Our first Halloween adventure as newcomers to Wichita more than 25 years ago was a serious parenting fail.
We took our then-5-year-old daughter to what is now called Wicked Island at O.J. Watson Park. That always gets a “you did what?” reaction from locals who know its reputation as a scary attraction meant for much older kids and adults. But I had naively figured an event at a park was probably family-friendly.
So that no one else makes the same parenting mistake, here’s a list of far less scary fall and Halloween local events that are appropriate for kids.
You can paint fall scenes, fly kites, take in prehistoric sci-fi shows, hear ghost stories at Cowtown, camp overnight at a Wichita park and more. There’s even an event for families to dress their four-legged members in costume.
(In case you’re wondering, any damage to my daughter was short-lived. As a preteen, she started going to scary movies and attractions with friends and hasn’t stopped liking horror since.)
Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.: Family ArtVenture: Fall Light, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28. What lurks in the shadows? It just might be art. WAM’s fall exhibition deals with light and shadow so the monthly Family ArtVenture in September will focus on making art related to shadows. There also will be a 2 p.m. screening of the Disney movie “Coco,” which was inspired by the Day of the Dead cultural celebration. Cost: free. More information: 316-268-4921 or wichitaartmuseum.org
Field Station: Dinosaurs, 2999 N. Rock Road, Derby: Dinosaurs after Dark, 7-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 4-Oct. 26, with a 6:45 p.m. check-in. Two live shows combine sci-fi and fantasy in a prehistoric world during Field Station’s newest activity. Dinosaurs will meet mummies, vampires and skeletons and guests will also need to look out for a hungry T-Rex on the loose in the woods. The event includes songs, games and s’mores around a campfire. Cost: $15 for ages 15 and up, pay your age for those ages 2-14, More information: 855-833-3466 or kansasdinos.com
Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd., has two family-friendly fall events: a county fair and the more spirit-filled Hay Hooves and Halloween. County Fair, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, is a recreation of an 1870s county fair, when folks gathered to socialize and show off a bit before winter set in. There’s a pie-eating contest and a tug-of-war, along with a vintage baseball game and performances by Cowtown groups. Admission: $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (ages 62+), $7 for youth ages 12-17, $6 for kids ages 5-11, free for kids 4 and younger and Cowtown members.
Whether you visit in broad daylight or wait until the early evening, Cowtown’s Hay, Hooves and Halloween is always a fun event. It happens 2-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27. A headless horseman rides the streets, the Sanderson sisters are up to some hocus pocus, zombie cowboys have an undead gunfight and paranormal researchers will share true ghost stories of Cowtown.
Admission: $5 per person, free for members More information: 316-350-3323 or oldcowtown.org
Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. N., has two October events. During Art on the Trail, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, visitors can observe artists capturing fall scenes on their canvas or create their own art along the center’s nature trail. Admission: free.
Be prepared to encounter spiders, insects, centipedes and other creepy crawlers during Howl-loween, 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. Dress up in costume and trick or treat along the trail. $1 suggested donation. More information on both events: 316-683-5499 or gpnc.org
Chapin Park, 2400 E. MacArthur Road: Come Fly a Kite, noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. There will be hands-on instructions and kite-flying demonstrations from the folks with the Wings of the Wind kite store. Bring your own kites or buy a $5 kite on-site. Admission: free. More information: wichita.gov/ParkandRec
Ulrich Museum of Art, 1845 N. Fairmount on the Wichita State University campus, is the site for two free art-themed fall events. During Sculpture Glow, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, explore WSU’s outdoor sculpture collection with flashlights and glow sticks and cap off the night with hot apple cider and doughnuts. To start the tour, meet at McKnight West Atrium in the southwest part of WSU campus. Cost: free. During Ulrich Family Fun Day, 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, explore the museum with a scavenger hunt, play games and make some art inspired by artists and ideas in the Ulrich Museum’s current exhibitions. Cost: free. More information: 316-978-3664 or wichita.edu/ulrich
Botanica, 701 Amidon, has a trifecta of Halloween-inspired events. First there’s Bootanica, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. You can plant a graveyard, consult a fortune teller or eat a cricket on Slytherin Walk during Bootanica, or choose some milder activities like oversized yard games and face-painting. Botanica has joined with various community partners to add some fun stations. Folks from the Sedgwick County Zoo and Great Plains Nature Center will have owls and a craft activity, the Bug Lady will have more than 90 insects and Exploration Place is sending its mad scientist. Cost: $10 adults and youth, $7 members online; $1 more at the door. Pumpkins available for sale at $3.
