California really shines in autumn, whether you’re looking for warm beach days, mountain hikes with foliage, or all manner of fun events. For starters, Halloween season is in full swing at theme parks, zoos, and aquariums. This is also prime time for harvest festivals dedicated to everything from pumpkins to apples to wine grapes. Here are more than 30 California events to plan a trip around:
All Month: Kids Free San Diego
This is a great time to take the family to San Diego for a fall break: Kids 11 and under get freebies all over the county throughout October. Theme parks and attractions, such as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California, all participate with discounts or perks for guests. The list extends to many hotels, restaurants, and museums, too.
All Month: Cambria’s Scarecrow Festival
Here’s a good excuse to stroll around this idyllic San Luis Obispo County town on Highway 1: Each October, hundreds of scarecrows take up residence around Cambria’s East and West Villages, Moonstone Beach, and San Simeon. Some are seasonally themed—zombies, witches, monsters—while others tip a straw hat to artists such as Gustav Klimt and Georgia O’Keeffe.
All Month: Pumpkin Patch Festivals
The Golden State is dotted with farms that take pumpkin season seriously all month, often with the added fun of corn mazes and hayrides. In the Ventura County town of Camarillo, the Fall Harvest at Underwood Family Farms offers pick-your-own opportunities, pig races, and live music, while the Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch in Morgan Hill features hayrides through fields of sunflowers. Over the weekend of Oct. 16–17 in Redding, Hawes Farms throws its annual Pumpkin Fest, which includes contests for pie eating, pumpkin carving, and pumpkin-weight-guessing.
Oct. 1–3: Big Crush Harvest Wine Festival, Amador County
Forty-two wineries across Amador County celebrate the harvest with tastings, live music, and wine-oriented harvest activities such as grape stomps. Your ticket grants you access to events at wineries all three days.
Oct. 2: Atascadero Colony Days
This annual festival celebrates the San Luis Obispo County town’s early-20th-century beginnings as a would-be utopian community. Festivities include a parade, entertainment, and small-dog and wiener-dog races.
Oct. 2–3: L.A. WineFest, Long Beach
Sip wines, local beers, and spirits while browsing the chocolates, baked goods, and vendors at Long Beach’s Harry Bridges Memorial Park. Participants include Ventura’s Herzog Wine Cellars and Anderson Valley’s Navarro Vineyards, along with breweries and distilleries such as Long Beach’s Ficklewood Ciderworks and Ojai’s Flying Embers.
Oct. 2–3: Newport Beach Wine & Food
The posh annual foodfest is back, located this year at Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula Park. The lineup of Food Network chefs includes Aarón Sánchez, Duff Goldman, Aarti Sequeira, and Brian Malarkey.
Oct. 2–3: Johnny Appleseed Days, Paradise
This Butte County fair has been around since 1888, and it still celebrates the classic fall crop through apple pie, ice cream, and sightings of a costumed Johnny Appleseed. This year, take your own pie game up a notch with DIY apple pie kits from local farm Noble Orchards and the “super-secret” Paradise Apple Pie Spice Mix.
Oct. 3–11: Fleet Week San Francisco
Check out the Parade of Ships, take tours on the vessels, and watch the air show at this annual celebration of the sea services on the Marina Green in San Francisco.
Oct. 4–17: BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells
This top-tier tennis tournament returns to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, about 15 miles from Palm Springs. Usually held in March, this year’s fall tournament will feature top-ranked players such as Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Aryna Sabalenka, and recent US Open champion Emma Raducanu. Choose from a variety of ticket options such as single-session or evening-session tickets, mini packages, or hotel-bundled deals. Insider tip: The first two days, which are qualifying rounds, are free to attend.
Through Oct. 5: Pow! Wow! Mural Festival, Long Beach
The city of Long Beach participates in the Pow! Wow! Worldwide series of street art festivals, which launched in 2010. Enjoy the public art by this year’s eight artists and see works from past years too, while also exploring the hidden gems of Long Beach.
Oct 6, 10: Vintners Resort Italian Dinners, Santa Rosa
Celebrate the rich heritage of this Italian American–owned Sonoma County resort by raising your glass at two special outdoor dinners. Oct. 6 features Michelin-star chef Stefano Masanti, who will create a meal using Sonoma County ingredients. Sunday will highlight the resort’s Executive Chef Tom Schmidt with a multi-course, family-style meal paired with Italian wines from Santa Rosa–based Chigazola Merchants.
Oct. 7–10: Aftershock Festival, Sacramento
This four-day music festival at the capital city’s Discovery Park has a fondness for metal, punk, and hip-hop acts. This year’s headliners are Metallica (for two nights), The Original Misfits, and Cypress Hill, with appearances by Social Distortion, The Offspring, and Dropkick Murphys.
Oct. 7–10: Joshua Tree Music Festival
The global and eclectic music theme seems right at home at this camping-friendly festival just outside the desert national park. Intriguing acts this year—spanning funk, techno, and soul—include Dirtwire, Orgone, Moontricks, and Honeywild.
