From creepy parades to traditional trick-or-treating, there’s plenty to keep the little ones happy this spooky season
1. Pumpkin patch
Halloween isn't just about the fear factor, and a visit to a pumpkin patch swaps scares for scarecrows, with plenty of opportunity for a wholesome photo-op.
On the scenic grounds of Castletaylor Estate in Ardrahan, Galway Pumpkin Patch is a fun day out for the whole family, open for four weekends starting October 8.
At Wexford's Ballycross Apple Farm, visitors can traipse through the Witches Village on their way to choose the perfect pumpkin. Tickets start at €7.50 and children under two go free. Booking is essential ballycross.com
2. Carve and roast
Once you’ve chosen the perfect pumpkin and brought it home, the designing can begin.
Whether you’re opting to carve spooky faces into the pumpkin itself, or you’re playing it safe and using paint or marker to design the outside, make sure you don’t toss the innards.
Pumpkin seeds make for a great snack when roasted, which takes just 15 minutes in the oven (200C/180C fan/gas 6) with just a little bit of olive oil and whatever seasoning you fancy.
3. Tayto Park
If you're seeking something scarier than crisp-flavoured Cadbury's, head to Tayto Park for thrills that even the younger members of your group can enjoy. The theme park is running a series of events throughout October, with Tayto After Dark allowing visitors to ride their favourite attractions at night.
It’s worth noting that this is a ‘no scare’ event, so if you're looking for creepy clowns, ghosts, and zombies (oh my!), you won’t find them here. Tickets start at €16.
The Tricky Trail, however, is included in all ticket prices, and makes for an unforgettable day out for all ages. The treasure hunt is a spooky, interactive adventure through the park, with lots of surprises to be found. The trail is open on October 22, 23, 29 – November 2. taytopark.ie/events
4. Hit the hay
In Cork, Leahy's Farm plays host to the Boo!! Experience, which encourages costumes from young and old alike.
Take a trip on a haunted hayride, help a wizened witch prepare a potion, and shake off the cobwebs with a visit to the farm, which is included in the ticket price (starting at €5). For an extra €5, you can pick and carve a creepy pumpkin to take home.
5. Movie magic
These days the scariest part of any film is the price you pay to bring a family to the cinema, so skip the queues and the cost with the Retro drive-in cinema in Leopardstown.
From October 21, you can catch cult classics like Gremlins, Hocus Pocus, Ghostbustersand even the first two Harry Potter films. Entry starts at €35 for a five-seater car. retrodrivein.ie
6. Galway Aboo
The Galway Aboo Halloween Festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday of the October bank holiday weekend, transforming the city and surrounding areas into a Halloweentown scene.
While the Macnas parade has sadly been cancelled, there are still plenty of frights to be found from spooky orienteering in Wildlands (ticket holders have free admission, €5 otherwise) to the treasure hunt in Brigit’s garden. See galwaytourism.ie/event/galway-aboo-halloween-festival/ for more.
7. Costume creations
Gone are the days of the bin bag outfit that was a primary school Halloween staple, but there’s still fun to be had with DIY costume design. Have a brainstorming session to see what TV or film character is this week’s favourite and dive into the forgotten corners of their wardrobe to see what suits.
Sometimes, it’s a case of the wackier the better, and even the most bizarre outfits can be considered abstract.
8. Heartlands Hullabaloo
In Ireland’s Haunted Heartlands, the Hullabaloo children’s arts festival returns with a jam-packed schedule of music, theatre, performances and workshops.
The event takes place from November 2-5 in Birr, Clara, Edenderry, and Offaly libraries, and its aim is to introduce children to the different strands of the arts.
Head North to Belfast's Let’s Go Hydro, where the temperature of the water is usually scary enough! Just two hours from Dublin by car, the aqua park will be transformed for a Halloween festival.
They close off the water for a wicked display of inflatable pumpkins, witches, ghosts, and goblins, and visitors can enjoy everything from ghost stories to hayrides and s’mores.
On Halloween night, the 'Best Dressed', 'Funniest Costume' and the 'Most Scary' will be crowned and awarded exclusive prizes, and there’ll be a fireworks show at 7.30pm. Tickets for October 31 are priced at £8 (€9) per adult and £5 (€5.70) per child. letsgohydro.com/halloween
10. Harvest Moonshine at the Marina Market
Cork’s Marina Market is already a much-loved attraction but their Halloween offering is even more magical. Harvest Moonshine runs in three time slots on Saturday, October 15.
