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Family Events Celebrate Fall

Halloween comes but once a year, and it’s the only time many of us get to dress up and pretend to be something a little more interesting than human. But it’s not always easy to get into the (ghostly) spirit of the holiday — especially when the temperatures are still in the 90’s. Fortunately, there are a whole host of fun activities designed for family members of every age that can move your mind from summer to autumn, and give everyone a chance to enjoy the beginnings of the holiday season. Whether you like to lose yourself in a hay maze, paint the kid’s faces or dress up your pup, there’s a place to go and find the signs of autumn.


Main Article

A Fall Frame of Mind

The long, dry summer hasn’t created much of an autumn spirit. A big cold front could get us thinking about tricks and treats and terrifying ghosties, but there’s not one on the horizon. So if you need a little push to get past the dog days, get on out to one of these family events; they’ll bring out your inner imp and transform your normally well-behaved kids into little ghouls and tiny goblins.

Harvest the Fall Fun!

Sweet Berry Farm, Marble Falls
September 24th through November 12th (closed Wednesdays)
When the last of the berries have been picked and we've sated our appetite for summer fruit, Sweet Berry Farm becomes a pumpkin patch that would make Linus orange with envy. Pick up a passel of pumpkins (at prices much lower than you'll find at the grocery store), but plan on spending the better part of a day to take advantage of all the fun activities created just for this event. You can stuff your own scarecrow and take a hayride on Scarecrow Island. Kids will love the Candy Corn Hay Maze and the Sweet Berry Express barrel train. Those six and older can get lost in the giant Texas Hayfield Maze — a replica of the state complete with a city scavenger hunt. Amorous beaus can pick a bouquet of flowers for a sweetheart, then take her on a horse ride (available on weekends). And get a kickstart on your costume with face painting for kids of all ages. They'll be churning homemade ice cream in strawberry, vanilla, and mixed berry, but you simply must try the pumpkin pie flavor — so good, you may find you prefer the ice cream to the more traditional crusted fare. The Pumpkin Grille will be serving up all kinds of great food, including amazing grilled corn on the cob. Who knows — you may even get to see the Great Pumpkin!

6th Annual Goblins in the Garden

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin
October 30th from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where do ghouls and goblins grow? In the garden, of course. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, late October is an opportunity to celebrate the change of the seasons with green-thumbed tykes and tots. Botanica the herbal which has taken up residence in the Not-So-Haunted Tower, where she will cast her special herbal magic spells. You'll find clues to a great prize in the Trail-of-Bones Scavenger Hunt. Balloon artists and face painters will be joined by puppet shows, sing-alongs, musicians and loads of arts and crafts. The Owl Prowl Bird Walk will give young ornithologists a chance to learn about birds and their calls, while bat stations in the visitor's gallery will teach young vampires about their nocturnal cousins. The whole family can enjoy a screening of Little Shop of Horrors at 7:30 p.m. in the meadow. It's just the place to eat all that free candy your kids will gather as they prowl around the center. This is a unique Austin event, and the perfect way for the whole family to celebrate cooler temperatures returning to Central Texas.

Scooby's Haunted Carnival, presented by Texas Hearing & Service Dogs

THSD Training Center, Dripping Springs
October 29, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
This party for young children provides a great escape from the scarier side of the Halloween season. Scooby and a cast of characters will be on hand to solve the Mystery of the Mummy — he’s somewhere in the haunted maze, and only the most intrepid interlopers will be able to find him. A costume contest will give the most spirited tricksters a chance to show off their outrageous getups. There will also be plenty of games and crafts, including a bag decoration workshop. Proceeds will help THSD train dogs to help people with disabilities.

Dogadillo 2011 Howl’oween Spooktacular • Trick or Treat at the Hill Country Galleria

Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave
October 23rd, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; October 29th, 3:00 to 9:00 p.m.
The weekend before Halloween, scary dogs and their ghoulish masters get together to benefit rescue groups from around Central Texas. It's a dog lover's paradise, with educational seminars from veterinarians and trainers, workouts for you and your dog, demonstrations from some of the most agile canines around, and even doggie massage. Have your face painted to look like your pet and participate in all kinds of games and contests, including the Halloween costume competition, with prizes for the most creative, most howl’arious, best celebrity look-alike and best store-bought creations. Donations are welcome and appreciated, including gently used collars, leashes, toys and other canine necessities. A special performance from renowned children's musician Joe McDermott will entertain little dog lovers, too.

Parents love to shop, and kids love to trick or treat. The Hill Country Galleria has combined the two to create an irresistible event on Halloween weekend. Participating stores transform into a haunted neighborhood, handing out treats to the children while tempting parents with special deals. Entertainment will include live music from The Loose Wheels and a performance by PAIYH Dance Studios. Free face painting can transform an ordinary costume into a ghoulish work of art. And after the kids have stuffed themselves with candy, you can toss them in the bounce house. It's a great way to combine everybody's favorite autumn activities.

Annual Pumpkin Patch

ACTS Church Lakeway
October 9th to 31st — Monday through Friday, noon to 6:30 p.m.; Weekends, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays (Oct.15 & 22) noon to 4 p.m.
This annual pumpkin patch is as much a rite of autumn as fields of bluebonnets are a rite of spring. Come on down to pick up a few pumpkins for carving, and take a look at some of the magnificent gourds that create natural decor for our haunted homes. Folks will be taking complimentary “patch pictures,” but be sure to make a donation if you can.  Proceeds will fund mission projects in Lake Travis and beyond.


Sidebar of Related Information

Where the Monsters Are!

Why do we dress up in costumes and beg for candy? It may not matter — Halloween has become one of the most American of holidays. Parks and malls transform from focal points of summer fun to great places to spend a scary October evening.

  • Haunted houses have a relatively modern history, and most likely came about as an extension of the sideshows and freak shows common in traveling carnivals. Dark rides were created, such as the “tunnel of love,” to give people an opportunity to be publicly affectionate without violating moralistic norms. Adding scary creatures gave brave boys a chance to “protect” their dates with an amorous arm.
  • Trick or treating became a widespread custom in the middle of the 20th century. It derives from many customs dating back to the Middle Ages, including Christmas wassailing. The wearing of masks and costumes goes back to Celtic traditions; folks would disguise themselves to avoid being seen by ghosts, which flocked to the earthly realm on All Hallows Eve.
  • By the 1950s, trick-or-treating was firmly ensconced in the annals of American holiday traditions, and featured in popular culture, including the Peanuts comic strip and a Walt Disney cartoon.
  • In 1953, UNICEF begin a campaign urging children to collect funds for less fortunate children as part of their trick-or-treating rituals. That program continues today; check out their website to learn how your kids can get their candy fix while helping those less fortunate.
  • Try something different this year — visit Six Flags Fiesta Texas. They’ve created a host of horrifying attractions. The Midnight Mansion includes 13 evil rooms; a vampire army lives in the Shade Arbor; zombies have infested Rockville; and a simple farming community has been transformed into something just this side of a nightmare at Crackaxel Canyon. Warning: these attractions are not for little kids or the squeamish!
  • Sea World offers two programs for the Halloween season. The Halloween Spooktacular is designed for even little children with scarecrow stiltwalkers and a big cast of monster characters in Sesame Street's Countdown to Halloween show. Older kids and adults will love Howl-O-Scream. Visit the Frightmare Forest, the Den of the Departed, Shamu’s Rockin’ Creep Show, and the all-new Monster Stomp.