How to Celebrate Halloween During COVID-19

Be spooky and safe!

Time has been moving at a haphazard pace since March — sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but never making any sense. One great thing about the fall and winter slate of seasonal holidays is that they serve as wonderfully obtrusive markers of time. Sure, it’s a bit sad saying goodbye to our long days of sunlight — but at least it’s finally spooky season.

We know that going all out for Halloween isn’t possible this year, but celebrating some time-honored activities like carving pumpkins or crafting costumes are still great ways to get festive as the world outside gets a little too scary.

San Francisco health officials highly recommend against traditions like trick-or-treating as we know it, indoor costume parties, even “trunk-or-treating” and commiserating over food and drinks for the high risk it poses to further spreading coronavirus. But like most things under the weight of a pandemic this year, there are ways to adapt. 

Activities that can be Done Safely

There’s still pumpkins to carve, costumes to buy or make on your own, and scavenger hunts to be held inside the home and with members of the same household. 

You can always go beyond pumpkins and gourds in decorating with the likes of fake spiders and jump-scare ghouls or setting up ofrendas for deceased family members. Spooky films from classics like Hocus Pocus to Coco, or horrors like It Follows and Get Out, also keep with the Halloween spirit. 

For households who absolutely must get their annual dose of trick-or-treating, goodie bags can be individually wrapped and placed at the end of a driveway or lawn — so long as hands are washed for 20 seconds before and after preparing. And those who come to collect should sanitize frequently and save the candy gorging for inside the home after washing hands.

Costume parades could still be done in person but must be outside, with no more than 12 people in masks and at least six feet apart. Costume accessories should not be replacements for the usual properly-fitted masks that prevent coronavirus from spreading. 

Chickens roam around the Bay Natives Nursery pumpkin patch on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. There are 26 chickens that roam around the nursery. (Samantha Laurey/Special to S.F Examiner)

Buy Decorations, Costumes, and Supplies from These Local Retail Stores

Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch
2101 Sloat Blvd and 1620 7th Ave
9 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily
Hayrides $5

Bay Natives Nursery
10 Cargo Way
9:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m. daily

The Guardsmen Pumpkin Patch
2 Marina Blvd
Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. from Oct. 22-Oct. 25

Cliff’s Variety 
479 Castro St.
Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m -6:30 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Mixcoatl Arts and Crafts
3201 24th St.
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Costuming on Haight 
735 Haight St.
Visits by appointment only

Piedmont Boutique 
1452 Haight St. 
Thurs.-Mon., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. 

432 Clement 
Sun.-Fri., 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

1556 Haight St.
Fabrics, art supplies, costume accessories

Fabric Outlet
2109 Mission St.
Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

One Stop Party Shop
1600 Church St. 
Wed.-Sat., 12-4 p.m.

Community Thrift 
623 Valencia St.
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thurs.-Sun.

Donations by appointment only

1700 Haight St
11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

4631 Mission St.
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Virtual and Socially Distanced Events for Halloween and Día de los Muertos

Touchless Trick of Treat in the Castro for Kids
Sat., Oct. 31, 2-5 p.m., Free.
Email to RSVP

Regular trick-or-treating is not recommended, but the Castro Merchants Association is organizing a socially distanced version for kids.

Phantasma: Explore Your Fear!
Thurs., Oct. 15-Sat., Oct. 31, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Free-$50.
225 San Leandro Way

A haunting outdoor theatrical experience specifically for pods social distancing together.

After Dark Online: OK With Decay—All That Remains
Thurs., Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Free.

Autumn is the season when organic matter starts to fall apart. The Exploratorium embraces it with this online presentation.

Christian Cagigal’s “Sortilegios”
Thurs., Oct. 15, Oct. 22, 7-8 p.m., $25.

Magician Christian Cagigal is all about dark mysteries in this online magic show.

Howl-O-Ween Photos: Mission Bay
Sat., Oct. 17-Sun., Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $10.
Healthy Spot, 1200 4th St., Suite F

Book a Halloween-themed photoshoot for your pet. Proceeds donated to Berkeley Humane.

Amor Eterno: Día de Los Muertos Drag Show
Thurs., Oct. 22, 7-9 p.m., suggested donation $10.

SOMArts’ annual Día de Los Muertos exhibit returns with a virtual drag show.

Literary Pop! Night of Terrors!
Sat., Oct. 24, 7- 8:40 p.m. 

Join writers and comedians for a virtual reading inspired by their horror pop culture favorites.

Sat. Oct. 24-Sun. Nov. 1, 10 a.m-5 p.m.

Go on a self-guided tour through sloth-themed haunted houses at the San Francisco Zoo. Masks are mandatory, costumes are encouraged.

Storytime Science for Kids: The Halloween Episode
Wed., Oct. 28, 1 p.m., Free.

Try some interactive, family-friendly spooky activities with the Exploratorium’s online storytelling event.

Halloween Happy Hour
Wed., Oct. 28, 6-7 p.m., Free.

A virtual networking event for young professionals. Come in your costume!

Virtual Painting: Halloween Cat
Thurs., Oct. 29, 6-8 p.m., Free, suggested donation $10.

Local artist Bonnie Rose leads a lesson on painting a halloween cat with acrylics.

Halloween Drive-In
Fri., Oct. 30, Sat., Oct. 31, 6-10 p.m., $50-$200.

With drag artists and aerialists, this live performance will raise funds for local Bay Area artists who have been out of work during COVID-19. You can watch from the safety of your own car.

Howl at the Moon
Sat., Oct. 31, 9 p.m., Free.

Hatched by the good folks at, no holiday event may better adapt to the year than “a cathartic scream in response to 2020” on Halloween night, which also happens to have a full moon.

Day of the Dead Festival of Altars
Mon., Nov. 2, 5 p.m., Free.

Join the Marigold Project and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts for a virtual tour of five altars dedicated to ancestors and “in the vision of indigenous peoples around the world.”

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