UK attractions have witnessed a significant rise in Halloween-related events and activities over the past decade. And the trend shows no sign of stopping, says the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions.
BALPPA represents 300 leisure and tourism owners/operators. These range from theme parks, piers and family entertainment centres to zoos and aquariums. For many BALPPA members, what was once a relatively low-key celebration on British shores now provides a major boost to business.
“Traditionally the October half-term school holidays were viewed as a relatively insignificant trading period for the majority of UK attractions,” says BALPPA chief executive Paul Kelly. “However in recent years we have seen a huge surge in interest. More and more of our members [are] going from staging one-off Halloween events to dedicating the entire holiday period to it.”
Kelly praises the “increasingly sophisticated and high quality activities and experiences” offered. In addition to developing their Halloween product, many sites are also linking in other events, such as fireworks displays. These are traditionally popular at this time of year due to the British Guy Fawkes Night celebrations on November 5.
The result, adds Kelly, is that October half-term, like Christmas, is now seen as a major opportunity to attract visitors. In the process, businesses can develop a “more year-round trade” – making them less reliant on the summer holidays.
Among BALPPA members making the most of the autumnal opportunities is Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The amusement park started a dedicated Halloween event over 10 years ago. What started as a one-day event has evolved into an 11-day extravaganza. The growth, says a park spokesperson, “has been due to the demand from our visitors wanting a ‘spooktacular’ Halloween experience spread over the half-term holiday”.
Paultons Park in Hampshire has enjoyed a 20% rise in attendance over the previous two Halloween periods. It claims its Happy Halloween celebration is the “friendliest, most frightful fun fest in the UK”. It features over 4,000 pumpkins, ghostly scenes and spooky meet-and-greets. New for 2018 in the ghoulishly delightful Big Boo Barn and Legend of Paultons Manor theatrical show.
In the West Midlands, Dudley Zoological Gardens (pictured below) has hosted a family event called Hocus Pocus for the past decade. This has been joined for the last seven years by an adult Paranormal Evening. Last year Hocus Pocus was extended from one night to three. Meanwhile the Paranormal Evening has doubled its original capacity and sold out for a second time.
Other Halloween events from BALPPA members to look out for this year include:
PrimEvil at Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure. Described as “Norfolk’s biggest and best scare experience”, the 17-night event is now in its ninth year. There will be new and upgraded haunts for 2018, two extreme nights and live music.
Brighton Palace Pier is hosting the seaside resort’s biggest Halloween event, which has sold out every year since it launched back in 2012. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the Scream Park Halloween Pier Party.
Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier is joining forces with Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, in Keynsham, whose multi award-winning FEAR Scream Park events have proved extremely popular for the past four years. Together they will stage the Halloween Unfairground from October 25 to 28 and again on October 31. The pier will also hold its first ever Kids Spookfest on Halloween.
Wicksteed Park, near Kettering, is hosting Halloween events including pumpkin hunts and spooky craft making sessions for children from October 22 to 28. In addition there will be a Little Monsters Ball on October 27 and a fireworks extravaganza on November 3.
North Yorkshire amusement park Lightwater Valley transforms into ‘Frightwater Valley’ for its Halloween celebrations from October 27 to 31.
Holiday Resort Unity at Brean Sands in Somerset is running a Halloween Spooktacular Half Term from October 26 to November 4. Visitors will be able to enjoy Halloween shows, ghoulish arts and crafts, plus pumpkin carving.
Finally, Gulliver’s Theme Parks are launching their Monster Magic event this October. The family-run operator is partnering with Sony to bring the characters of Hotel Transylvania 3 to its parks in Matlock Bath, Warrington and Milton Keynes.
Main image: Big Boo Barn at Paultons Park’ s Happy Halloween