Halloween & Autumn Events

Leonardo Urena poses with his winning gourd at last year's Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay. This year's event will be live-streamed.

Courtesy photo

Like everything else in this coronavirus-plagued year, Halloween will be different. Some public health officials are discouraging trick-or-treating, and large group gatherings are mostly prohibited. But plenty of Bay Area venues are stepping up to make the holiday special for kids and families by tweaking annual traditions or creating new ones. Plan ahead by making reservations, and be prepared for safety measures including social distancing and masks (in addition to your Halloween one!). Do you know of an event or venue we’ve missed? Email janine.defao@bayareaparent.com and we’ll add it.


In Person

Aloe-Ween at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Dress in costume to visit this Walnut Creek garden on Halloween from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for a pumpkin scavenger hunt, free professional Halloween digital portraits, an Instagram photo contest and a gift basket raffle. Dogs are welcome, too. Bring non-perishable and canned food items to support the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Free with admission of $10, members and kids 12 and under free. Advance reservation with time slot required for social distancing purposes.


Autumn Nights at CuriOdyssey. The San Mateo “science playground and zoo” will host this special event every Friday and Saturday evening in October, when families can visit a land of creepy and fun jack-o-lanterns and see the animals enjoy Halloween-themed enrichment. Dance to spooky music under the lights, enjoy the cash bar and purchase a pumpkin to bring home. Advanced tickets required for two time slots, 5:30-7 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. $15.95-18.95 with member discounts available. 


Boo at the Zoo. The Oakland Zoo is holding a new version of this popular annual event this year. To allow for smaller crowds and social distancing, Boo at the Zoo will take place from Oct. 24-31 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with advanced tickets required. Families can go on a self-guided scavenger hunt to find costumed pink flamingoes, and all kids will receive a pre-stuffed goodie bag. Costumes encouraged! Tickets will go on sale 14 days in advance. 


Chinatown Halloween Neighborhood Festival. There will be a pumpkin patch, lion dance performance, socially distanced art and more at this annual event on Oct. 31 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Waverly Place and Grant Avenue. There are also video, photo and poster contests kids can enter in advance to win prizes.


Drive-Through Day of the Dead. The School of Arts and Culture at San Jose's Mexican Heritage Plaza will host this free event on Fri., Oct, 30 and Sat., Oct. 31, from 6-10 p.m. Participants can drive through a lighted outdoor gallery of altars while calacas (skeletons) roam to live music. Goodie bags (with candy and art kits) will be distributed, and some lucky folks will receive bags with gift certificates to East San Jose restaurants. 


Halloween Jam. Visit Children's Fairyland in Oakland from Oct. 28-Nov. 1 to see the decked-out spooky sets and participate in a twice-daily Monster Mash Parade with a treat at the end. Costumes encouraged but not required. Reserve tickets in advance for the morning or afternoon session, with the parade at the end, here. $8, under 1 FREE. 


Halloween October Bash. Head to Gilroy Ostrich Farm through Nov. 2 to feed and pet the animals, take photos in costume with spooky decorations, find your way through the hay bale maze and pick a pumpkin for purchase. All activities are included with admission of $14-16 in advance online ($17-19 at the door), under 2 free. In addition to ostriches, there are also alpacas and goats.


Haunted Weekends at Hiller. Visit Hiller Aviation Museum on Oct. 24-25 and Oct. 31-Nov. 1 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. to visit the Haunted Hangar decked out with spooky decorations and enjoy a Great Pumpkin Scavenger Hunt. Buy tickets in advance online.


Hike & Seek Challenge. Join REI,  Parks California and California State Parks PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students) to celebrate Halloween in a new way all month, through the end of October. Families can download a Hike & Seek Challenge Checklist and then head out to their neighborhood or favorite park to strike a zombie pose in front of a local park sign, spot some spider webs, find a creeping cat and more. Families can enter to win a prize of picnic items and outdoor games. 


Howl at the Moon. Head to Filoli on Oct. 31 from 5-7 p.m. to mark Halloween and the full moon. Dress in costume and bring a flashlight for a scavenger hunt to uncover spooky findings in the garden, and then howl at the moon at 6:45 p.m. Advance tickets ($15-15) required for admission. 


Lemos Farm Pumpkin Patch. Enjoy the pumpkin patch, rides and attractions at Half Moon Bay’s Lemos Farm by buying tickets in advance online. Sessions are offered from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. $7.50-25. 


