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The Best 37 Things to Do in San Francisco in October

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This post covers things to do in October in San Francisco, including sections for attractions that are either free, family-friendly or fun after dark.

 

 


TOP 10

The following section will provide ten of the best things to do in San Francisco this October. 

We also have posts devoted to some of the best attractions and tour services in San Francisco, including some of the following:

If you’re looking for activities that take place at night, are specifically intended for families or are free to enjoy, please make sure to read the sections covering those subjects.


(1) Take a Night Tour of Alcatraz

Whether you’re looking for something spooky to do before Halloween or you just want to learn more about this historic site, touring Alcatraz after dark is a pretty special experience.

 

 

With only 2 boats going to Alcatraz each night around sunset (at 5:55 pm & 6:30 pm), it’s fair to say that this is a limited opportunity and you’ll want to purchase tickets well in advance.

There are special talks and lectures available during the evening that are not provided during the day, making this tour a somewhat different adventure after dark.

The last ferry leaving Alcatraz departs at 9:25 pm, so you can expect to spend at least 1-2 hours on the island once you get there.

For more details, please read our post covering Alcatraz tours and tickets.


(2) Go to a Concert

Throughout the year, San Francisco tends to attract a lot of popular and notable musical performers – and October is no exception!

Visitors can expect dozens of famous artists to be performing in the Bay Area this month.

 

 

If you’re interested in going to a concert, consider one of the following shows:

You can find all the San Francisco Bay Area concerts here.


(3) Attend a Sporting Event

The Bay Area is home to several popular sports teams, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that there will be plenty of games to attend during this month. You can find them all here

Although the official season comes to a close in September, there may be an opportunity to see some October baseball if either the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland Athletics manage to make the postseason.

 

 

It’s also worth noting that the San Francisco 49ers will have two games on October 3rd and 24th.

The Golden State Warriors will also likely be playing a few games, giving basketball fans something fun to do this month.

Finally, fans of hockey might want to check out a San Jose Sharks game in October.

Needless to say, there is plenty to anticipate this month if you’re a sports fan!


(4) See a Hit Musical/Opera

No matter when you come to San Francisco, chances are there will be at least one notable musical, ballet or opera to see. You can find them all here

Throughout the month of October, you will have an opportunity to experience the hit Broadway musical Hamilton at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

This modern take on the story of Alexander Hamilton will be available from Oct 12th - 31st.

 

 

This is currently the only musical or opera scheduled for the month of October 2021. Both Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are still in the process of returning to the stage following the pandemic.

Find all the theatrical events in San Francisco here.


(5) Go on a Haunted Walking Tour

With Halloween just around the corner, October is the perfect time to take a walk on the darker side of San Francisco. Thankfully, we offer at least one pay-what-you-like outing which fits this description.

Our Secrets, Scandals and Scoundrels tour covers some of the more notable crimes that have taken place in the history of this city.

 

 

If you’re looking for something a little more disturbing, consider taking a ghost hunt walking tour instead. This tour provides details about the supernatural history of San Francisco.

Tickets are $25 per person and the tour will last for between 1 ½ - 2 hours on average. Purchase Ghost Hunt Walking Tour tickets or learn more.

Alternatively, there is also a Vampire walking tour in the Nob Hill district which includes local history and lore about this famed creature of the night.

Tickets are $40 per person and the tour will last for between 1 ½ - 2 hours on average. Purchase Vampire Walking Tour tickets or learn more.


(6) Attend a Music Festival

In addition to all the concerts taking place this month, there will also be a few noteworthy music festivals. If you're not interested in any of the other shows, consider one of the following options instead.

 

 

Outlaw Music Festival will feature both Willie Nelson and the Avett Brothers. Fans of country and rock music won't want to miss the opportunity to see these legends perform on October 23rd - 24th.

Alternatively, you can also see performers like Tame Impala, Lizzo, and the Strokes at Outside Lands Music Festival on October 29th - 31st.

Check this list of music festivals in San Francisco to see what else is happening this month.


(7) Go to a Pumpkin Patch

Autumn is here and Halloween is approaching, making this the perfect time to celebrate the season with a visit to a pumpkin patch!

Even if you don’t plan on buying any pumpkins, there are usually a lot of fun and family-friendly activities at these farms during this time of year.

 

 

There are a lot of great pumpkin patches to visit in the Bay Area, but the two closest options are in San Francisco and Oakland.

