This post covers things to do in October in San Francisco, updated for 2023, including sections for attractions that are either free, family-friendly, or fun after dark.
- Top 10
- Free Things to Do
- Things to Do at Night
- Family-Friendly Activities
- How's the Weather
- Things to Do in San Francisco
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.
A few tour options include:
- Alcatraz Ticket with 2-Day Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
- Inside Alcatraz Tour with Bay Cruise
- Muir Woods, Sausalito & Alcatraz Guided Tour
- Alcatraz Tickets and Chinatown Walking Tour
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.
- Sting | October 2nd
- Madonna | October 4th, 5th
- Ann Wilson | October 8th
- P!NK | October 14th, 15th
- Macklemore | October 14th
- Janelle Monae | October 17th
- Hozier | October 27th
- Portola Festival | September 30th-October 1st
- Breakaway Festival Bay Area | October 13th-14th
- Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival | September 29th-October 1st
You can find even more 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.
Although the official season comes to a close in September, there may be an opportunity to see some October baseball.
Click here for a complete list of who’s playing in September.
4. See a Hit Show
No matter when you come to San Francisco, chances are there will be at least one notable musical, ballet, or opera to see in the area.
- Disney on Ice: Into the Magic | October 23rd-29th | San Jose
- Disney on Ice: Into the Magic | October 19th-22nd | Oakland
- Peppa Pig's Sing-Along Party | San Jose
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 that 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 scarier, consider taking a ghost hunt walking tour instead.
This tour provides details about the supernatural history of San Francisco.
Tickets are $30 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 also $30 per person and the tour will last for between 1 ½ - 2 hours on average.
6. Enjoy Oaktoberfest
Oaktoberfest – Oakland’s take on Oktoberfest – is a family-friendly event including a variety of musical entertainment, food, drinks, and even activities for kids.
Oaktoberfest is scheduled for September 30th and October 1st in Oakland's Diamond District.
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.
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 the month of 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.
This is a more modern location with pumpkin shooters, petting zoos, inflatable slides, bounce houses, and more.
Visitors are welcome from September 23rd on.
Here are a few more pumpkin patches you can visit if you’re a bit further outside of the city:
- Spina Farms in San Jose
- Santa Rosa Pumpkin Patch
- G&M Farms in Livermore
- Nicasio Valley Pumpkin Patch
For additional Halloween fun with the kids, make sure to check our section devoted to family-friendly activities this October.
8. See a Stand-Up Comedy Show
San Francisco usually attracts a lot of famous comedians, and there are a few performances you won't want to miss.
- Jim Jeffries | October 6th
- Nick Swardson | October 6th, 7th, 8th
- Nikki Glaser | October 13th, 20th
- George Lopez | October 14th
- Anthony Jeselnik October 21st
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 2nd to 10th.
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.
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:
- Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
- Golden Gate Bay Cruise
- California’s Great America
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not
- The Walt Disney Family Museum
- San Francisco Zoo & Gardens
- Aquarium of the Bay
- Madame Tussauds
- Oracle Park Tour
- And more!
For more details on how to use these services, make sure to read our full post covering San Francisco tourist attraction discount passes.
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.
This event has been described as similar to a “multi-stage concert”, with several different acts performed 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!
Attend the Día de los Muertos Festival
Every Year, the city of Oakland holds a festival in honor of the Day of the Dead.
In years past, over 100,000 people have been drawn to this event.
Visitors can expect plenty of great live music, games, rides, and activities in addition to several wonderful artistic installations in honor of the holiday.
The Día de los Muertos Festival will take place on October 29th from 10 am - 5 pm in Fruitvale Village, Oakland.
This event is entirely free to attend, but you might want to bring some extra money for food and drinks.
For more budget-friendly ideas, make sure to read our section on free things to do in San Francisco.
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
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.
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 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:
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Billionaire’s Square
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Downtown San Francisco
- San Francisco in One Day
- The Castro and the Fight for Equal Rights
- Lombard Street, Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf
- Secrets, Scandals and Scoundrels of San Francisco
- The Gold Rush, the Wild West & the Early Years of SF
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 the sand, this is sure to be a fun event.
The free-to-attend 41st Annual Leap Sandcastle Classic will take place on October 28th.
This year’s theme is “Halloween Haunts” 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.
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 that 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 at the end of October.
And the amazing San Francisco Trolley Dances, now in its 20th year, comes to SoMa and Chinatown in October.
Take Part in Electric Vehicle Week
On October 6th-8th Charge Across Town will be holding a celebration of electric vehicles on the Embarcadero.
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?
Go to a Litquake Event
Litquake will also be holding a literary festival that 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.
The dates haven't been released as of the time of this post but are expected soon.
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!
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.
Go on a Trick or Treating Pub Crawl
There are many 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.
You can do a San Francisco Ghosts Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl for $30.
Or a Walk with the Spirits: A Haunted Pub Crawl for $44.50.
There's also the Official San Francisco Halloween Pub Crawl, Crawloween. It has over 8,000 participants and 25 bars to choose from.
Although costumes are not required, they are definitely recommended.
There will be specials offered at each of the bars included in this pub crawl.
Dress Up for a Halloween Ball
In addition to all the other fun and spooky activities taking place this month, there will also be many Halloween Balls to attend.
For example, the W Hotel in San Francisco is hosting its annual Halloween event.
It has DJs, decorations, dancers, drummers, and more. Tickets start at just $35, and the ball runs from 9 pm - 1:30 am.
Note: 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 a few 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:
- SF Latino Film Festival | September 29 - October 14tj
- SF Shorts Film Festival | October 6th-8th
- UN Association Film Festival | dates TBA
Many 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.
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.
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.
Celebrate Columbus Day at the Italian Heritage Parade
In honor of Columbus Day, the Annual Italian Heritage Parade will be taking place in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.
The inaugural parade took place back in 1969, and this is the 155th parade in San Francisco!
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 8th at the foot of Jefferson and Powell Street.
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 and events taking place in San Francisco this October.
While some of them will be free to attend, others require a ticket to enter.
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.
- Potrero Hill Festival | October 21st
- Castro Street Fair | October 1st
- Bay Day | September 8th-October 7th
- Indigenous People's Day | Date TBD
- Bearrison Street Fair | October 14th
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.
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.
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.
The 23rd annual Halloween Hoopla takes place at the Yerba Buena Gardens.
This free event will include interactive performances and games for kids, as well as a costume parade and a small pumpkin patch.
If you’re looking to party with monsters, head to the California Academy of Sciences for their SuperNatural event on October 27thth.
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 October 6th-7th in Daly City.
In addition to the rodeo, there will also be a horse show, a livestock show, live music & entertainment, plenty of great BBQ, and more.
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.