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Halloween in the Castro and other spooky events in San Francisco this weekend

Thousands pack Castro Street for the celebration of Halloween in the Castro District of San Francisco. | Source: Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

The Halloween spirit is inescapable this weekend, with a plethora of block parties, themed movie nights and dress-up opportunities to choose from in nearly every nook of San Francisco. While thousands are expected to pour into the Castro to welcome the return of the iconic Halloween celebration in the neighborhood, read on for other ways to embrace the holiday spirit this weekend, including an Oakland marionette show and a spooky sandcastle-making contest. 

1. Floating Feature at Fisherman's Wharf

🗓️ Friday-Saturday | 8 p.m.
📍 Red and White Fleet Cruises
🎟️ $38-$50 (children under 5 admitted for free)

Grab your Halloween costume and your seasickness medication and head to Fisherman’s Wharf to catch a themed movie aboard a twilight cruise around the bay (costumes encouraged). Picked by the beloved Roxie Theatre, the flick of the weekend is the musical horror comedy classic Little Shop of Horrors. Red and White Fleet Cruises, which hosts the event, boasts the “only sailing movie theater on the planet,” utilizing a hybrid electric vessel to ensure a noise-free movie-watching experience with the twinkling city skyline as your backdrop. And don’t worry—indoor seating will be available to escape the chilly night air while still enjoying the view. A full cocktail bar will be stocked with beverages and light snacks, and your ticket also includes complimentary popcorn and hot drinks. 

2. Halloween Festivities in the Castro

🗓️ Saturday-Sunday | noon-8 p.m. (Saturday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Sunday)
📍 Castro District

After a 16-year hiatus, Halloween festivities are finally back in the Castro with two days of wholesome holiday fun to celebrate its eagerly anticipated return. The event, which historically drew tens of thousands to the famously LGBTQ+ neighborhood, came to a tragic end following a mass shooting in 2006 that wounded nine people. This year’s celebrations promise trick-or-treating, a Halloween movie marathon on Saturday at the Castro Theatre (PSA: admission is free if you’re wearing a costume) and other themed activities and vendors. Both days feature a costume contest—one hosted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the Castro Theatre Saturday night and another for children, adults and pets at the more family-oriented block party on Sunday afternoon. 

3. Leap Sandcastle Classic at Ocean Beach

🗓️ Saturday | 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
📍 Ocean Beach

Crafting even a simple, run-of-the-mill sandcastle is a delicate and tedious art—using the grainy medium to make a giant, Halloween-themed sand sculpture is an incredible feat not for the faint of heart. This weekend, brave teams of elementary school students paired with mostly tech, engineering or design professionals will flock to Ocean Beach to compete in Northern California’s largest sandcastle building competition. The event is hosted by the nonprofit Leap, which strives to provide arts education resources for Bay Area students. Spend the afternoon watching sandy masterpieces take shape, and stick around for a dog costume contest and other live entertainment.

4. The Great ‘Hauntway’ in the Outer Sunset

🗓️ Sunday | 1-4 p.m.
📍 Great Highway Park between Judah and Taraval streets

It can be tough to trick-or-treat door to door with San Francisco’s notoriously hilly terrain, but there is a wealth of alternatives to make up for it—including the yearly Great “Hauntway” at Ocean Beach. Since the Great Highway is only closed to cars on the weekends, the event is this Sunday rather than on the 31st, but hey, who could say no to a bonus day to start building a candy stash? Hundreds of costumed San Franciscans (see how many Barbies and Kens you can count this year) make their way from one decorated booth to the next along the street to embrace the spooky spirit and, of course, satiate candy cravings. The family-friendly Halloween party isn’t all about the treats, though, as the event also features bounce houses, arts and crafts, and live music. 

5. Driveway Follies in Oakland 

🗓️ Monday-Tuesday | dusk-10 p.m.
📍 3854 Greenwood Ave., Oakland

Fostering the increasingly rare art of marionette puppetry, Larry Schmidt’s Driveway Follies annually offers an unconventional Halloween treat. The mesmerizing shows delve into the historical and cultural background of the holiday with an educational twist. The tradition started in 2007 with just three puppeteers performing a three-act show, but its crew has since expanded to eight puppeteers, who now perform five acts during the two-night event. Taking place on the day before and day of Halloween, the family-friendly performances start at dusk and end around 10 p.m.