A fear of sticker shock is no reason to put off a getaway this fall. After all, there are lots of deals out there—providing you know where to find them. When planning any getaway in California, look first at the local tourism board’s website of your destination: You’re likely to find special offers that offer free nights, dining credits, wine tasting—or all of the above.
One other hack holds true these days: You can usually find great deals, and more last-minute access, when you book a trip midweek. That’s especially true in wine regions such as Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Santa Ynez Valley, and Temecula Valley.
Read on for more deals, discounts, and freebies all over the Golden State.
20 percent off in Union Square, San Francisco
Make bustling Union Square your home base on a San Francisco getaway, with its easy access to cable cars, shopping, and great neighborhoods. Browse the member hotels in the Union Square Alliance and you’ll find plenty of deals too. Book the Suite Memories deal at the Inn at Union Square, for instance, for 20 percent off the best rate plus a sweet $25 Ghirardelli Ice Cream gift card (ongoing).
If you can visit soon, score the Autumn Moon deal at the King George Hotel, which takes 20 percent off the rate to coincide with the Autumn Moon Festival in nearby Chinatown (book by Sept. 15, stay through Sept. 25).
4th Night Free at Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel, Huntington Beach
With California Surfing Day coming up on Sept. 20, autumn is the perfect time to enjoy sunny surf days in Huntington Beach. This ongoing deal takes 25 percent off your rate when you stay for four nights. For shorter stays, take advantage of the hotel’s Resting Beach Face deal, which bundles in valet parking and a $30 resort credit. While you’re in town, enjoy 20 percent off a scavenger hunt or explore the city’s Barrel Trail of breweries and great watering holes.
Early bird ski specials, Mammoth Lakes
Start planning your winter ski getaway now for big savings on both lift tickets and lodging. Mammoth Mountain’s specials page offers up to $90 off one-day or multi-day lift tickets, and up to 55 percent off lift tickets, plus 25 percent off lodging, when you bundle them together. Must book by Sept. 25.
Want to enjoy Mammoth’s fall colors before ski season begins in November? Book the Fall Magic special for up to 25 percent off lodging for at least two nights (and 20 percent on weekends). Good through Nov. 9.
Pumpkin Spice Suite at Great Wolf Lodge, Garden Grove
Balance your love of pumpkin-spice anything with late summer fun at Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove, right outside Anaheim. Book a stay in one of the water-park hotel’s Pumpkin Spice Suites—created by decorator-influencer Steffy Degreff)—which come decked out with pumpkin pillows, wreaths, and fall-scented fragrances and potpourri. You’ll enjoy a daily amenity of warm buns with pumpkin-cream-cheese frosting, as well as bottomless pumpkin-spice lattes from the coffee shop in the lobby. The whole resort will also be celebrating its Howl-O-Ween celebration, with crafts, story times, and dance parties. Good for stays from Sept. 28–Oct. 31.
3rd Night Free Fall Special at Redwoods in Yosemite, Madera County
Get an easy third night free at this resort of cabins in Yosemite National Park, just a few miles from the Mariposa Grove. Choose from freestanding houses or smaller camper cabins that come with linens, bathrooms, fully equipped kitchens, and BBQs (good from Sept. 28–Dec. 2). Want to go now? Take advantage of the late-summer special of 15 percent off before Sept. 28.
$99 spa day pass, Palm Springs
September is a great time to try out the new Spa at Séc-he in downtown Palm Springs, which is affiliated with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Book a $99 day pass on a weekday to enjoy a soak in a private hot-springs tub and then spend the day blissing out in the massage chairs, the salt-mist halotherapy room, steam room, sauna, and pools. (Day passes are $145 on Friday–Sunday.) Good through Sept. 29.
Extend your trip with deals from Visit Greater Palm Springs, such as the $99 rate at Margaritaville Resort (good through Dec. 16), 25 percent off a villa at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells (good through Oct. 3), or a third night free at Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Golf Resort Palm Springs (good through Dec. 22).
The Savor Sonoma deal in Sonoma Valley lets you plan your wine country getaway around the best prices. Starting in September, the rates at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn start going down, and the $269 starting rate—a great value for this luxury resort—kicks in on Oct. 22 and lasts through February 2024.
15 percent off and a $100 gift card, Newport Beach
With its Refuel and Reset deal, the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach defines “refuel” quite literally: This deal gets you 15 percent off the [standard?] rate as well as a $100 gas gift card, waived valet parking, and a $5 gift card for a hand wash at the “car spa” next to the resort (book by Oct. 22, stay by Oct. 31). Or get the hotel’s Vacay Your Way! deal, which also takes 15 percent off the rate but throws in a $50 credit for recreation activities such as Duffy boats, kayaks, or bikes, plus a waived resort fee. Book by Oct. 23, stay by Nov. 15.
3rd Night Free at Kimpton Alma, San Diego
Stay in downtown San Diego—with easy access to Petco Park, Little Italy, and concerts at The Rady Shell—with this deal at the Hotel Kimpton Alma, which features an outdoor pool and loaner bikes that are perfect for exploring the area.
Browse the San Diego Tourism Authority site for more deals, like its midweek WeekYAY specials and Kids Free San Diego, when lots of theme parks, hotels, and attractions offer free admission and other perks for families during October.
Boat and hotel packages, Catalina Island
Streamline your trip to Santa Catalina Island—a one-hour boat ride from Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point—by booking a package that includes your hotel plus your round-trip transportation on the Catalina Express. The lodging options include the Hotel Atwaterand Pavilion Hotel, where the deals include a $20 credit for breakfast and 15 percent off activities. Good though Oct. 27. Keep tabs on Catalina’s Boat & Hotel Packages page for the Best of Winter deals, which begin in November.
