Things to do in October
The Best Upcoming Event in October 2023
The first full month of the Fall, October is a month of changes. From the changing colors on the leaves in the Northeast United States to the gradual cooling of the weather after the summer heat, it is the first hint that we are getting closer to the Holiday Season. The NFL and College Football are in full swing, Major League Baseball is about to crown the top team and festivals & outdoor concerts are just about done for the year. Around the United States, there are some popular annual events like the Chicago Marathon, The Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, Austin City Limits Music Festival, New York Comic-Con and other great events attracting people from all over. And don’t forget National Boss’s Day on October 16, a thoughtful gift can go a long way!
While most of the country is starting to feel a cold chill, The San Francisco Bay Area is celebrating the warmest time of the year. Locals and visitors can take advantage of all the amazing outdoor activities that the Bay Area has to offer. October, in our opinion, is also the best month for events and activities with Fleet Week, The San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl, haunted houses, pumpkin patches, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Halloween Haunt at Great America all offered during the month. You won’t have a difficult time finding fun things to do in San Francisco in October, but if you want some hints on the best events to choose from, then check out our guide. For detailed information on the best Halloween events in San Francisco, check out the San Francisco Halloween Party Guide.
Top Events in San Francisco during the month of October
In our opinion, October is hands-down the best month to be in the San Francisco Bay Area. The weather is warm, the sun is shining and the month is filled with lots of fun things to do leading up the Halloween. You can find lots of great harvest events in wine country, amazing concerts, great food events and more, so you won’t have trouble finding things to do. It is the month of Fleet Week, where locals and their friends and family gather along the water or head up to their rooftops to see an an amazing aerial show, complete with some incredibly loud flyovers by the Blue Angels. At the end of the month, you will start to see haunted houses, pumpkin patches, parties, pub crawls and more as people start to get excited for the Halloween holiday. If you are having trouble picking the best events and things to do in San Francisco during the month of October, check out the options below.
(1) Fleet Week: There are a few annual events in San Francisco that you really look forward to all year long and fleet week is definitely on that list. The beautiful October weather in San Francisco provides the perfect scenario for gathering with friends to watch one of the best airshows in the country. The usually unoccupied rooftops all over the city are filled with people watching The Patriots Jet Team, the USAF F-35 Demo Team, The Acemakers T-33, a United 777 and, of course, the highlight of the show, The US Navy Blue Angels. See the pilots expertly fly all over the city, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and gather into impossibly close formations. Fleet week offers a whole week of fun events including the Parade of Ships, Veterans Art Exhibit, Ship Tours and the Fleet Week Air Show as well as a variety of great live music and Fleet Fest, which offers an interactive look into Fleet Week, a food truck jamboree and more at Pier 30/32.
Event Details: fleetweeksf.org/
(2) San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl: There is a lot going on in San Francisco for Halloween from huge nightclub parties to haunted houses and pumpkin patches, however if you really want to celebrate the holiday in the best way, it doesn’t get any better than the Crawloween San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl. For more than a decade, participants have headed to Polk Street in San Francisco to join the biggest and craziest Halloween event in the city. Over 7,000 people attend this annual event that brings costumed crawlers to over 25 bars along Polk Street and Union Street to enjoy discounted beers, shots & cocktails, DJs, dancing, costume contests and event some sweet party buses to take you to the bars. The party starts at Mayes Oyster House, where you can check in for the crawl and grab your event wristbands and pub crawl maps. Costumes are optional, but highly recommended.
Event Details: crawloween.com
(3) Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: San Francisco is an expensive city to visit and an even more expensive city to live in, however to balance it out, the city offers a large number of awesome free events and festivals. Events like the Stern Grove Festival, Comedy Day, The Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco street fairs, fireworks shows and, of course, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass are offered free of charge to everyone. The 3-Day Festival started in 2001, a project conceptualized by Warren Hellman, a venture capitalist from San Francisco, was originally named “Strictly Bluegrass” as it was going to be only bluegrass musicians that performed. After the addition of artists from all genres, the event was re-named “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” in 2004. Past performers included Robert Plant, Fantastic Negrito, Cake, Cyndi Lauper, Flogging Molly, Ryan Adams, Gogol Bordello, Father John Misty, M.C. Hammer, Galactic and more. The festival, which takes place every October in Golden Gate Park, draws around 750,000 people over 3 days to see 80+ bands on 6 different stages.
