October 26, 2019, Saturday

11:00am – 4:00pm

Enjoy a culturally inspired kickoff to your Halloween festivities at the region’s largest free Halloween carnival. More than 30 participating cultural attractions, community groups, and sponsors present free craft projects for kids, Day of the Dead-themed displays and activities, costume contests, carnival games with prizes, face painting, and live dance entertainment. Participating museums also offer free admission to children 12 and under with paying adult, and more than a dozen gourmet food trucks will be serving up a variety of edible treats.

The Plaza de Panama and El Prado walkway will be overflowing with free hands-on activities for kids, while select museums offer additional Halloween-themed activities inside their buildings. Among the day’s highlights are mini-carnival games for prizes courtesy of the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department, a giant Day of the Dead altar set up by La Vista Memorial Park and Cemetery, a haunted lantern craft at the Japanese Friendship Garden booth, a rooftop pumpkin drop experiment in front of the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and a “Thriller” flash mob dance in the Plaza de Panama that anyone can learn and participate in.

Now in its 11th year, the annual Halloween Family Day is co-presented by the City of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation and the Balboa Park Conservancy.


Getting There & Parking

Visitors arriving by car should park in the Inspiration Point parking lot at the corner of Park Blvd. and President’s Way and ride the free tram, which runs 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., into the park. Families can also take advantage of MTS Family Weekends, which allows two children 12 and under per each paying adult to ride the bus and trolley for free on Saturdays and Sundays. To plan your trip, visit  


Plaza de Panama Entertainment Schedule 

12:00pm-12:40pm San Diego Civic Dance Arts: “Thriller” Flash Mob Dance



La Fiesta Danzantes de San Diego: Dia de los Muertos-themed dance performances



Creative Dancers 78: Hip hop, Latin rhythm, and contemporary dance performances by an energetic group of youth dancers


Costume Contest Judging on Plaza de Panama

First, second, and third place prizes awarded for best costume.
11:30am          3 years and under
12:00pm          4–7 years
12:30pm          8–11 years
1:00pm            12–14 years
1:30pm            Homemade category – all ages


Activities Inside Park Venues and Attractions

Balboa Park Visitors Center: Free gift to kids in costume who are accompanied by an adult (while supplies last). Enter a drawing to win:
Old Town Trolley/Seal Tour tickets
Live in Concert CD and 4 free tickets to a San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory concert in 2019–2020
San Diego Junior Theatre Family 4-Pack of tickets to a 2019 show
4 tickets to San Diego Civic Youth Ballet’s The Nutcracker
4 tickets to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum

Fleet Science Center: Utilize string, wood, and other fun materials to create your own Halloween-themed string art—scary or not! Price per project is $5. All ages are welcome, 11:30am–3:30pm in Studio X. Two kids, 12 and under, receive free admission per paid adult for regular exhibit galleries only. The VR Transporter attraction can be added for $8 per adult or kid and an IMAX film can be added for $9.95 per adult or kid. 

Friends of Balboa Park — Balboa Park Carousel: Free carousel rides for children 12 and under who are in full costume. The carousel will be open from 11am to 5:30pm. 

House of Pacific Relations International Cottages: Trick-or-treating at select International Cottages from noon to 5pm. Learn how different cultures celebrate Halloween!

San Diego Air & Space Museum: Create spider parachutes out of paper and participate in and witness a rooftop pumpkin drop experiment at 2:30pm. Also, see kid-friendly short films in the 3D/4D movie theater, and the Kid’s Aviation Action Hangar will be open all day (simulators not included).

San Diego History Center: Enjoy five activity/craft stations in the museum atrium, including coloring sheets, a paper pumpkin-making station, a foldable paper witch, a cupcake liner spider, and a place for kids to make monsters out of colored plastic cups.  Children will be provided with an activity card when they arrive; if they get a stamp at each station, they get a special candy treat. The History Center will also be “borrowing” a ghost from the Whaley House for a ghost-making activity outside at the Curiosity Cart.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum: Enjoy Halloween-themed activities for kids inside the museum. 

San Diego Museum of Man: Listen to fun, monster-themed tales during story time in the Monsters! Clubhouse, 11:00am-12:00pm and 2:00-3:00pm. After story time, explore the Monsters! exhibit to enjoy hands-on activities while learning about monsters and mythical creatures from around the globe.

San Diego Natural History Museum: Celebrate bats and other creatures that lurk in the night at The Nat. Meet some crepuscular critters and make a bat craft. Children 12 and under receive free general admission* with a paid adult. To redeem this offer, download the coupon from the San Diego Museum Council and present in person at the admissions desk. *Free general admission does not include 3D films. Coupon must be presented at time of visit.

San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory: Free, open orchestra rehearsals (classical melodies) on the second floor of the Casa del Prado, rooms 207 & 205, 8:30am–7:30pm.

San Diego Zoo: Free admission to all children through 11 years of age, regardless of adult ticket purchase. Part of “Kids Free Month” (October) promotion.

