Things to do in San Francisco

San Francisco Halloween Events

It’s time to get spooky in San Fran! Make the most of October with Halloween-themed activities in San Francisco.

October is the perfect time for picking apples, bringing your sweaters out of storage, and planning a long-awaited ghoul’s night out. Spruce up your to-do list with San Francisco’s top Halloween events.

Whether you’re all about the haunted attractions or you prefer the low-scare environment of a friendly neighborhood pumpkin patch, Halloween is a total riot.

Have a scare-a-licious Halloween with our list of things to do in San Francisco. When the list is complete, you can keep the out-of-this-world escapism going with a visit to one of our shows.

Family-Friendly San Francisco Halloween Events

If you’re a parent, October is often dedicated to a series of trunk-and-treat events leading up to the main event. This year, discover new family-friendly ways to celebrate Halloween in San Francisco.

1. Japantown Halloween Carnival

Experience a multicultural spin on October festivities at the Japantown Halloween Carnival. The organizers have struck an intriguing balance between spooky celebrations and authentic Japanese experiences.

Zigzag between completing Halloween crafts, exploring the haunted hallway, and checking out cultural and community performances.

There’s also a bouncy house and a costume parade and contest for the kiddos. Dress your little ones up as Sonny and Cher or milk and cookies, and see if they can snag the top prize.

2. Boo at the Zoo & ZootoberFest

Imagine if one of the best Halloween activities in San Francisco was overseen by lions, tigers, and bears. Boo at the Zoo isn’t exactly organized by the friendly neighborhood big cat association, but this Halloween fest does take place at a seriously wild venue.

Every year, the San Francisco Zoo hosts 2 weekends of animal-filled fun. Staff members encourage costumed visitors to parade from enclosure to enclosure, collecting treats and selfies with lemurs and rhinos along the way.

Head to the Elinor Friend Playground at noon each day to participate in the costume parade and contest. There are several categories in play.

You can win for Best Animal Costume, Best Family Costume, Best Toddler Costume, or Judge’s Favorite, leaving tons of room for creativity and even humor.

Win or lose, you should definitely take some spooktacular time to test your mettle at the Happy Harvest Hay Maze before you go. It’s 5,000 square feet of giggles, with dead ends and fun facts keeping things interesting as you try to find your way to the exit — and the party-favor treat bag.

If you prefer culinary adventures over meandering through a labyrinth, add Zoo Brew Haus to your calendar. This picnicky portion of Zootoberfest includes Zoo Beer, tons of German-inspired dishes, and live music all afternoon.

3. Goblin Jamboree

Combine tons of holiday excitement and a never-ending supply of sugary snacks, and you’re probably begging for a way to wear out your mini-monsters.

Luckily, there’s Goblin Jamboree, a daytime event at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Get witchy with it and stir up some Magic Brew, cast a spell at the Glow Slime Banquet, or race each other on Goblin Gliders.

It also offers other spooky programs, such as a Monster Makeover and Spider Web Prints, plus a sponsored breakfast for those who support the museum year-round.

Tickets must be purchased in advance, but it’s all for a good cause. Proceeds help support the museum’s goal to create playful learning experiences that inspire children to explore and discover.

Photographer: Charles Parker

Adult-Oriented Events

Once the kids are over tricks and full of treats, it’s time for the grown-ups to find their own boo-bash. There are plenty of Halloween-themed events in San Francisco for adults, including these classic events that always seem to draw a gleeful crowd.

4. Black Pearl Halloween Cruise

If you could bottle up all the boundary-pushing, jaw-dropping energy of one of our performances and turn it into a seasonal event, you might come up with something like the Pier Pressure Black Pearl Halloween Cruise.

There are three decks for mingling, two of the area’s top DJs spinning tunes, and one three-hour block of time for you to enjoy it all.

Strap on your eye patch and shake your peg leg to house and top 40 hits as the boat sails by the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and other San Francisco landmarks. The dress code says “pirate costumes preferred,” but they aren't necessarily required.

Bring enough booty for a VIP package, and you’ll get bottle and table service — everything you need to say, “Ayyyyyyye, love this cruise!”

5. Crawloween: San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl

Halloween in San Francisco takes a boozy turn with Crawloween, a three-day pub crawl. This event brings together thousands of locals and tourists who bond over their shared affection for craft brews and costumes.

There are 40-some stops in this bar crawl, including well-known spots, such as Sacred Taco, McTeagues, Mayes, Union Street Ale House, El Lopo, Route 101, Northstar Cafe, Tupelo, The Royale, and Shanghai Kelly’s. Every stop has its own drink specials, including deals on cocktails, shots, and beer.

It’s a good thing, then, that you can hop on one of the party buses when you get tired of tackling the route on foot. Pause along the way to add your photo to the Instagram-based costume contest and you could win some mega bragging rights.

Photographer: Igor Dernovoy

6. W Hotel San Francisco's Mega Halloween Party

Guests at the W Hotel San Francisco's Mega Halloween Party do the monster mash in style. Four separate rooms, each with its own theme, give you options for how you get down and boogie.

Are EDM, house music, and top-40 anthems your jam? Or are you more into Latin sounds, reggaeton, and tropical pop? Room No. 3 brings hip-hop and mashups from the ‘80s and ‘90s, while Room #4 is the best Persian and Middle Eastern music, courtesy of DJs like Dr. T.

As if all that action wasn’t alluring enough, W Hotel’s masterminds have also hired violinist Yennie Lam and live drummers to amplify the energy and pile on the positive vibes. And make no mistake — this is a costumed event.

The hosts turn away anyone not in a costume and reward those dressed up best with stellar prizes.

