‘Tis the season to pick pumpkins, seek out spooky events and huddle around the bonfire (not too close, mind). October is a brilliant time to visit York with kids, with a wide variety of activities going on, from pumpkin festivals to pumpkin picking and even the odd event NOT involving large root veg! Here’s our pick of the best things coming up in and around York this October half term – do keep an eye on this guide as we’re updating it all the time. And make sure you subscribe to our newsletter, too, so you never miss a thing.
Creepy Carnival at Mother Shipton’s
Deep within the spooky forest at Mother Shipton’s a world of eerie enchantment awaits… Step right up and prepare to be thrilled and amazed by hauntingly captivating displays and spine-tingling surprises. Explore abandoned circus tents as they whisper ghostly secrets from their forgotten past and meet a host of creepy characters who are waiting to steal the show in this festival of frights. mothershiptons.co.uk
Pumpkin picking at The Balloon Tree
Nothing says ‘autumn’ more than a giant orange vegetable, so celebrate the season with a spot of pumpkin picking. The Balloon Tree, just outside Stamford Bridge, is our top spot so we can combine it with a trip to the Little Vikings Award-winning cafe and play area while we’re there. Visit the website to find out more
Flying Scotsman returns to the Railway Museum
The world’s most famous locomotive will be displayed at the National Railway Museum this October half term as part of its centenary celebrations. On static display on the turntable in the Great Hall, visitors will see the locomotive in all its glory with a 360-degree view free of charge every day throughout half term. While you’re there, why not check out the new Wonderlab interactive gallery too? Visit the Railway Museum website
The Little York Ghost Hunt
The ever-popular Little York Ghost Hunt returns for 2023. Each evening a hundred of York Ghost Merchants’ little ghosts are hidden along the atmospheric streets that flank York Minster and if you find one, you can keep it! Look out for final dates for the hunt, but York Ghost Week runs from Saturday 28th October to Sunday 5th November 2023. Find out more
The Hole in Wand
Swap your broomstick for a putter and enter the extraordinary world of The Hole in Wand, York’s wizard golf experience where wonders abound and the extraordinary awaits. Located directly opposite another of York’s must-see attractions, JORVIK Viking Centre, in the Coppergate Centre, park your broom at the door as you go in search of the missing gargoyle Grobblenook. Complete a series of crazy challenges with a ball and a putter as your only tools, and be rewarded with a magical potion when you complete the trail! Show your Little Vikings Family Card for a FREE Premium upgrade. Open daily – Visit the website for details
Halloween at Murton Park
Head to Murton Park for some spooktacular activities:
– 28th October to 31st October: Pumpkin Carving: £3 per person, payable on the day.
– 28th October to 5th November: Halloween/Guy Fawkes Trail: £1 per person inc. a prize, payable on the day.
– 4th to 5th November: The Whitby Falconers will be onsite with their bird display. Handling charges apply.
Halloween fun and a pumpkin patch at Castle Howard
Embark on a spooky adventure at Skelf Island led by the mischievous Castle Howard Skelves, try out an Outdoor Escape Room trail with puzzles to solve and whizz around the Hay Bale Obstacle Course. The Castle Howard Garden Centre Pumpkin Patch is back too: Explore the patch and choose your perfect pumpkin. Head to the Garden Centre when you arrive and follow the signs for PYO pumpkins.
30th September to 31st October 2023 – Visit the website
Halloween at Beetle Bank Farm
There’s loads going on at Beetle Bank Farm this October half term, from fancy dress competitions to pumpkin carving, ghoulish games, broomstick hunts, apple bobbing and spooky arts and crafts. Visit the Facebook page for all the details.
