I have a mama friend who refers to this time of year as the High Holidays, and she ain't talking Yom Kippur. She's also not wrong; there really is no higher holiday on the kid calendar than Halloween. And Southland families can enjoy a long slow build to All Hallows' Eve with more spooky celebrations, haunted happenings, and evil events per capita than any other urban area. Little ghouls and goblins have their pick of pumpkin patches, haunted houses, corn mazes, and ghost trains—but wait; there's more! SoCal theme parks get all creepy at this time of year, too, and the annual festivals below scream Halloween like nobody's business.
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Fall Harvest Festival
September 30 - October 31, 2017
3370 Sunset Valley Road
Moorpark, CA 93021
Underwood Farms does a while lot more than just line up hordes of gourds and fresh pumpkins to mark the season; the family farm brings in antique tractors shows, cowboy entertainers, community service demos, folk music festivals, and costume parties to make each weekend a cornucopia of family-friendly seasonal entertainment. Admission is $6 during the week and $15 on weekend, when activities really ramp up; weekend admission is $3 less online.
College of Agriculture Pumpkin Festival
October 7-8, 2017
Cal Poly Pomona:
4102 S. University Drive
Pomona, CA 91768
Cal Poly Pomona's pumpkin patch has been around for more than two decades. The drive east is rewarded with a large patch, a corn maze, and plenty of other fun for kids. Parking is free, and family packs are cheaper purchased in advance on the website.
Scarium of the Pacific
October 14-15, 2017
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
The Aquarium of the Pacific transforms into a creepy undersea experience for the holiday. Fangtastic activities include magic shows, costume and coloring contests, face painting, underwater pumpkin carving, crafts, spooky storytelling, and creepy creature touch opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Kidspace Children’s Museum
Kidspace Pumpkin Festival
October 14-15, 2017
480 N Arroyo Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91103
The annual Kidspace Pumpkin Festival features crafts, rides, games, bouncers, live performances, promotions at the Radio Disney tent, and free photos at the pumpkin patch. Oh - and lots of pumpkins.
Calabasas Pumpkin Festival
October 21-22, 2017
Juan Bautista de Anza Park
3701 Lost Hills Road
Calabasas, CA 91302
At the annual Calabasas Pumpkin Festival, families can enjoy music, games, crafts, rides, a pumpkin patch, a car show, nature shows, and much more. Pumpkin facts and history are shared (after all, calabazas means pumpkins), and rides and activities are included in one admission price.
A Frightfully Fishy Fest for Halloween & Dia de los Muertos
October 28-29, 2017
1600 Ocean Front Walk
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium holds its annual Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebration on Saturday only this year. Kids can create their own masks and explore a mad scientist's laboratory, in addition to face painting, arts and crafts, naturalists' presentations, and a marine animal graveyard.
Boo at the Zoo
October 1 - 31, 2017
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Kids are invited to the zoo for some safe trick-or-treating fun, pumpkin carving, musical entertainment, and spooky crafts. The wackiest part is called Stomp 'n' Chomp, when zebras, hippos, tigers, and other animals tear into pumpkins with gusto.
What better place to trick-or-treat than Disneyland? Photo by Loren Javier/CC BY 2.0
Everyone and his ghost knows about the Southland's various creepy theme park options, but it never hurts to be reminded:
Disneyland entices the younger crowd with Mickey's Halloween Haunt (Fridays and a few Mondays and Wednesdays, September 23 - October 31). The annual trick-or-treat extravaganza brings a limited number of families per night to enjoy a combination of rides, treat collecting, and dancing in the streets. This is a wholesome as Halloween gets.
Legoland brings back its Brick or Treat each Saturday in October, offering the younger set a Halloween Haven just a little farther south. Costume contests, entertainers, trick-or-treating, and fireworks displays make this a great way to get in the holiday spirits with kids who are still heading for bed at a reasonable hour. And remember, if you're heading that far south, make use of the Kids Free October deals!
Knott's Berry Farm rolls out its annual Spooky Farm weekends in October for the younger set, offering another celebration that highlights cheer over fear. This one is daytime only, but the park's Peanuts franchise promises a chance to hang out in Linus' pumpkin patch. Bigger kids (12 and up) and grown-ups who enjoy a good scare probably know all about Knott's Scary Farm (most nights through October 31); this one is all about putting the horror in Halloween and leaves no hair unraised.
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. Photo courtesy of Universal Studios
Universal Studio's legendary Halloween Horror Nights opens for the season on September 18, scaring teens and adults (again, no younger kids) weekends (and then some) through the end of October. Scare junkies can count on mazes, murderers, and mayhem, with more gruesome goings-on that anyone could take in on a single night.
Magic Mountain's Fright Fest (weekends September 17 - October 30) achieves its annual goal of terrorizing everyone over the age of 13 with more scare zones, shows, and haunted mazes than ever before. Nightmares are virtually guaranteed.
The Queen Mary's annual attraction, Dark Harbor, scares visitors to the belly of the ship in Long Beach from September 28 - November 1. The event includes mazes on board and on dry land, scaring those ready for it from age 12 and up.
Great Wolf Lodge is SoCal's newest theme park, and the water park resort is a joyous spot to get in the spirit of the season. Overnight guests can take part in daily trick-or-treating in between rounds on the water slides; locals can enjoy the decorated lodge and nightly monster dance parties on a visit to play glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, cruise the arcade, or have a festive dinner.
Be sure to check out a few of our recommendations for ghost trains and haunted rides, too!
Top photo: Halloween, Disney-style. Photo by GunnerVV/CC BY 2.0
Originally published September 29, 2011