Haunted and Historic Events

This section is for anyone who thinks All Hallow’s Eve isn’t the same without a spooky experience or two. Be brave, and head out to these Halloween events in San Francisco, including a few potentially haunted spots that put the “eeeeek” in exciting.

7. The Initiation at the San Francisco Mint

“Warning: few survive The Initiation.” That’s how this Halloween event at the San Francisco Mint is introduced. And if that doesn’t get your knees shaking, you’re more courageous than we are!

This legendary Bay Area scarefest is set up as a recruitment seminar for a cult that promises to introduce participants to “true consciousness.” But horror is around every corner, conveyed through the use of actors, haunted mazes, and 4D effects.

The interactive show is a solid nod to San Francisco’s shady history as a gathering place for cult leaders and other strange groups. You become part of the craziness, joining up with a group of other followers to try to outwit the evil leader.

If you’re feeling extra spicy, sign up for the VIP upgrade. You’ll receive access to areas that are otherwise off-limits, including the Bishop’s Lounge (with a complimentary vodka shot) and a tour of the Insight Institute Archives.

8. Mayhem Mansion

The Haas-Lilienthal House is iconic, both as a stunning piece of Victorian-era San Francisco architecture and as the setting of Mayhem Mansion.

Measuring about 11,500 square feet, this huge and beautifully ornate home has survived nearly a century and a half of earthquakes, fires, and general wear and tear. So it shouldn’t be too difficult for it to withstand a herd of ghosts and demons, right?

Gear up for fear overload in the shadow of Queen Anne-style elegance. Step inside the mansion and your guide will take you from room to room.

There’s no telling what lurks in the shadows, but we wouldn’t dare subject you to this level of spookiness without a little liquid prep.

The Spookeasy bar in the mansion’s ballroom serves alcohol and snacks, plus there’s a free candy cauldron. Perhaps you can use a peanut butter cup to bribe the spirits to be a bit more friendly?

9. Alcatraz Night Tour

Alcatraz may be known as one of the most infamous prisons ever built, but it wasn’t even supposed to house criminals. President Fillmore originally intended this island compound to be used as a military reservation, but that only lasted until the early 1900s.

There haven’t been any prisoners at Alcatraz since 1963, and there was no death row. But rumor has it some residents still prowl the grounds as spirits, which makes the Alcatraz Night Tour a fairly daunting Halloween event.

Your evening at Alcatraz starts with an innocent boat tour. Drink in the view of the island and shoreline, then head to the main prison building.

Do you hear that creaking sound? Was that a raspy voice sweeping in on the bay breeze? Try not to get too distracted from your guide’s insider info — the history of this place is truly fascinating.

Photographer: Carles Rabada

Unique Events on Halloween in SF

Our carefully curated list of top Halloween things to do in San Francisco continues with costume parties that are more quirky than creepy. These fun events aren’t exactly spine-chilling, but there are plenty of other ways to make your October come to a memorable end.

Another way to embrace the unique is to discover the intimate and soulful experiences of karaoke in San Francisco. Grab a couple of friends, and sing your hearts out.

10. Haunted Howl-O-Ween Party at Wag Hotels

Your four-legged friends shouldn’t indulge in chocolate treats, but that doesn’t mean they’re left out of Halloween altogether. Wag Hotels’ Haunted Howl-O-Ween party is a total pup-a-palooza.

There’s a haunted hotel, photo ops with Cruella de Vil, a creative costume contest, and goody bags that we assume will be filled with the right kind of bones.

The entire shindig is designed to benefit PAWS Chicago, an organization dedicated to building no-kill communities and ending the overpopulation of homeless animals. Ticket sales and silent auction proceeds help support those good deeds.

So put your dachshund in a hot dog costume, put a ‘50s skirt on your poodle, and take your partners in crime to do some tricks for their treats.

Photographer: Karsten Winegeart

11. SuperNatural at the California Academy of Sciences

Spending the night at a museum is such a cool idea somebody went and made a movie about it. You won’t be pulling out your sleeping bag when you get tickets for SuperNatural at the California Academy of Sciences, but you will be experiencing your first Halloween in the shadow of dinosaurs.

Come in costume and see how academia and spooky season collide at this museum and science center in the heart of Golden Gate Park.

The dance party agenda includes a silent disco in the aquarium, trick-or-treat stations, and magic shows. And lastly, add in live animal demos, arts and crafts, and hair-raising face painting.

12. Ghirardelli's Spooky Square

Make time for another daylight event because this one is as delicious as they come. Ghirardelli's Spooky Square brings Halloween to the multi-use complex that used to house the chocolate factory founded by fabled sweets celebrity Domenico Ghirardelli.

For one day only, this retail and dining hotspot is where San Franciscans take their kids and dogs to celebrate Halloween. There’s a magic show, a costume parade, and a spotlight on decked-out canines.

It’s free to attend, but even better than zero-dollar admission is the fact that the first 200 tots in attendance get a branded tote filled with treats.

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Your Gateway to a Spooktacular Halloween in San Francisco

Apply your makeup and cinch up your corset — your next spooktacular adventure is just a hop, skip, and a quick broom ride away. These tried-and-true San Francisco Halloween events deliver something for everyone. All you have to do is come up with a costume and get ready to have a blast.

And don’t worry — in a few months, check out our list of New Year’s Eve events in San Francisco!

Before you turn into a perfect pumpkin, be sure to cap off your Bay Area itinerary with a visit to one of our shows in San Francisco. It doesn’t matter if you're in the middle of fall or Halloween is a distant memory.

It’s always the perfect time to embrace the fun and weirdness of one of our productions. Join in the wonder, and experience the visceral excitement firsthand.

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