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 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. There are 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. This year, there’s a Halloween-themed Candlelight Tour (for ages 8 and up) on Oct. 13-15, 18-22 & 25-31. Book ’em 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
Mayhem Mansion in San Francisco
Now in its 5th year, you can 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. 20 & 21 and 27 & 28
2007 Franklin St. (between Washington and Jackson Sts.)
San Francisco, Ca
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 there’s a less-scary “lights on” tour from 1-2 p.m. and on Oct. 28, show up in costume and join in the kiddie parade at 1 p.m. This year’s theme is the Shadow of the Vampire.
Good to know: Dates are Oct. 14–30. Start times vary, so check here for exact hours on the day you’d like to visit. 39169 Fremont Blvd.39169 Fremont Blvd.
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 every 30 minutes starting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 & 29. Ends at 9:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., and 9 p.m. Sun.
34600 Ardenwood Blvd.
Cost: $7/ages 3 and up; children 2 and under are free
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. 14 & 15, 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
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