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San Francisco Halloween 2023: Neighborhood trick-or-treating guide

Families offering trick-or-treaters Halloween candy on Treat Avenue in Bernal Heights. | Source: Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Even if dogs allegedly outnumber—and perhaps get more of the royal treatment—than kids, San Francisco remains a wonderful place to raise children. It’s also the best place to be a perennial child because you can walk to a Walgreens in full costume and no one will give you a second glance.

But the kids here have it particularly great. 

Toddlers can slide down a dragon’s tongue or frolic beside a redwood grove. Children can play antique penny arcades, watch sea lions sun themselves and take a spin on antique carousels.

And no one does Halloween like San Francisco, where residents look for any excuse to dress up. Pair that with our organically atmospheric, Victorian-lined streets, and you have an environment no other city can match. No wonder San Francisco has had a running streak since 2013 as the No. 1 trick-or-treating city in the U.S., according to a ranking by Zillow.

Read on for our guide to the best spots within the 7x7 for high-fructose fun.

Trick-or-treaters walk on Shotwell Street in the Mission. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Presidio Heights

Tucked along the south side of the former military base-turned-sprawling park, Presidio Heights is a serene and elegant neighborhood, full of stately single-family homes like the noteworthy Roos House. You can start by trick-or-treating along the businesses on Sacramento Street and then walk down Washington Street and the cul-de-sac of Presidio Terrace.

Cole Valley

Halloween is an all-night celebration in Cole Valley, where house parties spill out onto the street from the many charming single-family homes lining the neighborhood. Belvedere Street gets blocked off, so it’s safe for trick-or-treaters, and the area between Parnassus Avenue and 17th Street is full of action. Past years have seen costumed dancers performing in windows and movies projected onto the sides of buildings. Go early and expect crowds.

Sea Cliff

One of the toniest neighborhoods in a city known for its wealth, Sea Cliff offers you the best chance of getting full-size candy bars—and sometimes even toys. Along with your treats, you’ll get to see some serious mansions. Given all the treasure seekers, the area has become too crowded for some. For a mellower experience, stay closer to California and 32nd streets.

Trick-or-treaters walk on Shotwell Street in the Mission. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Mission

Treat Avenue

Could there be a more appropriately named spot for saying “trick-or-treat” than Treat Avenue? The Bernal Heights portion of the street, which reemerges as a dead-end tail on the south side of Precita Park, is the perfect place for kiddos to collect a Halloween bounty. Bookended between the park and Bernal Hill, it offers a safe, car-free zone for teens and toddlers to tromp. The locals get into the spirit, decorating their homes with life-size skeletons and plenty of fake blood.

Shotwell Street

A group of dedicated neighbors turned Shotwell Street between 18th and 24th streets into a trick-or-treating destination in its own right. Lined by tall Victorians that emit plenty of spooky vibes, here’s where you’re most likely to be invited into someone’s living room, spy a not-so-secret graveyard or run into old friends.

Fair Oaks Street

Another option on the southeast side of the city is Fair Oaks Street between 21st and 26th streets, which draws throngs of kiddos and adorable costumes every year.

Noe Valley

Family-friendly Noe Valley is a quaint neighborhood crowded with strollers by day. By All Hallow’s Eve, it’s another great option for trick-or-treating, with shop owners and residents doling out candy, especially on 24th Street between Church and Castro. Sanchez, a closed-off Slow Street, should be particularly safe for kiddos.

George, a 2-year-old Golden Retriever, dresses up like a taco at the Great “Hauntway” trick-or-treating event in the Outer Sunset in 2022. | Source: Evan Reinhardt for The Standard

Sunnyside 

Trick-or-treating in this neighborhood comes with a suburban vibe—not too crowded, with lots of neighborhood kids running around and plenty of decorated homes.

West Portal 

For more of a small-town feel for your trick-or-treating, head to the West Portal neighborhood. People of all ages turn out for spooky activities here, with plenty of sprawling homes that go all out with the decorating and even some haunted houses you can step into. Check out Wawona between 14th and 15th avenues for some extra spirit.

St. Francis Woods

This typically sleepy neighborhood gets transformed on Halloween, with sprawling homes and manicured lawns displaying plenty of frightful creativity. Word on the street is that the residents here often give out full-size candy bars, just like Sea Cliff.

Richmond  

Lake Street is one of the best places for Halloween in the Richmond because of its ample candy supply and many decorations. Check out between Fifth and Ninth Avenues and 23rd and 25th avenues for maximal trick-or-treat action.

Trick-or-treaters show off their Halloween candy along Shotwell Street. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Glen Park

Another family-friendly neighborhood, Glen Park might be more off-the-radar—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. People go all out for Halloween here, complete with notoriously gory Halloween displays. Chenery Street between Elk and Diamond is closed to traffic, offering lots of room to wander and have fun, with neighbors passing out drinks for the adults and candy for the kids.

Bayview-Hunters Point 

For maximum sweets in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, head to Third Street. You’ll find lots of businesses participating in trick-or-treat, all the way from Evans to Armstrong.

Laurel Heights 

Just south of Presidio Heights, Laurel Heights benefits from wide and flat streets, which makes for perfect trick-or-treat strolling with kids. The neighborhood is a mix of businesses and homes, both of which will give out candy come Halloween.

Julie Zigoris can be reached at jzigoris@sfstandard.com