11 Halloween half term events in Dorset

Pliosaur skull with open jaws in a museum gallery

Natural Dorset Gallery at the newly refurbished Dorset Museum in Dorchester - Credit: dorsetmuseum.org

From haunted trails and mythical beasts to seaside science and a trendy Tudor kitchen - we've found some brilliant activities for families to enjoy in Dorset over the October half-term 

Half-term runs from Saturday October 23 to Sunday 31 which means many places are putting on family friendly events across Dorset as well as plenty of ghoulish gatherings to mark Hallowe’en. Here are 11 great ways to spend the week and enjoy the spooky season.

You can also find the best places for picking pumpkins in Dorset here  

A large orange pumpkin on a straw bale with a field of cut pumpkins behind

Pumpkins cut and ready to pick at Dorset Country Pumpkins farm in Milton Abba - Credit: RichardBudd.co.uk

Theatre Treats: Three professional children’s theatre companies are heading to Dorset to tour with Artsreach during half-term with live performances in eight different villages. Paddleboat Theatre’s show Margot & Mr Whatsit is about a little girl’s imaginary friend. Oct 25: 11am Sandford Orcas Village Hall (VH) and 4pm Motcombe Memorial Hall.

A man and woman hold up the hair bunches of a young woman between them they are all smiling

Paddleboat Theatre’s show Margot & Mr Whatsit plays at Sandford Orcas Village Hall and Motcombe Memorial Hall - Credit: Matt Austin

Angel Heart Theatre’s The Tales of Robin Hood invites you to join England's greatest outlaw and is packed with comedy, derring-do and interactive archery. Oct 26, 4pm Lytchett Matravers VH; Oct 27: 11am Broadoak VH and 4pm Martinstown VH. Jonny Fluffypunk presents a brand-new little show for families, with poetry, puppetry, story and song in The End of the Pier Show. Pierre the pier handyman meets a homeless mermaid with a spiky attitude and a story to tell. Oct 28, 4pm Piddletrenthide Memorial Hall: Oct 29, 11am Child Okeford VH; Oct 30, 11am Sturminster Marshall Memorial Hall. 

Puppets of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck

The Tales of Robin Hood comes to Lytchett Matravers, Broadoak and Martinstown - Credit: angelhearttheatre.com

Finally, The Gramophones present an audio adventure for an adult and child (aged 7+) to experience together from home. Ever wondered what it would be like to travel through space? When you book to take part in Another Planet - you will receive a ‘Galac Pack’ in the post and a link to download an audio file to create your own interplanetary adventure. Astrid the Galaxy Hopper will help you collect important scientific samples, dodge alien invasions and guide you through the mysterious planet you land on. Book online for this and all these events.

A man in a woolly hat holding a mermaid puppet sitting on a boat

Johnny Fluffy Punk's The End of the Pier Show reveals the story of a homeless mermaid - Credit: jonnyfluffypunk.co.uk

Also on this month is Norwich Puppet Theatre’s Beastly Belle (Lighthouse Poole, Oct 23 at 11am & 2pm). Inspired by the tale of Beauty and the Beast this is a new ‘silver screen’ twist on an old tale, inspired by the iconic cinema of 1920s and 30s. Featuring a skilful mix of puppetry, film projections and an original musical score. How the Koala Learned to Hug (Weymouth Pavilions, Oct 24 at 2.30pm) brings Steven Lee's best-selling book about Karen the Koala and her furry friends to the stage this charming family musical first appeared in 2010.

Finally, Dragons & Mythical Beasts (Lighthouse Poole, Oct 26 at 12.30pm & 3pm/ Oct 27 at 11am & 2pm) is from the creators of the West End smash hit Dinosaur World Live, who bring spectacular puppets to life. Come face-to-face with some of the most magnificent monsters and terrifying beasts ever to walk the earth including the colossal Stone Troll, the mysterious Indrik and Japanese Baku; the Tooth Fairy (not as sweet as you'd think) and the majestic Griffin. 

Stage set with a koala puppet in a tree and a man looking round the trunk

How the Koala Learned to Hug is at Weymouth Pavilions - Credit: Steven Lee

Wild and spooky at Durlston Country Park  

This fabulous 320-acre National Nature Reserve near Swanage is a brilliant place for kids to burn off some energy and connect with nature. See if you can spot spooky animals lurking in the trees on their Halloween Children's Trail using night vision goggles (cost £3). Other family friendly events happening over half-term include Children’s Nature and Woodland Art Workshop (Oct 27 11am – 12.30pm) with artist/illustrator Mark Page, all materials are included (ages 7+ £15), and Durlston Detectives (Oct 28 11am –12.30pm, £3) looking for wildlife tracks and find the hidden secrets of nature. Both these events must be pre-booked.  

Meet the Trendy Tudors at Corfe Castle

Travel back to 1572 and join Mistress Gabrielle the kitchen maid and Thomas the Master Carver as they prepare for a feast in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton at Corfe Castle. From expensive spices to highly decorated sweet treats, Mistress Gabrielle talks about the exotic new foods arriving from the New World into her Dorset kitchen. Discover what the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of Tudor table manners are, complete the Trendy Tudor trail and count the pumpkins. 

