While trick-or-treaters roam the streets in Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton masks, other celebrants will light glowing altars for the dearly departed and offer marigolds and other gifts.
Halloween goes hand-in-skeletal-hand with the Day of the Dead, at least for many in California. Día de los Muertos, as the holiday is known in its native Spanish, is challenging Halloween for prominence across the state, especially with Latinos making up its biggest ethnic group. In San Francisco, the annual Nov. 2 procession through the historically Latino, but rapidly gentrifying, Mission District still draws tens of thousands of people. Sadly, the boisterous street party that long made the Castro a Halloween night destination went dark in 2006 after a shooting there.
When it comes to Halloween, theme parks and fright mazes, especially those photographed for online “likes,” are where it’s at. One of the most popular scare parks in Northern California, the Pirates of Emerson, draws costumed crowds to the Alameda County Fairgrounds (corner of Bernal and Valley avenues, Pleasanton) for a venture through a “dark gauntlet” and lots of pirate sword brandishing.
Down in Southern California, horror film director Eli Roth has designed an evil clown-themed tram ride through Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 800-864-8377). And at the Preston Castle (900 Palm Drive, Ione, 209-256-3623), already known as one of the state’s spookiest spots, visitors can not only tour the former school grounds for juvenile offenders but get a few scares in during its October “Haunt” program (running on weekends through Oct. 29).
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As the howls are trailing away on Oct. 31, the more contemplative rituals of the Day of the Dead begin. The San Francisco procession takes on a Carnaval-esque flair, but in its heart and soul are the candle-lit altars and tender remembrances that makes Día de los Muertos beloved.
Elsewhere in the state, brightly decorated skeletons, candy skulls and other Day of the Dead art already fill museums and community centers, including at the Artes Américas center in Fresno (1630 Van Ness Ave., 559-266-2623).
As no surprise, what’s billed as the biggest Day of the Dead festival in the country happens Oct. 29 in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (6000 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-469-1181). Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas and all manner of Mexican folk dance troupes will perform.
What: Hairy eight-legged critters are the stars of the Coarsegold Tarantula Festival, where people are encouraged to dress up and compete in pie-eating contests. Check out the tarantula derby, featuring live spiders.
When: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
Where: Coarsegold Historic Village (35300 Highway 41)
Cost: Admission is free.
What: Zip-lining just got better. The Moaning Cavern Adventure Park is hosting a day of 30-mph, pumpkin-smashing fun, where zip-liners can throw pumpkins at targets while gliding through the air.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
Where: Moaning Cavern Adventure Park, 5350 Moaning Caverns Road
Cost: $45 per smash, pumpkin included.
What: Arrive in costume to the San Jose Broofest: A Nightmare on Alma Street, where you can sip more than 80 types of sudsy delights, hunt for hidden treats, bob for apples and decorate pumpkins.
When: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m Friday, Oct. 28; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29
Where: Municipal Stadium, 588 East Alma Ave.
Cost: $45 to $65