Clancy’s Pumpkin Patch is only a few blocks from Golden Gate Park and it’s available throughout October from 9 am - 9 pm. You’ll find pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, Halloween decorations, a maze of hay and more!

If you’re in the Oakland area, head to the Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch instead. This is a much more modern location with pumpkin shooters, petting zoos, inflatable slides, bounce houses and more. Visitors are welcome throughout the month from 10 am - 10 pm.

Here are a few more pumpkin patches you can visit if you’re a bit further outside of the city:

For additional Halloween fun with the kids, make sure to check our section devoted to family-friendly activities this October.

NOTE: While most pumpkin patches will likely be open in October 2021, it's important to note that you might be required to wear masks or practice social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19.


(8) See a Stand-Up Comedy Show

San Francisco usually attracts a lot of famous comedians, and while there won't be as many as usual coming to the Bay Area this month, there are a few performances you won't want to miss.

 

 

Here are a few of the more notable people scheduled to perform in the area this month:

Even if you can't make it to see one of these comedians, make sure to check this list of comedy shows in San Francisco to see who else might be performing this month.


(9) Celebrate Fleet Week

In honor of America’s sea services, this celebration offers a number of events for all ages from October 3rd - 11th. Enjoy ship tours, a parade of ships, and the Fleet Week Air Show among other attractions. 

For the most part, this weeklong festival is free to attend – although VIP packages are available for purchase. You can also buy a burger for a sailor, which is their way of giving guests an opportunity to donate to the fleet.

 

 

While many of these events will be taking place around Fisherman’s Wharf, there will also be activities in Golden Gate Park and the airshow will be over the San Francisco Bay.

Make sure to check the Fleet Week site for a full map and details about each event planned during this festival.

If you’re looking for more activities that won’t cost a dime, make sure to check our section on free things to do in San Francisco this October.

You’ll also find more festivals and fun things to do with your kids in our family-friendly activities section.


(10) Save on Popular Attractions With a Tourist Pass

If you’re planning to visit some of the more notable landmarks in and around the Bay Area, a tourist attraction discount pass can help you save a lot of money on tickets.

The way you save money will depend on which type of pass you choose.

 

 

While an all-inclusive pass allows you to pay one flat price for a set number of days in which you’ll enjoy free admission at several locations, there are also passes that let you pay for a specific number of attractions instead.

In addition to discounts of 60% off or more, you’ll also enjoy skip-the-line access at several popular locations in the Bay Area.

Here are some of the better attractions included with one or more San Francisco tourist passes:

For more details on how to use these services, make sure to read our full post covering San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes.


UNCONFIRMED: Attend a Beer/Spirits Festival

There are going to be several festivals focusing on spirits and beer in San Francisco during the month of October.

One of the best examples is Oaktoberfest – Oakland’s take on Oktoberfest – which is actually a family-friendly event including a variety of musical entertainment, food, drinks, and even activities for kids.

The next Annual Oaktoberfest is being scheduled for October 2021, but they have yet to announce the official dates.

 

 

There will also be an excellent opportunity to enjoy a variety of unique drinks from craft breweries at the Botanicals and Brews Beer Garden at the Conservatory of Flowers.

This event has yet to be announced for October 2021.

If you’re looking for a different kind of festival, head to Brews on the Bay for an opportunity to enjoy a variety of craft beers aboard the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45.

This event hasn't been confirmed for 2021 just yet, but it will likely take place in October.

TIP: If you’re looking for a bite to eat after attending one of these festivals, consider taking one of our San Francisco food tours.


UNCONFIRMED: Attend Yerba Buena Night

If you’re looking for a different kind of festival, Yerba Buena Night guarantees some pretty interesting entertainment including music, dancing and circus performances.

Although most festivals are held during the day, this one will actually take place between the hours of 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.

 

 

In the past, this event has been described as similar to a “multi-stage concert” with several different acts performing at the same time.

Yerba Buena Night is free to attend and it will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

This is just one of many festivals typically held in San Francisco throughout October, and you can find out more about all the other events in our family-friendly activities section.

You may also want to check our things to do at night section for even more nighttime fun this October!

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO

In this section, we will provide multiple different activities you can enjoy in San Francisco during the month of October without paying a dime.

 

 

Make sure to check our other sections for even more free events and attractions such as Fleet Week, Yerba Buena Night, Film Night in the Park, the Italian Heritage Parade, a variety of family festivals and more.