Event Details: hardlystrictlybluegrass.com/
(4) Halloween Haunt at Great America: Halloween in the San Francisco Bay Area brings big events, pub crawls, concerts, haunted houses and more, but if you want to try something a little different, Halloween Haunt is a great choice. This Halloween attraction takes place at California’s Great America in Santa Clara, which is right next door to Levi’s Stadium. Open most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in October, producers take over the park, adding lots of great scary details. Attendees can enjoy a series of creepy mazes that each have their own theme like CornStalkers, Tooth Fairy, Zombie High and Chaos House. There are also two “scare zones”, which aren’t for the faint of heart. While the production changes every year, in the past there has been a Dia de los Muertos party zone with music and dancing, a wax museum blackout where you are alone in a pitch black wax museum with only a flashlight and a creepy carnival area called “Killer Clown Town”. This haunted theme park is easily one of the best Halloween events in California and definitely a great way to upgrade your Halloween experience.
Event Details: cagreatamerica.com/play/haunt
(5) Castro Street Fair: Another one of San Francisco’s famous street fairs, the Castro Street Fair was actually started by one of San Francisco’s most iconic residents. The concept was created by none other than Harvey Milk, the first elected official that was openly gay in the state of California. in 1974, he created the Castro Street Fair, with hopes to encourage “togetherness and inclusiveness” in the City of San Francisco and beyond. The event takes place along Castro Street and Market Street and brings together a large number of street vendors, artists and more combined with a great selection of culinary delights, live music and beer & wine tasting. Even better, the proceeds from the fair go to a number of charities chosen by the event organizers that are important to the community. The Castro Street Fair takes place every October.
Event Details: castrostreetfair.org/
(6) Potrero Hill Festival: After over 30 years, the Potrero Hill Festival is still going strong as part of San Francisco’s street fair season. Taking place in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco along 20th Street between Missouri & Wisconsin Streets, the annual event features great food, live music, local vendors, crafts, art, rides and lots of activities for both adults and children.
Event Details: potrerofestival.com/
(7) Wharf Fest: While locals typically do not spend much time in Fisherman’s Wharf (it’s where the tourists go when they visit San Francisco), it is actually a fun place filled with good restaurants, interesting shops and amazing views of the Bay. It is a place where you can eat freshly-made mini donuts, take a virtual 3d ride through San Francisco, check out the hundreds of sea lions that have taken over the docks and buy your very own mini, wooden cable car. If you do want to head over to Fisherman’s Wharf for a day full of fun, it won’t get much better than Wharf Fest. Part street fair and part festival, Wharf Fest happens every October. Highlights include a chowder competition, live bands, wine & beer tasting in addition to some great local vendors and food options. Grab a ticket for the All Day Pass, which includes chowder tastings, beer tastings, wine tastings and access to the concert.
Event Details: visitfishermanswharf.com/events/wharf-fest
(8) PRCA Rodeo: If you live in the Bay Area, there’s probably a good chance that you haven’t been to a rodeo. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check out some steer wrestling, team roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing and more, then you should definitely check out the PRCA Rodeo at the Cow Palace. This great event effectively brings the Wild West to the San Francisco Bay Area for a fun-filled weekend every October. Aside from the rodeo event, you will also get the chance to visit the livestock exposition, where you can take a look at a variety of animals like goats, hogs, cattle and sheep, farm equipment and more.
Event Details: cowpalace.com/p/grandnational
(9) La Cocina Street Food Festival: San Francisco is known as one of the best culinary destinations in the United States, but not all great food is served while sitting at a table in a restaurant. If you consider yourself a foodie, or at least just love to eat, then you won’t want to miss La Cocina’s San Francisco Street Food Festival. The event brings together an eclectic sampling of over 50 Bay Area restaurants and chefs creating some amazing culinary delights for your eating pleasure. This amazing event is dedicated to promoting equity amongst immigrant, people of color and women-owned businesses in the area. The festival takes place every October at Power Station in San Francisco.
