Fun and Freaky Family Halloween Events in California

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What do you get when you drop a pumpkin?…

—Squash!

Which flavor of Halloween do you prefer—the holiday that includes candy and carved pumpkins, or the kind that makes you want to jump out of your skin? California has a nice blend of both, thanks to a deep inventory of theme park offerings, local festivals, and some historic sites with legitimately creepy backstories. Here are some Halloween events worth planning a trip around—and happily, plenty of them last well beyond Oct. 31.

Oct. 19–20: Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

South of San Francisco, the town of Half Moon Bay is surrounded by pumpkin patches—and hence has become the self-proclaimed “World Pumpkin Capital.” This beloved festival includes enormous pumpkins, sculpted pumpkins, a Great Pumpkin Parade, pie-eating contests, along with seasonal craft beer, pumpkin-infused ales, and cocktails.

Oct. 19–31: Thriller Flash Mobs, Santa Barbara 

Hundreds of fleet-footed zombies will perform the iconic “Thriller” dance at a variety of locations around Santa Barbara, including dates at the Boo at the Zoo at the Santa Barbara Zoo and at restaurant and former stagecoach stop Cold Spring Tavern. Learn the moves to be a part of the mob, or simply sit back and enjoy the show.

Oct. 25: Pagan Ball, Calistoga

Masquerade in style at Castello di Amorosa’s annual gala. Step inside the winery (built to look like a medieval castle) for an evening of fortune tellers, zombies, bites, a cigar bar, and lots of wine tasting.

Oct. 25–Nov. 2: Dia de Los Muertos, Los Angeles

The annual Day of the Dead remembrance for departed ancestors—rooted in Mayan, Pre-Colombian, and Aztec traditions—is celebrated on downtown’s historic Olvera Street. Come each evening for the processions, featuring blessings, dances, treats, and face-painting. Not far away, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery will do its own one-day festival on Nov. 2, with the monarch butterfly as this year’s mascot.

Through Oct. 31: Oogie Boogie Bash Halloween Party, Disneyland Resort

This Halloween season event on select nights features a new World of Color show (called “Villainous!”), trick-or treat stations, a dance party based on Disney’s Descendants movies, and meet-and-greets with villains like Captain Hook and Maleficent.

Through Oct. 31: Haunted Pathway, Nevada City

Take a self-guided Halloween walk underneath 130-foot towering pines at the Inn Town Campground. Stay overnight, too—the campground in the historic Gold Country town holds fireside chats this time of year, along with guided hikes to see autumn colors.