Meet a Viking at the award-winning JORVIK Viking Centre
At JORVIK, visitors stand on the site of the famous Coppergate dig, which revealed astounding archaeological discoveries. Hop aboard a time capsule for an unforgettable trip back to 10th-century York. Hear a Norse couple arguing over what to have for dinner, take in smells from fish to woodsmoke and spot the famous Bogar, who has been sitting on the toilet since the day it opened! Chat to friendly Vikings who can tell you more about life on Coppergate and get up-close with some of the most beautiful Viking artefacts in the world (including a fossilised Viking poo!). Visit the JORVIK Viking Centre website
Meet Mary Anning at The Yorkshire Museum
Explore the exhibition ‘Mary Anning Rocks’ (runs every day during the holidays) and meet Mary Anning herself at the Yorkshire Museum! Listen to Anning’s inspiring stories and have the opportunity to ask her any questions about her incredible discoveries. Friday 3rd November and Saturday 4th November – drop in from 10.30am to 3.30pm – included in admission price
Discover a hidden medieval gem
Duck under wooden beams and venture down one of the oldest streets in York, and you’ll find Barley Hall. Once home to a Lord Mayor of York, Barley Hall is a medieval townhouse, restored and decorated, ready for a 15th-century feast. Little ones can make themselves at home, join in dress-up fun and activities in a Tudor School Room and experience what it would have been
like to live in medieval England. Have fun exploring The Bard at Barley Hall exhibition – see costumes worn by celebrities such as Al Pacino and Kate Winslet. Have a go at shadow puppet theatre and guess the Shakespearean play from the smell box! Visit the Barley Hall website
Wicked Wednesdays at York Art Gallery – Story Craft Theatre will be going on a Wicked Wednesday adventure, and you are all invited! With the power of imagination, you might find yourselves swinging through a magical garden, jumping over mesmerising mountains or even swimming in a great ocean. The sessions will include games, singing and an interactive story. Wednesday 1st November 2023 – Visit the website to book
Dig into some archaeological fun at JORVIK Dig
At DIG, kids discover only the most exciting archaeological artefacts from the 2000 years of history hidden under the streets of York. Four excavation pits are filled with Roman, Viking, medieval and Victorian finds, so grab a trowel and dig up the clues that show how people lived in these times. This is a one-of-a-kind! This October a totally spooky event is coming to DIG! Huddle around the campfire and listen to ghost stories with snacks and a hot drink, all included in the price. DIG After Dark: Ghosts in the Graveyard takes place on 28th and 29th of October as part of York Ghost Week. digyork.co.uk
Creative Family Thursdays at York Art Gallery
Head to York Art Gallery during half term for Creative Family Thursdays. Get creative with hands-on activities inspired by the collections and exhibitions with the help of artist Bea. Perfect for families of all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times.
Thursday 2nd November 2023 – Drop in from 10am to 4pm – Included in admission – Visit the website
Explore the history of York’s City Walls this October
Visit one of the historic gateways into the city, Micklegate Bar, and discover 2,000-year stories involving battles, imprisonment and near destruction of York’s walls! Learn about some of the characters whose stories are intertwined with Micklegate Bar: a princess, a Royalist in the English Civil War and an early 20th-century policeman who made the gatehouse his home. As you make your way up to the very top floor of this historic building (over 700 years old!), discover a map of York’s city walls, a flyover video over the city and other activities to entertain the little Vikings! Open until 5th November. Visit the website
Dark Skies Fringe Festival 2023
The Dark Skies Fringe Festival is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge, start your stargazing journey and truly appreciate the delights of the night. There’s a host of fun events, from stargazing to night experiences and much more. 27th October to 5th November 2023 – Visit the website for more
Hallowtween at York Maze 2023
Calling all fearless 10-15-year-olds, and adults of a more nervous disposition…Venture into a new dimension of spine-tingling fun this Halloween, as York Maze invites you to explore the farm’s most mysterious buildings, each with its own twisted history you will discover for yourself once you step inside…28th to 31st October 2023 – Visit the Hallowtween website
York’s Chocolate Story Trick or Treat Trek
This hauntingly delightful escapade is tailor-made to enchant and entertain the young ones, ensuring an unforgettable and spooktacular time for all. Embark on an exhilarating adventure through the enchanting streets of York, where your expert tour guide will unveil spine-tingling tales lurking within haunted walls. Within York’s Chocolate Story, there are special Halloween Family Masterclasses and Halloween Truffle Rolling too.
The Wizard Walk of York – WINNER Best Tour of York – Little Vikings Awards 2023 – The Wizard of York would like to invite you on a wonderfully whimsical wand-er this October half term…Join The Magic Hatter (as The Wizard) for spellbinding magic, comedy and a dash of York’s history! Ideal for children but suitable for all, this magical alternative to a ghost walk focuses on family FUN over frights! Book at www.wizardwalkofyork.com.
NYMR Light Spectacular 2023
The Light Spectacular returns to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway this October half term! Marvel at the heritage carriages, decorated with 17 thousand synchronised LEDs, before departing from Pickering Station for an awe-inspiring journey alongside a DJ mix of music, compered by Voiceover Man, that will get you in the mood for a party the whole family will enjoy. We went last year and loved it – read our review on our website.
27th October to 5th November 2023 and 10th to 12th November 2023, 6pm & 7.45pm – Visit the NYMR website to book
Halloween After Dark in The Plotters’ Forest
Dress up in your most spooktacular outfits and get into double the trouble this October in The Plotters’ Forest at Raby Castle! As the sun sets, experience this illuminated after-dark trail when the magical inhabitants of The Plotters’ Forest take on a life of their own. Discover the scary spiders and beware of the witches and wolves as you collect our creepy clues. Follow the trail and answer all the questions to receive a Halloween treat. This trail is aimed at younger children and is particularly suitable for ages 11 and under. Don’t forget to bring a torch!
Family Cauldron Experience at The Potions Cauldron
Visit this tiny attraction in the chamber at The Potions Cauldron on York’s Shambles for a magical 30-minute experience with interactive elements and your very own potion to tuck into. Special Little Vikings Family Card offer – FREE chocolate frog for children from the shop!
