I can remember when Halloween was a low-key holiday but those days are long gone. Now we pull out the spooky decorations and enjoy the holiday all month long. Leading up to October 31st, there are many celebratory events in Toronto and the GTA that will get everyone into a spooky frame of mind - some that are scary and some not-so-scary that are perfect for little ones.
Here are 20 fun (and scary) Halloween-themed events for families in the Toronto area.
Howling Hootenanny at Black Creek Pioneer Village takes place on the last two weekends of the month. On October 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31 between the hours of 11:00am and 4:30pm, kids are welcome to wear costumes and trick-or-treat throughout the village. Special activities include free pumpkin decorating, a Haunted Maze (a bit scary) and the Scarecrow Mini Maze (fun for the little ones), an apple sling shot activity, airbrush tattoos, mainstage entertainment, and a Creepy Creatures show.
Camp Spooky at Canada's Wonderland, Saturdays and Sundays in October, is a fun, not-so-scary, daytime event for younger kids. Kids can enjoy Planet Snoopy and Kidzville rides as well as Halloween-themed activities, mazes and Charlie Brown's Trick-or-Treat Show. It's also another great opportunity to dress up and participate in the Costume Parade followed by some trick-or-treating in Camp Snoopy.
Halloween Haunt, on the other hand, is most definitely scary and not intended for children under the age of 13. This is a special ticketed event which takes place from 7pm - midnight on select nights in October and is best described as terrifying. On the agenda are horrifying mazes, scare zones, over 700 roaming monsters, Zombies 4D, and Fright Lane as well as the standard thrill rides and roller coasters. For teens and adults who want to have the daylights scared out of them, Halloween Haunt is the place to be.
This Halloween the Bata Shoe Museum is hosting a spooktacular weekend of family fun on October 24 and 25th. Kids in costume get in free and can decorate Halloween cookies, make crafts and more.
Once again this year, the Toronto Botanical Garden is hosting a family Halloween event. Registration is required for Halloween Howl which will take place on Sunday October 25th from 1-3pm. Participants, who must be accompanied by a parent, are invited to wear a costume and enjoy an afternoon of spooky outdoor games, Halloween crafts and creepy critters.
Skating fans of all ages will love Nancy Kerrigan's Halloween on Ice which will be at The Hershey Centre in Mississauga on October 20th as part of a 15-city North American tour. The spooktacular family-friendly celebration features two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan, four-time World Champion Kurt Browning, three-time U.S. National Champion Johnny Weir and others performing in costume to Halloween-themed music. Fans will also be able to participate in a Halloween costume contest during the show.
On October 24, 25, 30, and 31 from 11:00-3:00 pm, visitors are welcome to come to the Toronto Zoo dressed up in Halloween costumes for the annual Boo at the Zoo celebration. Kids can participate in the two daily Critters and Costumes Parades, meet costumed characters and visit the Play-doh Activity Tent to make a zoo animal creation. Pinatas for Pandas Halloween Edition will also take place on Halloween Day, October 31st at 11:00am. Best of all, up to two kids in costumes (age 12 and under) get free admission when accompanied by an adult.
If you are looking for a unique activity then consider registering for the Zoo's Halloween Howl which will be held on Thursday October 29th and Friday October 30th from 7-8:30pm. Participants will learn about the unique characteristics of wolves and how they communicate through howling before heading out on a moonlight hike to the Canadian Domain to meet the wolves and attempting to communicate with them.
Families with older children might enjoy attending Fort York After Dark: Lantern Tours for a historical perspective. Visitors take a guided night-time tour of the grounds to hear spooky stories about incidents that took place at the Fort especially during the bloody Battle of York during the War of 1812. The tour also includes a visit to two military cemeteries. Pre-registration is required for the tours that take place on October 29 and 30th between 7:30 and 9:30pm. Tours are not recommended for children under the age of 8.
Many of the pumpkin farms in the Greater Toronto Area also have Halloween-themed activities that are perfect for younger kids. One of our favourites is Springridge Farm in Milton, west of Toronto, where the annual Harvest Festival runs from late September through to the weekend before Halloween. Families can enjoy wagon rides, the Fun Farm Yard, a giant corn trail, the spooky Boo Barn and pick out the best pumpkin to carve into a scary Jack-o-Lantern.
The Haunted High Park event for families takes place on Saturday October 24th from 6:30-7:30pm and 8:00-9:00pm at Colborne Lodge. Participants visit Colborne Lodge at night to hear legends and ghost stories about the property and enjoy some period refreshments. Guests will also experience Victorian funeral and mourning traditions inside the candlelit rooms of historic Colborne Lodge. This event is intended for families but is not recommended for children under 8 years of age. There are also separate events for guests aged 13 and up (anyone under 16 must be accompanied by a responsible adult) which are held on October 23, 30, and 31st from 7-8:30pm.
