10 Ghoulish Halloween Events in San Diego This Month

Drag pumpkin contests, drive-thru horror shows, ghost stories, and more.

hornblower cruises
Photo courtesy of Hornblower Cruises

Believe it or not, Halloween 2020 hasn’t been canceled, although it won’t be quite like years past. While boozy pub crawls and packed dance floors aren’t on the calendar, our local businesses have been working overtime creating safe, fun things to do for the spookiest night of the year. Here are some of the best things to do in San Diego to make your Halloween a treat, not a trick. Boo!

Decorate a drag jack-o-lantern

Through October 29
San Diego Pride
Will your pumpkin be the most gourd-eous in San Diego? Bring your drag queen squash to SD Pride Headquarters for a roll down the virtual catwalk and a chance to win prizes like a 40” Sony Bravia TV, Sony bluetooth speakers and earbuds, and more. Deadline to register is October 27 and voting by the public takes place via San Diego Pride’s social media. Plus, all participants receive a cool San Diego Pride t-shirt or tank.
Cost: $20 per entry

Scream your head off at the Scaregrounds

Through October 31
Del Mar Fairgrounds
The wildly popular Scream Zone at Del Mar Fairgrounds takes a terrifying twist with an all new Drive-Thru Scream Zone: Road Kill—a frightening one-mile drive through scenes from popular horror films and featuring murderous clowns, zombies, and serial killers. Warning: Calling for roadside assistance may be hazardous to your health!
Cost: $40-$80 and up, depending on the day (weekday or weekend), vehicle type, and number of occupants

Lions, Tigers and Bears Animal Sanctuary
Photo courtesy of Lions, Tigers and Bears Animal Sanctuary

Take a walk on the wild side

October 31
Lions, Tigers and Bears Animal Sanctuary
Take a worry-free guided walk through Lions, Tigers and Bears, San Diego’s only accredited big cat and bear sanctuary, and watch rescued exotic animals chomp on goodie-stuffed pumpkins, splash around in their pools and play with their brothers and sisters. Costumes are encouraged, and all safety guidelines will be enforced to ensure a safe visit for guests and animals alike. Proceeds will benefit the rescued animals, providing food, enrichment, habitat maintenance, veterinary care, and more. 
Cost: Members—$30 for adults and $15 for kids. Non-members—$60 for adults and $35 for kids.

Crawl the malls

Through October 31
Various locations
The local mall is always a great place to trick-or-treat, and this year is no exception. Three local Westfield malls have pivoted to safer, but still fun, events. At Westfield UTC, they’re hosting a kid’s scavenger hunt and the return of their hugely popular drive-in movies, featuring Beetlejuice and Hocus Pocus on October 30 and 31, respectively. Westfield Mission Valley has a Pumpkin Station, plus an outdoor, tented Halloween Express, because you really need those ripped fishnets. Westfield Plaza Bonita also hosts a kid’s scavenger hunt through November 6 and a tented Halloween Express. 
Cost: Varies

Hotel del Coronado
Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado

Tell ghost stories around a campfire

October 30–October 31
Hotel del Coronado
Share a spooky night on the beach with your friends and family at the Hotel del Coronado’s Ghost Roast, featuring a blazing fire pit at the beach, s’mores, and a visit from the Del’s own resident ghost, Kate Morgan. Make a reservation online.
Cost: $195 for up to ten guests

Celebrate on the high seas

October 29 - November 1
Hornblower Cruises
Spend Halloween gazing at the glittering skyline along the San Diego Bay aboard Hornblower Cruises. October 29th and November 1st are movie nights featuring Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, along with popcorn and dinner. On Halloween night, join them for a romantic Sights and Sips sunset cruise that includes a boarding glass of bubbly or cider, a chef’s choice bento box, and spectacular views of the cityscape and Coronado bridge. Costumes are encouraged for all nights, with prizes awarded for scariest, funniest, and most unique. Reserve your spot online.
Cost: Varies with cruise type.

Explore a spooky haunted trail

Through November 1
Petco Park
Head to Petco Park for safe, family-friendly trick-or-treat fun at their one-way pumpkin patch and haunted trail. Visit themed booths where kids can collect candy and toys via contactless delivery from superheroes, witches, mermaids, pirates, dinosaurs, and more. Once through the pumpkin patch, enjoy your candy, purchase additional food and beverages, and watch a Halloween movie in a socially distanced space. Tickets can be purchased online.
Cost: $25+ for kids 14 and under, $20+ for adults

Friendly Feast
Photo courtesy of Friendly Feast

Indulge in decadent pastries for a good cause

October 31
Ranch 45
Friendly Feast’s 2020 Halloween pop-up will be hosted by Ranch 45 and stars luscious Halloween-themed treats from six of San Diego’s top bakers—think Almond Joy truffles from Suellen Drummond of Favela Bonita or Kaitlin Lloyd of San Diego Sweets’ black cat sandwich cookie with salted caramel and buttercream filling. Your bakery box contains six pastries (one from each chef) with proceeds supporting Friendly Feast and Frontline Foods. Order online and you’ll receive an email with pickup instructions, and a special pickup time between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm to maximize social distancing.
Cost: $35 

Get corn-fused in a maze

Through October 31
Various locations 
Corn mazes across the county are open for safe, open-air family fun now through Halloween, and offer plenty of spooky activities in addition to navigating through the cornstalks. Check out Rancho Bernardo Pumpkin Farm and Bonita Pumpkin Farm for eight-foot tall stalks with a few disarming deadends, plus hayrides, a pumpkin patch, and cut-your-own sunflowers. Carlsbad Strawberry Company hosts a 1.5 mile maze that’s challenging but not crazy-making, as well as a weekend-only haunted Field of Screams that’s definitely best suited for older kids and adults. They also have an awesome apple cannon, tractor rides and a pumpkin patch. Head to Ramona’s Mountain Valley Ranch for 2.5 acres of corny labyrinths, a corn cannon and pony rides. A cute little maze awaits your young’uns at Summers Past Farms, plus a fun hay fort for the littles to explore, a sweet store with freshly made herbal soaps, and a lovely coffee bar. 
Cost: Varies

Photo courtesy of Garibaldi

Dress up and score free stuff

October 31
Various locations
The whole idea of dressing up and getting free candy doesn’t have to end when you grow up, and several San Diego favorites are ready to help you relive those happy days, adult style. At the Puffer Malarkey Collective restaurants, Herb & SeaHerb & Wood, and Animae, they'll pop bottles alongside every group that arrives for dinner in costume on October 31. Garibaldi, the gorgeous lounge in the InterContinental Hotel San Diego offers costumed guests a complimentary amaro and gelato to enjoy along with their amazing bay views. For a sweet treat, visit The Gluten Free Baking Co. and join their costume celebration from October 29 through November 1, when customers who come dressed in costume receive a free mini donut or mini cupcake. They’re also hosting a churro pop-up from 4 pm to 6:30 pm on October 31st in partnership with Madre Churro & Cacao.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.