You’ll also find several affordable activities on our post covering free things to do in San Francisco.


Visit a Free Museum

There are several great museums in San Francisco, and many of them offer entirely free admission. While some locations are free all the time, others are only free once a month or at certain times of the year.

Here are a few of the more popular museums offering free entry throughout the month of October:

  • The Streetcar Museum
  • San Francisco Maritime Park
  • Wells Fargo History Museum
  • Chinese Historical Society of America
  • SF Fire Department Historical Society

You can also enjoy free admission once a month at the following locations:

  • Cartoon Art Museum | First Tuesday
  • deYoung Museum | First Tuesday
  • Exploratorium | October 20th

These are just a handful of the museums you can visit for free, but there are many more you may want to consider. Check our post about free San Francisco museums for more details.


Go to the Presidio Pet Cemetery

If you’re looking for something spooky to do in celebration of Halloween, consider making a stop at the Presidio Pet Cemetery.

This was the burial site of several pets owned by military families who lived in the area many years ago. In addition to cats and dogs, there are also a variety of birds, rodents, reptiles and other interesting pets.

While it’s not the most disturbing location in the world, this could be a nice little spooky place to visit if you’re trying to get in the mood for the holidays.

If you’re looking for a more somber experience, the San Francisco National Cemetery is just 5 minutes away.

Considering that this pet cemetery is located in the Presidio, you may also want to combine a trip to the site with a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge!

NOTE: Don’t forget to check our family-friendly activities section for more Halloween fun.


Go on a Free Walking Tour

We have 10 unique pay-what-you-want walking tours throughout the city by the bay that cover all aspects of San Francisco! 

 

 

Take a step back in time and learn about the Wild West and the how the California gold rush impacted the city or explore the Castro, San Francisco’s famed and historic LGBTQ neighborhood.

These are just two of the experiences we offer, but there are several more you may want to consider. Here are the walking tours we currently provide in San Francisco:

Although the tour itself won’t cost a dime, our professional guides appreciate any and all donations you may be willing to give them.


Attend the Leap Sandcastle Classic

Whether you enjoy building sandcastles or you just want to see what types of structures can be created out of sand, this is sure to be a fun event.

The 39th Annual Leap Sandcastle Classic will take place on October 23rd from 11 am - 3 pm, and it is entirely free to attend.

This year’s theme is “Let’s Play,” so you can expect a lot of playful designs to pop up along Ocean Beach.

In addition to all the sandy artwork on display and being created, there will also be live music, raffles, and judges to decide which sandcastle is best.

Learn more about the Leap Sandcastle Classic.


Enjoy a Free Art Show

There will be a few different art shows available for free in San Francisco during the month of October.

Studio 23 will be offering one of the most interesting opportunities with their Blacklight Art Show, an event which features artwork that literally glows in the dark.

Alternatively, you can also enjoy free admission to several smaller art studios in the Bay Area during SF Open Studios, which will be taking place at a variety of different locations throughout the month of October.

Finally, Reimagine End of Life will explore questions of death and mortality through artwork, creative performances and workshops taking place across hundreds of different events in multiple locations from October 24th - November 3rd.

NOTE: None of these events have been confirmed for October 2021, but they are annual art shows, so there's a good chance they will return this year.


Go to the Classic Car Show

If you’re a fan of classic automobiles, this Downtown Alameda event is sure to be a hit.

The 26th Annual Classic Car Show will be taking place along Park Street between Encinal Avenue and Buena Vista Avenue on October 12th from 10 am - 4 pm.

This free event will include a variety of historic coupes, hot rods, roadsters, muscle cars representing eras as far back as the 1920s and as recent as the 1980s.

 


This photo of Alameda is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

In addition to the cars, there will also be a variety of music from the ’50s and ’60s playing at this event.

Many of the Downtown Alameda businesses will be open during the car show, which means you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to do some shopping.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.


Take Part in Electric Vehicle Week

On October 12th & 13th, Charge Across Town will be holding a celebration of electric vehicles at Pier 27 in Fisherman’s Wharf.

Visitors will have an opportunity to see the latest electric and fuel-cell vehicle technology – and potentially even take it for a test drive!

There will be several information booths available to provide more details and potentially other goodies.

Best of all, this event will be free to attend, so you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank!

TIP: While you’re in the area, why not consider taking our pay-what-you-want Fisherman’s Wharf walking tour?

