Fantastic Halloween Events for Families: 2011 Edition

The Spirit of Halloween. Photo by Frog Mom

Halloween is just round the corner. I know it just by the sluggish line of cars down Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay. The Spirit Halloween stores are a tip-off too. Tonight visit at Delancey’s Pumpkin Patch got me thinking about all the great Halloween events I’d like to attend this year. The more I thought, the more my shoulders slouched and hunched and the more my spirits dropped. What, every event on the last weekend of the month? Goodie, that’s a lot happening at the same time. I hope you get to one of these events and write to me that I missed something grand because I sure want to attend them all simultaneously – in spirit at least.

Graveyard Stroll. Photo by Marin County Parks 

Graveyard Stroll
Marin County Parks, San Rafael
Sat. October 29, 6-7.30pm
When Marin county rangers decide to celebrate Halloween, they go the whole nine yards! Meet at the Marin County Parks Field Office – 18 Jeanette Prandi Way – at 6pm and follow the ranger to meet costumed characters who tell funny stories.Is that a ghost or a ranger? Come find out as we get a jump on Halloween during this one-of-a kind event to uncover the interesting, spooky, and little-known cemetery next door. Wear warm, layered clothes, bring a flashlight, and a treat bag. FREE.

Monster Bash on the USS Hornet

Sat. October 29, 2011 – 7.30pm – midnight
In February I wrote about the USS Hornet, otherwise known as the Grey Ghost. This month’s the month for flashlight tours and fright nights on board the humongous plane carrier. Is the USS Hornet Haunted? Bring the whole family and find out. At this annual fundraiser onboard the “Grey Ghost,” visitors will get a good fright throughout the evening with haunted tours, costume contests, and other treats. Dance favorites by The Cocktail Monkeys. Adults $20 each in advance, Youth 5–17 $10 each, Children under 5 free. Order tickets online through the Ship’s Store.

Children’s Ghost Train
Fri. October 28 and Sat. October 29, 6.30 pm, 6.45pm, 8pm, 8.15pm
My favorite spooky story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow will come to life with costumed actors, portable stages and steam trains chugging up a redwood mountain on the Ghost Train at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton. The spooky nighttime ride with a headless horseman on a white horse will last 1 hour 15 minutes and will delight kids of all ages as the story gets a corny and humorous relift. The ride costs $24 general and $17 for children. Details at; 831-335-4484.

Harvest Festival and Halloween Mask Workshop
Marin Headlands

Apples. Photo by Parks Conservancy

Sat. October 29 – 1-3pm
For a coastal Halloween celebration, meet artist Katrina Wagner at the Marin Headlands Visitor Center and let the kids make masks for the season using non-native materials before tasting heirloom apples. (My current favorite is Winesap. I wonder if they’ll have it!) Then take a hike to Rodeo Beach and watch the waves crash on the shore. Dramatic. Reservations required for the mask workshop, call (415) 331-1540. FREE

Halloween Haunt at Ed Levin County Park

Pumpkin decorating.
Photo by Santa Clara
County Parks

Friday, October 28  5-8pm
Ed Levin County Park is a beautiful park that should be on your to-do list – with or without pumpkins. On October 28, join park staff for a night of spooky family fun. Play ghostly games, carve a free pumpkin, eat s’mores around a glowing campfire and take a creepy hike around Spring Valley Pond. Meet at the Park Office. Costumes and all ages welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Food available for purchase. (408) 262-6980. FREE

1923 Ballroom Dancing. Photo by Palace Hotel

Ghost Walk at The Palace Hotel
San Francisco
Sat. October 29, 6.30-7.30pm
San Francisco City Guides hosts 2 yearly ghost walks and this is the one I haven’t done. When I did it, the City Hall ghost tour was a complete blast and the period costumes of the docents totally enhanced the eerie feeling of the evening. This one is the Palace Hotel ghost walk. Kings and presidents died here; gunshots echoed through stately corridors, romances ended tragically. Perhaps that explains enduring stories of spectral visions, glowing orbs and mysterious occurrences. The usual architectural and historical tour defers to brief vignettes culled from reports filed by guests and staff alike. Not recommended for impressionable very young souls. FREE

Illumination of the Jack’o Lanterns
Columbia State Historic Park
Sat. October 29 – 5.30pm until dark

Nightmare before Christmas. Photo by Wwarby, Flickr

Any excuse to visit Columbia State Historic Park and this one’s near the north pole of the bucket: pumpkin carving, trick or treating, and ghost town roaming! On October 29, come little goblins and ghouls and carve your pumpkins into peg-toothed grinners, chiseled ghouls or Bat’o Lanterns. Before dark falls between 4 and 5pm, go trick or treating on the main street of Columbia the Gold Rush ghost town! The candy shoppe is completely deliciously old-fashioned. Then at 5pm, bring your carved gourds to the Columbia Museum on Main Street and wait for the judging while live musical relaxes your tender ears. Prizes will be awarded for the most original, most gruesome, most entertaining, etc! At dusk the jack-o’-lanterns will be illuminated and then, it will almost feel like it’s Halloween already. FREE.

Fall Festival at the Bridgeport Covered Bridge
Penn Valley
Sat. October 29 – 11am – 4pm

Wagon rides. Photo by South Yuba
River Park Association

Jewel of the South Yuba River State Park, the covered bridge of Bridgeport is a California dream come true for fans of The Bridges of Madison County. Besides the Clint Eastwood factor, it is also a beautiful covered bridge where ghost stories will come to life during the last Saturday of October. All day families will be able to hop on wagon rides, pan for gold in the trough, watch a blacksmith at work, paint pumpkins or enjoy live music. The highlight will be two re-enactments of ghost stories in the barn with ghosts dressed up as in the late 1800s. Bring your swimsuits, the river runs clear beneath the bridge! FREE.

Sonoma Events
For a great list of late fall and harvest festivals in Sonoma County, check out Fall’s Final Festivals Call Sonoma County Families Outdoors by my friend Sono-Ma. Tolay Lake, here I come!


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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.


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