Happy October, San Francisco! Suddenly another month is behind us and we’re rolling right into Halloween season, which means we have a very exciting batch of activities to enjoy. There are plenty of festivals, fairs, and events to check out as we welcome a new month, so read on to start planning your October in the Bay Area.
1. Immerse yourself in this month’s elegant concerts by candlelight
The extremely popular concert series known simply as Candlelight is turning heads right now in San Francisco! This month, Candlelight will host some gorgeous Halloween-themed concerts in an intimate environment surrounded by hundreds of luminous candles. Get ready for classical versions of “Thriller,” the Stranger Things theme, the Psycho theme, the Ghostbusters theme, “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and many more. Here’s the full schedule for October:
- Oct. 5 – Candlelight: The Best of Metallica and Schubert at the International Art Museum of America
- Oct. 6 – Candlelight: The Best of Hans Zimmer at the International Art Museum of America
- Oct 13 – Candlelight: Friday the 13th Special – Favorite Halloween Movie Themes at St. Ignatius Church
- Oct. 21 – Candlelight: A Tribute to Coldplay at the International Art Museum of America
- Oct. 26-27 – A Haunted Evening of Halloween Classics at St. Ignatius Church
2. Oktoberfest in the Bay Area
Oktoberfest 2023 is here and there are plenty of opportunities in the Bay Area to eat, drink, and party like a German. Here’s what to put on your radar for October:
- Through Oct. 3:Oktoberfest with Radhaus
- Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Oktoberfest in the Dimond
- Oct 21-22: Campbell Chamber Oktoberfest
*NOTE: SF Fleet Week may be affected by a potential government shutdown. More info here.
San Francisco Fleet Week is one of the most highly-anticipated events on the city’s cultural calendar featuring a heart-racing Air Show heard and seen for miles in every direction. Get ready to experience Fleet Week events from Oct. 2-10, 2023. The Air Show featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will happen from Oct. 6-8, 2023.
Oct. 7, 28
Oscar Wilde could resist “everything except temptation”, and Dining in the Dark in San Francisco invites you to fight the tempation to eat your food with your eyes and instead tempt your taste buds and other senses to enjoy an elevated meal. The entire evening will be shrouded in mystery down to the very last flavorful bite and difficult to identify texture.
5. Final free Due South concert
The popular Due South concert series is coming to its end at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park. For their third season, Due South has expanded to a four-concert slate with a fantastic and eclectic lineup. The free public concert series hosted by SF Parks Alliance and Noise Pop feature live music and local food in SF’s second-largest park.
The final concert is Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2pm featuring singer and drummer Sheila E.
6. Embark on the most unique picnic experience in the Mission and Haight-Ashbury
AmazingCo plans the most unique picnics where you’ll solve clues, pick up artisanal treats, discover hidden neighborhood gems along the way, and finally make it to your destination for a dreamy picnic experience. Whether you’re with a group of friends, your family, or a significant other, it’s definitely not your ordinary picnic.
San Francisco’s vibrant Italian community will come out in droves this October to celebrate the Italian Heritage Festival. Festivities include a bazaar all weekend long, and of course the Italian Heritage Parade with Fernet pit stops along the route on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. You don’t want to miss this giant party lifting up the contributions of Italian-Americans in San Francisco. Read on to discover the schedule of events.
8. Autumn Lights Festival at Oakland’s Gardens at Lake Merritt
Oakland’s 12th annual Autumn Lights Festival is back this year from October 12-14, 2023 at the Gardens at Lake Merritt! Take a trip across the Bay to a glimmering oasis of light installations distributed throughout these lovely lakeside gardens, which have been a beloved feature of the city for over 50 years. The festival is a major fundraiser for the Gardens that helps to keep them thriving all year round so that the public may continue to enjoy them for free.
9. Breakaway Music Festival at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
The Breakaway Festival is coming to the Bay Area on October 13-14, and bringing exciting artists DJ Snake, Madeon, Alan Walker, Nghtmre,, and many more to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. SF will be the festival’s seventh stop on the Breakaway Festival’s genre-blending multi-city tour.
Get ready to get weird at the 24th annual How Weird Street Faire in downtown SF on Saturday, October 14th. How Weird includes a daytime dance party, a vibrant marketplace, and an outdoor gallery of cutting-edge visionary art. All guests are requested to wear costumes, which can range from “the best version of yourself,” to something you’d expect to see at Halloween.
