VIII has 60 acres of formal gardens and 750 acres of historic parkland so easy-peasy to social distance and plenty of space for the kids to burn up some energy. The inside of the palace is also open – make sure to check out the Great Hall, it’s a must-see.
BERKS: Brick or Treat, Legoland
I’ve run out of jokes about Brick or Treat – that’s how long this Legoland event has been running! Lots of spooky(ish) additions to the park, plus new for 2020, there’s a brand new dance extravaganza – The Haunted Lighthouse Halloween Show – and a new scary character, Scarecrow.
SURREY: Fright Night Fearstival, Thorpe Park
A dead cert hit with adrenaline junkie teens, it’s the 19th annual Fright Night at Thorpe Park. Expect thrilling rollercoaster rides, spooks, ghouls and social distancing. Recommended for ages 13+.