Is your tiny tick-or-treater ready for a little spook? Half the fun of Halloween is getting a few goosebumps, but we know many haunted houses are the kind that nightmares (and sleepless nights for you) are made of. So with little pumpkins in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of six spots that are just a little bit scary (more Scooby Doo than Psycho), including local historic homes with architecture to die for.

winchester-mysteryPhoto credit: Amber Guetebier

Winchester Mystery House
In spite of its eerie reputation, a tour of the Winchester Mystery House can prove surprisingly kid-friendly. They’ll laugh at the odd angled steps and doors that open to the wall. More marvel than monsterish, the kids may not take in all the info on the tour, but they will certainly enjoy the trek. The brand-new October candlelight tours may be a bit creepier for the 5 and under crowd (but then again, a babe in arms might not know the difference so…) but scarier still is how fast the tickets sell out. Book now. 

Good to know: Wear comfortable shoes because the house is pretty expansive. Do not, under any circumstances, bring a stroller.

525 South Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, Ca

Cost: $26-44. Candlelight tours are $35-45/person. Prices are for the mansion tour. Children 5 and under are not allowed on the Grand Estate or Behind-the-Scenes tour.



Mayhem Mansion in San Francisco
Walk the hallowed (and haunted) halls of The Haas-Lilienthal House, a spectacular Queen Anne style home and historic house museum built in 1886. The terrifying tour is led by a benevolent (and historically savvy) host who will lead you through the magnificent manse, where you will be surprised and spooked by otherworldly visitors. Guests can also visit the “Spookeasy”— serving beer, wine and a specialty cocktail—before and after the tour to calm their nerves. Suggested for kids 8 and up.

Good to know: No parking is available (except for limited street parking), so public transportation is highly encouraged. Muni stops are located at Jackson and Van Ness (47, 49) and at Clay/Sacramento and Franklin (1).

When: Oct. 21, 21, 28 and 29, 7–10 p.m.
2007 Franklin St. (between Washington and Jackson Sts.)
San Francisco, Ca

Cost: $10-15 for advance tickets; $15-20 for day off purchase.

obriens candy parlor_san jose_yelp JohnD

Photo credit: John D. via Yelp

History Park in San Jose
On October 30, (from 11 a.m.–3 p.m.) you can bring the kiddos for trick-or-treating, mummy wrapping, and a costume parade among the landmarks of San Jose’s storied past. Located in San Jose’s Kelley Park, History Park is a 14-acre site with paved streets, a running trolley, and original homes and businesses of times gone by. Check out the old buildings which, after years of being unused, have taken on a sort of eerie vibe.

1650 Senter Rd.
San Jose, Ca

Cost: $5/child; members and children 2 and under are free; adults are free with paid child admission. $6/city parking.

Ghost House in Williams Historical Park, Fremont
For the last two weeks of October, the 19th century Chadbourne Carriage House in Williams Historical Park becomes the Ghost House. A perfect spot for your little boos, it’s just the right amount of kooky and spooky. Sponsored by the Candle Lighters, the Ghost House also includes an accompanying midway and country store (games are $.50 a play). On October 22nd show up in costume and join in the kiddie parade.

Good to know:  Dates are Oct. 15–30. Start times vary, so check here for exact hours on the day you’d like to visit. 39169 Fremont Blvd.

39169 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, Ca 


Cost: $3

haunted railroad Photo courtesy: The Haunted Railroad

The Haunted Railroad at Ardenwood Farms
Ok, it’s technically not a house, but what train-loving kid is going to say no to a spooky ride on the rails? Buy your ticket and climb aboard the Haunted Halloween Train. which will take your family on a creepy ride through the dark forests of Ardenwood. The ride is geared toward the 12 and under crowd and run by The Railroad Museum at Ardenwood/Society for the Preservation of Carter Railroad Resources. The train traverses a dark forest with a number of  illuminated character scenes that are separated by Halloween themed blowups. The ‘conductor’ provides a tongue-in-cheek narration linking the trip with historical events.  There is no explicit gore or violence.

Good to know: The train departs on Oct. 14, 15, 16, 28, 29 and 30.

34600 Ardenwood Blvd.
Fremont, Ca

Cost: $7/adult (13 and up); $5/child (3-12); FREE for kids under 3

pumpkinfestPhoto courtesy: Bradley Wittke for Miramar Events 

Johnston Haunted Barn at the HMB Pumpkin Festival
Yes, there are pumpkins. Big ones, small ones, glass ones, fried ones…but the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Art and Pumpkin Festival also features the Johnston Haunted Barn. Appropriate for kids 5 and up (all ages are allowed and kids 3 and under are free) it’s open during the festival, Oct. 15 & 16, from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. and features actors from the Coastside Young Actors Workshop. Lots of fun effects, lights, and sounds, this year the barn is infested with pirates. It’s scary, but not traumatizing. The first 100 visitors on Saturday will get a free pirate hat, and the on Sunday a free glow bracelet.

505 Johnston St.
Half Moon Bay, Ca
Cost: $8

Know of a good spooky spot to take the little pumpkins? Let us know in the comments below! 

–Erin Feher, Renee Macalino Rutledge & Amber Guetebier