Things to Do: Halloween in San Francisco

October 13, 2016 / San Francisco

Few cities approach the thrills and chills of All Hallows’ Eve with quite as much gusto as San Francisco. The Golden City has always had a soft spot for the downright bizarre, making this by far one of the most fun places in the country to give yourself a fright. Whether you’re looking for an all-night party, an unusual date, or a blood-curdling scare, there’s something for everyone to do this October 31. Since festivities tend to run well past the witching hour, be sure to request an Uber to make sure you and your crew arrive home safely at the end of the night.

Famous Haunted Spots in San Francisco

What better way to get into the spirit of things than searching for otherworldly specters around town? Grab your flashlight, steel your nerves, and head to the Queen Anne Hotel, an elegant 1890 Victorian grande dame supposed frequented by the ghost of Mary Lake. The headmistress of this former girls’ school vanished without a trace, but according to local lore, she can be spotted in Room 410 where her office once stood.

Your next stop is the San Francisco Columbarium, the resting place for thousands of locals. If you spy a small girl darting through the neoclassical corridors, it could be a casualty of the 1906 earthquake whose phantom is said to linger here.

Finally, no tour would be complete without a trip to Alcatraz Island, where the departed souls of former inmates are rumored to lurk. For the full experience, you can also book a spot on theSan Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, where tour guide Christian Cagigal has lots of tall tales about the city.

Local Cemeteries

While any trip to a graveyard is sure to get you in the Halloween mood, Mission Dolores is especially appropriate. Not only was the site the setting for spooky scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, it also contains the burial site of dozens of famous local residents, as well as 5,000 Ohlone Native Americans. Another famous final resting place in town is the San Francisco National Cemetery.

If you enjoy your shiver-inducing Halloween visit, you might want to consider coming back for one of the regularly scheduled tours by the National Park Service to learn a bit more about the place.

Late-Night Showings of Scary Movies

Get ready to scream at one of San Francisco’s old-school movie theaters. It doesn’t get much more iconic than The Castro Theatre, a gorgeous Art Deco spot that hosts some of the region’s most esteemed film festivals. For years, the cinema has run classic horror flicks on Halloween, such as John Waters’ deliciously camp Multiple Maniacs. The Balboa Theatre also runs special showings occasionally (including cartoons), as does the The Roxie, the city’s oldest continually operating theater.

Trick-or-Treating in San Francisco

Whether you’re a proud parent escorting a troupe of little ones or simply possess a healthy sense of nostalgia, there’s something to be said for the good, old-fashioned fun of trick-or-treating. Choosing a safe, friendly neighborhood is key to ensuring that everyone has a blast, which is why you’ll want to call an Uber and go to Fair Oaks Street (which is closed off to cars), and Belvedere Street, where festive locals compete to outdo one another with extravagant decorations.

If you’re planning to offer candy to all the tiny ghouls and goblins out there, you’re going to want to stock up on the good stuff with a trip to Miette, a retro-stylish gem with handmade marshmallows and caramels, or TCHO, an artisanal chocolate shop with flavors like almond-sea salt and mokkacino with locally roasted coffee beans.

The Haunted Hornet

Few things elicit more shrieks of terror and giggles of delight than a pulse-pounding trip through a haunted house. Luckily, San Franciscans have gotten creative with the conventional format over the years and moved beyond the usual mansions. On the Haunted Hornet, a resurrected naval aircraft carrier, ghoulish projections prowl the decks and surprises crouch around every corner. Their annual Halloween party is the stuff of legends.