Discover Wonderlab at the National Railway Museum
Head to the Railway Museum this October half term and discover the new Wonderlab, an interactive exhibition that’s completely inspiring for children. Admission to the museum itself is free, and Wonderlab tickets are available separately. Visit the Railway Museum website for details.
Illuminated Abbey at Whitby Abbey
One of the best autumn events on the Yorkshire coast returns for 2023! Camera phones at the ready as Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is bathed in dramatic illuminations once again for Illuminated Abbey this October half term. It’s an unforgettable, instagrammable evening that families will love, with Victorian Gothic entertainment thrown in. 22nd to 31st October 2023, 6pm to 9pm – Visit the website
Piglets Pumpkin Festival
Where can you go this October half term where you can get lost in a mysterious maze, watch a magic show, enjoy oodles of indoor and outdoor play AND pick and carve your own pumpkin? Piglets Adventure Farm, that’s where! Selected October weekends and the whole of half term – visit the website for more
The Halloween Adventure at Stockeld Park
Come and experience the spookiest adventure this Halloween at Stockeld Park. Stir trouble with the Witches in the Enchanted Forest, rattle your bones down Halloween Street in the theatre and step aboard the all-new ghost train, the Flying Stocksman! The pumpkin field is back and EVERY child gets a free pumpkin, so be sure to select a child ticket for the children in your group. 28th October to 5th November 2023 – Visit the website
Little Vikings I Spy Trail – A free family walking trail of York
Recommended by The Sunday Times, the Little Vikings I Spy Trail is a fun, free walking trail around York. We’ve designed it to help families explore the best bits of York, with lots to see along the way. Download a map from our website or pick one up from the Visit York Information Centre.
CANCELLED – The Kirkgate Ghost Count at York Castle Museum
Visit Kirkgate at York Castle Museum, a detailed recreation of a Victorian era high street which features shops that existed in York from 1870 until 1901. Wander this atmospheric street and its back lanes and try and count the York Ghosts that dwell there, there will be three specially created Kirkgate Ghosts; more details to be announced.
York Castle Museum – Visit the website
Ghosts in the Gardens (FREE)
Back by popular demand, Ghosts in the Gardens sees ghosts popping up in York Museum Gardens and at other green spaces across York. This year promises to be the best yet, with more ghosts than ever, and it’s a great way to explore the city.
23rd September to 12th November 2023 – Across York – Visit the website
Explore autumn outside at RHS Harlow Carr
Explore RHS Garden Harlow Carr this October half term, where there is always lots to see and do in autumn at the garden, from our brilliant play areas to the natural beauty of this fantastic garden. Keep an eye out for some creepy creatures to discover and learn about, too. The Garden Detectives are back with the perfect mix of fact and nonsense and maybe even the odd game.
Saturday 28th October to 5th November 2023 – Visit the RHS Harlow Carr website for details
Step back in time at Eden Camp Modern History Museum
Experience the sights, sounds and smells of WW2 at Eden Camp. Located within an original POW Camp built in 1942, enjoy a fully immersive experience throughout the museum including the brand-new Blitz Experience!
Fear in the Forest at Dalby Forest
Head to Dalby Forest this Halloween for an exhilarating and spine-tingling experience. As the sun sets and darkness descends upon the forest, the atmosphere transforms into a world of eerie enchantment. Twisted trees and shadowy trails set the stage for a night of heart-pounding adventure. From haunted walks that test your courage to interactive installations that play on your deepest fears, this event offers a unique blend of entertainment and fright.
30th October 2023 – Visit Events at Dalby Forest for more details
Hide & Seek at The Bar Convent
Would you be able to recognise an illegal catholic household during the reign of the Tudors and Stuarts? Find the clues to uncover the ways that Catholics kept their true religion hidden from the authorities! Plus, see Father Oldorne’s Crucifix, the only surviving object of the thousands seized during the raids on Catholic houses following the Gunpowder Plot. Complete the trail to be entered into the draw to win a £30 voucher for the café. As part of the new display – Hide & Seek: The Aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. 7th October to 16th November 2023 – Visit the website
Bolton Abbey Pumpkin Trail
The Bolton Abbey Pumpkin Trail is returning for 2023! Navigate your way through Strid Wood using the map and the giant pumpkins. Keep your eyes peeled for clues hidden in the mystery boxes along the way and help to solve the puzzle. The trail is included in the car park fee (pre-booking of car park spaces recommended).
Saturday 21st October to Sunday 5th November 2023 – Visit the Bolton Abbey website for more info
Go for an autumnal family walk
It’s a beautiful time of year for a family walk around York. Read our guide for the pick of the best, from a walk around York’s city walls to the Little Vikings I Spy Trail and woodland walks.