What makes a great Halloween attraction for kids and families? Is it the fun, the laughs, the terror, the lack of sleep for days after? Well, it depends, doesn’t it? On the ages of your kids, your tolerance level for surprises and whether or not you are a family of zombies. But one thing is for sure; if the attraction is targetted at the right age group and done well, it makes for a great night out at Halloween. In this partly sponsored post, we sent three families with kids of different ages to try out three of the best UK attractions in October 2019 and give us their honest review …
Where can I get the best UK Halloween experience for families?
Halloween can be as varied as Christmas when it comes to attractions. Some promise a lot and deliver little. Some promise nothing and cost almost nothing but can give you a heart attack within minutes. The UK has followed the US in embracing Halloween attractions, as towns and cities are putting more energy and investment into providing something memorable and convincing. But with themed runs, theme park rides and whole Halloween weekends multiplying faster than zombies and vampires at sunset, which should you spend your money on? Because, as the dark lord knows, it isn’t cheap to plunge the whole family into terror.
For me the scariest attractions always involve humans, but you might prefer being trapped in a maze or plunging into the monster jaws of a ride. If you want a comprehensive list of things to do this Halloween then check out our post on the 30 + best UK Halloween events. Here we go deeper, inviting three families to three very different UK attractions for 2019. Their verdict is a good read…but not for the nervous…
Pendle Witches and invisible cabbages at Blackpool Tower Dungeon…
Laura Keeler’s trip to The Blackpool Tower Dungeon was terrifyingly Spooktacular for her pre-teens. Here, Laura tells you everything you need to know about visiting the dungeons. If you dare….
Best for the 8-12’s
“Gather your friends, there’s safety in numbers. Myself and my two eldest, aged 10 and 11, were greeted by our very own Jester and welcomed into our group of 15. With a surprise appearance from an invisible cabbage, we were led into a dark elevator waiting for our….doom.
Surviving the descent, we followed our group nervously, hiding in the middle, and visiting ten live shows each as scary as the last.
We survived the dark chapel and escaped the leeches exposed by the insane plague doctor. If you are squeamish this may be one to keep your eyes firmly shut. Although, if you are like us you won’t be able to help yourself watching.
With sickening humour, the torturer described his favourite tools of choice, whilst victims of our group were locked in cages and sat in the torturer’s chair. We were lucky enough to escape the blood and guts and holding (clammy) hands we ventured through the labyrinth of mirrors only to find ourselves in the middle of a Viking invasion.
It turns out we are good at banging drums and ringing the bells to free ourselves. The stench of fish soon told us we were in trouble again as we were found guilty of smuggling and locked in the darkness with our gang of smugglers!
If you thought we were lucky to survive all of that, you’d be right but would we be able to escape the Pendle witches? As the story of the Pendle witches was told, a spine-tingling voice from the grave and a dark and eerie visit from a Pendle Witch herself left us with beating hearts and legs racing to the door.
Sweating too much and with legs wobbly with fear we reached decision time. Were we brave enough to be tried as witches? Would we ‘drop dead’? We chose to try our luck and faced our judgment as the white knuckle, tummy lurching, ride plunged us into the darkness.
Advertised as more suitable for over 8’s I’d agree. Two boys, both usually confident and brave, wilted a few times and so did I!”
You can follow Laura on her adventures around Europe with kids this winter on her Instagram channel: https://instagram.com/adventurevanfamily
Farmageddon – Zombie Fright Night in Ormskirk
Who’d have thought one of the scariest Halloween experiences for teens would be on a farm that normally entertains little children. Fiona Steggles had some idea when she bought a fast pass for Farmageddon and took her two boys. But she had no idea it would be quite this terrifying…
Best for the 12-16 ‘s
“‘Go in the middle.’
‘Go in the middle!’
My 16 year old niece is whispering to me urgently. I am standing in a field, about to go into one of those wooden mazes, the type the kids used to run around when they were 5 or 6. Nothing scary about that. Except it’s dark. Very dark.
‘Go in the middle of the group. That way you won’t get jumped on first and they can’t get you from behind.’
Visits to farms weren’t like this ten years ago. I’m at Farmer Teds near Southport. It’s normally one of those farms you walk round with your little ones, stroking sheep and goats, oinking like pigs and playing on toy tractors. But this farm shuts down to its normal clientele in October and turns into Farmaggedon.
I am creeping round dark corners. I have successfully negotiated a spot in the middle. I am clinging on to my 13 year old son’s hood. My 13 year old niece is clinging onto my hood. It’s become a sort of very slow, scary Conga dance with the older, braver teenagers at the front. We inch forward giggling nervously. All I can see through the gloom and smoke, is the green hood in front of me.Then, suddenly, a high-pitched scream from the front of the Conga. Everyone panics and tries to back track, falling over each other. But we can’t go back, we have to go forward. One by one we edge round the corner. My son screams and starts running. I lose my grip on his hood and peek round to see a zombie freak heading towards me with a machete.