Botanica will be decorated with about 1,000 carved pumpkins during the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, Oct. 15-18. There’s also a Haunted Woodland Walk with actors from the operators of O.J. Watson’s Wicked Island so expect some eerie scenes like an airplane crash, a cemetery and “living” plants. Event includes live music and a spooky movie shown outdoors. Cost: $11, $8 for members and kids online; $1 more at the door. Food Some food vendors will accept cash only.
Spooky Pooch Parade, 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, includes a 3:30 p.m. parade for costumed dogs. For families that include fur babies, this event is for you and your four-legged loved ones. Owners can dress in costume too. Adoptable dogs from four local rescue and animal welfare groups will also be at the event. Proceeds from a silent auction will benefit the groups. Cost: $9 for ages 13 and older, $6 for ages 3 to 12; $3 for members, $5 dogs. Dogs must be preregistered online at botanica.org.
More information on all three events: 316-264-0448 or botanica.org
Tanganyika Wildlife Park, 1000 S. Hawkins Lane, Goddard: Pumpkins at the Park, 6-9:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Oct. 18-20 and 25-27. If you’re scared of black cats crossing your path, you might want to avoid the one at Tanganyika. It’s 25 feet tall. Also be on the lookout for a 12-foot-tall Frankenstein.
This event includes 15 trick-or-treat stations, some ghoulish games and creepy crawlers in the form of snakes and lizards, among other activities. Visit the Chamber of Mystery for free crafts and movies. Entertainment includes fire performers and the shows Dr. Frank N. Stein’s Lab and a waterfall light show with Halloween hits like “Monster Mash,” “Thriller” and more. There’s also a pumpkin patch, with an extra charge for pumpkins. The 3D house and 7-minute escape rooms are suitable for younger children. For ages 12 and up, check out the Cage Maze of Doom and the Zombie Task Force laser tag experience.
Costs: Pumpkins at the Park: $15 ages 3 and up, $7 for 2 and younger, with discounts for season pass holders. Add-ons: escape rooms $5 each, Zombie Task Force laser tag $10, $15 fast pass for shorter lines at certain activities and reserved seating for shows. Online exclusive super passes for $30 includes Pumpkins at the Park admission, fast pass for shorter lines and reserved show seating and an early check-in time at 5:30 p.m. Park officials recommend purchasing tickets online. More information: 316-794-8954 or twpark.com/special-events
Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd: Spooky Science, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. Go in costume and enjoy some Halloween chemistry at Wichita’s children’s science museum. Cost: included in general admission price of $10.50 for ages 12-64, $9 for seniors 65 and older, $7 youth ages 3-11 and free for members and those ages 2 and younger. More information: 316-660-0620 or exploration.org
Stearman Airfield, 14789 SW 30th St., Benton: 7th Annual Pumpkin Drop, 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19.
If you like to see pumpkins go splat, head to Stearman Airfield and watch pumpkins come crashing to Earth as they’re dropped from airplanes onto targets. There’s a kids costume parade around 3:30 p.m. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to have a seat outside, or hang out in the restaurant if you want to watch the free-falling pumpkins while you dine (limited menu available). Concession stand available. No coolers allowed. Cost: free. More information: 316-778-1612 or stearmanbarandgrill.com/events
O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd., is the site for two family-fun events. Trick or Treat on the Lake, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, is an event where activities revolve around the rental of either a 5-passenger glowing pedal boat or a kayak. Creatures will lurk around the lake with tricks or treats for participants. Costumes are encouraged. Bring a bag for treats. Cost: $5 fee per person for pedal boats (children ages 3-11 must be accompanied by an adult, but no charge for the adult accompanying children of those ages); kayak fee is $15 per person.
Participation is limited to those who register in advance for selected time slots; register in person at the park, call 316-529-9940 or go online to bit.ly/TrickorTreatOnTheLake. The deadline for kayak reservations is noon Friday, Oct. 11, and for pedal boats noon Friday, Oct. 18.
Bring a tent and camping gear for the Family Campout. 5 p.m. Friday-9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9-10 at O.J. Watson Park. The event includes breakfast and dinner along with miniature train rides, moonlight miniature golf and s’mores. Cost: $15 per person ages 3 and older, free for ages 2 and younger. To make a reservation, click the Register Now link at wichita.gov/ParkAndRec and search for Family Campout.
More information for either Watson Park event: 316-529-9940
Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main: Torchlight Tour, 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25. With flashlights provided by the Wichita-based Coleman Co., participants will tour the four floors of this 126-year old building, including the rarely visited clock tower. No strollers or backpacks. Cost: free. More information: 316-265-9314 or wichitahistory.org
Towne East Square, 7700 E. Kellogg: Mall-o-Ween, 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. If you don’t want to be out in the elements, take the kids trick-or-treating to stores inside the mall.