Break out the bite-size candy and sharpen your best pumpkin carving knife, it’s almost time for Halloween! All across the coast, California celebrates in a big way—from terrifying haunts to delightfully tame celebrations. For theme park lovers, the popular Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disneyland are absolutely must-tries. And thanks to California’s rich agriculture, you’re never too far from a pumpkin patch or corn maze. If you’re looking for an unexpected way to ring in the holiday, here are a few suggestions all across the Golden State.
September 20–October 31: Knott’s Scary Farm, Buena Park
During the Halloween season, Knott’s Berry Farm transforms into one of the largest haunts on the West Coast. More than 1,000 live action ghosts and ghouls are waiting behind every corner at the dozen-plus mazes, fright zones, and thrill rides.
September 28–November 4: The San Francisco Dungeon Séance
Head underground at Fisherman’s Wharf for a chance to connect with the dead. In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, the San Francisco Dungeon invites guests to embark on a guided séance with experienced mediums, complete with a crystal ball.
October 19–21: Long Beach Zombie Fest
The undead invades Long Beach at this three-day fright-fest. The Rainbow Lagoon celebration includes days filled with scary scavenger hunts, music, and more. Get there early for a free transformation by students of the Cinema Makeup School before stretching your limbs at the nightly Zombie Walk.
October 21: Howl-O-Ween Costume Contest, Carmel
The cutest costume contest on the Central Coast, this annual event held in Carmel Plaza is all about our four-legged friends. Dress up your pooch and enjoy a professional photo sitting with props and backdrops as well as a runway walk with prizes for the scariest, best lookalike, and most adorable.
October 26: Castello di Amorosa Pagan Ball, Calistoga
Masquerade in style at Castello di Amorosa’s annual gala. Step inside the winery (built to look like a medieval castle) for an evening in the spirit of Venice’s Carnevale. Think fortune tellers, fine wine, gourmet bites, and dancing.
October 26–28: San Diego Zoo HalGLOWeen
Party with creatures from all over the globe at this family-friendly (kids under 11 get in free!) after-dark experience. The world-famous zoo stays open until 8 p.m. for partiers to enjoy music, bubbles, acrobats, and more—all aglow under a spooky black light.
October 28: Moaning Cavern Pumpkin Line Smash, Vallecito
On October 28th, a ticket to Moaning Cavern Adventure Park’s 1,500-foot zip line also buys you a pumpkin. Do your best to hit the target as you whizz by at 30 miles per hour. Winners at this Gold Country attraction get a second ride free!
October 28: Thriller Flash Mob, Santa Barbara
Hundreds of Michael Jackson-loving zombies will descend on the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens to perform the iconic “Thriller” dance. Learn the moves to be a part of the mob, or simply sit back and enjoy the show.
October 31: West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, Los Angeles
Hit the streets of West Hollywood for one of the largest Halloween parties in the world. Half a million revelers walk in the massive parade, with music stages, food trucks, and open bars along the way.
Notorious event developer BB Ingle has been hosting this Halloween Bash in Palm Springs for 33 years. More than 3,000 costumed party-goers are expected to attend this outrageously entertaining (adults-only) bacchanalia.