Wednesday 26 September 2018

20 of the best events to keep you and the kids busy during the mid-term

Ruth O'Connor has the low-down on the best events to keep you and the kids busy during the Halloween break

Halloween at Croker
Halloween at Croker

Ruth O'Connor

It seems like they only just started back at school but as the Halloween holiday looms, there are plenty of options for keeping your little horrors occupied. From forest schools to art workshops, spooktacular free events to terrifying train journeys, we round up 20 ways to have fun this mid-term break.

1. Get Hooked on the spooky stories of the world's oldest lighthouse

Hook Lighthouse in Wexford is a great place to visit all year round with art workshops, a great cafe and their new Sunset Tour. This mid-term, families can gather round fire baskets and listen to "druids" tell tales of Samhain and the "graveyard of one thousand ships". There's a free family BBQ and children's entertainment. Pumpkin carving costs €5. For older kids and the brave there's a lantern-led Halloween tour on the hour. For more details, visit hookheritage.ie.

2. Immerse yourself in the world of the Vikings with VR

The King of the Vikings virtual reality adventure in Waterford City is worth a visit for older kids and adults. It starts with a visit to a mock-up Viking house and visitors are then immersed in the world of Viking Waterford through an incredible VR experience. Tickets €7 for adults and €5 for children. See kingofthevikings.com.

3. Meet the owls of Harry at the Irish National Heritage Park

Dracula's Disco
Dracula's Disco

The Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford has all sorts of activities, from archery to shield painting, and guided tours to the Hawk Walk. You can even stay overnight in a ringfort equipped with blankets and have free reign of the park at night. Five to 12-year-olds can enter a world of wizardry, make potions and meet Harry Potter's owls on October 29. Tickets from €15. See irishheritage.ie.

4. Sink your teeth into Dublin's Bram Stoker Festival

Stokerland in St Patrick's Park in Dublin is a free fun-park which includes kids comedy, old world games and gruesome theatre. Check out Dracula's Disco (admission free) or make dance tracks at the Ark in Temple Bar (tickets from €8). Explore spooky tales in Marsh's Library on Saturday, October 28, and marvel at the Macnas parade. See bramstokerfestival.com.

5. Breathe some fresh air at Lough Boora Discovery Park

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo
Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo

You can choose from five different trails for cycling and walking with bike hire available. Lough Boora is a thriving wildlife habitat in Offaly with outdoor sculptures and angling lakes, willow mazes and picnic areas. Entrance is free. Parking €4. See loughboora.com.

6. Samhain at Croke Park

Croke Park hosts a treasure hunt and storytelling with Samhain Tours and Tales. Follow clues through the dressing rooms and on to the pitch to find Séamus the Samhain Scarecrow. Tickets include a hot drink for adults, a small gift for children and late entry to the GAA Museum. Children under 16: €12. See crokepark.ie/Halloween.

7. Púca of Birr Castle

Hold a falcon at Heritage Park
Hold a falcon at Heritage Park

The third Earl of Rosse died on Halloween night 150 years ago and the spooky Púca of Birr Castle experience takes place on October 29 and 30 (recommended for kids aged 8-plus). Tickets cost from €8. For younger visitors or the easily-spooked, there's a Pumpkin Trail from Saturday, October 28, to Sunday, November 5. See birrcastle.com.

8. Ghost hunting at Tayto Park

There's lots of spooktacular happenings at Tayto Park and little ones can go "ghost hunting" during the day, making their way through the manor with a ghostly guide. There's free face-painting and a World of Raptors and Birds of Prey arena show. The Ghost Hunter Daytime Experience takes place on October 21, 22, 28 and November 5 from 11am-4pm. Kids go free on October 31 if in full Halloween costume.

See taytopark.ie/events.

