Outdoor Halloween Activities
for Spooky Family Fun
This Halloween, why not give the kids (and your neighbours) a rest from trick or treat and do something different together. Halloween is a great time to be outside; ghosts rustle leaves off trees, witches sweep them into the sky, cold air shivers down your spine. Here’s an unsettling thirteen cheap and simple ideas for spooky outdoor family Halloween fun.
1 Hike into the Witching Hour
I know we’re not supposed to be afraid of the dark but I do think there is something primitively scary about it. With our visual sense diminished other senses become heightened. Unseen sounds of the natural world become mysterious and unsettling. Feelings become amplified, imagination runs riot and what seemed familiar and comfortable in daylight quickly becomes scary. Perfect for a Halloween outing. So why not wait until the sun goes down and head out for a night hike? Even a swan on a canal can become a terrifying prospect when you’ve only a head torch for company. We know. We tried it. And it wasn’t even Halloween.
2 Make Your Own Horror Movie
Do you remember the Blair Witch Project? The movie in which a group of young filmmakers head out into the woods to make a film about a local legend, the Blair Witch, and never return. Only their footage was found. And it was horrifying. Now, I’m not proposing you get lost but you could head out to your local woodland together to make a scary movie. You don’t need a Hollywood crew, a mobile phone and editing app will do. One of the scariest Halloweens we ever had was when we ventured into Ruislip woods armed with fire torches (don’t try this at home) and got a bit lost. Kirstie was nine months pregnant and nearly ended up giving birth in the forest by torch light. (Don’t try that at home either). If the woods sounds a step too far you could always make a horror movie in the comfort of your own home. We had fun with a carrot, a rabbit onesie and some horror music.
3 Halloween Ambush
Battlebox sell some great adventure kits for kids. We tried one of their Great British Adventure Kits which came complete with stink bombs, marshmallows, slingshots, a camouflage suit and an array of other Boy’s Own materials. It was all we needed for a game of family outdoor ambush. We did it the woods in the daylight but for Halloween you could up the stakes, head out at dusk or even in the dark. Maybe one of you could dress up as the undead and be hunted down by boys bearing slingshots? Or would that be too frightening for the grown ups?
4 Go on Zombie Walk
While we’re on that dressing up theme, why not dust down your old clothes, splash on some ketchup and turn yourself into a family of zombies? Zombie walks have become quite fashionable in recent years (really!) but if you’re too scared to join a public walk, why not create your own walk amongst friends and family. You can all be zombies together or for added excitement split into teams – zombies and non-zombies – and task the zombies with chasing the non zombies for your your own Night of the Living Dead. It also makes for an exciting game of hide and seek. For added fun why not download the Zombies Run Game app and be chased by virtual zombies while you are out walking or running for your life.
5 A Graveyard Adventure
Where better to commune with spirits than your local graveyard? A graveyard may sound a strange place for a day out but it can be a very interesting lesson in social history. We learnt a lot when we spent an afternoon visiting ours for a graveyard adventure. If you’re brave enough or want to up the spook factor then why not plan to visit at night. For added fun, scout the place in advance, work up a few stories featuring local names from the tombstones and perhaps leave a few surprises to stumble upon when you return with the kids under a moonless sky. They won’t thank you for it.
6 Visit Your Local Spook
It’s not just graveyards that are good for spooking. When I was a kid there was an abandoned Manor House in a local park that everyone said was haunted. It was eery by day and unsettling by night. My Dad took us there after dark once, walked us around the grounds and made up stories about the people who used to live there. When the security guard turned up to do his patrol he frightened the living daylights out of us. You or your kids probably know local spooky places like that. The dark creepy house at the end of the road where the old lady no-one ever sees lives. The abandoned factory where Penguin is planning his next evil mission. The castle ruins up on the hill, a nearby stone circle, a creepy church. What better time to visit these places than around Halloween? Do a little research and you might even find a true spooky story or two to tell. If not, make one up.