It’s the stuff of nightmares but somehow it’s funny. I scream and manage to dodge the zombie abandoning my younger niece behind me. The family Conga eventually regroups and starts its slow step-by-step around the next corner, only to hear a chainsaw begin its threatening whirr ahead.
Farmaggedon is not for the faint hearted. As well as the maze there are three houses to creep through. All of them are filled with zombies lurking in dark corners, skulking in hidden boxes, and crouching behind furniture, waiting to leap out and shriek in your face. Sometimes they don’t bother hiding; they just come straight at you with a chainsaw and appear to try to cut your legs off. And they have no qualms about getting up close so you can see their lovely faces in all their glory. There appear to be hundreds of the things, wherever you go, all with their own particular character and method of scaring the life out of you. Even when you get out of the house and back into a lit area, out of breath, adrenalin pumping, you often find something grotesque waiting to chase you back to the central area.
Before we came I was worried about whether the younger family members would be able to cope. They were worried about me. We all agree though it’s not the sort of scary that keeps you awake at night. There is a point where I have to rescue my son from a zombie who has got him cornered with a big mallet and isn’t letting him go.I’m afraid he could be in tears but when I pull him free, he’s laughing as we both run away. It helps that I’m assured by the older teenagers that the zombies are not allowed to actually touch you, and even though they are sometimes centimetres away from your face, that rule does seem to be adhered to. And the actors who play the zombies are fantastic, staying in character all night and not appearing to lose any enthusiasm for terrifying you.
It’s not cheap, and I would advise a fast pass if you can afford it; there are queues for the attractions once you get in, though the staff are very good at directing people to the houses where there are smaller queues. There is a large central area where you can buy reasonably priced snacks, and a bar for over 18s. Zombies wandering around are quite happy to have their photo taken with you. The only slightly underwhelming part of the evening was Zombie Paintball, which promised to be fun but as with many paintball experiences, we ran out of bullets very quickly. I wasn’t willing to pay for any more so we spent most the trailer ride shooting blanks at the zombies who ran out of the fields at us.
As we walk out of the last house, my brother in law says ‘Well thank God that’s over’, and I have to agree. I’m utterly relieved I don’t have to walk through any more spooky houses. I hated it and yet somehow I loved it. I was terrified but also energized and enthralled. We haven’t stopped talking about it since. We won’t forget the zombie that got in the conga between two adults, the one that appeared to be part of the wall until it jumped out, or the sight of our normally too-cool-for-school teenagers sprinting down the farmyard being chased by monsters. Will we go again next year? Oh definitely. I think so. Well, maybe.”
A Scooby Time at Surrey’s Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights are perfect if you have pesky kids on half term, especially older teens, says Laura Hitchcock…
Best for Older Teens
“A theme park after dark is an inherently spooky place – never mind Halloween, it’s just plain creepy (yes yes, I had a childhood watching YOU Scooby Doo, and your gang of pesky kids). So when Thorpe Park open up for their annual Fright Night event, they’re onto a scary winner before they even begin. That said – you MUST go. This isn’t the place for younger kids though – this is a properly scary event, with some of the biggest rollercoasters and rides thrown in. Because they don’t open the whole park up, there’s a definite air of out of season fairground, and when you mix that with a cold rainy night, plus Zombies shuffling past and leaping out of dark corners at you, simply getting between the attractions is an exercise for your self control. Yes, okay, I may have emitted the odd scream. It’s a weird feeling – your brain knows this is just Thorpe Park, the place you’ve taken the kids to many many times for a fun day out. And yet… it’s just spooky. You walk closer together, and your brain is definitely on heightened alert. Which makes the rides interesting…
The biggest rides are open, with the big scare fun of riding at night. But there’s also the dramatic halloween-themed specials; the award-winning; ‘The Walking Dead: Living Nightmare ’and the petrifying;‘Platform 15’.
I absolutely LOVED the rollercoasters in the dark – it feels so different, and not being able to see somehow makes the flying and swooping sensations visceral and scream worthy. Nemesis and The Swarm were honestly, joyously, shriekingly brilliant.
Derren Brown’s Ghost Train plays with your brain to an unnerving degree, it’s quietly unsettling and anxiety-inducingly scary. The mazes are… ace. Sort. If you like being giggly-scared half out your wits at what ‘might’ happen for half the time, and actually scared and shrieking the half. Top tip is to walk with a group – and make sure you’re comfortable enough to grab them when you get The Fear. Don’t worry – complete strangers will grab you for reassurance too. Don’t be at the front of a group though – hang back a little. Though don’t be at the back either…
The actors in the park are amazing. They never drop character, and hearing real-live (real-dead?) zombies shuffling after you with a weird speed will raise the hairs on the back of your neck no matter how much you tell yourself they’re not real. We love it, the teens think it’s brilliant, and it’s a regular fixture on our calendar.”
If you fancy visiting Thorpe Park with kids this Halloween, Laura can point you towards a special price for Fright Nights on her Little Stuff blog…
Disclosure Note: Thorpe Park and Blackpool Tower Dungeon provided free entry for our families for the purpose of this review while Fiona paid to terrify her kids at Farmageddon. All words and images are our own or as credited.