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Yes, I embarrass my kids by always dressing up for every Halloween activity. Even when they had parades at school, I would show up in my Dia de Los Muertos body suit, rose and veil headpiece, and full make-up, to clap and snap pictures of the kids. The parents would love it, the other kids would love it, but my kids not so much. It’s fun to dress up in costume and Halloween is my favorite holiday so I try to drag my kids around to as many Halloween events around Los Angeles and California as I can.
This year’s Halloween attractions around Los Angeles offer many fun activities at theme parks, zoos, and places that just love hosting memorable gatherings. Here are the best Halloween activities in LA and California for fun day trips and weekend getaways.
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Legoland California – Carlsbad
I couldn’t wait to introduce my kids to Halloween. Apparently, many parents share my enthusiasm. When I took 13-year-old Knox and his 12-year-old friend, Cam, to explore Legoland’s Brick-or-Treat Halloween festivities, parents packed the walkways around the park with strollers, toddlers, and the occasional tween. Yet, most still managed to dress in costume!
The Halloween fun didn’t start until 3pm but we had gotten there an hour before the park opened (just after 9am) because we had stayed at the Legoland Castle Hotel (huge hotel perk!).
So we got the chance to ride all the rides before lines formed and the boys even had the pleasure of sliding into the pools at the Legoland Waterpark while Howard and I found a cozy, front-row lounge chair.
We began our Brick-or-Treat adventure by going through the (sorta) spooky Monster Scare Trail. This is Haunted House 101. It was dark, there was a story involved of missing hikers and a found camera, all the good makings of a romp through the darkest part of your imagination where most spooky things live.
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This really is the best park for toddlers and younger kids in all ways holiday and for regular fun. Everything is smaller. The spook factor is diminished, and the imagination and happiness quotients are multiplied with bright displays of joyous words and objects.
Best For Ages 3-11
👹Treat stations open at 3pm and other activities vary but the Monster Party in general starts at 3pm and goes until 9pm on Saturday nights. (last two in September and all in October).
🍭There are 8 treat stations scattered around the park where friendly witches and monsters give out enough candy to make your dentist rich.
🎼There are 3 stages around the park where Ghouls scatter notes that form music in monster bands. Don’t miss the dance floor!
🧱There are 4 special workshops that include a scavenger hunt, lego spider build, and an advanced lego workshop led by a master teacher. Unfortunately, they canceled the class on how to become a vampire because of COVID (sorry).
👻There are also costume contests (sign up 10 minutes before each one), meet and greet photo ops, and special monster munchies.
Running from September 17-October 30 on select nights.
Universal Studios Hollywood
We got the chance to experience Universal Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood 2023. I thought Knox would try to fight the monsters, but he was actually kinda into it and loved the whole thing. Kaleb brought a friend, and the three of them huddled together as they walked through the houses. We got the Express Pass and entry from the park so we could see the horrors for ourselves. Believe me when I say the studio folks at Universal really use their talents to maximize the horror element of the season.
On our way into Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, elaborate monsters stalked us with power tools and appeared in our path out of nowhere. A girl with a cut-up doll-like face stuck a knife in front of Kaleb’s eyes and walked away. It was fun screaming and laughing at our own fear and surprise. I squeezed Howard’s hand and leaned into his body, and we got to jump and scream (mostly me) together. OK, it was all me. We knew the monsters would be there, but it helped to know they couldn’t touch us. And none of them did.
The houses recreated scenes from Universal Studios scariest movies released this year. Our favs were Stanger Things 4 and Evil Dead Rise. Bat-like creatures, Killer Klowns and Carnival Cryers separated body parts and severed heads as we walked by or popped out from well-hidden nooks as we tried to escape the mazes of each house. We passed possessed kids mutilating adults, and we walked into our favorite nightmares from Stranger Things 4 as the kids fought Vecna before us. Universal really leaned into their skill set to bring their world of terror out into our world, at least for the night.
WATCH THE VIDEO we posted on Instagram to see the houses we walked through!
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It was a great time and I can’t wait to go again next year!
Best For Ages 13-99
🍭 There are no candy stations, sorry. But you could still buy Butterbeer and Starbucks.
+ Haunted Houses for 2023 (some based on movies) are The Exorcist: Believer, Stranger Things 4, The Last of Us, Chucky: Ultimate Kill Count, Universal Monsters: Unmasked, Evil Dead Rise, Monstruos: The Monsters of Latin America, Holidayz In Hell and the Terror Tram. We did most of them because we had the Express Pass.
👻 Wait times for Houses seemed to average 90 minutes, but Express Passes for $80 reduced that time to about 5-20 minutes. Totally worth it.
👹 Universal Hollywood Horror Nights tickets are a separate admission from regular Universal tickets. Gates open at 7 p.m. on Horror Nights, and tickets sell out, so buy them as soon as you know you want to go.
