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McKinley School's Harvest Festival and Haunted Mansion

McKinley School, 701 Paloma Ave., Burlingame

Reviewed 10/24/08 by Hauntmistress

In my experience, Halloween events held at schools tend to be small, with only a few activities and a haunted house that’s more construction paper on the walls than scary props and actors. There's nothing wrong with that - most schools have limited budget and time to go all out, but what they can do is entertaining and fun for their community. But McKinley School in Burlingame has raised the bar! Their annual Harvest Festival and Haunted Mansion could easily be transferred to a closed off city street and called a citywide event.

McKinley transforms the school yard into a Halloween funfest, with games, food, a live band, dancing, a haunted house, a racetrack, and more fun than you'd find in a lot of commercial attractions. Everywhere we looked, adults and kids (many in costume) were having a great time playing games, dancing, eating at one of the many tables, or dashing from activity to activity.

When we arrived, the place was packed with people and remained so until closing time. A (very good) band played the whole time we were there, adding to the festive atmosphere and giving the adults and kids a chance to burn off some energy by dancing the night away. McKinley did a wonderful job of planning their event for kids while keeping in mind the need to entertain adults and older kids as well.

While we were impressed with the festival, we really came for the haunted house and we were not disappointed! You enter in groups (I generally dislike group walk-throughs, but it didn't diminish the fun much for this haunt and to be honest there is really no other way to get the large amount of people through) and walk through room after room of Halloween fun and scares. The whole thing is well done, with attention to detail and good props – there is something to look at wherever you look in every room. We particularly enjoyed Dracula’s room and the spooky actor who played him rising from his coffin (for the little ones there is a non-scary version). We also liked the execution room with its guillotine, the bat cave, and the skeleton that walks a plank out toward you while cannons are firing.

We had visited Penelope's Nightmare Haunted House in San Bruno Park before McKinley and McKinley put them to shame. If only San Bruno had visited McKinley to see how you can do so much with just a little more planning, attention to detail, and a professional attitude, not necessarily cash.

One suggestion for next year would be a sign at the entrance to the haunt telling people they need to buy tickets, as a few people didn't seem to know that you had to have a ticket to get into the haunted house.

This event is great for all ages and shows what a school can do with a little imagination and a lot of Halloween spirit! Parking can be tricky, so you may have to walk a few blocks, but it’s worth it!

Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar or our map of pumpkin patches and haunted houses to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area.

Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion in our forums!

When Oct. 24-25, 2008, Fri. 6 pm-10 pm; Sat. 4 pm-9:30 pm
Where 701 Paloma Ave., Burlingame
Admission $3; $4 additional for haunted house; games $0.50
Contact www.burlingameschools.com

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