Halloween is, at its heart, a children’s holiday. Despite the hugely popular and profitable businesses of haunted houses and adult costumes, it’s kids who get more out of October than anyone else. It does not memorialize a war and has little religious significance — the pop culture connection to All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead is tenuous for most people — so its playful, secular traditions have risen above its Christian and Gaelic ones.
Candy, frolic and mischief are all part of the ride and it gives children license to be silly, creepy and indulge in good-natured mayhem. It’s in that spirit that local parks and entertainment organizations have assembled the following Halloween events that won’t leave little kids sleepless but are enough fun to keep the parents awake. Costumes are encouraged at the following events.
Parky’s Farm Halloween Nights
In a sort of spooky tribute to the Festival of Lights, Hamilton County Park District’s educational farm is lit up with tens of thousands of lights — pumpkins, giddy ghouls and wicked warlocks surround visitors. There are also performances by magician Phil Dalton and the Madcap Puppets, and a variety of silly, Halloween-themed characters stroll the grounds. The Spooky Hollow Ghost Town is open for tours as is the playbarn and inflatable moon bounce. Guests can also relax around a campfire or take a creepy hayride through the woods. The Halloween fun is appropriate for children of all ages. $6; children less than two-years are free and there is a $1 off coupon on their Web site. 6-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Through Oct. 31. Parky’s Farm in Winton Woods, 10037 Daly Road, Forest Park, 513-728-3551 ext. 355, www.greatparks.org/halloween/home.htm.
The Cincinnati Zoo presents HallZOOween, a two-day celebration that includes trickor-treating and seasonal fun. The event is sponsored by Frisch’s Big Boy and features a beauty shop of horrors, pumpkin carving demonstrations, real bears and elephants smashing pumpkins, gorillas and monkeys hunting for pumpkins, and magic by Phil Dalton. $13; $9 for children and seniors. Free admission for members. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 24 and 25. Trick or treating begins at noon. Warm 98’s Monster Mash Bash runs 2:30-4 p.m. on Oct. 25. Check Zoo Web site for schedule of Halloween events. Cincinnati Zoo, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, www.cincinnatizoo.org/events/hallzooween.
If you can unglue your kids from all the fun of Nickelodeon Universe (the area with all the kiddie rides), Kings Island’s Howl-O-Fest will wear them out completely. Plan on spending the whole day as almost all of the regular rides are open, including some pint-sized but still very quick roller coasters. Howl-O-Fest is a sprawling, Halloween-themed picnic area with a variety of diversions, including a kids costumed dance party complete with foam machine, a hay bale maze, tick-or-treating stops, a petting zoo, storytelling and a mummy with an endless sarcophagus of corny jokes. You can take home your own pumpkin and dine at the all-you-can-eat Backyard Boo BQ, too. $28. Online discounts available. Free with season pass. Parking fee applies. Noon-5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through Nov. 1. Guests may explore the rest of the park until closing time. Kings Island, Kings Island Drive, Mason, 513- 754-5700, howlofest.visitkingsisland.com.
Sharon Woods Haunted Village
Sharon Woods’ historic Heritage Village is transformed into a spooky storybook. Wander ing reenactors pepper the village interacting with young and old alike, adding to the slightly frightful atmosphere. Ichabod Crane is present on old Gunpowder, which means the Headless Horseman can’t be far behind. The chase by the horseman is mild and the cast does a great job of keeping things interesting without being intense. Aglow with kerosene lanterns, the village is welcoming and with one exception (the doctor’s office) all of the buildings have sights to see or activities to do that are free of gore. Each venue offers an interactive experience with a character: mad scientists, a witch, ghostly Civil War soldiers in the graveyard, even a haunted house. Treats are in abundance and children receive a bag to collect them when they enter through the visitors’ center. $10; $5 for children less than 12-years-old. 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Through Oct. 31. Sharon Woods Heritage Village, 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-521-PARK.