Halloween may be one of everyone's favorite holidays, but trick-or-treating, once its primary activity, is kind of a lost art these days. It used to be you'd just trick-or-treat in your neighborhood, but many communities just aren't Halloween friendly these days. In fact, it seems that many otherwise bustling neighborhoods are ghost towns on Halloween night.
If you happen to live in one that does go all out for Halloween, good for you! Otherwise, you might want to seek out another neighborhood in which to find that Halloween spirit—plenty of families do.
Here's out list of Marin County's top (in no particular order) trick-or-treat Halloween hot spots, as chosen by our readers, friends, and Facebook page fans. If you're sure you know of a neighborhood where the trick-or-treat action is even better than these, let us know. Leave a comment or send us an email! (Of course if you want to keep your favorite Marin trick-or-treat spot a secret, that's OK, too.)
This easy craft project is so much fun to make, and the finished product looks fantastic, especially when lit with a flickering candle. Best of all, you can make them using materials from your recycling bin! These Halloween pumpkin votives are simple to make, and are a perfect craft project for all ages, with parental supervision, of course. My first-grade daughter and I created the pair of jack-o-lanterns lanterns shown here.
This project is a little messy, so make sure you have a good work area that's easy to clean up. You can also create variations on this craft: use white tissue to make ghost lanterns, and green to make monsters.
To make this project, you'll need:
Glass jars from the recycling bin
Orange tissue paper, cut into 1- to 2-inch squares
Here are our picks for fun local events and activities for children and families this weekend. Find more events for the whole week in Marin and beyond in our Family Events Calendar. The Halloween pumpkin patches in Marin and Sonoma counties are still open—see our list here.
Nature for Kids: Stafford Lake
Stafford Lake County Park, Novato
Friday, 10 am–1 pm
We’ll visit a pond, a permanent creek, and a marsh and talk about the animals that live in these wet habitats. Then we’ll explore a shady forest and have lunch in a beautiful meadow where we can look out over the lake. This walk is free of charge, no registration is necessary. David Herlocker will lead. Park entrance fee waived for participants. Location: 3549 Novato Blvd., Novato. For more info, call (415) 893-9508 or visit their website.
Halloween Music & Magic Show
Mill Valley Golf Course Clubhouse
Friday, 4 pm and 6:30 pm
Enjoy lively music and a Halloween magic show by Brian Scott. Scott combines comedy, audience participation and amazing magic to create a spooktacular 45 minute show for goblins aged 3 to 103! Cost is $9.00 general admission, children 3 yrs and younger are free! Pre-sale tickets for each show are available at the Mill Valley Community Center and Aquatics and Fitness Center front desk. Last year's shows were sell-outs, so please purchase your tickets early. For more info, visit their website.
Halloween Harvest Festival
Marinwood Community Center
Friday, 5–7 pm
Pumpkin carving and decorating, Halloween bounce house, trick-or-treat bag decorating, cookie decorating, face painting, caramel apples and more! Tickets: $10 advance, $12 at the door. Adults are free. Purchase tickets online. Location: Marinwood Community Center, 775 Miller Creek Road, San Rafael. For more info, call (415) 479-0775 or visit their website.
Hansel & Gretel
Marin Showcase Theatre
Friday, 7 pm and Sunday, 2 pm
Don’t miss this Halloween date with a legendary witch. The Golden Gate Opera presents Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at the Marin Center Showcase Theatre in San Rafael. Tickets: $25–35, children $15. Limited Seating, so buy tickets early. For more info, go to www.goldengateopera.org.
Friday Halloween Fest
San Geronimo Golf ClubHouse
Friday, 6 pm
Bring the family to this year's haunted clubhouse. Enjoy a feast of goulish grub. Costume Contest with prizes. Pumpkin Carving. Kareoke and a Movie! Parents, bring a blanket or something soft for the kids to lay on during the movie...(while you enjoy a cocktail in our bar.) Cost: $12 per person; 10 years and under $6. Location: 5800 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Geronimo. Please contact Rich at 415-488-4030 x224 for parties of 6 or more. Visit their website here.