Spanish Village Art Center: Doggie Costume Contest at 1pm, registration at 12:30. Flesh out a skull sticker with your favorite colors and use it to decorate your own trick-or-treat bag at Studio 9. Also, free treats for dogs in costume and trick-or-treating at select studios.

The San Diego Museum of Art: “Masks, Skulls, and Costumes” Search and Find handout to guide families on a hunt for artworks in the galleries that feature masks, skulls, and costumes. 17 and under FREE.

UNA International Gift Shop: Free Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box to take along while trick-or-treating to benefit children around the world who need clean water, food, school supplies, etc.; free UN pen and free UN mug on request (while supplies last).


Activities Along the Prado and in the Plaza de Panama

Amor 102.9 and Qué Buena 106.5 FM: Celebrate the traditions and culture of Mexico by visiting a colorful Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar display filled with flowers and unique decorations. Take part in special drawings for prizes.

AT&T: Come by the AT&T booth for games for families, free treats, and prize drawings, while discovering the latest in entertainment, home internet, and wireless services.

Balboa Park Cultural Partnership: Enjoy a Halloween-themed coloring activity for kids and learn about the Balboa Park Explorer Pass.

California Coast Credit Union: Take part in a haunted Halloween coloring station for kids, enter an opportunity drawing to win a VISA gift card, and more! Plus, learn about all the great products and services CCCU has to offer. 

Fab Trailers Photo Booth: Capture the moment with a fun photo of friends and family in their Halloween costumes to share. (Additional fees apply.)

Fleet Science Center: Enjoy Halloween-themed activities for kids.

Food Trucks (Village Place), 11:00am–4:00pm: Sample tasty selections from more than a dozen popular local food trucks parked along Village Place.

FROM: Craft thoughtful and creative postcards for loved ones using recycled materials from the back of a 40-year-young bright green postal Jeep named Al Green. (Additional fees apply.)

House of Mexico: Play a Dia de los Muertos-themed loteria, a Mexican game of chance similar to bingo, and have your kid’s face painted.

House of Pacific Relations International Cottages: Meet the HPR Queens attired in their traditional costumes and learn about HPR, the national cultures it represents, youth programs, and year-round events.

Japanese Friendship Garden: Make chochin-obake (haunted Japanese lanterns) out of toilet paper rolls, strips of toilet paper, and googly eyes!

La Vista Memorial Park and Mortuary: Visit the special Day of the Dead altar and bring a non-returnable photo of a departed loved one to have honored at the altar following Mexican traditions. Also, have your kid’s face painted with colorful Day of the Dead-themed designs and dress up a Catrina doll.

Mexican Consulate: Learn about consulate programs.

Metropolitan Transit System (MTS): Pick up punch-out cardboard Rapid and Trolley banks, coloring books, and other fun items for kids, in addition to MTS Rapid, Bus, and Trolley route and schedule information. Plus, sign up to be a Rider Insider for a chance to win cool raffle prizes!

Museum of Photographic Arts: Stop by MOPA’s photo booth to create spooky images with your family using otherworldly photographic techniques!

RSVP Police Fingerprinting for Kids: Have your kids fingerprinted for free by the SDPD’s Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol Unit. A child’s fingerprint identification card can assist law enforcement in locating a child in the event the child is reported lost or missing.

San Diego Civic Dance Arts: At 12:00-12:40pm, witness dance hocus pocus, learn the “Thriller” moves, and join Civic Dance Arts dancers in bringing the Plaza de Panama to ghoulish life with a “Thriller” flash mob.

San Diego Civic Youth Ballet: Create your own crown or tiara and have your photo taken with costumed ballet dancers while learning about SDCYB’s upcoming performances and programs for kids.

San Diego Junior Theatre: Grab some free candy (while supplies last) and learn about upcoming performances and how to become involved in San Diego Junior Theatre.

San Diego History Center: Examine San Diego’s past at the Curiosity Cart.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum: Enjoy Halloween-themed activities for kids. 

San Diego Natural History Museum: Celebrate both Halloween and Day of the Dead with a bat-making craft and a skull mask-making activity to take home.

San Diego Park and Recreation (Plaza de Panama): Test your skills at various mini-carnival games to win prizes (11am-3pm). Halloween costume contests in multiple age categories from 11:30am to 1pm; prizes for first, second, and third place. A special all-ages homemade contest category will be judged at 1:30pm.

San Diego Public Library: Take part in an animal magnet craft, sign up for a library card, spin the prize wheel, and have all your questions about free library resources answered.

San Diego Youth Symphony: Check out real symphony instruments and learn about SDYS programs, including ChIMES (Childhood Introduction to Musical Education, with Smiles), and enter to win a free ChIMES music class for you and your child!

Save Starlight: Learn the latest about the Save Starlight campaign to restore, revive, and revitalize Starlight Bowl; coloring sheets for kids.

Star 94.1: Play the spooky ring toss game and enter to win some wickedly good prizes.

Timken Museum of Art: Design your very own Halloween tote with paint and markers. The bag will come in handy as you collect goodies throughout the park.

XEWT Channel 12: Join XEWT TV for a fun Day of the Dead crafting experience.