The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival is back! This year is its 51st annual event, taking place on October 14-15, 2023 on historic Main Street in Half Moon Bay. Get ready for a day of picturesque coastal views, live music and dancing, masterful pumpkin carvers, harvest-inspired crafts, endless pumpkin pie and other festive food, and of course thousands and thousands of pumpkins.
12. Step into one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms at SFMOMA
San Franciscans will soon have an opportunity to step into Yayoi Kusama’s famous immersive mirror rooms at SFMOMA. Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love will run from Oct. 14, 2023-Sept. 7, 2024 for the celebrated Japanese artist’s West Coast premiere of her latest immersive installation. This is Kusama’s first solo museum presentation in Northern California.
13. SF Open Studios
Oct. 19-Nov. 19
SF Open Studios gives the public a rare opportunity to visit over 400 local artists in their personal studios. The annual event started in 1975 as a way for local artists to increase the accessibility of their work by collectively opening their studios to the public. This event takes place across SF from Oct. 19-Nov. 19.
14. Catch a free outdoor screening of Ghostbusters
Sundown Cinema’s final free movie screening is this month! See Ghostbusters (1984) at McLaren Park’s Jerry Garcia Amphitheater on Oct. 20 at sunset (around 6:30pm).
October means scary movie season, and there are plenty of local cinema experiences with more movie screenings this month, some of which are Halloween-themed.
15. Halloween events all month long
We’re thrilled to bring you an epic round of activities to make this your best Halloween yet. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re looking for a party, a haunted house, kids’ activities, or a little of everything. Read on to get inspired.
- Oct. 26: NightLife on Elm Street at the CA Academy of Sciences
- Oct. 27, 28, 31: Trick or Drink Halloween pub crawl
- Oct. 28: Trick-or-Treat Park Market at Crane Cove Park
- Oct. 29: Great HauntWay
16. Leap Sandcastle Classic at Ocean Beach
The Leap Sandcastle Classic is back at Ocean Beach on October 28! The free event brings out thousands of people for the ultimate sandcastle contest. You can watch teams build absolutely enormous sand sculptures while enjoying live music, performances, and local food trucks. The event is hosted by Leap Arts in Education as their main fundraising effort to support arts education in Bay Area schools.
17. Bay Area haunted houses
Pumpkin spice lattes are all good and well, but if you’re looking for something a bit more spooky, you’re in the right place. We’ve rounded up some of the best haunted houses in the Bay, plus some ghost tours for those wanting a tamer experience.
- Into the Dark at SF Mint (San Francisco)
- Unhinged: Housewarming at Winchester Mystery House (San Jose)
- Tricks and Treats at Great America (Santa Clara)
- And more!
18. Bay Area pumpkin patches
We’re lucky to live right near Half Moon Bay, the pumpkin capital of the world! Whether you’re looking for family activities with kids or getting ahead of your Halloween decorating, these excellent Bay Area farms and pumpkin patches have got you covered.
- Lemos Farm (Half Moon Bay)
- Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm (Half Moon Bay)
- Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch (Alameda)
- And more!
19. Local apple orchards offering U-Pick
Apple season peaks in the Bay Area in September and October, so many local orchards will soon open their doors for “U Pick,” when people can visit and pick their own apples.
20. Spooky Halloween treats to try in San Francisco
It’s hard to deny that the fall season brings some of the best flavors on the calendar. We’re talking pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and every scent that you want wafting through your kitchen. Well, that fact is certainly not lost on San Francisco’s bakeries, cafes, and ice cream shops, because they are busy churning out an epic lineup of delicious treats.
- Harvest Festival ice cream series from Salt & Straw
- Pumpkin everything at Noe Valley Bakery
- Gourmet Halloween candy at Miette Patisserie
- And more!
21. Take stock of SF’s coolest museum exhibitions this month
In addition to the aforementioned de Young Open at Yayoi Kusama exhibitions, SF has plenty more museums worth visiting. Here are some dates to keep in mind:
- Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego just opened at the Asian Art Museum
- JoeSam.: Text Messages just opened at the Museum of the African Diaspora
- The de Young Open 2023 opens Sept. 30, 2023 at the de Young Museum
- Designing Peace opens Oct. 7, 2023 at the Museum of Craft and Design
- Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love opens Oct. 14, 2023 at SFMOMA
- Kehinde Wiley: An Archeology of Silence closes Oct. 15, 2023 at the de Young Museum
- The Great Animal Orchestra closes Oct. 15, 2023 at the Exploratorium
- Mika Rottenberg: Spaghetti Blockchain closes Oct. 22 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
22. NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences
NightLife at the California Academy of Sciences is one of our favorite ongoing events. The popular Thursday night festivities feature live DJs, outdoor bars, ambience lighting, and more alongside the Academy’s nearly 40,000 animal residents.
