Halloween was never something we celebrated in Australia. It was a spooky North American tradition that held little relevance. But being in Canada during Halloween infected our kids – it was the only thing they talked about for weeks beforehand.
Perhaps it was the costumes, or potential for copious amounts of candy, or just the elaborate decorations. But their excitement rubbed off on us adults too.
Being in Edmonton, Alberta in October meant we just had to head to the city’s favourite family-friendly celebration – a unique concoction of Halloween-ness at Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm.
Why Have We Never Celebrated Halloween?
We are originally from Perth, Australia, where the history of Halloween is not really thought about too much. Halloween occurs in Spring – heading towards a scorching Summer. There are no giant pumpkins, fallen golden leaves, dreary, dark weather. Only sunshine. Perhaps I received one knock on my door from hopeful trick-or-treaters every couple years, and if I had old lollies in the cupboard, I was happy to unload them. But that is as close as we got.
How Big Is Halloween In Canada?
Here are a few simple observations:
- 2 weeks of non-stop horror movies on cable TV.
- New release horrors in the cinema.
- Gorgeous autumn colour trees with fallen leaves scattering the ground.
- We witnessed ginormous pumpkins taking over a friend’s garden. And pumpkins started popping up on doorsteps, in restaurants, on shop displays, and at even the front of Walmart (for just $2!).
- Dedicated Halloween pop-up stores opened, as well as entire departments in stores dedicated to all things Halloween (like my preferred costume for Josh - the whoopee cushion).
Yeah. It’s big here.
What Is Prairie Gardens?
Every year Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm holds their Haunted Pumpkin Festival – and since we don’t do half measures, it made the ideal location to get knee-deep in the Halloween spirit.
Prairie Gardens is located 25 km north of Edmonton, Alberta. Admission to the farm includes a full day of family fun with over 50 activities plus Halloween-themed attractions during October.
Since 1956 over one million guests have enjoyed the 35-acre adventure farm and most locals consider an annual outing to the pumpkin patch absolutely essential during the Haunted Pumpkin Festival, now in it’s 17th season.
Prairie Gardens is a fully operational farm with, amongst other produce, 10 acres of pumpkins typically producing around 300,000 – 400,000 pounds each year. Anything too ugly or misshapen for sale makes it’s home at the farm for the Halloween festivities. On top of that Prairie Gardens is a local leader in Community Supported Agriculture with over 50 families involved in a program to locally grow their own produce. Fascinating!
What Do You Do At A Pumpkin Festival?
With oodles of activities available we simply didn’t have time to do them all. But here is a ghoulish dissection of our day and what we got up to.
Pizza Cooking Class
Our first stop was the private picnic area for a make-your-own-pizza lunch. On top of all the great activities in Prairie Gardens they also offer cooking lessons using fresh ingredients from their own gardens. The kids even picked a few edible flowers for their pizza toppings.
Unlike Josh, I am usually not a fan of tomatoes. But the roasted tomatoes fresh from the garden that were used to make the simple pizza sauce was so divine I could have eaten it by the bucket load. The kids stretched the pizza dough and created all sorts of shapes and sizes. After the adornment, the tray of pizzas went into the outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.
After a delicious lunch we indulged in pumpkin pie. Now other than a dubious version we had tried during our first Thanksgiving in Chiang Mai, Thailand back in 2012 with a few American friends, I had never eaten proper pumpkin pie. It was good. Not great, but good. Kinda weird – I prefer my pumpkin roasted and savoury. Josh was in love and devoured any slices within reach. Having sampled the autumn-time dessert a few more times over the years, he claimed this was the best he’d tried so far.
Haunted Halloween Fun
The Haunted House at West Edmonton Mall was terrifying, but the one at the farm was tame and perfect for younger kids. Both our kids managed to get through relatively unscathed.
We also spotted a balloon-sculpting zombie named Graves who entertained while sculpting magical balloon creations. Not swords and poodles, but intricate, fascinating pieces. Easily the best balloon artist I’ve met.
I’ve never made a scarecrow, but learned a few new skills, with this fun farm activity. All visitors can stuff their very own scarecrow… then take it home! We started with a large container of clothes to decorate our character, stuffed it with straw and hay, and then finished with a white sack face of our own creation. The kids had so much fun creating 3 new additions to the Travel With Bender clan.
A large greenhouse housing pumpkins of all shapes and sizes was our next stop. There is no pumpkin carving thankfully (knife-wielding young kids isn’t a great idea), but there’s plenty of pumpkin decorating. Markers, stickers, glue, glitter, and more – kid-friendly creativity that even brought out our shy son’s hidden artistic abilities.
But the ultimate pumpkin experience was the pumpkin cannon. Out in a field stood a sturdy wooden pirate ship. Between the ship and the cannon, a vast overgrown garden. And in a large crate beside the cannon, all the ammunition you could ever need. Pumpkins. Lots of them. Each kid picked a small pumpkin to pop in the cannon and then aimed at the pirate ship and with the help of a friendly pirate (staff member), fired. It was a blast!... literally.
On top of all the Halloween fun we were having there were plenty of other activities that are available all year round.
The kids got to search for gems in an old fashion-panning stream. We patted goats and bunnies at the petting zoo. We took a bumpy train ride around the farm. We navigated the corn maze and even learnt a hip-hop dance.
Finally when the sun was low on the horizon we sat down by a toasty campfire to roast marshmallows and sip hot chocolate - the best possible way to end the day. Gooey goodness slid down our throats as we reflected on a wonder-filled day.
Our first Halloween was a boo-yutiful success. Our kids loved every activity and the farm was decorated with meticulous detail.
I must say I may have fallen for Fall (Autumn) too. And Prairie Gardens sure played no small part in that.
We stayed at Delta during our time in Edmonton - check it out!
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