Make no bones about it, Southern California is a bloody good place for your skeleton crew to celebrate Halloween as Shocktober and beyond is filled with activities and events that will make everyone’s skin crawl. From theme park fright nights and haunted houses to pumpkin patches and scary movie screamings, err, screenings, this grisly guide will help you find all the things that go bump in the night.
Theme Park Takeovers
Have a (costume) ball at any of the region’s amusement parks, all of which offer holiday hijinks through decorations, themed food, and limited-time attractions. Many require separate admission tickets.
• Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights: When darkness descends on the Universal City park, scare zones and 10 new mazes meant to send chills down your spine come to life. Most are inspired by TV and movie properties including The Walking Dead,Stranger Things, Us, and Ghostbusters. Don your legwarmers for ‘80s Throwback Thursdays and don’t miss a new Jabbawockeez dance show. Held Thursdays to Sundays through Nov. 4.
• Disneyland & California Adventure: Mickey Mouse and company provide fright-lite fun at two parks through Oct. 31. Several rides including the Haunted Mansion, which turned 50 this year, and roaming characters are given seasonal makeovers. Watch the fireworks show featuring the brand’s best baddies while eating Toy Story vampire alien macarons. There are also Coco/Dia De Los Muertos-related activities including a musical celebration and an after-hours party called Oogie Boogie Bash.
• Knott’s Scary Farm: Recommended for mature audiences only, the OC theme park employs all the scare tactics: redesigned log ride, mazes, killer clowns, fog machines, Boo-fet dinner, bloody eyeball boba, magicians, puppets, a VR zombie story, even go-go dancers. Runs Thursdays through Sundays until Nov. 2. On weekends until 4:30, there’s a G-rated version for kids 3-11.
• Six Flags Magic Mountain: Monsters and ghouls roam the fog-covered grounds during Fright Fest (Sept. 14-Nov. 3), inhabiting mazes, scare zones, and dark corners. Some of their biggest, craziest rides run with the lights off. There’s a DJ-fueled dance party and a comical stage show about a hypnotist.
Sugar skulls, spice, and everything to entice souls back to the land of the living is what Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Day Of The Dead celebration, now in its 20thyear, is made of. Dead or alive, enjoy dance troupes, bone-rattling rock from Café Tacvba, art installations, Mexican food, and ofrendas (alters with offerings of sweets, flowers, and trinkets), some of which decorate the graves of famous folks who have found their Hollywood Forever home there. Calaca attire and painted faces are encouraged at the Nov. 2 event.
Griffith Park goes from green space to scream space for the 11thconsecutive year. The event turns the old zoo site, which frankly is creepy in daylight thanks to the abandoned enclosures, into the fictional town of Midnight Falls where it’s always Halloween 1985 and strange things are afoot. The main draw is the hayride through gruesome vignettes with jump-at-you actors, but now it also features an expanded lineup of immersive experiences like Roadkill Ranch and three short-play escape rooms.
Get your kicks on Route 66 aka Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny and La Cienega as several thousand pedestrians descend on Boys Town in West Hollywood for the world’s largest Halloween night party and the best people-watching of your life. Kids should sit this one out as costumes tend to be provocative, gory, political, and just plain weird. PDA is rampant, bars are in full swing, and things that go boom-chick boom-chick in the night take to several music stages.
City Creep Shows
These neighborhoods/cities take celebrating into their own severed hands.
• Marina Spooktacular: Haunted pirate ships sail into Marina Del Ray’s Burton Chace Park on Oct. 26 and 27 for a free party that also includes a graveyard treasure hunt, blackout maze, food trucks, and jam sessions.
• MaliBOO: The Malibu Country Mart will host family-friendly programming including arts and crafts with pumpkins, face painting, and trick-or-treating in the stores on Oct. 27.
• HOWL-O-Ween: Com-pet-itors strut their stuff in the 7thannual Ventura Harbor Village dog costume contest on Oct. 26. Also offers psychic readings, haunted carousel, candy stations, and spooky photo ops with tropical birds.
