Jurassic larks on the Isle of Wight
Home to more dinosaur remains than anywhere else in Northern Europe, the Isle of Wight – AKA Dinosaur Island – is packed with Jurassic adventures. To find out more, head to Britain’s first-ever dinosaur museum, Dinosaur Isle (tickets from £5, Dinosaurisle.com) to see over 1,000 fossils and some life-sized models. Alternatively, go in search of your own fossils with an expert guide. Discover real dino footprints and see what treasures can be found on the beaches.
Elsewhere, Blackgang Chine (tickets from £20, Blackgangchine.com) is the UK’s oldest amusement park and has the biggest animatronic T-Rex in the country. Visitors can explore Restricted Area 5, round up the beasts that roam freely, brave a roller-coaster or splash out on the water slide. For more sedate family fun, try the 18-hole golfing adventure Dino Islands (tickets from £5.50, Sandhamgardens.com).
• Wightlink’s FastCat foot passenger sailings take 22 mins from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head. Under-fives travel for free, and during the holidays, two kids aged 5-15 can travel free with every adult day return ticket, from £14.40pp. Book at Wightlink.co.uk. For more info, go to Visitisleofwight.co.uk.
Spectacular ships at Portsmouth
There’s something for everyone at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. With ten attractions to visit on just one ticket, you can choose to tread the boards of historic warships, discover guns and ammunition, go on a harbour tour, or take on interactive challenges.
Don’t miss HMS Victory, Nelson’s legendary warship from the Battle of Trafalgar and now a living museum to the Georgian navy. See her through Nelson’s eyes as you explore where sailors and officers ate and slept, and feel the impact of the day that changed history. Elsewhere, visit the Mary Rose, King Henry VIII’s favourite ship, which sank in battle in 1545 and was raised from the waters in 1982, or watch for the present-day ships in the working Royal Naval Dockyard.
• The Ultimate Explorer Ticket costs £39 per adult and £29 per child and gives full access to all ten attractions for 12 months from the date of your first visit. Family tickets are also available. Visit Historicdockyard.co.uk to book.
Spooks and shows in Southampton
Southampton’s cultural team is staging a scary peek into the past this half term with two interactive family events. As well as venturing into vaults and scaling the town’s walls, visitors can join a guided tour on Monday 25 October to unearth spooky tales. Departing at 11am and 2pm from St Michael’s Square, tickets for the 90-minute tour cost £6 per person. On 27 October, there’s a Terrifying Tudors workshop at the Tudor House, with a mix of gruesome facts, activities and crafts. Tickets cost £7.50 per child for the 90-minute sessions at 10.30am and 1pm (Tudorhouseandgarden.com).
For teens and tweens, the award-winning Southampton Ghost Tour ups the ante at Halloween, serving scares with two outings on Saturday 30 October ([Supernaturaltours andevents.com](http://Supernaturaltours andevents.com)). Alternatively, the “Magic Goes Wrong” show is on at the Mayflower theatre, which will enthral audiences with stunts, jaw-dropping feats and comedy genius. Tickets from £19.50 (Mayflower.org.uk).
• Check out Visitsouthampton.co.uk for more information.
Ghosts and ghouls at Warwick Castle
Boasting centuries of history, battling knights and soaring birds of prey, Warwick Castle is already a firm family favourite, but there’s even more to explore this half-term. From 23-31 October, it will be transformed into The Haunted Castle for Halloween, allowing guests to experience 1,100 years of history and join the ghosts, ghouls, witches and wizards in a fantastic celebration of all things frightful, with spooky tales and family-friendly frights.
Guests of all ages can discover the gruesome truths of history in the Horrible Histories maze and meet the famous Witches of Warwick as they concoct secret spells in their cauldrons. The Spooky Mansion and Haunted Hollows will host spellbinding shows, attractions and activities, made even more exciting by a group of characters the castle only brings out for Halloween.
• The Haunted Castle at Warwick Castle day tickets include entry to the Haunted Castle (excluding the Castle Dungeon) along with access to all the daily shows, tours and attractions between 10am and 5pm. Individual day tickets cost £24, carers and those under the age of three go free. Go to Warwick-castle.com to book.
Action and adrenaline at The Bear Grylls Adventure
Located at Birmingham’s NEC, The Bear Grylls Adventure is the perfect place to escape the ordinary. Those dreaming of warmer climes can try a tropical experience with the Cage Snorkel and Shark Dive activities. Home to almost 1,000 creatures, including blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks and cownose rays, the custom tank allows visitors to plunge into a new underwater world.
At 65ft, The Bear Grylls Adventure has the tallest high ropes course in Europe, with stunning views at the top. There’s also over 20 climbing wall routes to choose from, and a Royal Marines-inspired assault course. Daredevils can try iFly indoor skydiving, where participants can experience the thrill of free fall twice –the equivalent of three 12,000ft real-life skydives.
• Prices start from £20 per person and vary depending on activity. Visit Beargryllsadventure.com to book.
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Words: Jo Chapman