It’s common knowledge that the Bay Area excels in plenty of areas: we boast the best restaurants, the most gorgeous views and so much more. But did you know San Francisco was just dubbed the BEST city in the country for trick-or-treating? It’s true, and it’s in big part thanks to the neighborhoods below, which all get in the spirit and turn on their porch lights to create a memorable night out for little candy-hunting clowns, ninjas, superheros and every furry animal imaginable. So make your Halloween extra special this year by commuting to these candy meccas.
Photo: Steven Depolo via Flickr
Belvedere Street (between Parnassus Ave. and 17th Street)
Halloween night along this stretch of Cole Valley is basically a street party for kids and their parents. Most of the houses are decked to the nines: haunted garages, elaborate lights, and even a window-sized puppet show featuring beloved kid’s characters, and the sweet spot is on Belvedere St. from Parnassus to 17th, and it’s closed to thru-traffic. Belvedere is on a hill, so crafty parents trick out wagons or strollers as part of their costumes, perfect for the tired or more-sensitive members of the crew.While it can be loud and crowded, the majority of that crowd is 10 and under. We recommend getting there as early as you can, because there is enough foot traffic here that some of the houses run out of candy. Truth be told, the scariest part about trick-or-treating in this neighborhood is the parking. Your best bet it to take the N Judah, 43 Masonic, 6 Parnassus, or 37 Corbett; or arrange a willing driver to do a drop off and pick up on Cole St.
Noe Valley (24th Street)
This is one of the most kid-friendly ‘hoods in SF, but that doesn’t make parking any easier. And considering this hood TOPPED the list of SF hoods in a recent local survey, we are betting this year will be even bigger. Start early with the wee-ones and hit up the jolly merchants of 24th St. before the sun even sets. The hills that surround 24th St. feature many darling Victorians decked out, so wear comfy walking shoes and have fun exploring as the evening wears on. MUNI lines 24 and the J Church run close by.
Fair Oaks Street (between 21st and 26th Streets)
Not far from 24th Street in Noe Valley/Outer Mission this street is also a great bet–it’s closed to traffic so the tots can focus on candy-getting instead of car-dodging. Be aware that most houses don’t start dolling out the candy until after 6 p.m. so hit up the shops on 24th Street first If the kiddos are eager to get going early.
Presidio Heights & Sea Cliff
These two posh hoods, offer enough candy and devilish decorum they could feed thousands of candy monsters, and that’s roughly what they’ll do this year! Popular with the pre-teen crowd, ‘cause you just might find a regular sized candy bar in your bag! Parking is slightly easier in these neighborhoods, but gets pretty packed by 8 p.m. or so. Moderate hills in Presidio Heights, most of Seacliff is flat and the sidewalks are wide. Plus you get to peek inside some of the most glamorous homes in SF. Some of them even have front yards!
St. Francis Wood
It’s kinda like Carmel meets Seacliff. Just two blocks east of Stern Grove, the massive houses (with yards big enough for fake graveyards!) and tall spooky trees give it the perfect creepy vibe.
Cleveland Heights/Haddon Hill (just west of Lake Merritt between Lakeshore and Park)
The Hills are alive with the sound of spooky-music! This Oakland neighborhood is notorious for it’s all out decorations and generous candy distribution! A great bet, even for the little ones.
Photo credit: Thomas Kriese via Flickr Creative Commons
Berkeley Hills (Mariposa Avenue)
This little tree-lined block is taken over by bands of trick-or-treaters heading from house to house with teeming buckets of candy. The street is closed off to cars, so kids can delight in the bouncy house and elaborate decorations. Parking super-close might be tricky, but it’s doable, especially earlier in the evening.
The East Bay’s best kept Hallow-secret just might be trick-or-treating on “the island.” The majority of the residential part of Alameda is divine for trick-or-treaing for those kids whose bedtime is just-after-dark, from noon to 4 p.m on the 31st, kids can trick-or-treat the merchants on Webster Street. Don’t miss the 300 block of Haight Street!
Burlingame (Cabrillo Avenue)
Burlingame offers sweet trick-or-treating with elaborate decorations and basically no stairs, so even the little ones can load up without pause. Parking isn’t overly challenging, but it’s also right on the Caltrain line (Broadway Station) if you want to just go for the gold star and add a train ride into the mix.
Millbrae (Taylor Street)
This tree-lined street is filled with family homes nicely clustered together. It gets a bit more crowded than some of the other spots on the Peninsula but it’s way worth it. There are plenty of decorations, and the neighborhood closes off the block to cars so that the hordes of kids can run around working out their candy buzz.
The perpetually sunny little hamlet of Brisbane comes to life on Halloween night like no other. This is one of the greatest spots in the Bay Area for Halloween splendor. Full of town pride, houses all over this village go all out. Even the local dentist hands out goodies– toothbrushes! it’s hard to believe you are less than 20 minutes from the heart of downtown San Francisco. With hundreds of houses just near downtown alone to hit up, this is a guaranteed haul for your candy loving crew!
Downtown Los Altos
Rather spend the night alone in a haunted house than deal with a sugar-crashing toddler at 8pm? Bring those wee ones over to downtown Los Altos from 2-4 p.m where they can trick-or-treat the merchants and still be home in time for supper!
San Carlos (Eucalyptus St.)
You, dear readers, tipped us off to this wonderful section of San Carlos where you can trick-or-treat without all the crowds, but still score big in the candy department.
Photo: George Ruiz via Flickr
The southwestern San Jose neighborhood, Cambrian Park, is the kind of charming area that makes you want to quit SF. Lots of Halloween spirit, this ‘hood is occupied by a ton of families.
This vintage San Jose neighborhood (which boasts a 5+ acre rose garden) includes impressive Victorians, and classic Cali-bungalows. Trick-or-treating here is relaxing, not overly crowded, and very accessible (close to the heart of San Jose).
The Willow Glen area makes for great treats (without needing too many tricks!). The merchants along Lincoln Ave. between Minnesota and Willow host a trick-or-treat session the day before Halloween.Babes-in-arms/strollers; toddlers, and preschoolers can head over from 11 a.m. -noon and the school aged crowd can trick-or-treat from 3-4 p.m. On Halloween night, this is still a prime spot for candy dispersion.
Bonus: The South Bay is notoriously warmer than other parts of the Bay Area, so you won’t have to worry about a heavy coat crushing those fairy wings!
Mill Valley (Sycamore St.)
With beautiful trees and tactfully cobwebbed front stoops, Sycamore St. is Halloween Central for many Southern Marin families.
Tiburon (Bel Aire)
In Tiburon, the Bel Aire neighborhood (behind The Cove Shopping Center) features sprawling front-lawn “cemeteries” and other wicked goodness. Plus, flat streets and close houses make it stroller-friendly, especially nice when the little ones are tired but the older goblins need more treats.
Larkspur’s Heatherwood neighborhood will not disappoint. You can follow the circle of the Heatherwood neighborhood, along Heather Way as it intersects with Diane Lane and William St. and call it a night. Even with dozens of costume-clad kids, this area is easy-to-navigate, even with a stroller.
Did we miss your favorite trick-or-treat spot? Let us know in the comments below!
–Erin Feher and Amber Guetebier