Halloween was always an ‘American’ thing here in the UK. Just like you can always find a few hotels serving Thanksgiving dinners, you would occasionally find the odd restaurant or club going with the spooky theme. You might get a couple of kids knocking on your door covered in a white bed sheet with two holes cut out at eye level, but that was it.
Until about two years ago.
As the recession hit and retailers were desperate to find new ways of making money, we suddenly went Halloween mad. Supermarkets have aisles dedicated to ghoulish dressing up gear, sweets and pumpkins. The Halloween disco is now in nearly every school’s calendar and museums and attractions have jumped on the bandwagon too.
Photo courtesy of Scorpions and Centaurs on Flickr
Halloween at Harrods
If you’re lucky enough to be in London with kids over this period, start off with a visit to the uber-luxury department store Harrods. Now, I wouldn’t normally mix shopping with toddlers, but this is a magical store and even little ones will be filled with wonder as soon as they step through its doors. And, on Saturday 30th October it’s getting into the Halloween spirit with Ghost story readings, magic tricks, face painting and balloon modelling, as well as the chance to create your own witches hat, wizards cape, fairy wings or pumpkin with the help of spookily dressed helpers.
The London Bridge Experience
If your kids are in their teens or nearing them, grit your teeth and make for The London Bridge Experience for what bills itself as London’s scariest tourist attraction. London’s deadliest lift opens its doors for the first time for Halloween and here you can also take a trip back in time through thelife of London Bridge – from the first bridge built by the Romans over 2000 years ago, up until the present day.
Photo courtesy of gyrtr on Flickr
Wicked Day at St. Pancras
The next one I’m telling you in a whisper with a hand cupped across my face, cause you really need to be in the know to know about this one. But Wicked Day is happening on October 31 at London’s St Pancras station. Now with it’s Victorian gothic architecture St Pancras station is one of the most beautiful stations in the world and the most fitting venue for this occasion. It has been recently renovated to incorporate the new Eurostar terminal, as well as boutiques, restaurants and the arts centre Kings Place. You can spend a day here without even getting on a train. And this place is heaven if you have a train-obsessed kid.
Anyway I digress, Wicked Day will feature live performances from the cast of the hit show Wicked, face painting and spookily themed workshops.
Photo courtesy of the hanner on Flickr
Halloween still hasn’t eclipsed Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night, however, just a few days later. On November 5th 1605, traitors to the King, one of which was a man called Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder. The plot was foiled and bonfires were lit across the country to celebrate.
Ever since, November 5 has become known as Bonfire Night and on this and the days surrounding it people across the country light bonfires where they burn effigies of Guy Fawkes and let off fireworks. If you can, try and extend your vacation to take in both festivities.
London’s Best Bonfire Night Fireworks in 2010
Wimbledon Park, November 5th
Right by the famous Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club, the sky above Wimbledon will be alight with bangers and rockets.
Chestnut Fields, November 5th
Waltham Forest’s Firework display in the East London park of Chestnut Fields, promises to be spectacular and also features traditional fairground rides and food stalls.
Battersea Park, November 6th
This South London park, with it’s cute little petting zoo, adventure playgrounds and beautiful gardens is worth visiting at any time, but year after year the Firework display in Battersea Park out does itself
Lord Mayor’s Firework Show, November 13th
A week after Bonfire Night, London welcomes its new Lord Mayor with the annual Lord Mayor’s Show. A flypast by the Royal Airforce signifies the start of the show, then the procession of historic state horse-drawn coaches, floats, service men and women and marching bands winds its way from London’s Mansion House to the Royal Court of Justice. The day culminates with an awesome fireworks display over the River Thames.
P.S. If you don’t want to go to anything organised, you just need to stand at a high point in London over the weekend of Bonfire Night and you will be able to look in on hundreds of private and public displays.
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