Legoland Discovery Centre Toronto celebrates Halloween all month long with their Brick-or-Treat event. Every Saturday and Sunday in October from October 3rd to the 31st, the centre is decorated for the holiday and special activities are available throughout the day. There's spooky entertainment, the Boo Crew Costume Contest, a Spooky Creative Build contest, the Monster Mash Scavenger Hunt in Toronto MINILAND, a Spooktacular LEGO Pumpkin Trail and much more, all included in the price of admission.
Halloween is the perfect time for one of Toronto's spookiest activities. If your idea of fun is listening to spine-tingling tales then Haunted Walks has a walking tour for you. The company which specializes in historical walking tours that explore the city's darker side has special Halloween season tours that run from October 9th through October 31st. These 90 minute night-time tours are best for families with older school-aged kids and teens. There are two different tours to choose from, one starts in the Distillery Historic District and the second outside the Hockey Hall of Fame on Yonge Street.
Creepy Kortright takes place at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Kleinburg north of Toronto on October 22nd, 23rd and 24th from 6-9pm. Advance tickets are required for this event that is intended for kids aged 12 and under who must be accompanied by an adult. Kids may wear costumes and enjoy spooky Halloween activities such as a haunted maze, a frightening forest walk, scary stories around a campfire, live owls and more.
During Mountsberg's Spooktacular Halloween the Play Barn is magically transformed into a spooky haunted barn for kids to explore. The event also features pumpkin carving, face painting, owls and vultures in Raptor Shows and an opportunity to get up close to the park's resident snakes. Spooktacular Halloween is free with regular admission fees and everyone who comes in costume receives a free hot apple cider (adults included!). In 2015, the event takes place on October 24th, 25th, 31st and November 1st from 10am - 4pm.
During the Halloween Spooktacular at Halton County Radial Railway, visitors can walk through the haunted car barn and travel in old, creaky streetcars along the mainline while enjoying scary snacks and hot apple cider. Costumes are encouraged and reservations are not required for this event which takes place on October 17th and 24th from 6:30 - 10:00pm.
This year Ripley's Aquarium in downtown Toronto will be holding a spooky Gills & Ghouls Halloween event on Saturday October 31st from 10am - 4pm. The aquarium will be transformed into a creepy cove and the first 2,000 kids visiting will receive a reusable bag for trick-or-treating at giveaway stations. There will be live performances throughout the aquarium and underwater pumpkin carving during the live dive shows. Purchasing tickets online in advance costs less and saves time spent waiting in line at the entrance.
At the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, The Great Pumpkin Trail is open to visitors on the evenings of October 22nd and 23rd. Visitors will enjoy a walk along the garden and woodland trails as hundreds of jack-o-lanterns light the way. The evenings also feature live entertainment, face-painting, and pumpkin-themed activities. It's necessary to register for a timeslot in order to participate in this event. The RBG's Great Pumpkin Trail is also a stop on the Halton Pumpkin Trail which highlights unique pumpkin and harvest-themed experiences.
Families with kids that love trains won't want to miss the Family Halloween Train rides offered by York-Durham Heritage Railway. Tickets are available online for the theme train which operates from Uxbridge and Stouffville stations on October 17th, 18th, 24th, 25th and 31st. The train is specially-decorated for Halloween and the ride features ghosts, ghouls and other entertainment as well as Halloween-themed activities. All children up to the age of 12 dressed in costumes ride for free and receive a loot bag at the end of the train ride.
In my own town of Oakville, the annual Tiny Tots on Parade event is one of the most popular for families with pre-schoolers. On October 30th, starting at 10:00 am until noon, children in costume gather in Towne Square for a morning of trick-or-treating at downtown businesses. Tots and their parents or caregivers will also have an opportunity to meet firefighters, police officers and other fun characters.
Another fun and original Halloween activity for families is the Trek or Treat 5K Run/Walk & Creepy Mile held in Oakville 0n Friday October 16th beginning at 7pm. This isn't your typical race. Runners and walkers wear costumes and there are Halloween displays along the course as well as candy stations, face painting, hot chocolate, free professional family photos, and a post-race pizza party! Participants are also invited to bring a donation of non-perishable food items which will go to the Oakville Fareshare Food Bank. Participants must register online early to avoid disappointment as the numbers are capped and the event does sell out.
If you're looking for something to do the day after Halloween then consider Evergreen Brick Works 5th Annual Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. This celebration of Latin American culture and food includes a Mexican market, crafts, face painting, live music, and traditional dancing. The event takes place at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto on November 1st from 10am - 3pm and is a great way to learn about the cultural significance of this day.
Does your family have a favourite Halloween event or activity? Let me know in the comments below and have a Happy (and Spooky) Halloween!!