Illustration by Nishant Choski
October 31 is the one night of the year you’re guaranteed to see people walking the streets of L.A. That’s when entire neighborhoods—let’s call them Halloweenlands—transform their homes into Hollywood-caliber spook houses (given our ties to the entertainment industry, this should come as no surprise). If you live in one of them, you won’t have to suffer parking headaches, but trust us, it’s worth crossing town to participate in the sugar-fueled fun. Here are several neighborhoods that get into the spirit. Expect hordes of children (and adults), so drive carefully.
Because so many TV and movie crew members call the San Fernando Valley home, neighborhoods there are expert at playing dead: Front yards feature creatures on hydraulics, intricate light shows, “live” ghouls, scary sound effects, and professional stuntmen. One area in Studio City—bordered by Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Whitsett Avenue on the east and west and Moorpark Street and Valleyheart Drive on the north and south—starts teeming with kids at dusk. The busiest street is Shadyglade Avenue, thanks to the Witch’s Castle (witchcastle.com). Staged in part by production designers near the corner of Valley Spring Lane, it frequently pulls in about 1,000 gawkers. A lack of access to Ventura Boulevard means that streets are relatively traffic free, though they’re not closed to cars. Nearby Valley Village also gets its share of visitors. While the area bordered by Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Colfax Avenue on the west and east and Magnolia Boulevard and Riverside Drive on the north and south draws many, the corner of Huston Street and Gentry Avenue is always crawling with people (that giant tombstone-studded graveyard facing a haunted maze has long been popular). The largest cavalcade, however, descends on Toluca Lake. The center of the action is on the cul-de-sac formed by Toluca Estates Drive and Valley Spring Lane, where the attention to detail would put Disney’s Haunted Mansion to shame. Bring a flashlight; the streetlights are dimmed to enhance the mood. At Rick Dees’ house the radio host hands out king-size chocolate bars and candy apples from his perch behind a velvet rope. While the street is safe—it’s closed to cars and a private security guard stands watch—be prepared for crowds rivaling those at a Dodgers opener.
Westside trick-or-treaters convene in Santa Monica between Montana Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard. The hottest spot has long been 25th Street, and what started as modest displays has evolved into elaborate tableaux: giant spiders, inflatable castles and pumpkins, and a skeleton in almost every tree. Nearby 16th Street has also gotten into the act; one family at the intersection of Georgina pulls out all the stops with a spookily lit graveyard and other arty visual effects. The crowds can be elbow-to-elbow, so expect to spend some time progressing down the sidewalks. The witching hour for youngsters is 9, when teenagers take over the streets.
Nightmare on Green Street
L.A.’s canyons—twisting and narrow—aren’t ideal for safe trick-or-treating, but Glen Green Street, a quiet cul-de-sac in Beachwood Canyon, buzzes on Halloween night (but beware the dearth of street lamps). One haunted house, set up in a garage, dispenses dollar-store prizes for kids who “make it out alive” and snacks like cheese and crackers for parents. Another, bedecked with lights and TV sets, looks straight out of Blade Runner (it’s an installation from a Burning Man festival). At the end of the block, actor Bill Pullman’s house puts on a splashy spread. You’ll find mostly locals here, thanks to hellish parking (there’s practically none).
With its shady trees and gracious lots, Milan Avenue in South Pasadena is ideal for genteel Halloween revelry. The section running north from Oak Street, especially where the road curves, bustles the most. The block isn’t closed to cars, but the trick-or-treaters don’t care—the place is a mob scene, with kids and parents spilling into the street. While there are lines in front of the largest homes, there are no haunted houses. Instead, a charmingly lo-fi atmosphere prevails (think synthetic spiderwebs and Mom dressed up as a fairy).