(by) Donna McCrohan Rosenthal

Many favorite Halloween happenings have returned, some with restrictions but others surprising unencumbered. Some theme parks no longer require advance reservations. Phone or check websites prior to heading out for any of these short trips or longer hops around the Golden State.

To the northwest in San Francisco on Thursday, October 14, the Exploratorium offers “After Dark” with the snakes, spiders, and scorpions: “We share a planet with all sorts of creepy-crawlies and fantastic beasts. Encounter some of the strangest creatures that have been discovered and learn about the legends that some of them have inspired during this wild night” (415-528-4444).

Down below in Los Angeles through Sunday, October 31, at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, “from whirling witches to the soulful laments of Dracula and Vampira, to a bone-rattling soirée of glow-in-the-dark skeletons in a hidden cabaret, ‘Hallowe’en Spooktacular’ whisks you to the place where imagination lurks.” Costumes strongly encouraged. Ages 12 and up must show proof of vaccination. All guests over age 2 must wear masks while inside the theater (213-250-9995).

Farther south in Buena Park on select dates through October 31, Knott’s Berry Farm presents Knott’s Scary Farm, “the largest and most haunting Halloween event in Southern California! The fully transformed theme park features… uniquely haunted houses, mazes, and attractions, sinister shows, a dozen thrill rides in the dark, and more than 1,000 horrifying creatures lurking in the fog and hiding in every corner.” The Boo-fet dinner features endless portions of signature Knott’s entrees and desserts with a souvenir bottle… Boo-fet diners receive early entry to select mazes and attractions and will also have exclusive monster photo opportunities before the park opens to the general public” (; 714-220-5200).

In nearby Anaheim, Disneyland unveils “Happy Hauntings” in both parks through October 31 including “Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters after Dark” and fireworks on many nights (714-781-INFO).

Southwest on the coast, the new-for-Halloween-2021 Ventura County Fear Grounds bring a multi-maze attraction where visitors face terrors in The Cage, Terror Trail, and The Fright Train. “Those who survive can wind down in the Dead End, which will feature a beer garden, food, live entertainment, and photo ops” on Thursdays, September 30 and continuing on weekends and select weeknights throughout October (805-648-3376).

Over the Sierra in Tehachapi, Fall Carnival runs Friday, October 15 through Sunday, October 17 as part of this year’s Apple Festival, a weekend of balloon races, face painting, puppet shows, virtual reality walk the plank, inflatables, corn hole competition, petting zoo, apple bobbing, pie eating contest, live music, and a Waste Management Kid Zone (818-519-7144).

North on Hwy 395: Don’t forget the world-famous and always popular 31st Lone Pine Film Festival, Thursday-Sunday, October 7-10 (760-876-9909).

Story First Published: 2021-10-01