Written by Bill Zavestoski
Halloween is only a week away. Before you indulge in a night of trick-or-treating with a bevy of ghost, goblins and ghouls, make time for your family to enjoy these great Halloween-themed day trips:
24th Street between Sanchez and Church
San Francisco, CA 94114
A celebration of fall in the city, the Noe Valley Harvest Festival features more than 50 craft booths, live local bands, costume contests for kids and pets, a pumpkin patch and a chance to decorate some of the gourds, jumpy tents for the little ones and plenty of food and drink.
It's best to arrive by public transportation, but if you do drive, parking is available at James Lick Middle School at 25th and Castro streets. Nominal parking fees will be collected to help support the James Lick School PTA.
Also visit the adjacent Noe Valley Farmers Market, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and hop aboard as the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association hosts its annual 24th Street Hay Ride from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with traditional horse-drawn carriage.
The Fine Print
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with no admission fee, but you'll want to have cash available to make purchases at the craft booths and for meals or snacks. Because of the fair, 24th Street will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. on Saturday.
2750 19th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94132
San Francisco Recreation and Park hosts its annual Halloween get-together for local families on Friday afternoon and evening at Sigmund Stern Grove in the Sunset District. Kids and adults can enjoy the carnival rides, games, a haunted house, arts and crafts, a hayride, giant inflatables, live entertainment and refreshments.
Dress the kids warmly, or at least have a jacket they can put over their costume since the temperature is sure to drop once the sun sets about halfway through this event.
Show off your get-up in the costume parade or just marvel at the creativity some of the participants demonstrate with their unique disguises.
The Fine Print
The event runs from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, and admission is $8 per person, which covers all rides and activities, but not food or drink. Tickets are available online, at 501 Stanyan St. or by calling (415) 831-6800.
1620 7th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122
Clancy’s is run by the third generation of a family that started the business in 1949 with Christmas tree sales. It established the first pumpkin patch in San Francisco in 1979, and since it is within the city, you won't find the frills and expansiveness of patches out in the country. But there's a great selection of specialty pumpkins, from white to blue to striped.
Though the kids will gravitate to the big, orange pumpkins, of which there are plenty, this is the place to secure Halloween decorations for the home as well. Corn stalks, mini pumpkins, Indian corn and a wide selection of other gourds can spruce up your place through Thanksgiving.
Let the kids play in the hay, including a maze they can crawl through, and get a look at the scarecrows and other themed decorations that adorn the lot. And remember to go along on one of the hayrides at the back of the patch.
The Fine Print
Clancy's is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Oct. 31. There is limited free parking on-site and the hayride is a few dollars. Pumpkins can range from under $5 to $20 or more depending on size.
San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Road (entrance at Sloat Boulevard and the Great Highway)
San Francisco, CA. 94132
In addition to seeing a really fine zoo, the Halloween theme on weekends through Sunday gives families a chance to head out in search of candy at stations around the grounds, make take-home crafts and snap a picture with Casper the Friendly Ghost. Even parents will remember him. The animals also get in on the holiday spirit with themed treats (like pumpkins) and wellness activities.
Find out from the handout you're given as you enter when various animals get to partake in the Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp, then be sure you're there when a keeper presents them with a unique treat that they may choose to play with or devour.
On this weekend, a ”Haunted Nature Trail” allows zoo-goers to get to know about snakes, owls and a number of other animals that many people consider creepy. There's also the Creepy Crawly Critter Adventures at the Insect Zoo and an exhibit featuring sculptured butterflies with five-foot wingspans and four-foot long beetle models in the Pachyderm Building.
The Fine Print
All themed exhibits are free with a paid San Francisco Zoo admission, which ranges from $7.50 to $14 for San Francisco residents and a few dollars higher for others. The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with the Boo at the Zoo activities centered from 11 to 3 on the weekend. Parking is $10 on weekends ($8 Monday through Friday).