The spirit of Halloween is nigh––and the spooky holiday can cause fright for little ones. But don’t fret! We’ve found 13 scare-free, Halloween events for kids so your little ghouls and goblins can dress up in their costumes and enjoy the lighter side of the holiday. From LEGOLAND‘s Brick-or-Treat party to the Haunted Birch Aquarium, read on for where to conjure up a monstrously good time.

photo: LEGOLAND/Chip Litherland

Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND
Ghosts, Goblins and not-so-scary Monsters are back and ready to “boo-gie” down at LEGOLAND® California Resort for Brick-or-Treat Party Nights as the Park transforms into the ultimate family Halloween party with tasty goodies, monster jams and spooktacular entertainment. With treat stations located throughout the Park and inside SEA LIFE® Aquarium, there’s something to satisfy every sweet tooth. Along with tons of candy, kids can collect specialty items such as LEGO® Commemorative brick, LEGO® Life Magazine and healthy treat options. The Boo Crew returns with a new creepy crawly stilt walker, The Spider Queen! Kids can get in the Halloween spirit by jumping in and boogieing down at the season’s most frighteningly-fun dance parties which include Midnight Monster Jam where you help the Monster Crew bring their spooky fun character concert to life. You’ll also have the chance to win some scream worthy prizes by showing off your coolest costumes. Oct. 12, 19, & 26 at 5 p.m. Event details.

Howl-O-Ween Harvest Family Festival at Helen Woodward Animal Center 
Gather up your little goblins and join the fun of Howl-O-Ween Harvest Family Days. This festive event includes hands-on animal encounters, trick-or-treat stations, entry into the “Creepy Clinic,” face painting, crafts, a mystical maze, frighteningly fun games and a mini pumpkin patch. There will also be costume and pumpkin decorating contests; the kids who win will receive free Frosty Farm admission. Your family can also enjoy the adoptable K-9 kissing booth, a cake walk, refreshments and plenty of photo ops. Walk-ups are welcome. Oct. 26 & 27. Event details.

photo: Nature Collective Halloween

Not-So-Scary Estuary
Not-So-Scary Estuary is a Family Discovery Day Presented by: Nature Collective + San Diego County Parks Rangers. Discover hoots + howls at the annual nature-themed Halloween festival. Enjoy hands-on interactive activities, from craft-making to animal encounters. Nature gets the spotlight with a range of family-friendly stations, presentations, food truck (cost), fresh organic fruit provided by Jimbo’s Naturally and more. Join Nature Collective staff + volunteers with County Parks rangers in discovering that creepy crawly creatures are not-so-scary after all. Win prizes in our costume contest at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 13. Event details.

Balboa Park’s Halloween Family Day 
The Balboa Park Halloween Family Day features dozens of free craft projects for kids, Day of the Dead-themed displays and activities, costume contests, carnival games with prizes, face painting, live dance entertainment, and food trucks. Participating museums also offer free admission to kids 12 and younger with paying adult. The Plaza de Panama and El Prado walkway will be overflowing with free hands-on activities for kids, while select museums offer additional Halloween-themed activities inside their buildings. Among the day’s highlights are mini-carnival games for prizes, a giant Day of the Dead altar, a haunted lantern craft at the Japanese Friendship Garden booth, a rooftop pumpkin drop experiment in front of the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and a “Thriller” flash mob dance in the Plaza de Panama that anyone can learn and participate in. Oct. 26. Event details.

photo: Belmont Park

Halloween at Liberty Station
Liberty Station invites the community to head to the North Promenade for a free, family-friendly Halloween celebration. All ages are encouraged to come decked out in their most elaborate costumes. The daytime festivities will include trick-or-treating throughout the district, live entertainment, a Hollywood car show, and other spooky surprises. Oct 27. Event details.

