Candy Land! Where to Trick-or-Treat in San Diego’s Spookiest Neighborhoods

best places to go trick or treating
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We’ve rounded up the coolest corn mazes, premier pumpkin patches, and the most creative San Diego-inspired costumes—so now let’s talk about the main event. Trick-or-treating in San Diego is easily your kids’ favorite activity––and we know the best places in America’s Finest City where they can scare up a ton of spooky fun and collect a bounty of candy. Scroll on for our guide to finding the most devilish decorations and the sweetest sugar rushes at San Diego’s best neighborhoods and destinations for trick-or-treating.

photo: istock

Mission Hills
This neighborhood goes all out with over-the-top decorations, ghoulish goblins and creepy crawlies around every turn. Residents often report upwards of 500 tricker-or-treaters at their door! Tiny tots might be scared by some of the more elaborate hauntings, but families with older kids will get a kick out of the spooky sights on Sunset Boulevard.

In this quaint community, you’ll see every member of the family trick-or-treating. Even the doggies venture out in costumes (on leashes of course). These happy haunts make for a terrific candy gathering experience. Park near the Starbucks on Adams and Marlborough then follow little ghosts and goblins deeper into this howlin’ hood. Homes on Edgeware and Canterbury Dr. tend to get backed up with lines, so be prepared for the crowds.

photo: Beth Shea

Carmel Mountain Ranch 
The highly walkable and stroller-friendly cul-de-sac neighborhood streets of Carmel Mountain Ranch make for easy paths to fill up your goodie bags. Little ones who aren't going to make it out on Halloween night or just want a headstart on the weekend can visit Carmel Mountain Plaza’s free trick-or-treat event from 3–5 p.m on Friday, October 29. Participating stores hand out candy to kids age 12 and younger and you can enjoy balloon art and listen to live music from 80’z All-Stars. Pick up your free treat bag near Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or at Angelika Film Center.

If you’re in the armed forces (or have friends who are), military housing complexes are some of the best spots to go trick-or-treating. A high density of families means tons of kids in costume and parents eager to share the experience.

Carmel Valley
Carmel Valley's safe neighborhoods and warm community spirit make it an ideal and popular locale for family trick-or-treating. Just east of Carmel Valley, trick-or-treat before Halloween at The Village Pacific Highlands Ranch's Halloween event. Kids can go door to door to collect goodies from participating merchants, boogie down to live music by Justin Froese at the Village Square and strike a pose because Keane Studios will be on hand with complimentary photography.

photo: Aimee Della Bitta

Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad
Homes in this beautiful neighborhood are decked out beyond belief in Halloween decor. Many abodes look like they've been professionally fashioned with spooky decor, lighting, music and effects generally reserved for venues like Disneyland. The homes in this neighborhood are situated close together, which makes it easy and comfortable for little kids to go door to door in a short amount of time. Click here for a video of what it's like to trick-or-treat in Bressi Ranch.

Shoppes at the Forum, Carlsbad 
The Shoppes at Carlsbad will once again give local families a convenient, indoor option for little ghosts and goblins to snap up some goodies earlier in the afternoon before other evening activities. For more information click here. 

Carlsbad Village
Halloween in the Village will resume in 2022. The 2021 events have been canceled. 

Additional Neighborhoods That Score Top Marks for Trick-or-Treating
According to Zillow, Sunset Cliffs, Black Mountain Ranch, Talmadge and Miramar Ranch North are all top spots to collect candy too.

Don't miss the awesome Safe Trick-or-Treat event in downtown Encinitas on Halloween from 5-8 p.m. Historic Highway 101 (Encinitas Blvd. to K St.) will turn into “Pumpkin Lane” as local businesses stay open late to welcome trick-or-treaters. The public will be invited to see the many amazing pumpkins carved by the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) monks. Along the 101 there are several places to stop and enjoy Halloween-themed activities. In the Lumberyard courtyard enjoy music and games, and in the SRF parking lot (next to their K Street Store) check out the Queen's Court! Be sure to stop by the E101 office (818 S. Coast Hwy 101) and pick up your complimentary Halloween-themed bag.

Santa Fe Hills in San Marcos
Santa Fe Hills has previously been voted the #1 best neighborhood for trick-or-treating in San Diego––and for good reason! The houses in this community transform into festive and spooky abodes with carved pumpkins and decorations that wow––but beware––some of the decor and spectacles may be too scary for very young kids, so proceed with caution. If you do feel like braving this neighborhood, you'll surely get an eyeful! 

photo: Little Italy Association

Little Italy
The Annual Trick-or-Treat on India St. in Little Italy festivities are back this year. On Halloween night from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, little monsters are encouraged to dress up for this fun and safe Halloween tradition to enjoy trick-or-treating throughout Little Italy. The event will kick off in the Piazza della Famiglia with Halloween décor, music and some trick-or-treating. After grabbing a map of participating Little Italy businesses in the Piazza, little ghouls, witches and goblins can walk from door to door along historic India Street to get delicious Halloween treats and candy from the local businesses that are taking part in the event. Bring your family out for a night of sweet and spooky fun! It gets crowded, so we suggest arriving early.

La Mesa
Head out to the 3rd Annual Halloween in La Mesa Village for early and safe trick-or-treating! This is a free, family-friendly community event for all to enjoy. Participating businesses will be handing out treats & we've got a few fun surprises in store like character appearances, "spooky" organ music and more!

––Aimee Della Bitta, Nikki Walsh & Beth Shea

featured image via iStock


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