NOTE: This event has not yet been confirmed for October 2021.


Go to a Litquake Event

The Litquake Nation will be offering a free event called Poetic Tuesdays on the first Tuesday of October, inviting several poets and authors to come and read their work to a live audience.

 

 

This show is held at the Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade from 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm, and you can expect performances from as many as 7-8 different artists.

Litquake will also be holding a literary festival from October 10th-19th which will welcome dozens of local authors to share their latest work and speak with readers about literature.

While most of the festival events will be free to attend, there are a few that may require tickets. You may also want to bring some money just in case you want an autograph or you find a book that you can’t live without.

NOTE: Don’t forget that Yerba Buena Night will be taking place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is right next to the Yerba Buena Gardens!

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

The following section will include several fun activities you can enjoy in San Francisco this October after the sun goes down.

 

 

Don’t forget to take a look at our other sections for ideas like film night in the park, sporting events, musicals, concerts, Yerba Buena night, going to a Pumpkin Patch, taking a haunted walking tour, going to Alcatraz and more.

For even more interesting nighttime activities, make sure to read our full post covering things to do at night in San Francisco.


Take a Halloween Cruise

Celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year by taking a haunted cruise out on the San Francisco Bay. Each of these events is like a Halloween Ball which takes place on a cruise ship, ensuring a very special experience.

The Titanic Masquerade Halloween Cruise will take place on October 31st from 7 pm - 12 am, and there will be 2 DJs offering a variety of music on two separate floors of the ship. Tickets start at $59 per person.

Even if you don’t feel like celebrating Halloween, you may still want to head out on the water for an evening cruise. Check our post covering boat tours in San Francisco for more details about these services.

NOTE: Don’t forget that the night tour of Alcatraz includes a cruise to and from the island.


Go on a Trick or Treating Pub Crawl

There are a lot of pub crawls available in San Francisco, but if you’re looking for a themed activity to celebrate the holiday, there is also at least one Halloween event you can attend.

The Adult Trick ‘R Treating Pub Crawl will be held by CrawlSF on October 25th, 26th and 31st from 6 pm - 9 pm. Guests can expect to visit at least 9 different bars throughout the night.

Although costumes are not required, they are definitely recommended. There will be specials offered at each of the bars included on this pub crawl.

This is a great idea for adults who are tired of the family-friendly fare and would much rather enjoy a few drinks for Halloween instead of (or in addition to) boatloads of candy!


Dress Up for a Halloween Ball

In addition to all the other fun and spooky activities taking place this month, there will also be at least one Halloween Ball to attend.

A Nightmare on Van Ness will be taking place at the Regency Ballroom. This event will feature 3 rooms of music, dancing, a costume contest and more.

Tickets start at just $19, and the ball will run from 9 pm - 2 am.

This Halloween Ball is intended for 21+ audiences.


Go to a Film Festival

If you’re a movie buff, October is the perfect time to visit San Francisco, as there will be several film festivals taking place throughout the month.

No matter what types of movies you enjoy, chances are there will be a festival providing some interesting films to watch.

Here are all the film festivals you can attend this month:

Most of these events will have VIP tickets offering admission to all movies, but you’ll also be able to attend specific screenings individually for between $10-$15 per movie.

TIP: Film lovers working with a budget may also want to consider going to Film Night in the Park.

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

The following section will include several fun activities that are taking place in San Francisco this October which are appropriate for families with kids of all ages.

 

 

If you’re looking for even more great ideas, don’t forget to check our other sections for events and attractions such as the Leap Sandcastle Classic, going to a Pumpkin Patch, attending the Classic Car Show and more.

You can find additional family-friendly attractions on our post covering things to do with kids in San Francisco.


Go to the Halloween Haunt at Great America

California’s Great America likes to celebrate the holidays in style, and they don’t cut any corners when it comes to Halloween!

During the month of October, visitors can expect to see hundreds of monsters prowling about and several haunted mazes, skeleton key rooms, live shows and scare zones during their Halloween Haunt activity.

If your kids are a little too young for the spookier events, they also have an event called the Great Pumpkin Fest on weekdays which invites kids to wear their costumes and go trick-or-treating with the Peanuts gang!

The best part about all of this is that it’s included with general admission – which you can get with at least one of the major San Francisco tourist passes.


Take the Kids to Boo at the Zoo

Both the San Francisco Zoo and the Oakland Zoo will be hosting Boo at the Zoo events aimed at young visitors.

