Halloween in the Bay Area is unrivaled when it comes to creative costumes, near-perfect weather and some of the most scenic and festive neighborhoods to get your trick-or-treat on. This year, join your fellow Bay natives in hitting up one of the top spots guaranteed to bring fun, freakery and lots of candy. Scope out an epic neighborhood near you or gather the pals to check out somewhere new!
photo: David Lytle via flickr
Belvedere Street (between Parnassus Ave. and 17th Street)
This stretch of Cole Valley is more of a street party for kiddos and their grown ups than a simple neighborhood trick-or-treat. 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. The sweet spot is on Belvedere St. from Parnassus to 17th, as 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 Street.
Tip: If the Belvedere action proves to be a sensory overload, try Cole St., both before the merchant area (Carl) and up past (Parnassus) and some of the corresponding side streets. There are often houses decorated-but-not-as-frequented. It’s just off the path enough to be calmer but with festive enough houses to get that trick-or-treat fix.
Noe Valley (24th Street)
This kid-friendly hood is a natural fit for trick-or-treating, especially for the younger crowd. Kids can trick-or-treat the merchants along 24th 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. Parking is very difficult this evening so consider MUNI: the 24 and J Church run nearby.
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.
photo: Jim Voorhies via flickr
Presidio Heights/Outer Richmond/Clement St.
The houses in Presidio Heights are posh enough to look chic-yet-haunted and there’s no shortage of decor that would make even Martha Stewart jealous. Just past Presidio Heights the Outer Richmond neighborhood can be a hidden gem of a place to trick-or-treat with a little less fervor. Houses near California & Clement and 25th get decked out and it’s a calmer experience for your newbies.
If you want luxe + spooky then this is the ultimate SF trick or treating neighborhood. The possibility of thick fog rolling in? Check. The sound of the sea pounding against the cliffs, heard only occasionally over the din of squealing trick or treaters? Check. Fancy houses with actual front yards and the quest for the illusive full-sized candy bar will keep everyone amused. Gets crowded after 7 p.m. so arrive early if you can.
St. Francis Wood
It’s kinda like Carmel meets Sea Cliff. 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.
photo: Marco via flickr
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.
Trestle Glen Street
Reader’s tip: Nearby, Trestle Glen St. off Lakeshore attracts families from around the East Bay. It can get crowded but in a festive way, and there’s even know to be one house with a Halloween play with performances throughout All Hallow’s Eve.
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-treating 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!
Oakland, Haddon Hill
This ‘hood gets an A+ for atmosphere when all the swank houses turn into cobweb-covered haunted mansions for the kiddies.
photo: Bradley Stemke via flickr
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 8 p.m.? 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!
photo: anjanettew 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.
Los Gatos: Almond Grove
Tait Avenue in this area is closed off to traffic from W. Main to Hwy. 9. Houses go all out with candy and decoration and there’s no traffic on the street, making it safe and stress-free for parents. Block party, anyone?
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 on Halloween day. .Babes-in-arms/strollers; toddlers, and preschoolers can head over from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and the school-aged crowd can trick-or-treat from 3-4:30 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!
photo: Don Homer via flickr
Mill Valley (Sycamore St.)
With beautiful trees and tactfully cobwebbed front stoops, Sycamore St. is Halloween Central for many Southern Marin families. You’ll also note the many family and group costumes that add to the festive atmosphere.
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.
photo: Governor Tom Wolf via flickr
San Anselmo (Sleepy Hollow)
Because a) you know you want to trick-or-treat in a place known as Sleepy Hollow and b) this area is low-key enough for a school night but festive enough that your little goblins will feel like they’ve really lived it up. This area is easy to navigate, too, which helps when you have a carload of sugared up kiddos.
Bamboo Terrace (Terra Linda/San Rafael)
For those willing to travel a little further north, this area boasts outdoor movie screens, elaborately decorated homes and arguably one of the most festive and interactive atmospheres on Halloween night in all of the Bay. It can get crowded, but that’s just because everyone wants in on the fun.
—Kate Loweth, Erin Feher and Amber Guetebier