Halloweening in the Bay Area

haas-lilienthal house
Haas-Lilienthal house

We’re all adults here, right? At least that’s what we tell ourselves, until Halloween rolls around and we’re running for the nearest thrift store/costume shop, firing up the sewing machine and glue gun for the greatest costume this side of World War Z like it’s fifth grade all over again. Do kids even celebrate Halloween anymore, or has it been completely co-opted by ‘grownups’? The number of Halloween events going on in and around the city is astounding, for both the pre- and post-teen set. Here’s a list of some of the best:

Halloween at the Exploratorium: Den of Ghoulish Delights
Being the Exploratorium, there’s a fun educational element to their two events. Sunday’s event, from noon to 4pm, features blood-sucking leaches (and their medicinal use), real live creepy crawlies, the cemetery of the damned… science ideas, and live accordion music while watching cartoons. Halloween night (Thur 6-10pm) is for the big kids, with cocktails like Bloody Marys and Corpse Revivers, a knife to the (cow) heart, and more snakes and lizards.

Randall Museum’s Family Halloween Day
Located in Corona Heights Park, atop the hill just northwest of Castro and Market streets, the Randall Museum is the champion of interactive exhibits for kids. Their Saturday Halloween event (10am-2pm) features creepy crafts, live music, ghoulish games, magic shows and spooky spaces. And really great views of the city.

Children’s Halloween Hootenanny
On the edge of Golden Gate Park at the Stanyan and Waller street cul-de-sac next to Kezar Pavilion, this event (Sat 11am-4pm) is from the same people who produce the Haigh-Ashbury Street Fair and features costume contests, a haunted house, games, prizes and treats. Haight merchants and organizations participate in the festivities

Farmer Dom’s Pumpkin Patch at Harbor Village
This farm just outside Half Moon Bay hosts family fun throughout the month of October, but ramps it up for its special Halloween event on Sat, 1-4pm. Expect food trucks, pony rides, a petting zoo, live music, and contests for pumpkin carving, pumpkin pie eating and costumes. It’s also the perfect place to set your little darlings among the pumpkins and click away for the perfect autumn photo.

Ardenwood Farms Halloween Train/Patterson House Candlelight Tour
Located just off the 880 in Fremont, this historic yet still-working farm is dressing its mini train up Fri, Sat and Sun for a ‘slightly frightful’ train ride. Sat and Sun you can also take a candlelit tour of the Patterson House, a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1889. And while it’s not haunted per se, old creaky Victorians on Halloween with the lights off can still be plenty spooky.

Winchester Mystery House Flashlight Tour
The bizarre, sprawling house that Sarah Winchester built (and kept building) in San Jose is the setting for special flashlight tours October 25-26 and 31, 6:30-midnight, with tales of recent hauntings and eerie experiences reported by guests and employees. Come in costume and enjoy trick or treating in the Ghirardelli chocolate gardens, with magicians, balloon artists and caricature artists. A tad pricey at $48.

San Francisco’s Haunted House of Horrors
Built in 1874, the stately Old Mint in downtown provides the setting for a Halloween horror show extravaganza. Starting Sat and Sun (noon-11pm) and continuing Mon through Thur (5-11pm), the event features hundreds of scary creatures, 25 chambers of horrors and two scream-worthy mazes, besides otherwise fun/scary activities.

Mayhem Manor
The historic 1886 Haas-Lilienthal House on Franklin Street in San Francisco is offering ‘Twisted Tours of Terror’ Fri, Sat and Thur, 7-10pm. Dressed up as a haunted house, guests will meet with frightful encounters through its many rooms and floors. Not recommended for kids under 10.

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