Saturday, October 27
Halloween Carnival at Marinwood Community Farmers Market
Marinwood Plaza, San Rafael
Saturday, 9 am–1 pm
Trick or treat fun for the kids. Jumpy house, pony rides, Budderball the Clown, fun for all ages. Live music with Bill Hansell who will contribute all his tips and proceeds to the Food Bank of Marin. Great food by Ultra Crepes and Happy Hens Farm. Location: 101 Marinwood Avenue. For more info, call (415) 999-5635 or visit their website.
Halloween at Deer Park
Saturday, 10 am
Wildcare Family Adventures will guide you on a short hike in Deer Park. Bring a snack and then we’ll gather under the “Halloween” tree for a story. Directions : From Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Fairfax (heading NW) make a left on Pacheco Avenue, turn right on Broadway Boulevard, and left on Bolinas Road. Continue on Bolinas Road for half a mile and then turn left at Porteous Avenue and then right to stay at Porteus. Meet at the parking area at the end of Porteous Avenue. For more info, visit their website.
Northgate Kids’ Sing ‘n' Play!
Saturday, 10–11 am
Kids of all ages are invtied to come play, sing and dance in an interactive musical playgroup that will be led by talented local Marin music teachers. This free summer series of musical playgroups will offer a different music-focused program (provided by Kidzter) every other Saturday morning at Northgate. Kids will get a free musical instrument to help keep to the rhythm all summer long. Every other Saturday from 10–11 am in the Macy’s wing. For more info, visit their website.
The Grand Scream of Things with Andy Z
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Saturday, 11 am
Put on your Halloween costume and join Andy Z for a show packed with hip storytelling, catchy songs and captivating characters from his new CD, The Grand Scream of Things. Share in the adventure about a witch who’s lost her way and a boy who discovers the important things in life. www.andyz.com. Cost: Members $5; General $14 (includes Museum admission) . For more info, visit their website.
Halloween Pirate Fest!
Falkirk Cutural Center, San Rafael
Saturday and Sunday, noon and 3 pm
Br'n your crew an' come th' Falkirk for this one-of-a-kind Halloween event. There will be two events per day at noon and 3 pm. The fun includes a "pirate feast" with real pirates, treasure hunt, and individual treasure and Halloween tricks and treats!. Limited room for pirates big and small so get your tickets soon. Price is $18 per child under 16 and $20 for adults. For all ages. Order advance tickets online. For more info, visit their website.
Trick-or-Treat Downtown Novato
along Grant Avenue in Novato
Saturday, 11 am–2 pm
The Downtown Novato Business Association (DNBA) will host a "Safe Trick or Treat" event along Grant Avenue in downtown Novato from 11 am to 2 pm. Every year this Halloween event is popular with kids and their parents. Businesses along Grant Avenue will give out candy and there will be a variety of other fun activities at various locations downtown. This is a fun event for the entire family.
Last year, volunteers at Novato's Pleasant Valley Elementary School created the Spooky Swamp, a family friendly haunted house, for the school's annual Halloween Happening for students and their families. It was so popular that they decided not only to re-create it this year, but open it to the public as well! The Spooky Swamp will be open for one night only, Saturday, October 27, from 4 to 8:30 pm.
Walk in to the school's multi-purpose room and be transported to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. One wrong turn though and you'll find yourself in the Spooky Swamp. Luckily, a hillbilly tour guide will help you wind your way through the perils of the swamp and its structures, avoiding alligators and other haunts along the way. You never know what lurks around the corner or behind that tree stump! The Spooky Swamp is a good old fashioned haunted house that's appropriate for elementary school-age children and families. There's no blood, no gore, no violent images, and the actors take care to adjust their level of scariness to the age of the children in each group.
Admissionto the Spooky Swamp is $5 per person, ages 4 and up. All proceeds go to support Pleasant Valley Elementary School.