Event Details: sfstreetfoodfest.com/
October Activities in San Francisco
(1) Visit a Haunted House: If you like to watch scary movies and want to take things up a notch with an in-person horror experience, then you will be able to choose from a lot of great options during the month of October. Haunted houses range from slightly creepy to downright scary, so make sure to find out a little bit more about each attraction. Throughout the country, you can find some absolutely terrifying attractions like the New Orleans Nightmare and Blackout in New York City are so terrifying that you need to sign a waiver before you enter. Whether you are looking for heart-stopping thrills that will give you nightmares all year or just looking for a fun, Halloween-themed attraction, you will find a little bit of everything in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mayhem Mansion at the Haas-Lilienthal House: While there are many attractions are made into haunted houses for the Halloween holiday, some houses in San Francisco have that “haunted” look all year long. One of those houses is the Haas-Lilienthal Mansion, which is located on Franklin Street in San Francisco. This historic landmark has been thought to be haunted for so long, that the owners decided to really go all out for Halloween and turned the old Victorian into “Mayhem Manor” for the week of Halloween. The House Manager, Heather Kraft, is responsible for transitioning the house during Halloween and says the attraction isn’t like other haunted houses in the San Francisco Bay Area as it combines “cultural and architectural history with a fictional narrative.” Whether this historic mansion is actually haunted remains to be seen, however if you are looking for a scary attraction during Halloween, this should definitely be on your list.
Event Details: haas-lilienthalhouse.org/mayhem-mansion
Winchester Mystery House: A bizarre tourist attraction all year long, the Winchester Mystery House is a massive home located in San Jose. Sarah Winchester, wife of William Wirt Winchester who was the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, purchased the house after she moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, a few years after losing her daughter to a childhood illness and shorty after her husband died of tuberculosis. It began as a modest 8 room farmhouse, however Sarah used the fortune she inherited to start a home renovation that would last until the end of her life. When Sarah died in 1922 the home had grown to 24,000 square feet with 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces and staircases, 13 bathrooms, kitchens and more. In todays dollars, it is estimated that the obsessive renovation would have cost upwards of $71 Million dollars. Regardless of the motivation for this crazy expansion, what she left behind is probably one of the most unique and mysterious homes in the world. The home was opened to the public in 1923 and since then over 12 million people have toured this unique piece of architecture. While this is a great place to visit any time of the year, Halloween opens up a whole new level of creepiness as they offer a special tour that will take you to secret, hidden rooms, guide you through mind-bending dark passages until you finally end up in the courtyard, where you can have a much needed cocktail to calm your nerves.
Event Details: winchesterunhinged.com/
Piedmont Avenue Haunted House: Located right next to the Piedmont Avenue Pumpkin Patch, the adjoining haunted house offers 2 options for Halloween fun. Children and adults who scare easily can choose the “less scary” version, which adds more lighting and a few less big scares. However, if you feel up to it, choose the “Scary Version” where you never know what might be in store.
Visit a Pumpkin Patch: Halloween involves a lot of different things from picking the perfect costume to picking the best Halloween event. If you are a big fan of the holiday and love to go all out with some spooky decorations and displays at your home, then you probably get excited to pick the perfect pumpkins to carve into a variety of funny or spooky faces. Rather than just grab any old pumpkin at Safeway, why not make a day of it and head to one of the Bay Area’s awesome Pumpkin Patches? Here are a few of the best Pumpkin Patches in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Guardsmen Pumpkin Patch
2 Marina Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94123
Piedmont Pumpkin Patch
4414 Piedmont Ave
Oakland, CA 94611
Andreotti Family Farms Pumpkin Patch
800 Cabrillo Hwy
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch
2101 Sloat Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94132
Bay Natives Nursery
10 Cargo Way
San Francisco, CA 94124
Cool Patch Pumpkins
6150 Dixon Ave West
Dixon, CA 95620
Wine Tasting Tours: There probably isn’t really a “bad” time to go to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley for a winery tour, but October happens to be a great time to go. The summer crowds have died down a bit, the weather is a little cooler and since it is harvest season, you can find a lot of cool events and special tastings. Grab a group of friends, rent a bus for your very own winery tour and take advantage of the close proximity of one of the best wine regions in the world.
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