Oct. 7–17: Mill Valley Film Festival
This low-key but highly esteemed Marin County film festival will be both in-person and online this year. Showcase films include Parallel Mothers, directed by Pedro Almodóvar and starring Penelope Cruz; Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch; Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast; and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog.
Oct. 8–10: Oakhurst Fall Festival, Madera County
This annual festival near Yosemite returns with rides, food trucks, a barn dance, and a donut-hole-eating contest. It’s always a good opportunity to taste local beer and wine in one of California’s best under-the-radar wine regions.
Oct. 9: Corning Olive Festival
Olive trees cover more than 13 square miles in Tehama County, the Shasta Cascade home of this festival that dates back to 1946. Come sample the savory pitted fruit, along with its accompanying oils and other products, and check out the car show, too.
Oct. 9: Apple Harvest Festival, McCloud
Fall foliage and live Celtic music provide an autumnal backdrop for this annual event in Siskiyou County. Watch the apple pie competition, drink fresh-pressed cider, or take a horse-and-buggy ride around town—and definitely take home a pie or two.
Oct. 11: 48th Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay is known for its huge pumpkin patches—and huge pumpkins. While most of this year’s classic pumpkin festival had to be canceled, the annual weigh-in will go on. (Last year’s winner, known as the Tiger King, weighed 2,350 pounds.)
Oct. 15–17: Leaves in the Loop, June Lake
This relatively new festival in the Mammoth Lakes area celebrates a timeless classic: the region’s gorgeous fall colors. Embrace the scenery through photography and painting classes, a downtown history tour, and a “Taste of the Town” restaurant sampling.
Oct. 16–17: Pismo Beach Clam Festival
This beach town festival has more than just mollusks: The weekend includes a clam dig and a chowder-making contest but also a surfing contest, a wine-and-beer garden, and the annual Clam Festival Parade.
Oct. 17: Truckee River Day
Plan a weekend around fresh air and “voluntourism” in the Lake Tahoe town of Truckee. Spend the morning planting native vegetation, mulching sensitive areas, and helping restore meadows. In the afternoon, gather around the Granite Flat Campground for live music and art projects.
Oct. 18–24: Taste of Alpine County
Enjoy the culinary delights of this High Sierra area at this Restaurant Week of prix-fixe dinners and special menus. Participants include longtime Hope Valley favorite Sorensen’s Cafe (whose menu features the signature Burgundy stew and a berry cobbler), and Markleeville’s Cutthroat Brewing Company, which is offering an Oktoberfest-style menu.
Oct. 23–24: 55th Annual Borrego Days Desert Festival
This festival is a nice reminder that high season in the San Diego County desert is just around the corner. This year’s event features a “Welcome Back” theme saluting the beauty of Borrego Springs and the surrounding 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and includes a parade and live music.
Oct. 15–Nov. 1: Eat Drink SF: 10 Days of Dining, San Francisco
Instead of a large indoor festival, this year’s event will include 10 days of prix fixe meals, ticketed events, and special menus around the city, followed by a bonus San Francisco Restaurant Week of more deals. Keep tabs on the site for the list of participating restaurants.
Oct. 29–31: Halloween Weekend at Quarry Park Adventures, Rocklin
You can zipline for free at this Placer County park if you show up in costume. Stay for the holiday movies each evening, including Coco and Nightmare Before Christmas.
Oct. 29–31: Outside Lands Music and Arts Fest, San Francisco
This annual event in Golden Gate Park (typically in August) mixes live music with abundant local food and drink—like the Cuban sandwiches of Media Noche, the steamed baos from The Chairman, and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. This year’s headliners are Tame Impala, Lizzo, and The Strokes.
Oct. 30: Hallowine Run, Healdsburg
Combine your love of wine tasting and fall foliage with some brisk exercise at this annual fun run in Sonoma County (formerly known as the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon). The half marathon and 10K courses start at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville and pass more than 25 wineries. The 5K spans just a three-mile section of that route, starting at Yoakim Bridge in the Dry Creek Valley. Celebrate your finish at the race festival with wine and beer garden, food trucks, music, and a costume contest.
Oct. 30: 24th Annual Tarantula Awareness Festival, Coarsegold
This Madera County town embraces autumn mating season for the local California brown tarantulas, which emerge this time of year to find a mate, then burrow away for the winter. Learn a bit about the photogenic (and largely harmless) arachnids and then enjoy pumpkin cakes, arachnid races, hairy leg contests, and scream-offs.
Oct. 31: 105th City Birthday Party & Halloween Parade, Carmel-by-the-Sea
The Monterey County town of Carmel-by-the-Sea was founded on Halloween of 1916 and makes the most of its holiday birthday. Come watch town dignitaries, costumed kids, and pets parade through downtown at 4 p.m., then party on with trick-or-treating and more festivities at the village’s shops and boutiques.
Some consider this the kickoff of high season in the Palm Springs area: a colorful parade of souped-up golf carts rolling through El Paseo. This year’s grand marshal is NFL Hall of Famer Tom Flores, and the day begins with a flyover overseen by the Palm Springs Air Museum. Check out the nearby stores and food vendors and browse golf carts for sale.