Fall is here, which means Halloween is just around the corner and local pumpkin patches will soon be open! For those seeking that that true Halloween pumpkin patch experience, we present our annual roster of pumpkin patches in Marin and southern Sonoma counties. In Marin County, Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers that on-the-farm experience and old favorites like the St. Vincent's Pumpkin Patch (Godmothers of Timothy Murphy School Pumpkin Patch) offer an exciting Halloween experience for families.
To seek out real live farms offering pumpkin patches this season, head up north a short distance to rural Sonoma County, where you'll find them in relative abundance.
We visited as many of these pumpkin patches as we could last year, and have posted links to our reviews of them below. We'll certainly make an effort to visit again this year, and we'll add our updated reviews when they're written.
We've included dates and hours for pumpkin patches when available. As a rule, most pumpkin patches are open throughout the month of October, although some open in September and some run through early November. Admission to pumpkin patches is free unless otherwise noted.
Nicasio Valley FarmsPumpkin Patch
(Lafranchi Pumpkin Patch)
5300 Nicasio Valley Road (1/4 mile north of Nicasio square)
Open daily October 1–31,10 am–6 pm
The Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch offers organic pumpkins, hay rides, farm animals, bounce house and slide, a farm stand, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company (Thursdays–Sundays) and BBQ and ice cream for sale on the weekends. Popular children's recording artist Tim Cain performs every Sunday (October 6, 13, 20, and 27) from 11 am to noon. Six-piece Western band Manzanita Moon performs Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) Day is Sunday October 21 from 10 am–6 pm, with kids' games and crafts; barn animals; local food, beer, and wine; educational exhibits; and more. Read our review of Nicasio Valley Farms Pumpkin Patch.
Every family has their favorite place to pick their Halloween pumpkins. What's yours? Tell the world by voting for your favorite pumpkin patch below in Marin Mommies' third annual Pumpkin Patch Poll. You don't need to be a registered user to vote, so make your choice known!
While there are plenty of awesome pumpkin patches to choose from in Marin and southern Sonoma counties (see our list of those here), you can find other great places to pick up pumpkins and other Halloween and autumn treats throughout the greater Bay Area. Maybe you're headed on a road trip to the south bay, or bound for the grandparents' house in Leisuretown this October—there's probably a pumpkin patch on the way. Here are a few out-of-town pumpkin patches, in Solano, Contra Costa, and San Mateo counties, that we've visited at one time or another or have had recommended to us.
Of course if your favorite isn't here, now's the time to let us know! Leave a comment to this post or send us an email and we'll consider adding it to the list.
Western Railway Museum Pumpkin Festival
5848 Highway 12
Suisun, CA 94585
(707) 374-2978 www.wrm.org
Saturdays and Sundays, October 13–28, 9:30 am–5 pm
The Western Railway Museum in rural Solano County holds its celebrated annual Pumpkin Festival every Saturday and Sunday from October 13–28. Ride a vintage electric express train to the pumpkin patch at Gum Grove Station for pumpkins, tractor rides, games, music, and pumpkins for sale, of course. Admission is $12 for adults, $11 for seniors 65+, and $9 for children 2–14. Admission includes museum entry, unlimited train rides, picnic area use, and parking. Reservations are not accepted.
Cool Patch Pumpkins
6585 Milk Farm Road (right off I-80—look for the iconic Milk Farm sign)
Dixon, CA 95620
(530) 304-0163 www.coolpatchpumpkins.com
Open daily, September 15–November 1, 9 am-8 pm
A humungous pumpkin patch out in Dixon. Several varieties of pumpkins, squash, and vegetables, a 45-acre corn maze (the largest in the world, according to the Guiness Book of World Records), food, hay rides, a teepee village, and pedal karts and tricycles for rent.
Kids always love to make fun decorative crafts, especially at Halloween, when they can help make the house or classroom extra spooky. These easy-to-make paper jack-o-lanterns are a Halloween-time take on the traditional paper lantern craft project, and are simple enough that almost anyone in the family can make them. Make a bunch with different face designs and hang them around the house.
Here's what you'll need:
Orange and green construction paper (we used 12 x 18" sheets, but letter size will work, too)