San Francisco is a city that can get pretty freaky any day of the year, but Halloween always brings an extra level of celebration to the City by the Bay. And it’s bound to be even more spirited than ever this year, with the holiday falling on a Friday—some parties and event organizers have even extended the festivities to November 1.
Here are five Halloween festivities in San Francisco well worth checking out (if you dare!).
1. San Francisco Ghost Hunt, Weeknights, 7 p.m. (except Monday and Tuesday)
Supernatural expert and San Francisco resident Jim Fassbender started the San Francisco Ghost Hunt in 1998, and nearly 20 years later, it’s one of the most popular paranormal tours in the city. Described as “three hours of unearthly fun,” the tour stops at several reportedly haunted spots in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, with Fassbender telling the chilling tales behind them. On Halloween night, Fassbender warns that the tour will be extra crowded, but attendees who join (only cash and travelers’ checks accepted, by the way) will also get a goodie bag—as well as the chance to stay, for free, in the most haunted room of one of San Francisco’s most haunted hotels (we suspect it’s the charming Queen Anne Hotel, which is a stop on the tour).
2. Ghost Ship, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1
For the past six years, the folks behind this over-the-top throwdown—some of the most talented large-scale artists and builders in the Bay Area—have been thrilling partygoers with the likes of their over-the-top art, including an armada-ready steam liner, high-flying Viking ship and alien spacecraft hovering over a zombie ghost town. This year’s party, held at Pier 70 in the Dogpatch neighborhood, features more original, never-before-seen art with the theme “Asylum,” and for the first time, the shindig will be held over two nights. Indeed, we predict plenty of straightjacket-inspired costumes—and lots of lunacy.
3. Day of the Dead, Nov. 2
A holiday descended from Meso-American culture that honors ancestors, the Day of the Dead is celebrated with particular zeal in San Francisco. Thousands of people come to the Mission for a procession that leads to Garfield Park, where hundreds of personal altars pay homage to deceased loved ones. If you attend, be sure to adhere to the strict no-alcohol rule, as organizers are intent on keeping the festivities serene, safe and running for years to come.
4. Bowlloween, Oct. 31
This pin-tastic, strictly 21-and-over shindig at Lucky Strike in Soma is sure to please any bowling aficionado. Limited lanes will be available, but -- despite its name -- you’re not really coming to Bowlloweento bowl, anyway; you're coming for the chance to finally show off your Dude costume in a setting where people will get it. The party lasts until 2 a.m., and if you're up for some social media posting and boasting, there's $500 up for grabs in the costume contest.
5. Stern Grove 4M, Nov. 2
Looking for an easy, affordable way to sweat out some of that Halloween-induced debauchery? Lace up your sneakers and head over to Stern Grove, one of the city’s off-the-beaten path natural areas, for a no-frills four-miler that’s one of 40 races put on every year by the Dolphin South End Runners . It’s just $5 to enter, the race starts at an entirely respectable 9 a.m., and there are no costumes to contend with, obstacles to navigate or zombies chasing you.