Belmont Park’s Beachside Fall Fest
Belmont Park returns with its 8th annual Beachside Fall Fest in Oct. and Nov. Formerly known as ‘Boomont Park,” Beachside Fall Fest will offer festive-themed rides and attractions like the Giant Dipper, Tiki Town Mini Golf and Laser Tag; plus, the new fall Hay Maze. Fri.-Sun. in Oct. from 5 p.m.-close, plus, Thurs. Oct. 31st, guests will participate in activities like free trick-or-treating starting at 6:30 p.m. (while supplies last) with thousands of treats distributed throughout in-park locations. On Saturdays in Oct. at 5:30 p.m. (sign-ups start at 5 p.m.), guests in the park can showcase their spirited creativity at free costume contests and win big prizes! Oct. & Nov. Fri.-Sun. 5 p.m.-close. Event details.

photo: Beth Shea

Halloween Time at Disneyland & Disney California Adventure
Mickey & Minnie in costume, Disney villains, the Headless Horseman, the Oogie Boogie Bash, the Halloween Screams fireworks show, pumpkin decorations galore, The Haunted Mansion transformation and a not-so-spooky overhaul of Cars Land at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure add up to making these epic theme parks a Halloween wonderland. Not to mention the amazingly delicious Halloween inspired treats and foods you can only get during the Halloween season: Mickey Bat cookies, Cauldron Cake Pops, Evil Queen caramel apples and so much more! Read all about Disneyland at Halloween Time here and then plan your trip up there! Now through Oct. 31. Event details.

Haunted Tales of the Ship
Note: This is the scariest event on this list, best suited for older kids who aren’t easily spooked.

Feel the rock of the harbor beneath your feet and take note of every creak during your time aboard downtown’s iron-hulling sailing ship the Star of India. Built in 1863, you’ll be told tales by lantern light from its 153 year-old history. These tales are creepy and true or not, you’re not likely to hear these stories during its daytime operating hours. Learn how young John Campbell fell to his death from the rigging and more creepy events. Be sure to bring a sweater because if the harbor air doesn’t chill you, the stories will. Oct. 19 & 26. Event details.

photo: Jordann Tomasek/Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium’s Haunted Aquarium 
Enjoy close encounters with Scripps Oceanography scientists and search the exhibits for unusual underwater creatures rarely seen at Birch Aquarium. Discover a sea of glowing monsters (big and small), get sticky with slime, enjoy spooky stories, and boo-gie down to live music, all while having a monstrously good time. Recommended for ages 2+. This is a special after-hours event. You will need to purchase a separate ticket for the special event. The aquarium closes between 5 and 6 p.m. General admission discounts and coupons do not apply. Kids Free in October coupons cannot be used for this event. Oct. 25-27, 6-9 p.m. Event details.

Halloween Family Day at The San Diego Natural History Museum
What lurks in the night? Celebrate bats and other nocturnal creatures at this annual Halloween-themed event. Learn all about nocturnal animals, get a tattoo and make a bat craft to take home. You can also stop by and visit The Nat out on the Prado Walkway as they’ll have a booth set up for the Park-wide Halloween Family Day. Oct. 26. Event details.

photo: San Diego Zoo

HalGLOWeen at San Diego Zoo 
For a wild night out, head to HalGLOWeen at the San Diego Zoo! Snap a photo with zoo characters in Halloween costumes, enjoy myriad ghoulishly fun activities and entertainment including the interactive “boolahoops,” the hip-hop dancing Funky Monkeys, amazing acrobats, a bubble dance party, stroll down python path and do the sweet cupcake walk with Dr. Zoolittle. There’s also a lively Skeleton Band and a 4-D theater “Happy Family” movie. It’s a hoot! Event details. Oct. 11-13, 18-20, & 25-27. Event details.

The Pumpkin Express
Start your spooky day off right with a train ride. The Pumpkin Express will wind down the hill through some of the most scenic parts of the historic San Diego and Arizona Railway. Ride decorated vintage railcars through the San Diego county mountains as fall descends upon Campo, CA. After your trip, walk through the themed Display Building complete with two haunted trains, a pumpkin patch, and a creepy cast of ghosts and ghouls and enjoy decorating pumpkins from the indoor pumpkin patch. Pumpkins are included in the purchase of every toddler and child ticket on the Pumpkin Express. Saturdays & Sundays in Oct. Event details.

Hallo-wine & Spirits Party at Hotel Del Coronado
The landmark hotel in Coronado that’s rumored to be haunted is throwing a rip-roaring bash that welcomes trick-or-treaters ages 4-12. You and your date will rock out at the adults-only Halloween party themed “Night of 1,000 Clowns” while your minis are treated to a special “Kreepy Karnival” Halloween costume party of their own that includes dinner and trick-or-treating. This event is a bit of a splurge, but it will make for a memorable evening that can only take place on the island. Oct. 26. Event details.

––Beth Shea


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