The immersive show tells the enchanting tale of the Good Witch and the Pumpkin Fairies, with interactive theatre, all-singing, all-dancing performances, and a pair of fairy wings, a harvest crown and a wand for each child in the audience.
The event is ideal for children aged 3-7 and their designated grown-up, with the only rule being that you believe in fairies. Tickets are €25 for children and €5 for adults. eventbrite.ie/e/harvest-moonshine
11. Lights, camera, action
Donning sheets to frolic in the garden is one TikTok trend that was not laid to rest in 2021.
If you have a misty, dreary October afternoon and some kids to keep busy - grab some old sheets, your phone and a pair of sunglasses to make a suitably sweet or spooky video.
12. Púca Festival
Ringing in the Celtic New Year is the Púca Festival, taking place in Ireland’s Ancient East (or as we know it, Trim in Meath). Púca, meaning ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’ as Gaeilge, celebrates the spooky, ancient traditions of an old Ireland.
The packed programme of music, comedy, art and food is spread over four days (October 28-31), with events to suit the whole family and a wide range of budgets. See pucafestival.com/all-ages/ for events not just for adults.
13. Pooka Spooka
While only a fearless few can handle Causey Farm’s Farmaphobia, their Pooka Spooka event is the family-friendly equivalent for all ages.
Find yourself in the mirror maze, lose yourself in the corn maze, try your hand at limb throwing, or give a broomstick ride a go. The event takes place over the last three weekends of October, and is suitable for children aged 2-12. Tickets cost €14 and children under two go free. causey.ie/halloween
14. Traditional games
If you’re staying home on Halloween night, or playing host for a party, traditional Halloween games are a sure fire crowd-pleaser. Make a mound of flour with a grape on top, and have each player slice away portions of flour with a knife, without letting the grape fall.
Whoever fails has to retrieve the grape using only their mouth, which leads to a ghoulish face for them, and a laugh for everyone else.
15. Story time
Perhaps one of the simplest and oldest Halloween traditions, gathering around in the dark to swap stories doesn’t have to be nightmare-inducing. Set the scene with lights off and torches on, take turns telling (age-appropriate) scary stories.
Check with your local library to see if they have any spooky storytelling events coming up, or loan out a Goosebumps novel to keep you all up at night.
Dublin’s Rediscovery Centre are hosting two Halloween workshops for children on October 29.
There, the Education team will guide children through a fun and educational Halloween-themed activities, games, and arts & crafts. The event is suitable for ages 6-12, and tickets start at €10. rediscoverycentre.ie
17. Spooky Spleodar
Spleodar (the Irish word for exuberance) is an arts festival in Nenagh that takes place each Halloween, and returns for its 22nd year this October. Workshops in lantern crafting, costume design, and art are available for €5. There's even a sensory-friendly screening of Clifford the Big Red Dogon October 29.
The event will come to a close with the Halloween parade, leading revellers to the Nenagh Gaol for a spooktacular performance. spleodar.ie
Each evening, as part of Dublin’s Bram Stoker festival, taking place October 28-31, the Northern lights will make an appearance in the Upper Courtyard of Dublin Castle. The free event will light up the same sky Bram Stoker would have looked at from his desk in the castle building.
BOREALIS is a mesmerising installation of light and sound by Swiss artist Dan Acher, and will bring the natural phenomenon a little closer to home. Details on how to attend will be released in early October. bramstokerfestival.com
19. Catch a show
In wicked Wexford’s Mermaid Arts Centre, on November 1,The Legend of Sleepy Hollowwill be brought to life on-stage with a mix of performances from two talented actors, some puppets, and the children in the audience.
The show is suitable for children aged 5-10, and tickets cost €35 for a family of four. mermaidartscentre.ie
It seems like an obvious choice, but given the past two years, trick-or-treating is just one of many activities that may look a little different post-pandemic.
Last year, the Government gave the green light for ghoulish door-knocking, and this year looks set to be the first year the beloved tradition is back in full force. So don your best costume and take to the streets for an evening of frights, fun and a fearfully loaded bag of sweets.