🧱 Some regular rides are open, too, but there are still respectable lines (refer to the Express pass!)
Universal Hollywood Horror Nights run on select nights from September 7-October 31 7pm-2am – get your discount tickets HERE
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Fright Fest 2022
This is how I know Knox can’t handle the monsters that appear out of nowhere. Six Flags Magic Mountain has Scare Zones. You know when you go inside these maze-like areas that monsters will be there. That’s why you go in. But Knox and Cam still didn’t expect them when we went last year, as it was their first time at a park like that. Knox threatened and tried to hit a poor gnarled monster in a top hat. I had to speak with him after the monster complained and I stayed with him for the rest of the night even though we went with another family and there were five boys. After that, we weren’t going into any haunted houses.
Also, the regular coasters are open and we got stuck on one for about 15 minutes. At first, I thought it was part of the night and looked around for goblins to appear on the side of the coaster track (we got stuck on a flat part of the ride, thank goodness) but that didn’t happen. Eventually, they fixed the problem and we nervously finished the ride.
+ Best For Ages 13-99
+ There are six haunted houses and eight scare zones scattered throughout the park.
+ Season Pass holders (like us) get in free for special events like this but Express Haunted Passes (skip the line) are $44.99. Combo tickets for non-pass holders are $119.99.
+ There is a DJ dance area, an adults-only boozy area and dark rides to complete the mood.
Kids Boo Fest
This is the family-friendly event where we probably should have taken Knox. Though it’s hard because he’s at that in-between age. Here is where the candy trail is and the treats are spooky too. Think gummy worms on piles of crumbled oreos kind of spooky.
+ Best For Ages 2-9
+ Both Halloween events run on select days from Sept. 10 – Oct. 31
Santa Barbara Zoo
For whatever reason, when the kids were toddlers and in strollers, this is the zoo where we came to celebrate Halloween with them. Maybe because it’s smaller than the LA Zoo so little legs could handle it better or maybe because it’s closer to where we lived, whatever the reason, we went a few years in a row and the Santa Barbara Zoo did a great job.
Come in Halloween costume to Santa Barbara’s Boo at the Zoo on weekend evenings October 21-30 (Friday through Sunday) for trick or treating, a Zoo Train ride, mad scientist experiments, and encounters with creepy-crawly zoo residents.
+ Best For Ages 2-10
The most wicked fun to have with kids during Halloween in LA and California. From theme parks to haunted houses, here are the best places!
Queen Mary – Long Beach
Unfortunately, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is closed until further notice. That’s too bad because we really enjoyed it the couple times we went on double dates with our friends. Check their website for updates.
Other Halloween Events
San Diego’s ocean-themed park offers two different Halloween experiences. During the day, little kids will love the trick-or-treat-friendly SeaWorld Spooktacular, with a hay maze, mermaid meet-and-greets, and candy aplenty. After dark, teens and grown-ups can get their nerves frazzled at Howl-O-Scream, with haunted houses, scare zones, and darkened coasters. Also available: themed adult beverages, such as the Murder She Float.
+ Select days from September 16–October 31
Both Anaheim parks kick off the season in a big way: Disneyland Park has the Main Street Pumpkin Festival, a blinged-out Haunted Mansion, and special fireworks. Disney California Adventure Park has its own holiday-themed rides—such as Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark—and a Plaza de la Familia with Coco-inspired decor and entertainment in honor of Día de los Muertos (through Nov. 2).
California Adventure also offers the separate-ticketed Oogie Boogie Bash select nights from Sept. 6–Oct. 31. Collect goodies on the Treat Trail, see the Frightfully Fun Parade, and check out famous Disney villains lurking along the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Just outside the parks in the Downtown Disney District, you can play a scavenger hunt–style game, Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit, from Sept. 9 to Oct. 31.
The Sesame Street–themed park in Chula Vista throws a Halloween party every weekend through the end of October, with the integer-loving Count playing host. Come in costume for trick-or-treating, a Halloween Parade, and a Spot-the-Ghost scavenger hunt. Don’t miss the dance parties, specials shows, and photo ops with the Count and other Sesame Street characters donning their own costumes.
+ Select nights September 17-October 30
Knott’s Berry Farm
During the Halloween season, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park transforms into one of the largest haunts on the West Coast. More than 1,000 live-action ghosts and ghouls are waiting behind every corner at the dozen-plus mazes, fright zones, and thrill rides. Mazes and attractions for 2022 have names like Bloodline 1842 and Carnaval du Grotesque. (Intended for ages 13 and up. Also, the park’s current policy states that visitors ages 17 years or younger must be accompanied by a chaperone who’s at least 21.)
