The Howard County Conservancy’s Fall Festival includes family activities like pony rides, hayrides and kids’ crafts.
The Howard County Conservancy’s Fall Festival includes family activities like pony rides, hayrides and kids’ crafts. (Paul H Gppder / Howard County Conservancy)

With a snap in the air and Halloween on the horizon, October is packed with fun, sometimes spooky, opportunities for family time.

1. Spooky sightings

As the nights get longer and Halloween approaches, October is prime time to get up close and personal with things that go bump in the night. This month, local organizations have orchestrated a couple opportunities to hunt down some of the world's most storied creatures: Bigfoot and the ever-elusive snipe.

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The snipe hunt, a fun outdoor event designed for kids ages 4 to 7, takes place in the woods in Rockburn Branch Park.

The Bigfoot Search Party, which raises money for Parkinson's disease research, is a multi-challenge event at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Ellicott City. The "search" includes a variety of activities stationed at "locations of recent Bigfoot sightings," from a memory puzzle to tossing a water balloon into a bucket attached to a helmet worn by another competitor.

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During each activity, players will also be looking for "evidence of Bigfoot" on the course. They may even spot "Bigfoot" himself.

"It's set up so it's fun for everybody, with all kinds of outdoor activities," said the search party's founder and organizer, Evan Calvert. "The idea is that if you are capable of throwing a ball, tossing a Frisbee and riding a bike on grass, you're 'tall enough to ride this this ride.' "

Bigfoot Search Party, Burleigh Manor Middle School, 4200 Centennial Lane, Ellicott City. Oct. 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. $40 per person. bigfootendurance.wixsite.com/bigfootendurance/product-page/bigfoot-search-party.

The Great Snipe Hunt, Rockburn Branch Park, 5400 Landing Road, Elkridge. Ages 4-7. Oct. 7, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. $5 per child. 410-313-4624. facebook.com/hocorec (events tab).

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2. Harvest happenings

From Clarksville to Woodstock, farms across the county invite the public to celebrate the harvest — and October's glorious weather.

Mt. Pleasant, Howard County Conservancy's 232-acre farm in Woodstock, is one of them. The 300-year-old farm will hosts its 10th annual Fall Festival Oct. 1, with all the traditional trappings — hayrides, pony rides and kids' crafts — plus historical artisan demonstrations.

"We focus on artisans and demonstrations that link to the farm's history," says the conservatory's executive director, Meg Boyd. "We have the only working blacksmith's shop in Howard County and have it up and running for demonstrations. There are weavers, caners, wood turners and farm animals. We try to connect with the farm heritage of the property."

Howard County Conservancy Fall Festival. Mt. Pleasant, 10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock. Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $10 per car. 410-465-8877. hcconservancy.org.

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3. Halloween howls

With Halloween fast approaching, kids all over the county are hungry for treats — and for opportunities to get out and about in their costumes.

Robinson Nature Center is among the spots hosting trick-or-treat events this year. The nature center organizes a trick-or-treat path along its wooded trails, complete with fun lessons about creepy stuff in nature and healthy treats instead of candy.

Trick-or-treating at Robinson gives families the opportunity to "experience nature in a non-traditional way, by getting into the woods," said center naturalist Katie Peet.

Howling Halloween Hullabaloo: Oct. 28, trick-or-treating reservations starting at 4 p.m. Ages 5 and older. Trick-or-Treat for Tots: Oct. 29, trick-or-treating reservations starting at 9:30 a.m. Ages 2-6. Robinson Nature Center, 6692 Cedar Lane, Columbia. Both events are $5 per adult, $10 per child. 410-313-0400. howardcountymd.gov/rnctrickortreat.

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