Sometimes it seems like gluttony is the goal of Halloween. Mountains of candy glommed by little door-to-door ragamuffins are the proud trophies of the spooky night prowl. And this is consumed by sugar-crazed mouths within a day or two. Sick bellies and glazed eyes are the leftovers from the party. But it’s the memories of the insane costumes, eerie, dark corridors explored, a trek through a haunted woods that really make Halloween the best holiday of the year, the only one that’s really for children.
And kid-friendly events, or at least ones that limbo just under the wire of propriety, abound in Cincinnati. Here’s our short list of what’s the best for Halloween fun and for building on the kind of wild-eyed childhood fear that lasts a lifetime.
Kings Island’s Howl-O-Fest is the flip side of the Halloween Haunt. All the kiddie rides are open in Planet Snoopy, but the real fun is at the Howl-O-Fest fairgrounds. Kids and adults venture into hay bale- and fairy tale-themed mazes, a tractor-pulled hay ride, a Peanuts character-hosted discoteque. The trick or treating this year is in the Dinosaurs Alive animatronic exhibit and entrance is now $5 a head. There’s a lot to do. Plan on spending an entire day. Admission is $30 or free with KI season pass. Parking fee applies. Noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 30. Guests may explore the rest of the park until closing time. Kings Island, Kings Island Drive, Mason, 513-754-5700, howlofest.visitkingsisland.com.
Haunted Village at the Heritage Village Museum
The Hamilton County Park District’s authentic 19th-century village is reanimated at night by the restless spirits of its former residents.
Family-friendly spooks stroll alongside visitors in the village, crafting a creepy netherworld experience. There’s a monster mash dance party, a visit from the Headless Horseman, a haunted cemetery, a mad scientist’s lab and more. $8 or free for kids younger than 2. A motor vehicle permit is required: $3 for a day or $10 for one year. 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 29. 11450 Lebanon Road, Sharonville. Please enter the Haunted Village through the Sharon Centre in Sharon Woods. 513-563-9484, heritagevillagecincinnati.org.
The Cincinnati Zoo puts on its scariest face (which isn’t all that scary) for its annual HallZOOween event. There’s trick or treating, crazy animal exhibitions that pit the zoo’s massive denizens against helpless pumpkins. The pumpkins lose every time and it’s a gourd full of gore, believe us. Phil Dalton brings his magic show to the zoo along with giant pumpkin-carving exhibitions, spooky train rides and a roundabout on the Scare-ousel.
The event is sponsored by Frisch’s Big Boy and includes a search and rescue for a golden Big Boy statue. The lucky finder gets a $150 prize package. $14 admission; $9 for children and seniors. Free admission for Zoo members. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 23-24. Trick or treating begins at noon. Warm 98’s Monster Mash Bash runs 2:30-4 p.m. Oct. 25. Check Zoo website for the full schedule of Halloween events. Cincinnati Zoo, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, www.cincinnatizoo.org.
Parky’s Farm Halloween Nights
The Hamilton County Park District’s educational farm offers a fun, not-at-all scary take on Halloween. There are tons of animated light displays, hayrides through the woods, S’mores around a roaring fire and much more. The playbarn, an indoor, farm-themed jungle gym, is dressed up as a ghost barn. Children will also enjoy music and performances. Picnic baskets are welcome, and food is available on site for purchase. $6; children younger than 2 are free. Purchase tickets online for a $1 discount. A motor vehicle permit is required: $3 for a day or $10 for one year. 6-10 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 30. Parky’s Farm in Winton Woods, 10037 Daly Road, Forest Park, 513-728-3551 ext. 371.
EnterTRAINment Junction, West Chester’s train-themed exhibition hall, presents another installment of Jack-O-Lantern Junction, its kids’ Halloween event. Children can trick-or-treat as they walk through a mildly creepy Victorian village, explore a wind tunnel and a variety of haunted rooms. There’s a hall of mirrors that’s tricky to navigate and an indoor pumpkin patch where kids can pick out their own to take home. $10. Daily in October. EnterTRAINment Junction, 7379 Squire Court, West Chester, 513-898-4656, www.entertrainmentjunction.com.
Sunrock Farm Pumpkin Patch Tour
Children can get into plenty of harvest-season fun at Sunrock Farm. Kids will learn to milk a goat, brush a horse and feed sheep. There are baby chicks to hold and a farm animal petting zoo. The hayride takes visitors to the pumpkin patch where they can purchase their Jack-O-Lantern-to-be. Free cider and cookies on weekends. $10. Daily in October. Sunrock Farm, 103 Gibson Lane, Wilder, 859-781-5502, www.sunrockfarm.org.