Cabernet Getaway at The Estate Yountville, Napa Valley
Book a stay at The Estate Yountville, a 22-acre resort in Napa Valley and enjoy a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon–style trappings: a welcome glass of Cab upon arrival, followed by Cab-inspired turndown treats and a gourmet picnic for two on the estate grounds. Stay between Thursday and Saturday and you can also take part in Cab tastings from Leviathan and Hindsight 20/20 (vintners subject to availability.) Good through Oct. 31.
Fall at the Inn, Riverside
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa—famous for its holiday season extravaganza—offers plenty of ambience during autumn too, thanks to its architectural grandeur and gardens. Make the most of it by staying at the Riverside hotel with this package that includes a bottle of house-made wine, a few cupcakes from the onsite bakery, and a good price—just $259 a night (good through Nov. 16). Stay over Sunday night for an even lower rate ($189) plus a 3 p.m. checkout time (ongoing).
Third night free deals, Santa Barbara
With its blissful coastline, excellent cuisine, and oodles of small-city charm, Santa Barbara epitomizes the good life—and its tourist board website is a reliable source for great hotel deals. Choose from 14 hotels and resorts around Santa Barbara—ranging from the family-friendly Best Western Plus to the luxurious Rosewood Miramar Beach—and look to score a third night free. Blackout dates vary by property, but most deals are good through Dec. 31. Some offers—like The Leta Santa Barbara Goleta, Tapestry Collection by Hilton—are good through March 2024.
Ski Free on Your Birthday, Big Bear
Opening day will soon be announced for Big Bear Mountain, Snow Valley, and Snow Summit, and the season could last well into spring again. If your birthday falls anywhere in there, just redeem a free lift ticket at the mountains’ ticket window. Want to plan ahead? Score 20 percent off rentals when you book at least seven days beforehand. Good for the 2023–2024 season.
$50 gift card with a two-night stay, Redding
Enjoy your choice of freebies in the Shasta Cascade when you use this deal from Choose Redding. Book at least two nights at a participating hotel in Redding—such as the Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge or the boutique-stye Oxford Suites Redding—and choose from a long list of $50 gift cards. These cards will let you sample the local cuisine at the Park Food Truck Hub, purchase fishing gear at The Fly Shop, or fuel up at Historic Jack’s Grill. Some add-ons are worth more than $50, like the three free tickets to Turtle Bay Exploration Park (worth $54) or two tickets to Lake Shasta Caverns (worth up to $80). Most cards are good through June 2024.
Meanwhile, you can get into Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and national parks for free on Sept. 23 (Public Lands Day) or Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.
Up to 50 percent off Knotts Scary Farm, Buena Park
Booking your theme park tickets online usually saves you some money, but this deal from Buena Park offers anywhere from 25 to 50 percent off the main gate prices at Knott’s Berry Farm for this fall’s Knott’s Scary Farm. Don’t want to scream that much? You can still save 35 percent off regular park tickets using the site. Knott’s Scary Farm runs through Nov. 1.
Glamping and Game Days at the Hyatt Regency, San Francisco
Choose from a few family-friendly packages at this hotel on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and boasts of having the world's largest hotel lobby (15 stories high inside, and 42,000 square feet). Kids will love the Happy Glamper package, which includes deconstructed s'mores, popcorn, and a movie, as well as mocktails for kids and cocktails for the adults. Or consider the Home Advantage Package, appealing to either Giants or 49ers fans: It includes free parking, an automatic room upgrade, and—if the San Francisco team wins—a prize from the front desk and two house beers or glasses of wine. Celebrate the anniversary with the hotel by booking its Golden Anniversary Package that includes a room upgrade, Regency Club access, and two cable car tickets. Good through Dec. 31.
Third Night Free at Carneros Resort & Spa, Napa Valley
Autumn makes for lovely fall foliage in Napa Valley, and presents opportunities for serious savings. Get your third night free at this Napa resort that offers standalone cottages, two pools, a spa, and an onsite tasting room. Or get 20 percent off your rate for a two-night stay when you book at least a week in advance. Ongoing.
25 percent off and $100 credit, Santa Monica
Getting either 25 percent off or a $100 resort credit at a hotel is nice, but this deal in Santa Monica offers both, and at two of the beach town’s most luxe resorts. Book a stay at either Casa del Mar or Shutters on the Beach and you can enjoy both perks on four- or five-night stays. Can’t stay that long? Check out these Santa Monica hotel deals, with breaks such as free parking, dining credits, and up to 30 percent off a three-night stay. Ongoing.
20 percent off at the Benbow Historic Inn, Garberville
Peruse the hotels page in Humboldt County and you’ll find plenty of charming options, like this 1926 inn that has hosted Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Benbow Tonight deal takes 20 percent off your stay and includes plenty of freebies, including loaner bikes, afternoon tea and scones, and in-room sherry. Be sure to visit the hotel’s dining room, a Wine Spectator Excellence Award winner. Ongoing.
50 percent off Sunday, Winters
Dreaming of a three-day weekend? Create your own at Hotel Winters in Yolo County, which offers 50 percent off Sunday nights when you also stay Friday and Saturday. The boutique hotel in downtown Winters has its own spa and is within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms.
$20 gift cards with hotel stay, Rancho Cordova
The Gold Country town of Rancho Cordova makes a convenient launching pad for exploring nearby Sacramento, experiencing the American River, or tasting your way along the town’s Barrel District. Book your stay through the tourist board’s website—with participating hotels including California Inn & Suites and the Hyatt Place Sacramento/Rancho Cordova—then choose from a variety of $20 gift cards to pair with your hotel, such as JJ Pfister Distillery, Lyft, or Mexican restaurant Casa Ramos. Ongoing.