Halloween’s Celtic roots are well-documented, making the North the perfect place to spend your October. Once you’re there, though, what should you do? Well, wonder no more, with our list of the top things to see and do in Belfast for Halloween.
Visit the Jail of Horror
What could be more quintessentially Halloween than a haunted house trip? The Jail of Horror at Crumlin Road Gaol is essentially a haunted house with a twist. Seventeen people were executed within the prison’s walls, and now Belfast’s oldest prison has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind attraction that definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. The jail’s Paranormal Ghost Tours have also returned with an extended experience, bringing visitors around the most haunted parts of the prison. Hope you don’t scare too easily!
Join the Belfast Halloween Monster Mash
Once a year, on 29th October, Belfast’s Titanic slipways become a carnivalesque party of epic proportions. With street theatre, music, and any amount of costumed revellers, it’s arguably the highlight of the city’s Halloween celebrations. The trade stalls offer a range of hot food, drinks, and Halloween treats, so grab yourself a cider and a toffee apple on your way around the slipways. The event reaches a climactic conclusion with the largest fireworks display in the city, a coordinated show in its own right, set to music and organised by seasoned veterans of pyrotechnics.
Meet the ghosts of Monster Manor
If the Jail of Horror is a haunted house for adults, then Monster Manor is the equivalent for kids. Belfast’s science education centre, W5, uses exhibitions, projectors, and a host of other techniques to bring a haunted mansion to Belfast. Although the project is geared towards children, it might not be suitable for the very young or those who are easily scared. Exercise your own judgement, but between the considerate actors and the novelty of the projections, this is an excellent choice for the vast majority of kids.
Play boo at the zoo
Another one geared towards kids, Boo at the Zoo is nevertheless enjoyable for people of all ages. On 29th October, Belfast Zoo plays host to a plethora of Halloween events. Their Halloween trail is available all day, with various other events scheduled throughout the day. Whether it’s face-painting, a Halloween show at Mr Hullabaloo’s children’s theatre, or a special talk about bats, there’s something for everyone during Boo at the Zoo. Even the animals get treats, as there are several scheduled feedings involving special Halloween pumpkins.
Climb aboard the Broomstick Belle
Steam Trains Ireland are a group of volunteers and locomotive aficionados that maintain trains around the island. Once a year, they bring out “The Broomstick Belle”, a steam locomotive that begins its journey in Belfast Central Station before departing to Whitehead Station. The journey is a two-hour round trip where guests are invited to take a journey back in time on board the classic steam train. All children aboard the Belle will be provided with a goodie bag, and people of all ages are invited to wear seasonal costumes.
Catch a spooky movie
Who doesn’t love curling up on their sofa, watching a horror movie and hiding behind a bowl of popcorn? Scary movies are a mainstay of Halloween, but the charm of a real cinema is hard to beat. Luckily, Belfast has you covered, with a host of spooky films across a handful of unusual venues. As well as Belfast’s cinemas where you can catch the latest blockbusters, renovated retail space South 13 is showing a handful of Halloween classics, and Banterflix are screening films in The Beanbag Cinema, a cosy space in the Cathedral Quarter that’s exactly what it says on the tin, the perfect balance between sofa and cinema.
Discover activities at the MAC
The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) is one of the cultural centres of Belfast, a large space that houses three art galleries, two theatres, a bar/restaurant, and various rehearsal and office spaces. At the end of October, approaching Halloween, the MAC is also hosting several spooky workshops and storytelling gatherings. The Spinetingling Stories and Frightful Fables events see a professional storyteller entertain children with troubling tales from Ireland and abroad; the Baby Boo and Creepy Crawlers workshops are parent-baby workshops with a seasonal twist; and the Monster Mash-Up workshop is a Halloween-themed arts and crafts workshop. Clearly, the MAC loves Halloween, and so do we.
Listen to ghost stories at the Haunted Antrim launch
In the public imagination, scary stories and Halloween are inseparable. Madeline McCully’s new book, Haunted Antrim, provides a host of ghost stories from around the county. Reading about the phantom coach of Dundermot Mound, the Witch of Glentow, or the Grey Lady of the Dark Hedges is bound to have your hair stand on end. Madeline will be launching the book on 24th October at the historic Linen Hall Library, and books will be available for purchase for anyone who is interested in the supernatural.
Hit the town
Of course, there’s always one tried-and-true way to spend Halloween – with friends. Why not get a group together, put your costumes on, and get out into the city? Belfast has any number of bars and clubs that will be filled with like-minded partygoers. The crooked and narrow streets of Belfast’s Half Bap area, or Cahteral Quarter, would be the perfect place to settle in for the night. With a handful of historic pubs within a stone’s throw of one another, you can either settle down at a table and people-watch, or meander from pub to pub and be the people that other people are watching!