Halloween in San Francisco is an interesting holiday. On the one hand, this is a city where nearly every resident has a closet filled with costumes that are used at various events all throughout the year. These people often outdo themselves at Halloween which makes San Francisco a terrific city for people who really want to get dressed up to party amidst a bunch of frivolous adults. However, there’s a mark of ugliness that hangs over this holiday in San Francisco as well. The Castro has long been considered a top neighborhood for Halloween parties and yet it’s also been the site of several Halloween fights, riots and shootings. So, do you want to do Halloween in San Francisco? Absolutely but where you do and don’t want to be on this holiday depends on what you’re looking for.
The Castro on Halloween
For many years, the place to be on Halloween was in the Castro. This gay nightlife section of the city really knew how to do Halloween right. People would dress up in elaborate costumes and hop from bar to bar to show off what they were wearing. Sometimes the streets were shut down for a city-sponsored Halloween block party. But then things started to get too crazy here. The crowds got too big and the city started to lose control over the event. In 2006, there was a shooting at the event. After that, the city stopped sponsoring Halloween in the area. Many bars and stores had to close down early on Halloween to prevent such a problem from occurring again. The Castro just isn’t the place that it used to be for Halloween. In 2009, bars will be allowed to be open but there will no block party and it’s expected to be a relatively quiet night on the streets of this neighborhood in comparison with years past. Is it safe to spend Halloween here? Probably but it’s not the top choice for a lot of people for Halloween 2009. If you’re sad about the fact that the Castro’s Halloween just isn’t the same as it used to be then you might want to spend your Halloween evening checking out the 8 pm showing of an opera called Halloween in the Castro which humorously describes all of the things that went wrong for this holiday here.
Top Halloween Parties and Events for Adults
So where do you want to be for Halloween 2009 if you’re an adult who is looking to get into costume and to party with other adults? Here are the top choices:
• Wonderland at Ruby Skye. The event of the year is reported to be this three-night long Alice in Wonderland themed music/dance/costume event. The party starts on Thursday and goes on through Halloween night with the cost for a weekend pass being priced at $55. The club spent $20,000 on props so you should get your money’s worth.
• Exotic Erotic. This famous party isn’t actually held on Halloween but it’s considered a top Halloween costume event by many San Franciscans. This fetish event is an expo and ball filled with live porn stars, burlesque performances, costumes galore and more than most eyes can handle. 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of the event which takes place the weekend before Halloween.
• Silly Cil’s 10th Annual Freakshow. This SoMa Halloween event is filled with fun that’s been inspired by the 1930’s circus scene. Expect to see aerial artists, jugglers and a lot of sexy silly costumes at this $30 event. Is it worth the money? It’s one of the most fun events in the city if you’re looking for a Halloween event that you’ve got to pay to attend. It runs from 9-2 at Terra Gallery.
• Drop Dead Sexy Block Party. This event looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. You pay a little bit of cash to get in ($40 for a wristband) but that gives you access to six clubs that combined together have twelve bars and eleven dance floors. A lot of sexy costumed characters will be out and about here so it’s not likely that you’ll get bored. Just remember that you’re on the street with all of San Francisco’s strip clubs so if you’re not into the seedy thing then you may want to look for a tamer event.
• Nightmare on Van Ness. This event is being held on Halloween Night at the Regency Center. Adults can come in costume and dance to the sounds of a number of different DJs in multiple dance rooms at this hot club night. The party runs from 9pm – 4am so if you’re looking for a late night party then this could be a good choice.
Top Halloween Events for Families
What if you’ve got little ones that you want to take to events on Halloween in San Francisco? Top 2009 choices for families include:
• Creature Features at the Exploratorium. This San Francisco science center is a fun attraction all year long. They’re holding a special event with spooky interactive exhibits from 3-8 on Halloween.
• Children’s Garden Costume Walk. Earlier in the day (from 12 – 2) you can take your kids to the ninth annual costume walk at the Yerba Buena Gardens. There are lots of interactive events here for kids age 10 and under. This one is always a lot of fun.
• Halloween at Randall Museum. This downtown museum is doing a day of Halloween events and activities from 10 – 2. It features live entertainment, crafts and games in addition to the usual museum exhibits.
• Boo at the Zoo. The week before Halloween is when you can take the little ones trick-or-treating at the San Francisco Zoo at their popular annual event. Come anytime between 10 and 4 on either the 24th or the 25th and your costumed kids can trick-or-treat while seeing the animals and participating in Halloween-themed activities.
Some Places to Skip on Halloween
In addition to avoiding the Castro, you might want to skip these Halloween events and we’ll tell you why:
• Supperclub’s Dark Dining Event. This hot spot is doing an interesting dining-in-the-dark event for Halloween this year. Why wouldn’t you want to check it out? Because Supperclub is a cool space that you should actually go to when you can see what it’s all about. And besides, there’s another dining-in-the-dark venue in San Francisco (Opaque) where you can enjoy this experience on any other night of the year. Supperclub does, however, have several DJ’d Halloween events happening on the 30th and 31st which could be worth checking out. See their calendar for details.
• City Hall Haunted Ball. This is another one of the many multi-room dance events that you can choose from for Halloween. It’s a popular event that happens every year so why would you want to skip it? It costs $35 to get in and it’s really meant mostly for those people who want to rub shoulders with the see-and-be-seen types of the city. We’re not saying it’s not fun; but for the money you might as well check out one of the other dance events mentioned above.
• Teatro ZinZombie. Teatro Zinzanni is a dinner-and-a-show that turns into a special ghoulish cabaret event for Halloween night. Although the food is decent and the show is entertaining, the price for the event is high. Tickets cost about as much as you would pay to see a show of much higher caliber (such as Cirque du Soleil) plus there are additional charges for drinks and even for being seated when you arrive.
• HallowScreen at The Walt Disney Family Museum. This new San Francisco museum is showing clips from Halloween films all day long. While that may be fun, it’d be better to check out this place when you actually have time to enjoy the whole museum with your kids. A holiday probably isn’t the best choice for a first trip here and since the museum just opened it’s almost certainly going to be your first trip. Put this spot on the calendar for later in the year instead.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a San Francisco resident then your best bet is probably to find a local house party to attend. All of the good events in the city cost a bit of money plus you have to pay for your drinks (although some of them are well worth the cost if you have the money to spend). If you’re a visitor and a house party is out of the question then any of the events listed here should make you happy with your San Francisco Halloween.