Par 3 at Poplar Creek. Celebrate Halloween at this San Mateo golf course with a costume parade, themed meal or drive-in showing of Goosebumps 2: A Haunted Halloween. The costume parade begins at 5 p.m., with a treat bag for every child. The movie will start at 6 p.m. Drive-in tickets are $30 per car. Dinner will be served on the patio or picnic area or can be ordered to-go to watch during the movie with options including Green Slime (green mac and cheese), Guts & Eyeballs (spaghetti and meatballs) and BBQ Bat Wings & Fried Worms (BBQ wings with french fries) available for $10 each. 


Pirates of Emerson. If you want to splurge on your scares, check out the Pirates of Emerson, a 10-acre, drive-through Haunted Theme Park at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. The event runs Thursday through Sunday nights from Oct. 2 through Nov. 1. But beware: the event bills itself as “extremely frightening” so may not be suitable for young kids (or panicky parents). $94.99 per carload with timed tickets. The fairgrounds also has been hosting drive-in movies, with Cluelesson Sept. 25 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on Oct. 3. $35 per vehicle with advance online tickets, $40 on site if tickets are available. 


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Movies. The Boardwalk also has drive-in movies, with a few upcoming options that fit the Halloween vibe. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse plays on Sept. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m., Jumanji on Oct. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Guardians of the Galaxy on Oct. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. $25 per vehicle with a limit of 120 cars. Some tickets are available online in advance with the remainder sold at the gate. 


Webb Ranch Pumpkin Patch. In addition to organic pumpkins, Portola Valley’s Webb Ranch will have hay rides, train rides, a corn maze, petting zoo and reptile zoo. Activity passes, which cost $20 and are good for 80-minute sessions, must be reserved in advance. The pumpkin patch is open from Sept. 24-Oct. 31, with activities available on weekends. 


Winchester Mystery House. You can once again tour the famed mansion of Winchester Arms heiress Sarah Winchester, known for its sprawling architectural oddities and paranormal activity. Self-guided tours with maps and audio are spaced between household parties, and tickets must be purchased online. $19.99-39.99. 



Blossom Birth & Family. Join Blossom Birth, the City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation for two free, fun virtual Halloween events. On Oct. 25 at 11:30 a.m., see live performances by Andy Z, the Stanford Band and more. Advanced registration recommended. Join in the virtual costume contest by uploading photos from Oct. 23-25 and voting from Oct. 26-29. Winners will be announced on Halloween. There are categories by age, pet, for costumes made by kids or adults, and even most pregnant belly. Learn more here.


Día de los Murertos. The Oakland Museum of California will host its annual celebration on Oct. 25 from 2-3 p.m. It will feature Mesoamerican traditions of ritual, music, dance and ofrendas (altars) that help make sense of the context of this year and how traditions can heal and comfort, while teaching viewers how to build an altar for loved ones who have passed. In addition, participants can learn how to make papel picado, listen to an intergenerational conversation and more. The event is free with registration here. Starting Oct. 15, visitors to the museum's website can also take a virtual tour of the exhibit ¡El Movimiento Vivo! Chicano Roots of El Día de los Muertos. On Oct. 30, there will be a live Día de los Murtos field trip for schools groups and families. For more information, visit museumca.org/vddlm.


Exploratorium Storytime Science for Kids. The San Francisco museum is offering a Halloween edition of this free online event for young children on Wed., Oct 28 at 1 p.m. The story will be followed by three “slightly scary” activities about sounds. Join on Facebook or YouTube.


Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Weigh-Off. While the annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival has been cancelled, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off will take place Mon., Oct. 12 and will be streamed live on Facebook


Halloween Hoopla. Yeerba Buena Gardens' annual event goes virtual on Oct. 31 at 11 a.m. with free interactive performances and fun for kids under 10, including a decorated pumpkin contests and an online costume parade with Unique Derique. 


How to Draw Peanuts Halloween. Santa Rosa’s Charles M. Shultz Museum will help families get in the holiday spirit with a live online class teaching how to draw classic characters like Charlie Brown as a ghost, Lucy in her witch costume and, of course, the Great Pumpkin. Oct. 29. 4-5 p.m. $10 members, $15 general. Advance registration required here


Purple Fox and the Heebie Jeebies. Celebrate Halloween any time with Something's Brewing... It's Halloween, a themed album from this Silicon Valley-based band that makes fun, funky music for kids infused with reggae and rock and roll. Listen for free to tracks including "I'm Just a Goblin Named Gary" and "Zombie Brain Freeze Tag."


UNICEF. Even if your child isn't planning to go door to door, she can still trick-or-treat for UNICEF virtually this year. Visit TrickorTreatforUNICEF.org starting Oct. 1 to receive a virtual collection box with a customized link and QR code. Kids can participate in fun activities and watch educational videos to earn Trick-or-Treat Coins that add up to real-life earnings. Kids can decide where their earnings go to make a difference for children around the world.


Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.

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