Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Throw The Best Outdoor Halloween Party Ever!

Last weekend we had our second annual  Halloween party with Calgary Outdoor Playgroups- and it was awesome!  I was originally thinking we'd just do a short little costume hike and wiener roast but then the numbers started to climb and I realized we were going to have approximately 20 families coming.  With children, we were looking at a group of 80 people coming out for the party.  How do you plan an outdoor party for 80 people at a time of year when there could be snow, rain, temperatures well below freezing...?

Fortunately for us, we totally lucked out and it had to have been one of the warmest days on record for late October here.  The temperature was close to 20 degrees Celsius by mid-afternoon and we were all in shirt sleeves running around in the warm fall sunshine.  I even got to wear flip flops!  Contrast this to last year when we had a foot of snow already and did our hike with sleds, bundled in winter clothing and wearing boots.

Outdoor Halloween Hike with Calgary Outdoor Playgroups

The Hike 

The key to a successful costume hike with small kids is to choose a short easy trail.  You want to enjoy a fun  adventure where the little dragons and tigers can have a good time chasing each other and running around rather than complaining over how far they have to walk.  We also discovered that princess dresses require a fairly wide trail with no overhanging bushes or branches on the trail.  The Widow Maker trail may not have been ideal for hoop skirts.  Oops. 

Dragons, Dinosaurs, and Princesses - the theme for the hike
Dragons, Dinosaurs, and Princesses - the theme for the hike

We also wanted to choose a trail that all of the children from youngest to oldest could do at least a good portion on their own without being carried.  The parents wanted photos of their little bumble bee or lady bug walking/flying through the forest.  Harder to get good photos when the children are just riding in child carriers.

Halloween Hike on the Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis
Halloween Hike on the Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis

The Wiener Roast

I made a Costco run the day before the party to get enough hotdogs, buns, and juice boxes for the group.  I knew it wouldn't do to ask everybody to bring their own stuff.  We would have ended up with each family bringing way too much stuff.  As it is, I ended up with an abundance of hot dog buns and wieners now taking up room in my freezer until the next party.  I just asked each family to bring a small amount of cash to cover the basic food and invited everybody to bring other snacks to share.

The result of the invitation to bring other snacks ended up with donuts, muffins, marshmallows, chips, chocolate, cookies, oranges, and a plethora of other yummy stuff.  Definitely a Halloween Party!  The kids loved roasting marshmallows and I know there was enough food because I couldn't even think about dinner that night.

Wiener Roast and Post-Hike Halloween Party
No outdoor party is complete without marshmallows

Party Games

The best thing about hosting an outdoor party - no need for games.  Just let the kids run wild around the group area.  We were very fortunate that the group use area at Canoe Meadows was free because it had a giant fire pit and field for the kids to play in.  We waffled at first over whether we could actually use this area without booking it but after many unsuccessful phone calls, I gave up and figured we would treat it as a first come first serve area.  It was officially closed for the season so it's not like we could have officially booked it anyway. 

Canoe Meadows Group Use Area

The one "game" we did have though was a pinata.  The kids had a great time trying to open it up as they took turns hitting it with a stick.   My son obviously needs more exposure to pinatas though because he was pretty upset when it broke.  (I think he thought it was like a toy that you aren't supposed to break.)  The pinata will definitely become an annual tradition in our party because after all, what's Halloween without candy?

Pinata Time

Pinata Time

The only other thing I'd bring for next year's party is more balls and toys like that to entertain the kids while running around in the field.  One parent had thought to bring a small football and it was extremely popular!  For a while I thought a real game of football might break out as the kids tried tackling each other over control of the small  ball!


Next year

We'll definitely be doing another outdoor Halloween party next year.  What it will look like remains to be seen.  Maybe we'll luck out with another warm-weather party, or maybe we'll be sledding again.  Either way, there's something fun about seeing the kids dressed up as princesses, dragons and dinosaurs, chasing each other through the woods.  Beats a professional photo shoot at the mall any day!

I leave you with a few final photos.

My little dinosaur beside the Kananaskis River
Too cute for words
The Best Halloween Hike Ever
Such an easy costume!
Final pinata photo with one of our lovely princesses

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