Everything will be illuminated at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas through Nov. 3 as thousands of Jack-o-lanterns create vignettes of dinosaurs, SpongeBob SquarePants, and movie monsters along a half-mile trail. The event will also feature live carving, food trucks, activation zones, and a "spookeasy" bar.
The brand new exhibit at the Natural History Museum explores the scientific inspiration behind classic creatures like Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein using rare movie props, film footage, hands-on activities, and museum specimens. It will be on display until April 2020.
Picking out pumpkins for the porch is only the beginning.
• Mr. Bones: A seasonal staple since 1987, this Culver City celebrity magnet — yep, that probably is Chrissy Teigen — features giant slides, bounce houses, pumpkin decorating, pony rides, a petting zoo, and a tipi relaxation village. Open daily at West LA College through October 30. Admission increases as the holiday draws nearer.
• Tapia Bros.: Access to gorgeous gourds and other fresh veggies is free at this longtime Encino urban farm stand, but everything else including train rides, hot roasted corn, and a cornfield maze will cost you.
• Underwood Family Farms: The Fall Harvest Festival at this Moorpark u-pick institution includes many of the same aforementioned activities but adds pig races, chicken shows, a wagon ride, and live music.
Oh ship! For the 10th year, the stately steamer is being repurposed for a wicked good time through Nov. 2 at its Long Beach berth. More than 200 characters and monsters (and potentially the real souls rumored to haunt it) roam through six mazes. There's also nightly live entertainment, secret bars, other rides, and a VIP behind-the-scenes cocktail hour with ghoulish gastronomy.
Angelenos love outdoor screenings and Halloween so it makes sense they've combined the two.
• Cinespia closes its 2019 season at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with a 20thanniversary viewing of The Sixth Sense (Oct. 19) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, itself celebrating 45 years of the power tool-wielding psychopath (Oct. 21). DJ sets, beer and wine bar, and thematic photobooth included.
• Cinema Phantasmagoria, a holiday offshoot of Street Food Cinema, plays horror classics like Halloween, Beetlejuice, and Saw at the Million Dollar Theater downtown throughout October. Fifteen-minute VIP ghost tours of the landmark’s backstage combine mystery and history.
• Splurge on Flick or Treat tickets, which include candy, if you check out Rooftop Cinema Club's Nightmare On Elm Street double feature Oct. 25.
More than 25,000 square feet, 115 rooms, and countless special effects make up this award-winning attraction in Thousand Oaks though Nov. 2. Special lights-on tours for young kids will be given on two dates and an even nuttier pitch-black version will be offered Nov. 2.
Lucha VaVoom Fiesta Fantasma
Fresh off their 10thanniversary shows, Lucha VaVoom returns to their home turf, the Mayan Theater downtown, to stage an adults-only two-night spectacular (Oct. 24 and 25) filled with Mexican masked wrestling matches, burlesque dancers, comedy bits, and wacky costumes.
The 75-minute immersive multi-sensory walkthrough is pop-up "museum" meets haunted house meets photo op. Twenty characters populate more than a dozen installations including a deranged puppet show to produce a dark satirical look at social-media culture. Through Nov. 3.
Be their guest, be their guest, put your bravery to the test at great pumpkin and paranormal programs at the region’s hotels.
• Get yourself on Santa’s nice list early by purchasing tickets or tables to the 21-and-over UNICEF Masquerade Ball, which will be held at the Kimpton La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood on Oct. 26 and will feature a surprise musical guest.
•Get “slizzard” at a Yelloween party at THE Blvd (inside the Beverly Wilshire). They’ll be popping bottles of Veuve Clicquot for specialty cocktails with skeleton ice cubes, setting up a complimentary candy bar, holding a costume contest, and hiring a DJ.
• Things get hairy in Garden Grove at Great Wolf Lodge Southern California’s month-long festivities. Free to guests, Howl-O-Ween includes Monster Bash dance parties, haunted scavenger hunts, and a costume parade. Gremlins can collect candy and play games along the Trick-Or-Treat Trail.
• In October, The Mission Inn covers every walkway of its historic city block-sized Riverside property with 1,200 pounds of gourds for the annual Pumpkin Stroll. Its Presidential Lounge will serve pumpkin martinis.