Guests can expect opportunities to trick-or-treat at several stations throughout the zoo as you watch the animals enjoy special themed meals with pumpkins and other festive foods.

 

 

In addition to those activities, there will also be a Halloween parade and costume contest with awards in a variety of different categories such as Best Family Costume and Best Animal Costume.

Boo at the Zoo will take place on October 26th - 27th at both the Oakland Zoo and the San Francisco Zoo

Each event is included with general admission, and you can get those tickets at a discount with at least one major San Francisco tourist pass.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.


Celebrate Columbus Day at the Italian Heritage Parade

In honor of Columbus Day, the 151st Annual Italian Heritage Parade will be taking place in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

This parade will include several floats, dancers, and live Italian music. There will also be additional activities such as a Ferrari sports car display and a post-parade dinner hosted by the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club.

The Italian Heritage Parade will begin at 12:30 pm on October 10th at the foot of Jefferson and Powell Street, and the event is entirely free to attend.

Although this activity is free, you may want to consider bringing money for food and drinks along the way.

TIP: Don’t forget that we offer a pay-what-you-want Fisherman’s Wharf walking tour which covers several notable sites. This is a great way to learn more about the neighborhood either before or after the parade!


Attend a Community Festival

There will be several fun community festivals taking place in San Francisco this October. While some of them will be free to attend, others require a ticket to enter. 

 


This photo of Yerba Buena Gardens is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

No matter which event you choose to attend, each of these festivals is family-friendly with plenty of activities for children and live music performances to enjoy.

If you’re looking for events that are specifically focused on music, make sure to check our list of music festivals taking place in San Francisco this month.

NOTE: Some of these events have not been confirmed for October 2021.


See a Movie at Film Night in the Park

From mid-summer to the beginning of fall, the SF Parks Alliance works with partners like Alamo Drafthouse to provide a series called Sundown Cinema: Film Night in the Park.

Visitors are allowed to bring blankets, portable lawn chairs and other items that might make them comfortable while enjoying a film night in the park.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.


Go to a Halloween Festival

In addition to all the community events and the Pumpkin Patches in the Bay Area this month, there will also be a few Halloween festivals for families.

Scaregrove will take place at Stern Grove on October 25th from 3 pm - 9 pm. This event will include a costume contest, parade, haunted houses, carnival rides, live entertainment and more for just $10 per person.

NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.

If you’re looking for more of a party atmosphere, head to the California Academy of Sciences for their SuperNatural event on October 26th. 

There will be a monster party from 5 pm - 6:30 pm along with many other fun activities such as trick-or-treating, face painting, magic shows and more. Tickets are $55 for adults and $40 for kids.

Alternatively, you can also attend the Halloween Hoopla at the Yerba Buena Gardens on October 27th. This free event will include interactive performances and games for kids, as well as a costume parade and a small pumpkin patch. 

NOTE: This event also has yet to be confirmed for October 2021.


Attend a Golden Gate Park Band Concert

From the middle of spring to the beginning of fall, the Golden Gate Park Band holds a concert series in Golden Gate Park which covers a variety of both classical and modern music.

They will be holding their season finale on October 3rd. If that name tells us anything, it’s that you can probably expect a lot of Woodstock era classics.

This event is entirely free to attend, but they do accept donations if you feel so inclined. The concert will run from 1 pm - 3 pm, but since it’s the season finale, they may stick around a bit longer than usual.

For more details, please visit the Golden Gate Park Band concert list.

NOTE: If you’re interested in hearing some live music, don’t forget that there will be several excellent concerts and music festivals to attend in San Francisco throughout the month of October.


Take the Kids to a Real Rodeo

If your children love cowboys/cowgirls and western culture, they’ll love the chance to go to a real rodeo and see actual bull riding/steer wrestling/calf roping.

The Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show & Rodeo will take place on the second and third weekend of October.

In addition to the rodeo, there will also be a horse show, a livestock show, live music & entertainment, plenty of great BBQ and more.

Tickets start at just $3, making this a pretty affordable activity to enjoy with the kids. That said, you may want to bring some extra cash for the barbecue!

TIP: Whether you’re working with a budget or you’re just looking for additional activities your young cowboys and girls in training might enjoy, head to the historic Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park. 

You can learn more about this and other affordable family activities on our post covering free things to do in San Francisco.

 


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About The Author

Britt

Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: September 27th, 2021
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