Step into the Tudor kitchens of Corfe Castle this half-term

Step into the Tudor kitchens of Corfe Castle this half-term - Credit: Pario Gallico

Wonderland Sculpture Trail at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens  

The Robert James Workshop have created a wonderful fairy and children’s story book themed trail at these beautiful gardens on the West Dorset coast. The Wonderland Sculpture Trail includes enchanting sculptures of celebrated characters from classic literature including Alice in Wonderland and her friends (and foes) and feathered, furred and amphibian characters from The Tales of Beatrix Potter...from Jeremy Fisher casting a line, to naughty Squirrel Nutkin. Theatrically set in this exotic botanical backdrop - it’s a real treat for all the family. 

The Cursed Collection at Russell-Cotes  

An entertaining and immersive mystery game (suitable for 12+) this event in the Gothic surroundings of the Russell-Cotes Museum & Art Gallery in Bournemouth invites you to explore, interact and solve the mystery of the Cursed Collection. For the first time in 100 years the Cursed Collection will be on display for one night only (Oct 30, 7-10pm). The last time these sinister objects went on display terrible things befell the museum and its staff. View the objects, talk to their curators and try to detect the clues from the red herrings before the Big Reveal at 9.15pm. Pre-booking required, cost £12. 

Behind the Scenes at Dorset Museum   

The multi-million-pound makeover of the county's museum alone makes this a ‘must visit’ (its open daily) plus a single-entry fee gives you free entry for a whole year! Over half -term you can also enjoy the Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre Family Tour - ideal if you and your youngsters have been enjoying those ‘behind-the-scenes at the museum’ television shows. Find out what a curator does and how they look after their collections. Discover dinosaur footprints, prehistoric marine reptiles, birds and butterflies. Then enjoy a handling session in the Conservation Studio. Tours are limited, booking online strongly recommended. October 25 & 28 at 11am & 11.45am  

A display case of catalogued butterflies with labels

A display of Dorset butterflies at Dorset Museum, part of their historic Natural History Collection - Credit: dorsetmuseum.org

Creepy Crafts and Witches’ Marks in Wimborne  

There’s a morning of Hallowe’en fun in the garden of the Museum of East Dorset in Wimborne on October 30 (10.30am -1.30pm) with creepy crafts, spell making, spooky stories and a ghostly garden trail. Dressing up is encouraged, take your photo in the sinister selfie corner if you dare! No need to book – pay on the day (£3 per child). In the evening in the Museum by Torchlight explore the museum’s galleries by torchlight (6-7.30pm) in a family friendly after dark Hallowe’en event (£4 per person, children to be accompanied). Find out about the witches’ marks on the wall and why they have a mummified cat. Handle real skulls and bones, and join the cook to decorate a Jack O’ Lantern biscuit. Dress up in a ghoulish costume or scary animal and bring a torch. Suitable for ages 5+. Booking advised

Spooky happenings at Poole Museum  

Join the Spooky Museum Search (Oct 23 – 31) at Poole Museum and see if you find some ghoulish guests in their collections. On October 27 there’s a ghoulish gathering in Scaplen’s Court for Spooky Scaplen’s (11am –3pm) with a range of Hallowe’en themed activities and displays. Spooktacular storyteller Michele O'Brien will take you on a journey into your own imagination, don’t forget your fancy dress! 

Seaside Science on Swanage Pier   

Swanage Pier is hosting a number of fun events over half-term, as well as its own Hallowe’en Trail. Let's go Crabbing on the Pier & Plankton Lab (Oct 25 10am –2pm) teaches you how to catch a crab safely from the pier. There will be some crabbing lines and buckets you can borrow but if you have your own bring them along (no hooks). Bait will be provided (cost 50p per child/ adult admission £1.50 to pier applies). Fun Science Dorset visit on October 27 (11am – 2pm) to share some free seaside themed science experiments. Look at an ocean in a bottle and the different zones of the sea. Take part in the walking water challenge and make your own jellyfish slime to take home (extra £2). No need to book, just turn up.  

Poster of a Hallowe'en event at Mapperton House

Follow the Haunted Garden Trail at Mapperton House and Gardens near Beaminster - Credit: mapperton.com

Haunted Hallowe’en at Mapperton  

The Haunted Hallowe’en Garden Trail returns to Mapperton House & Gardens (Oct 24-28) near Beaminster. This is a great opportunity for the whole family to join in some spooky fun and spiders, witches, wizards and warlocks may be spotted in these award-winning gardens. Pre-booked tickets available on the Mapperton website so be sure to grab yours in advance. Fancy dress encouraged!

Hallowe’en Fun at the Fort  

Nothe Fort must be the spookiest place in Weymouth during the lead up to Hallowe’en, and it reputedly has several resident ghosts. There’s an exciting programme of family activities throughout half-term week. Including the opportunity to visit their famous ghost tunnels, hunt for bats around the fort (special Hallowe’en ones), join a slime making workshop, or pop into the School of Spells to practice your spell making. Twitch the Witch Magic Show (Oct 26, 28 –30 pre book online) is a free family-fun, comedy show with multiplying wands, a colour changing cat and a lost vampire (20-minute shows from 11.15am to 3pm).  

Black and white image of Nothe Fort by the water

Is Nothe Fort the spookiest place in Weymouth? - Credit: olliemtdog/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Strictly for the over 16s - and with a strong constitution gathering from the list of restrictions... people need ‘good emotional robustness as some activities are fast-paced and scary’ is Nothe of the Living Dead. Spend 40 (terrifying) minutes battling through a web of tunnels infested with flesh devouring zombies, overcoming physical and mental challenges to get to the vaccine or become their supper (Oct 29-30 from 6-11.30pm, pre-booking required).