The witching hour is upon us. Just a few more days until Halloween. And while Mummy’s little vampires might be dreaming of plastic pumpkins full of candy, you can turn this ghoulish holiday into a learning opportunity (every kid’s favorite phrase) with a few local events.
For 30 years, the Austin Symphony Orchestra has performed classic music’s spookiest sounds for its young audiences. This year you’ll hear Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Dukas and Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” They are all songs you’ve heard but just might not know by name. You’ll instantly think about Mickey Mouse’s sorcerer or a creepy 1930s monster flick while the orchestra plays the music.
For kids, it’s an education in classical music that they won’t even realize they are getting. “This music is the kind of music that pulls kids in,” says Susan Milville, the symphony’s education director. “The more engaging, the more fun it is, the more likely kids are to participate and want to be part of it.”
Many of the song selections tell a story, including the Children’s Suite from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and Sean O’Boyle’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” “This is rich in excitement and imagery,” Milville says.
The symphony also does school shows because teachers understand how exposing kids to imagery and storytelling improves their ability to think creatively and inspires their imagination. The conductor and the master of ceremonies will also talk about each piece before the symphony plays it.
At the concert, kids are also developing listening skills and learning how to be part of an audience. At the start, the master of ceremonies will explain concert etiquette to the crowd. It’s OK if kids get squirmy or a baby cries (it happens), but parents should encourage good behavior.
The pieces are kept short to keep young attention spans, and the whole concert lasts 45 minutes. “At over 45 minutes, we start to lose them,” Milville says.
There will be plenty of things to see. Backdrops fly in, skeletons and spiders might fall from the ceiling (but not in a scary way.) The Women’s Symphony League will decorate the venue for the holiday.
Kids and parents are encouraged to wear costumes (even the conductor and the MC will wear them) and there will be ice cream provided by Blue Bell afterward.
At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on Sunday, the gardens become one big trick-or-treat venue with a learning scavenger hunt for Goblins in the Garden.
The scavenger hunt theme this year is bats, and Bat Conservation International will be on hand with an educational booth. The center is offering two different scavenger hunts: one for younger kids and one for kids in elementary school. At each of the six stations, find an activity and real candy; if you complete the scavenger hunt, there’s a treat.
You also can go on a scary bird walk with the Travis Audubon Society and hear about different kinds of birds of prey and where they live. Hopefully, you’ll see some, too. Look for a spider expert wandering the gardens to point out different species to visitors.
In the Little House, hear a friendly witch (J. Jaye Smith) read her book, “Batty about Texas.” The Roving Fiddler and the Chalumeau Clarinet Quartet will be on stage, and themed treats will be available in the cafe. You can take your picture in a pumpkin patch, get your face painted, make snake bracelets and join the costume parade.
While in the gardens, explore what education manager Alice Nance Jansen calls the “second spring.” “We want people to see how beautiful it is in fall,” she says. “It’s a great time to be outside with your family, and it’s a great family night out to get in the Halloween spirit.”
Right now, purple coneflower, American beautyberry, mealy blue sage, Gregg’s mistflower, Maximilian sunflower and several asters are in bloom.
One cool thing to see: The interactive watering hole activity. This is a taste of what the new Luci and Ian Family Garden will offer. Kids can pour water over a limestone rock and see how the aquifer works. A much larger exhibit will be in the Family Garden, which opens next spring.
Goblins in the Garden typically attracts 1,200 people. Come early for close-in parking, or be ready to park on the side of the road. Kids should definitely wear their costumes, especially if they are nature themed, but they should have comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle.
And, if you’d rather not hit the neighborhood on your candy quest on Thursday, head to BookPeople instead. The evening, for ages 7 and younger, will feature stories of monsters, ghosts and witches (but not too scary) and a costume parade. Instead of candy, the treat (or maybe it’s a trick) will be a free book to bring home.
Austin Symphony’s Halloween Children’s Concert
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Dell Hall, The Long Center, 701 Riverside Drive
Tickets: $12 adults, $8 children at 512-476-6064, www.austinsymphony.org
Goblins in the Garden
When: 4-7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave.
Cost: $9 adults, $7 seniors and students, $3 children 5-12, and free for center members and children younger than 5
Trick or Treat for Books
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.