7 Witching Walks
It’s hard to escape broomsticks on Halloween so why not pick one up and fly off somewhere interesting to learn about witches, witching and witch hunting. In the middle ages East Anglia was said to be a hot bed of witchery. The local Witchfinder General had 68 people put to death in Bury St. Edmunds for witchery, another 19 hanged in a single day at Chelmsford and further clearings in Aldeburgh, Kings Lynn and Stowmarket; not a bad area to start your own witch-hunt. Alternatively if you’re in the South West head to the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall where you can see witchcraft artefacts and paraphernalia for real.
Up in the North head to Pendle, perhaps the UKs most famous witching town. You can go on a witching walk on the ‘Walking with Witches’ Trail (you don’t have to take a witch) or if that’s too energetic drive along the Lancashire Witches car trail. Whatever you do you should take a hike up Pendle Hill, the place where the 12 Pendle witches lived in the 17th century.
For a more modern witching walk, head to Burley in the New Forest and find out about Sybil Leek, the village’s own White Witch. She lived there during the 1950’s and was often seen walking the village in a long, black cloak with a jackdaw on her shoulder. This spooked the locals though and eventually led to her leaving to go live in America where she wrote many books on the occult including Diary of a Witch. A good read before any witching walk.
9 Go on a Ghost Hunt
If witches aren’t your thing, how about a ghost walk, ghost hunt or evening of ghost stories around a camp fire. There are lots of organised ghost walks and tours around the UK, many of which allow children of a certain age. Check our Halloween UK Activities post for some current events. Zombies (or those less active) might prefer a ghost bus, available in London and Edinburgh. For a more intimate, home-grown affair why not grab a good book of ghost stories, organise a camp fire in the garden and sit around in the dark and read some ghostly tales together. If you want to pump the adrenaline further why not go further afield and visit one of those spooky local places and see if any of those tall tales come true.
10 A Spooky Treasure Hunt
For some simple out and about fun why not set up a Halloween themed Treasure Hunt in your local area. Get some small ghoulish prizes and head out in advance to hide them in spooky places around your local park, woodland or on a local walking or biking route. Create some clues and a treasure map to point the way to the treasure, then see if the kids can crack the code and discover your sickly surprises. Dress up or put them in teams for added fun or wait until dark is descending and go treasure hunting by torchlight for a little extra frisson.
11 A Ghoulish Picnic
While in Japan we had an extraordinary night at a prison themed restaurant called The LockUp where we were locked in a cell and served ghoulish food – think eyeballs, zombie fingernails, brain bits, body fluids and blood punch. The kids loved it and it was all made from everyday ingredients with a lot of imagination and even more food colouring. So, why not make your own ghoulish Halloween picnic? Check this out for some inspiration. There’s lots of ghoulish recipe ideas on the internet. You and the kids can have fun researching and making up inedible delicacies before sitting down to eat your hearts out, literally.
12 Create some Horror Shaped GPS Art
We had fun in The Lake District last autumn using the Strava app to create some virtual GPS art by cycling a heart shaped route around the back lanes of Cumbria. Now a heart is not very scary (unless it’s in your hands or on the menu of your ghoulish buffet) but you could take this idea and create your own horror themed walk, run or cycle. Download Strava or another GPS mapping app and see if you can complete a run, walk or bike ride in the shape of some bones, a pumpkin, monster, witch or other horrible shape of your choosing. Then upload your horror shaped work of art to share and scare other souls on the internet. For inspiration check out the work of some other GPS artists (yes, such things exist) or take a look at this video showing how we did it. And when you’re done, if it’s not too scary, tweet us your results.
13 A Night Under the Stars
This couldn’t be a neat list of 8 or 10 or 12 ideas; it had to be an uncomfortable 13. And this is perhaps the most uncomfortable idea of all. It’s all very well being tucked cosily up in your bed in familiar surroundings for Halloween but how much more exciting to sleep out under the stars. To lie and watch for broomsticks in the sky. To wait for spirits to shoot across the stars. To listen for ghosts rustling in the trees. To let owls spook you all night. So why not pack your camping kit or even strip right down to your bivy bag and head off somewhere exciting to sleep outside this Halloween. For the ultimate Halloween experience you could combine this with any or all of the above for a full on Halloweeen microadventure. Do let us know how you get on. If you get back alive that is.
More Halloween Ideas
For more Halloween ideas check out this post on 20 UK Halloween Events for Families.