23. After Dark at the Exploratorium
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 in San Francisco is an exciting place for discovery any time of the day, but these 18+ After Dark events are a must for some epic kid-free fun at their exhibits. After Dark happens each Thursday from 6-10pm with a different theme every week, featuring guest speakers, films, great music, and more.
24. Off the Grid food trucks at Fort Mason Center
Off The Grid: Fort Mason Center (OTG:FMC) is California’s largest weekly food truck event, and this year marks its 13th season. The free events bring dozens of gourmet food trucks to the Fort Mason Center parking lot on Friday evenings from 5pm-10pm.
- Fri, Oct. 6 – Taco Takeover – Fort Mason turns into SF’s biggest taqueria with the best local taco trucks.
- Fri, Oct. 13 – Klaycon – Dive into the world of Klay Thompson in SF.
- Fri, Oct. 20 – One Night Only – The best chefs from Sacramento, LA, and the Bay flex their skills.
- Fri, Oct. 27 – Kimchi + K-Pop – Celebrate K-Pop culture with the best local Korean cuisine.
25. More events at Fort Mason Center
When’s the last time you paid a visit to San Francisco’s amazing Fort Mason Center? The popular art center hosts numerous exhibitions and events throughout the year, and there are some special ones coming up.
- Oct. 7 – The Guardsmen Fleet Week Party
- Oct. 12-15 – SF Fall Show
- Oct. 20-29 – The Guardsmen Pumpkin Patch
- And more
26. October events at the Ferry Building
San Francisco’s Ferry Building is one of the city’s most iconic buildings, serving as a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. It’s a center for events, pop-ups, a farmers’ market, and countless excellent merchants who sell their wares daily in the building’s many stalls.
- Oct. 1 – Head West Market, TEXSOM Wine tasting
- Fridays – Ferry Flicks at Fort Point Beer Garden
- Oct. 15 – Foodwise Sunday Supper
- Oct. 29 – Trick or Treat at the Ferry Building
- And more
27. Where to get your Halloween costume in SF
SF residents love any excuse to throw on a costume and hit the streets, so it’s no surprise that we also have a treasure trove of vintage, thrift, and costume shops where you can find the perfect Halloween look. The list ranges from high-quality rentals to affordable vintage looks and even some DIY options if you’re feeling crafty. Whatever you have planned for Halloween, these spots will help you look your best.
28. Free concerts at Golden Gate Park Bandshell
The Lift Every Voice series is still cranking out dozens of free concerts courtesy of Illuminate, SF Rec & Parks, and the SF Parks Alliance. All performances are free and family-friendly, with the impressive Golden Gate Bandshell as the backdrop. The Bandshell, which is 120 years old, added new lighting, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a new stage during the pandemic. See the full lineup here.
29. Famous graves you can visit in Colma
Bay Area history is replete with famous figures whose contributions have echoed throughout the decades. A great deal of those individuals came to rest in local cemeteries, where you can still go pay your respects to this day. Whether you’re feeling spooky for October or just want to explore local history, these are worth looking for. Learn about the history of San Francisco’s relocated cemeteries here.
- Charles de Young
- Joe DiMaggio
- Wyatt Earp
- And more
30. Test your bravery at these haunted places in San Francisco
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, these haunted places around the city are undeniably creepy. Over the years, many have reported cold chills, voices, shadowy figures, and unexplained noises… are you brave enough to see for yourself?
- Curran Theatre
- SF Columbarium
- And more
31. Lose yourself on the Exploratorium’s mysterious fog bridge
There’s a 100% chance of fog all year round at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Fog Bridge is a 150-foot pedestrian bridge between Piers 15 and 17 where an immense cloud of water vapor intermittently shrouds passersby. The bridge is lined with over 800 nozzles that spray clouds of desalinated water vapor from the Bay to create temporary fog banks that are so thick you can truly get lost in them.