In La Jolla, one of the best bets for family-friendly and affordable fun is the 13th annual Haunted Birch Aquarium: Shipwrecked! This interactive exhibit is every kid’s dream. Guests are encouraged to come in costume to wander the museum halls, collect sweet treats and hear Halloween stories. The event also features live music from zydeco band Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters, as well as prizes for best costumes. Kids 2 and under are admitted free. Check out www.aquarium.ucsd.edu for tickets and more information about the Oct. 25 and 26 event.
In Mission Beach, Belmont Park has been transformed into a frightfully fun Halloween zone. The masterminds behind San Diego’s popular attractions, “The Haunted Hotel” and “The Scream Zone” teamed up with Belmont Park to create its first ever family-friendly haunt, BOOmont Park. The Halloween festivities are held Friday through Sunday and on Halloween Day starting at 5 p.m. So far, this new attraction is a big hit with locals.
“Our family has kids ranging from 2 years old up to 16 years old, so it’s great because there’s something for everyone,” Pacific Beach resident Tamara Ramirez said. “BOOmont Park is perfect for big families like mine because it’s literally a one-stop shop.”
BOOmont’s attractions include BOO-mont Manor, a family-friendly haunted house, free trick-or-tricking, Zombie Laser Tag and pumpkin-patch painting. www.belmontpark.com
When it comes to creative over-the-top decorations, Barbarella Restaurant wins hands down. The popular La Jolla Shores restaurant has earned quite a reputation for its creepy, spooky décor. Every Halloween, owner Barbara Beltaire goes all out, transforming her Italian bistro into a garden of ghoulish figures. Customers say Beltaire has a real talent.
“You feel like you just walked onto a scary movie set,” La Jolla resident Jenny Price said.
When you do check out this haunted like house, bring your camera and beware of the dropping spiders! www.BarbarellaRestaurant.com
For those who crave the adrenaline rush of being scared, why not head up I-5 and visit The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds? This attraction consists of four terrifying haunts that won’t disappoint. One thing to keep in mind — it’s not for the squeamish, as the interactive mazes can be graphic. New this year is Zombie Paintball Safari, where guests are given the chance to save the planet from a zombie apocalypse. Other terrifying haunted attractions include the Haunted Hayride, House of Horror and the Chamber. For more information on hours and pricing, visit www.thescream-zone.com
If you’re up for a weekend getaway, Disneyland is still a favorite place to celebrate Halloween. As guests enter the park, they’re instantly taken away to a magical world. Main Street U.S.A. is lined with hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins and the park is completely decked out in orange and yellow décor. Some highlights include the Haunted Mansion Holiday, completely transformed into Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy is another treat with special effects and, of course, there’s always the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at California Adventure. For more information, visit www.disneyland.disney.go.com.
Spooktacular Halloween Party at UTC Ice, Oct. 25 from 8:30 to 11 p.m. and Oct. 26 from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Anyone dressed in costume will receive candy, with the best three costumes to win a prize. 4545 La Jolla Village Drive, (858) 452-9110, ext. 0, utcice.com
Old Town Zombie Walk, Saturday, Oct. 26. Zombies will meet at the El Campo Santo Cemetary, 2410 San Diego Ave., an hour before sunset (6:06 p.m.) for instructions and directions. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/otsdzw or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get in the spooky spirit at Muttropolis’ annual Howl-o-Ween Party and Costume Contest on Friday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. Judges will award a grand prize and prizes for the two runners up. Light refreshments and appetizers will be served for owners and treats for their pooches. Receive a 10 percent discount on any purchases during the event, along with a complimentary wag bag for your pup. 7755 Girard Ave., (858) 459-9663
The 19th annual Witches Broomstick Ball takes place on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Four Points by Sheraton’s Grand Pavilion Ballroom, 8110 Aero Drive. The event features live entertainment from The MarDels, as well as tarot card readings, black jack gaming and costume prizes. $25 in advance, $35 at the door. sandiego.itex.com
The Ocean Beach Recreation Center will host its annual Halloween Carnival from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 4726 Santa Monica Ave.
The Ocean Beach Kiwanis Club hosts a Howl-o-Ween Canine Carnival on Sunday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Dusty Rhodes Park between Nimitz and Sunset Cliffs boulevards. Dress up your dogs in the spookiest, funniest and stateliest costumes and bring them down. A pet parade takes place from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., with prizes handed out around 3 p.m. for best costumes. For more information, visit www.oceanbeachkiwanis.org.
Bigger and better each year, Pillage the Village, La Jolla’s annual Halloween haunt, will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 31 throughout the community’s downtown Village.
Trick-or-treating with local merchants is sponsored this year by the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), La Jolla Real Estate Brokers Association (REBA) and La Jolla Kiwanis Club.
Orange-and-black balloons on doors will mark participating merchants.
The event includes a kid’s costume judging and prizes for 20 winners at 4:30 p.m.
A four-day food drive is also being held for Pillage the Village to benefit the San Diego Food Bank. Nonperishable food items like canned goods and packaged foods such as pasta, rice, crackers and cereal can be donated in exchange for a commemorative trick-or-treat bag.
Food drive donations can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 28-31 at the REBA office, 908 Kline St., or C&H Photo, 7442 Girard Ave.
A food donation is not required to participate in Pillage the Village — and you don’t need to participate in Pillage the Village to donate food.
Kindergarten through fifth-grade students are being called upon to help get Bird Rock merchants in the Halloween spirit with a window-painting event in the Bird Rock Merchant District on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Participants will meet at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters at 5627 La Jolla Blvd. to check in for the event, where they will be assigned a business’ window to decorate. Supplies will be provided.
Participants must pre-register by emailing Andrew Ward at email@example.com. When registering, provide your name, email address, cell phone number, number of children participating and their ages.
The window decorations will remain up through Halloween.
We want to hear from you! One of our favorite secret spots near the Village is the dirt path that’s north of the Cave Shop. Walk along this path for about 10 minutes and you can eventually see both La Jolla Shores and the sandstones cliffs, as well as part of the caves. This is a great area to walk your dog! Take a creative picture on this walking path with at least two people, and include your family pet. Email your photo by Nov. 24 to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best photo wins four tickets to an Urban Challenge/Scavenger Hunt and four tickets to a Coronado Biking Tour.
— Marc & Darlynne Menkin are the co-owners of Where You Want To Be Tours. Many of their tours and team building Urban Challenge/Scavenger Hunts feature unique spots in La Jolla.