More family-friendly things happening this month
Texas Book Festival. Grab the kids and head to the Capitol to hear the latest from children’s book authors. Saturday and Sunday. Free. The children’s book-signing tent will be at 13th and Colorado streets. Check the festival’s website for the full schedule, www.texasbookfestival.org.
“Literature Live Presents: The Dead Family Diaz.” This puppet show brings the story of a boy from the land of the dead who comes to the land of the living, just in time for Dia de los Muertos. 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Twin Oaks library branch, 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at Ruiz, 7 p.m. Wednesday at Southeast, 11:15 Thursday at Faulk Central, noon Nov. 1 at Terrazas, 2 p.m. Nov. 2 at Cepeda, 10:15 a.m. Nov. 5 at Carver, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at Pleasant Hill, 10:15 a.m. Nov. 7 at Little Walnut Creek, 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at Manchaca Road and 11 a.m. Nov. 8 at North Village. library.austintexas.gov.
“Salt & Pepper.” This bilingual play for elementary-school-age children explores why knowing how to read is important in the story of Salt, his illiterate grandfather and his friend Pepper. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 2. $16 adults, $14 children. Zach Theatre, Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road. 512-476-0541, ext. 1, www.zachtheatre.org.
Texploration Family Story Time. Come to the Bullock Texas State History Museum and hear a story. 2 p.m. Nov. 3. Admission is also free the first Sunday of the month. 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. thestoryoftexas.com. There’s more going on in November at the Bullock. On Nov. 9, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Austin Insect Rodeo will provide activities for kids including an insect petting zoo and games. Then, on Nov. 23, “Extreme Mammals,” a new traveling exhibit created by the American Museum of Natural History and other museums, opens. It’s the largest exhibit the Bullock has housed and will feature re-creations of mammals that once roamed the earth as well as hands-on activities.
Austin Bat Cave college essay writing workshop. High school seniors can take advantage of this free program. 5 p.m. Nov. 6. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar. Register at austinbatcave.org/workshop-sign-up.
Second Saturdays at Contemporary Austin. Make art at these family-friendly workshops. This month it’s a Lego architecture design competition. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 9. $10 families, $5 member families. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org.
Family Day at Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. Come to the garden for free family-centered activities including a scavenger hunt and a BookPeople-led story time. Noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 3. Free. 605 Robert E. Lee Road. 512-445-5582, umlaufsculpture.org. And if you love pumpkin carving, come to the garden on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and learn how to carve one or compete in the contest. Bring your own pumpkin or purchase one at the museum. Admission is free Sunday if you bring three cans of food for the Capital Area Food Bank.
BookPeople book-signings. Jon Agee signs “Little Santa” and Loren Long signs “An Otis Christmas” Friday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Newbery Medal winner Jack Gantos signs “From Norvelt to Nowhere,” 1:30 p.m. Nov. 17. The events are free, but you have to buy a book there to get it signed. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. www.bookpeople.com.
GenAustin’s “We Are Girls” conference. Designed for girls from fifth grade through high school, this conference is all about empowering girls to have healthy relationships, positive body images and life skills. There are also programs for adults. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9, Austin High School, 1715 W. Cesar Chavez St. $30, includes lunch and three workshops. Register at genaustin.org.
Carnival O’Pizza. Austin’s Home Slice raises money to help Austin Bat Cave with games, eating contests and more. Noon to 7 p.m. Nov. 16. Free. 1415 S. Congress Ave. homeslicepizza.wordpress.com.
Stepping Stone School Kid’s K. Before the ThunderCloud Subs’ Turkey Trot, bring the kids for some fun activities and a run. Every kid gets a finisher’s bracelet. $8. 8:45 a.m. Nov. 28. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thundercloud.com.
Whole Foods Family Class. Learn to make a holiday brunch at Whole Foods Culinary Center. $100 for one child age 8 and older and one parent. 10 a.m. Nov. 30. 525 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-542-2340, www.wholecateringaustin.com.
Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade. See Santa, Elmo, Rudolph and more while giving an unwrapped gift for Operation Blue Santa. 11 a.m. Nov. 30. Free. Parade starts at the Capitol, moving south on Congress Avenue, ending north of the bridge. www.chuysparade.com.