Orange County is recognized nationwide as a mecca for all things spooky and scary, boasting some of the largest haunts and Halloween parties in the country. However, there are an equal number of family-friendly fall activities in the area that are no less impressive. Here are some suggestions for activities near Villa Park to get your family in the not-too-spooky spirit.
Many families flock to Irvine Park Railroad for their festive holiday events, and Halloween season is no exception. The pumpkin patch is open seven days a week from September 15th to Halloween and offers a host of activities. Entry is free and includes access to the kid-friendly haunted house, hay maze, family photo op areas, and a hay pyramid. $5 tickets will open up an even greater range of activities, such as train rides, bounce houses, hay rides, face painting, panning for gold (with a souvenir pouch), mini tractor races, ring tosses, cookie decorating, and carnival games (with every child guaranteed to win!) Some activities require two tickets for participation.
On Saturday, September 22, the Irvine Park Railroad will present its annual Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Pumpkin growers from all over the county (and beyond!) will compete to win cash prizes. $5,000 will be awarded to the largest pumpkin, but four runners-up will also receive cash. For those growers with a little less impressive green thumb, prizes for prettiest and ugliest pumpkins and oldest and youngest growers will also be awarded. Last year, two growers tied, each with 1,533-pound pumpkins; this year we might see an epic rematch!
If you’re looking to venture a little further for pumpkin picking, take advantage of a breezy fall day and make the drive to Tanaka Farms in Irvine. Touted as Orange County’s favorite pumpkin patch, this working farm invites the fall spirit much better than any overpriced mall parking lot setup. Basic admission is $4 and will enable you to wander the farm, browse the pumpkin patch and shop in the market, filled with locally produced foods and gifts. If you really want to make the drive worth it, splurge on $12 tickets that give each person access to the petting zoo and wagon ride as well.
While you’re in the Irvine area, check out the Spooktacular Fun Days event on October 14-15 at the Orange County Great Park. In addition to a pumpkin patch and views of the spectacular jack-o-lantern balloon, visitors can enjoy crafts, a petting zoo, carnival games, gourmet food trucks, and much more. Tickets are $5 for children, and admission is free for adults. Registration is required and fills up quickly, so be sure to plan ahead!
If you didn’t get your fill of Halloween fun at the Irvine Park Railroad, walk your kids over to the OC Zoo for Halloween Animal Art. Five of these sessions, held on different weekdays throughout the month, will give preschoolers the opportunity to meet “spooky” zoo animals and dabble in simple crafts with a parent. For older children, there is a session on October 13th that will be geared towards those in the five to ten age range.
On Saturday, October 27th, the Zoo will throw their annual Halloween Zoo-tacular featuring a range of fall activities for the whole family, all of which are free with the normal $2 admission fee. Trick-or-treating and a scavenger hunt are reserved for kids ages 12 and under, and the first 100 of these children to visit the zoo in costume will also receive a free gift. Parents and older siblings can still participate in spooky crafts and carnival games, and the whole family can watch the zoo’s residents gobble on treat-filled pumpkin heads as they walk the area.
If your family still hasn’t gotten their fill of animal watching, the Santa Ana Zoo offers a similar event on the last two weekends of the month. Their Boo at the Zoo party features trick or treating, a costume parade, animal presentations, a “Teen Scream” haunted house, and much more! The event is a little pricier, coming in at $19.95 per person for anyone over the age of three, but FOSAZ members get $10 off admission.
Treats in the Streets is back in Orange, giving families a safe and friendly place to trick or treat. This year’s event will be held on Thursday, October 25th in the Old Towne Orange Plaza from 4-7 PM. The gathering is completely free and includes games, a lively costume parade, and trick or treating with local businesses.
Of course, no one can forget the spectacular annual Villa Park Halloween Fest. Now in its 17th year, the party is bigger and better than ever, giving local kids a chance to compete in a coloring contest, costume contest, and pumpkin carving contest. The event will be held on October 27th from 4-7:30 PM.
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Shea Costales is an old-soul hippie with a passion for outdoor exploring. You can usually find her doing yoga in a local park, grubbing at the newest burger shack, or petting your dog.