13 Ghoulish Ways to Celebrate Halloween in San Diego This Year

Time to get your creep on!

Halloween is back with a vengeance, San Diego! Creepy mazes in remote cornfields, spooky hotels filled with restless souls, and ghouls roaming abandoned amusement parks will haunt your dreams, but hellish brews and boo-zy cocktail creations will give you liquid courage to carry on. There’s also plenty of ghostly storytelling, a chance to parade with your pet at costume contests, and a high seas Halloween adventure. This year, local businesses have been working overtime creating safe, fun things to do on 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!

Indulge in boo-zy libations

Various locations
Halloween wouldn’t be complete without thrill-themed cocktails popping up at bars and restaurants throughout the city, and San Diego’s favorite watering holes are delivering in spectacular fashion. You won’t want to miss MetlBar Creamery & Café’s spook-tacular, boozy seasonal flavors like Halo-Halloween (bourbon pumpkin pie, taro & ube rum, black coconut ice, Sweet Tart bats), Trick or Treat (tequila and black cocoa ice cream filled with Halloween candies), Corpse Reviver Candy Corn (three layers of ice cream: Cointreau and orange, gin and lemon, absinthe) and Vegan Rye n Pumpkin Pie (Templeton Rye Whiskey with pumpkin pie), available in pints and cocktail lickers (push pops). The Cutwater Spirits Tasting Room & Kitchen is serving up all treats, no tricks with five new concoctions created by Beverage Ambassador Laura Price: Blood Moon (Devil’s Share American whiskey, blood orange, cherry heering, vermouth), Beetlejuice (Cutwater white rum, melon, pea flower, lime), Graveyard Slush (Cutwater White Russian and charcoal), Halloweentown (Cutwater Horchata vodka, carrot, cinnamon, ginger, and ancho) and Eye of the Spider (Cutwater vodka, coffee liqueur, cacao, and cinnamon whipped cream).
Cost: Varies with venue

Thursday, October 28-Sunday, October 31
Mira Mesa
AleSmith Brewing Company pairs scares and beers on its haunted brewery tour, which takes you through the festive tap room to the shipping docks and beyond...into the wilds of the Zien Family Farm in search of the secret ingredient for its devilishly delicious Evil Dead Red. All ages are welcome to the tasting room, but the haunted event is not recommended for the littles. Several ticket options are available, including a special, family-friendly Light Fright party on October 30–31.
Cost: $30 + $3.46 fee for general admission, $20 + $2.85 fee for designated drivers, $7 + $2.03 fee for Light Fright tickets.

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

Saturday, October 30
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 at their annual Pumpkin Bash. 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.

Through Sunday, October 31
While SeaWorld still has their kid-friendly SeaWorld Spooktacular Halloween event, this year they’ve added Howl-O-Scream, with horrifying haunted houses, creeping creatures, terrifying rides, devilishly delicious cocktails, beer and bites, a steampunk themed club, The Underground, and a Vampire Circus. Howl-O-Scream is recommended for 13+ and is a separately ticketed nighttime event. Spring for an Evil Upgrade and get front of line access. Purchase tickets online.
Cost: $39.99-99.99, Evil Upgrades run $29-79

Crawl the malls

Through Sunday, 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 the Witches of Westfield on Saturday for brews and spins on the wheel of chance, plus mall-wide trick-or-treating on Sunday from 4–6 pm. Westfield Mission Valley has a Pumpkin Station for family-friendly fun that’s open daily through Halloween, plus a Halloween Express housed, perhaps fittingly, in the relic that was once Macy’s, because you really need those ripped fishnets. Westfield Plaza Bonita also hosts a daily Pumpkin Station, as well as a Días de los Muertos Pop-up Photo Museum on October 31.
Cost: Varies

marshall scotty's amusement park

Through Sunday, October 31
El Cajon
If you grew up in San Diego, you likely celebrated your birthday at Marshal Scotty’s Playland Amusement Park, or know someone who did. Closed since 1998, it’s fallen into desolation and disrepair, leaving it prey to all manner of creeps, clowns, and curiosities lurking around the old ferris wheel, under the roller coaster and in the hallways of the Houses of Horror. Tickets are sold at the door only.
Cost: $20 +$1 fee for credit card for general admission, $29 +$1 credit card fee for FastPass, so you can bypass the lines. Kids under five are free.

Sunday, October 31
Liberty Station
Strut your stuff with your four-legged friends at The Presley’s annual Doggy Costume Contest, which will run 3- 5 pm on October 31st on The Presley’s expansive outdoor patio. You’ll enjoy classic American fare, local seafood and shareable plates, in addition to a selection of craft cocktails while in full Halloween attire. The top three most imaginative human/dog duos will be awarded a prize, so come ready to show off your iconic style.
Cost: Varies

Friday, October 29
Nightmare on Normal Street returns to Hillcrest with a spooky Nightmare Prom-themed street party! Hillcrest’s haunted dance party and costume competition begins with happy hour at 5 pm, followed by cocktails, live music and DJs, a runway costume competition with a $2,000 shopping prize for the winner, a pet costume competition, drag queen shows, and dancing till you drop! It all takes place under the Hillcrest Pride Flag at Pride Plaza on Normal Street, and benefits the San Diego LGBT Community Center and Hillcrest Business Association. Grab a VIP pass and get two cocktails, food credit, private restrooms, and private stage viewing.
Cost: $20 for general admission, $45 for VIP at presale. $25 for general admission, $55 for VIP entry the day of.

Hotel del Coronado
Hotel del Coronado

Saturday, October 30
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 maybe even a visit from the Del’s own resident ghost, Kate Morgan. Make a reservation online.
Cost: $230 for up to ten guests.

Saturday, October 30
Hornblower Cruises
Spend Halloween gazing at the glittering skyline along the San Diego Bay aboard Hornblower Cruises Pier Pressure Titanic Masquerade. Party on The Admiral Hornblower with three decks, two floors of music, seven of San Diego’s top DJs, and spectacular views of the cityscape and Coronado bridge. Reserve your spot online.
Cost: $47-$350 +fees.

Through October 31
Balboa Park
Balboa Park’s Haunted Trail is back for Halloween 2021 with a double dose of terror. You’ll begin in The eXperiment Maze, a 3,500-square-foot maze where you’ll meet horror icons like Chucky, TheRing girl, Michael Myers, Jason, and more, followed by a mile-long trek through Merlin’s Forest, and a float downstream with Pennywise, clowns with chainsaws, a Ghoul Bus filled with a cloister of nuns, and other nightmarish ghouls.Tickets can be purchased online.
Cost: $24.99-$44.99 +fees.

corn maze
Carlsbad Strawberry Company

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

Through October 31
Mission Valley
Haunted Hotel Disturbance in Mission Valley is a three-in-one horrorfest with the creepiest characters imaginable! Start in the zombie-filled Haunted Hotel, where the dead have been disturbed, and are on the loose throughout the killer kitchen, steaming boiler room, and unholy chainsaw bridal suite, followed by a trip to the backwoods of the Ozarks for Kill-Billy Chaos, featuring feral creatures ready for human hunting. Finally, you’ll enter a heart-stopping, blacklight 3-D Freak Fest infested with demented clowns and malevolent mutants in a pulse-pounding, blacklit maze. Buy tickets online.
Cost: $24.99-34.99 +fees.

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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.