9. Forest Camp

Virtual reality Viking tour
Virtual reality Viking tour

Earthforce Education is running two camps this mid-term where children can learn to build forts, work with ropes, light fires and all sorts of other cool outdoorsy stuff. The day camps run each day at the Cuffes Place in Newcastle and Castleruddery Organic Farm in Donard, Co Wicklow. Suitable for ages five to 10. €35 per child per day. See earthforceeducation.com.

10. Grymm Tales Experience

Fairytales get turned on their heads at Ghoulsley's Manor in Cork. Watch out for the Mad Hatter, The Evil Fairy Godmother and Rumpelstilskin, spooky spells and crazy carry-on in Grymm Tales and Bippity-Bobbity-Boo involving a cast of actors and special effects. Tickets cost €15 and the daytime events run from October 21 to 31. See ghoulsleysmanor.com.

Zipline at Discovery Park
Zipline at Discovery Park

11. Arts and crafts at Didi's

From making spooky masks to decorating boxes shaped like haunted houses, scary cats, coffins, spiders and owls, the wonderful DiDi is on hand to extract your kid's creative juices. Her Saturday art classes in Kilkenny will have lots of Halloween ideas as inspiration. Workshop prices range from €11 to €16. See dididobree-wilson.com/art-it.

12. Halloween at Castlecomer Discovery Park

This adventure park has the longest zipline in Ireland and a high-ropes course. There's an elf village, archery and a junior woodland course. Between October 28 and November 5, there's the Moody Monster Trick or Treat Trail, while for older kids and adults, there's the Zip of Terror - zoom down the zipline into the haunted wood. Parking costs €4. Zip of Terror, €30 per person for a 90 minutes. See discoverypark.ie.

13. Westport House Halloween Fest

Westport House's annual Halloween Fest - from October 28 to 31 - has fun for all the family. Visit the Pirate Adventure Park before heading to the haunted big house for pumpkin carving and dungeon visits. Family tickets cost €71.25. See westporthouse.ie.

14. Kylemore Abbey

One of Ireland's most stunning locations opens its walled garden in Galway on October 28 to crafts, wild play, traditional music and storytelling. There'll be bat boxes, hot chocolate and homemade barmbrack around a bonfire at 4pm. Suitable for all ages, Kylemore Abbey is open throughout the mid-term break and children under 10 go free. See kylemoreabbey.com.

15. Fright Walk at Fota House

Fota House hosts a Fright Walk through the arboretum at night on October 26 and 27 from 5pm-9pm. Wear fancy dress (optional), suitable footwear and bring a torch. Suitable for ages seven-plus. Family ticket costs €35. See fotahouse.com.

16. Spooky Express

Recommended for the daring and older kids, this 30-minute spooky adventure in Waterford uses strobe lighting and other effects. Wrap up warm on Saturday, October 28, and be warned it's pretty scary, so parental discretion is advised! Adults €13. Children €10. See wsvrailway.ie/thespookyexpress.

17. Youghlaloween Spooktacular

Watch a coven of witches, stroll through a haunted graveyard and make potions before joining the parade through the medieval streets of Youghal and visiting the wonderful fireworks display on the beach. Admission free. See facebook.com/YoughalSpooktacular

18. Cork City Gaol

Cork City Gaol is eerie enough at the best of times but even more so at this time of year. There'll be a Black Cat Treasure Hunt, face painting, balloon-making and storytelling. Tickets €5﹣€8. See corkcitygaol.com/halloween-2017/.

19. Wild Atlantic Way

Ttake to the water with surf lessons at Strandhill Surf School. Lessons last two and half hours and include all the gear, including wetsuits, gloves and hats. €25 per lesson. See strandhillsurfschool.com.

20. Go Wild at Dublin Zoo

Opening at the end of the mid-term is Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo - a nighttime spectacular which features giant handmade lanterns and illuminated sculptures depicting animals such as tigers, elephants and giraffes made specially for Dublin Zoo from silk. Admission is €20 for adults and €15 for children. Children under three go free and the event runs until January 2018. See dublinzoo.ie.

Irish Independent

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