+ Select nights September 22-October 31
California’s Great America
In between the rides at this Santa Clara County theme park, enjoy two distinct Halloween celebrations: the “Tricks” area (a zombie cover band, silent disco, and worms-in-dirt cupcakes) or the “Treats” area, with a candy-corn farm, a sweets-conjuring witch, and lots of trick or treating. Everyone can enjoy creative dishes such as seafood-themed Fritters from the Black Lagoon. Buy your tickets online for the best rates.
+ Select nights September 23-October 30
The little kid–friendly theme park in Gilroy throws a party every weekend evening in October with the theme “Boo Alley,” based on the musical show The Great Big Boo. See characters from the show, such as Vinnie the Vampire and Wendella the Witch, and enjoy light displays, trick-or-treating, and special food and drink.
+ Select nights October 1-31
Winchester Mystery House – San Jose
October is prime time for this bizarre, 160-room mansion in San Jose, which has a creepy origin story: it was built by an eccentric heiress who was trying to ward off ghosts. “Unhinged: Nightshade’s Curse” turns the already-eerie house into a theme-park-style haunted house, featuring characters such as Headless Helena and the Swamp Witch. Catch your breath outside with diversions including a speakeasy-style bar and midway games.
+ Select nights September 30-October 31
Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch – West Los Angeles
There are pumpkin patches and there are PUMPKIN PATCHES. This one is the latter. One of the best pumpkin patches in the LA area, with many attractions such as petting zoos blow-up slides and carnival games, this is a day filled with hometown goodness. And you can pick and take home a pumpkin, of course, as a souvenir. On October 15th, Spookley the Square Pumpkin will visit and take pictures with kids in his anti-bullying campaign based on his books.
+ Select days October 1-31
Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
Board the Haunted Hayride in Griffith Park to explore the foothills of Midnight Falls, where the leaves turn brown and the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. The Witch of the Woods has cast her spell to summon the spirits of the underworld to cross over and assimilate into form. The Hayride leads to a thrilling adventure of horrors afflicting the town. Dazed within the spell cast upon them, the Witch commands her army of crops and flesh to seek revenge on the people that have casted her out. The Spirit of Halloween comes to life surrounding helpless victims brave enough to board The Hayride. Later, walk around Midnight Falls to visit Halloween haunts: haunted houses, freaky shows, and monsters usher guests into the Halloween spirit.
Park your car at the LA Zoo parking lot and if your kids still have evergy (or their older) visit the zoo next!
+ Select Dates September 23-October 31
The Halloween spirit will be in full swing for 31 frightfully fun days at the L.A. Zoo, where guests can enjoy spooktacular sights daily. Weekends are even sweeter, with treats like open-air live shows, animal pumpkin feedings, themed photo ops, education stations, and much more. On the last two weekends of the month (October 22/23 and 29/30), enjoy trick or treating stations featuring candies courtesy of our proud partner, Mars. Costumes are encouraged! 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily, with special entertainment and activities on weekends.
Free with paid Zoo admission or GLAZA membership.
+ October 1-31
San Diego Zoo
The world-famous zoo stays open on select nights until 9 p.m. for partiers to enjoy music, bubbles, acrobats, and more—all aglow under spooky black lights. Runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during October.
+ October 1-31
Explore Oakland’s zoo on a seasonal scavenger hunt and collect as your prize a limited-release animal trading card and an Oakland-made OCHO candy bar. Come dressed for the holiday—just no inflatable costumes, which reportedly scare the animals—and enter the costume contest by tagging the Oakland Zoo on social media. Contest winners will receive tickets to Glowfari, the zoo’s holiday nighttime event .
+ November 11–January 29
San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
Celebrate the season at the San Francisco zoo during the last weekend of the month with a costume contest, treat giveaways, and a view of the resident animals enjoying their own Halloween goodies. While you’re there, enjoy the ZootoberFest celebration with a giant hay maze and German-inspired food, beer, and entertainment. Advance reservations are required when visiting the zoo on weekends.
Huntington Beach Corgi Beach Day “HOWL-O-WEEN”
Huntington Beach’s famed Corgi Beach Day is celebrating its 10th Anniversary on Saturday, October 29th! The theme is apropos for the upcoming holiday: Howl-o-ween! Pet owners can enjoy fun giveaways, interactive pet/owner selfie stations, and other Halloween-themed activities.
- Contests & giveaways: Corgi Costume Contest, Best Corgi Butt and Corgi Eating Contest, and more)
- Pet-centric vendor village: Tworgis, Top Dog Barkery, Corgi Collective, Pawty Things
- Gourmet food truck pavilion
- Photo ops and photo stations (including a Corgi Kissing Booth)
King Gillette Ranch – Calabasas
This is a fun, interactive experience with nearly a mile of carved pumpkins, a vibrant light show, and a spookeasy serving hot cider and kooky cocktails. This is also a terrific beginner Halloween experience in southern California. Food trucks will offer picnics under the moon and glowing lights. There is face painting and a psychic who will predict your doom. This is definitely one of the best Halloween events for the younger set.