With the half-term leading up nicely to Halloween, venues and visitor attractions around the North East are livening up their school holiday programme with some spooky fun.

Themed activities are on offer in and and around Newcastle and we'll be bringing you a range of ideas for where to go over the October half-term break.

Here is the first list suggestions - with plenty more to come in the run-up to Halloween.

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And, as well as events linked to the spookiest time of the year, they will also include options for those less keen on the likes of witches and wizards and creepy crafts.

Meet the son of Buzz Aldrin

Lots of kids might think of their dad as boring but Andy Aldrin will be showing the flip side of life in a household with a parent truly out of this world.

The son of Buzz Aldrin will be giving a free talk at Durham Cathedral on October 25 at 3pm about how it felt to see his dad set foot on the moon and there will be a question-and-answer session too.

The Me, My Dad and the Moon event is part of a special programme of activities which tie in with the current display inside the cathedral of the giant Museum of the Moon exhibit.

To book and to see what else is on - including a chance to contribute during half-term to origami sculpture One Small Step - visit Durham Cathedral's website here.

Explore a castle's dark side

There will be a host of gruesome characters wandering around Alnwick Castle in Northumberland during half-term week when Halloween-theme activities to sign up for include twilight tours and broomstick-sessions.

From October 23-31, the castle's Guest Hall will feature creepy crawlies and various beasties while in the artisan’s courtyard a medieval surgeon will tell gory tales of wicked knights.

Other characters will include Alchemy Jack, a mad scientist behind bizarre experiments, and visitors can learn how to make a witch's pot - as made in Tudor times to keep witches out of the home.

The castle's popular broomstick-training lessons will be on offer, weather-permitting, and a living history group in Civil War costumes will demonstrate cannon-firing.

The only activities not covered in the castle's admission price are the £12 Twilight Tours, running October 19-30, which will take visitors around spooky parts of the castle rarely open to the public and will uncover stories of the area's history including dark tales of witchcraft.

For full details and dates and to pre-book see here.

Enjoy a Wizard Afternoon Tea

Seven Stories, the national centre for children's books, in the Ouseburn is hosting a Villainous Wizards Afternoon Tea at 3pm on October 29 and 31.

The hour-long magic-theme event - said to be perfect for Potterheads who solemnly swear they are up to no good - promises to be a school lesson with a difference and will test families knowledge in a Magic Potter quiz.

A 'delicious feast' of a tea will feature alongside themed activities.

Suitable for those aged seven-plus, the teas cost £15.50 and both an adult and children's menu is available.

Other half-term activities include twice-daily illustration workshops on October 24 to mark the birthday of Dark Materials author Phillip Pullman and storytelling sessions with Winnie the Witch on October 26 and 28.

For the full programme and to book see here.

Jump into spooky costume

Inflatable theme park Inflata Nation in North Shields is creating a terrifying 'Scare Room' at its Royal Quays site this half-term.

Expect smoke machines, lasers and ghoulish delights as well as fancy dress competitions throughout the week, with Halloween prizes including free family and bounce session passes.

There also will be a spooky themed menu in its cafe. See its Facebook page here.

Inflata Nation, which also has a dedicated area for under-fours with a slide and ball pool, offers one-hour bounce sessions for £9.95 (£5.95 for under-fours). See its website here.

Join The Three Bears adventure

Not forgetting those under school age who might want a treat of their own during half-term, Northern Stage in Newcastle is hosting The Three Bears from October 25.

Running throughout half-term week, this is a new production of the hit under-fives show devised by family theatre company Kitchen Zoo and a Northern Stage few years ago.

Featuring original live music and puppetry, the unique version of the Goldilocks tale, will run until November 13. Book tickets online here.

See a vomiting pumpkin

Life Science Centre in Newcastle has some "grippingly ghoulish" currently running at weekends and then daily from October 23 until November 12 and they include live shows, experiments and the chance to make creepy creations to take home.

There is a Spooky Science live show - which apparently includes strange noises; mysterious moving objects and a pumpkin that vomits bubbles - and monster shadow puppet-making sessions.

Life is set to host Gaia, artist Luke Jerram's Earth installation which neatly follows on from his Museum of the Moon exhibit which was previously on show at Life before its current display at Durham Cathedral.

In the meantime, other attractions include the planetarium and a Space Zone where visitors can launch their own rocket. And for under-sevens, there are pop-up play stations throughout the centre and a new Play Zone will open on October 23 with a mini kitchen and café.

Find out more online here.

Blaze a trail

Raby Castle, near Darlington, is transforming its Walled Garden for the October half-term so families can explore a spooky trail between October 23 and October 31 - and those who bring along an impressively-carved pumpkin will be in with a chance of winning a year's pass to the castle.

They will collect a clue sheet from the 'creepy Coach House' to help solve a puzzle in the gardens where creatures and woodland sculptures will be hiding.

The castle is also hosting an after-dark Halloween experience on October 29 and 30.

The trail will be included in the price of a general admission ticket to Raby Castle, which costs £13 for adults and £6.50 for children aged from five to 15. Under-fives can be taken along for free.

The after-dark trail is £5 for children and £2 for adults. See the Raby Castle, Park and Gardens website here.

Join the Circus

A Big Kid Circus is to have a five-day run at Blaydon Rugby Club from October 27-31.

There will be performances at 3pm and 7pm on weekdays and 1pm, 4pm and 7pm on the Saturday then 1pm and 3.30pm on the Sunday.

An on-site box office will be open 10am to 8pm from October 25 or else see www.bigkidcircus.co.uk or call 07766 552 211.

Meet a T-Rex

A four-metre-long dinosaur will be prowling the aisles of Eldon Square in Newcastle on October 29 and 30.

A Dino Live show is offering meet-and-greet opportunities with a realistic T-Rex who, joined by a baby Rex, will be accompanying their trainer for a visit to the shopping centre between 11am and 3pm.

Shoppers will not need to book tickets but spaces will be limited so it will be first-come, first-served.

Families can a catch up with the special guests in St Andrew’s Way, next to the Apple store, where will be four shows each day for little ones at 11.30am- 12noon; 12.30pm-1pm; 1.30pm-2pm and 2.30pm-3pm.

Watch Halloween Fireworks

Firework lovers have no need to wait until Bonfire Night as Gateshead Rugby Football Club in Low Fell will be hosting a sparking display at Halloween - and visitors are invited to dress in suitably spooky costume.

On October 31, gates there will open at 4.30pm when there will be food and drink on offer as well as trick-or-treat stalls.

At 5.30pm there will be a Halloween Outfit Competition with judges awarding best outfit prizes to both adult and child winners and then the fireworks display will get under way at 6.30pm.

Tickets cost £5 (free to under-fives) and are available from the clubhouse during opening hours as well as from nearby shop The Dotty House in Dryden Road (cash only).

Families are told the event is not suitable for dogs and sparklers will not be allowed. Free Parking on the night will be available at The Dryden Centre in Evistones Road.

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