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, the 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 the perfect time to take the family to San Diego for a fall getaway as 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 (age restrictions vary) all participate with discounts or perks for guests. The selection of deals also extends to many hotels, restaurants, and museums.
All Month: Pumpkin Patch Festivities
The Golden State is dotted with farms that take pumpkin season seriously during October, often with the added fun of hayrides and entertainment. In Temecula, the Big Horse Corn Maze boasts one of the largest corn mazes in Southern California and also offers hayrides and a “corn cannon.” Meanwhile the Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch in Morgan Hill features pumpkin blasters and hayrides through fields of flowers. Farm-filled Fresno County has a wide variety of options, such as Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch in Reedley, which also offers steam train rides.
All Month: Halloween at Inn Town Campground, Nevada City
For a gently thrilling camping trip, head to the Inn Town Campground in Nevada City, where skeletons climb trees and other decorations adorn the towering 130-foot pines. Stay overnight too: The campground invites guests to decorate their tents or RVs, and holds outdoor movies this time of year along with guided hikes to see autumn colors.
All Month: Cambria’s Scarecrow Festival, Cambria
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, etc.—while others have been known to tip a straw hat to golfers or coastal grandmas.
All Month: Scarecrow Fest and Contest, Los Olivos
Explore the Santa Barbara County town of Los Olivos this month to spot more than 20 scarecrows on display and see who won awards such as Most Humorous and Best Natural Materials. Visit on October 21 and you can also take part in the town’s beloved Day in the Country festival, which includes vendors hawking their wares, a small town–style parade, and plenty of local beer and wine.
Oct. 1: Santa Ynez Valley Hispanic Heritage Celebration, Solvang
National Hispanic Heritage Month lasts from September 15 through October 15, so this party at Solvang Park marks the halfway point with mariachi bands, salsa dance lessons, and Día de Los Muertos face painting.
The next week, check out the Viking Classic Car Show (Oct. 7) and its lineup of vintage hot rods, sports cars, and muscle cars on display in downtown Solvang. You’ll also find a beer and wine garden, a parade, and a Viking burger bar.
Begins Oct. 1: Wild Tarantula Trails, Gaviota
Spiders don’t just come out this time of year to scare people—it’s mating season for nocturnal male tarantulas in the hills of the Gaviota Coast, just north of Santa Barbara. Take one of the two-hour guided hikes—only about a half mile in wild oak woodlands—by the Wild Farmlands Foundation to learn about the lives and loves of common California ebony tarantulas, with the possibility of getting to hold (and then release back into the wild) one of them. Runs on select dates through Oct. 31.
Want more tarantula fun? Head to the Madera County town of Coarsegold on Oct. 28 for the 26th Annual Tarantula Awareness Festival, which combines arachnid education with pumpkin cheesecake, tarantula races, hairy leg contests, and spider-themed poetry contests.
Oct. 2–10: Fleet Week San Francisco, 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. The week’s calendar also includes a pet-friendly event for K9 heroes and free concerts by the Navy and Marine bands.
Oct. 5–8: Joshua Tree Music Festival, Joshua Tree
The global and eclectic music theme feels right at home at this camping-friendly festival just outside the desert national park. Intriguing acts this year include Lettuce, Kerala Dust, and High Step Society.
Oct. 5–8: Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka
Enjoy a wide range of “American roots music” styles—including jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, rockabilly, and Western swing—while soaking up the scenery of the charming North Coast town of Eureka. The three-day festival features more than 50 acts playing at seven different venues—many of them historic buildings—around the Humboldt County town.
Finish out the weekend with a run. The nearby Humboldt Redwoods Marathon (Oct. 8) features a 5K, half-marathon, and full marathon under a canopy of redwood trees on routes that go through Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Oct. 5–15: Mill Valley Film Festival, Marin County
The high-powered but low-key film festival in Marin County is known for showcasing future Oscar winners. Watch screenings at several towns in the area, including Mill Valley, Larkspur, Berkeley, San Rafael, and San Francisco. This year’s lineup includes Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla and the Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, starring (and directed by) Bradley Cooper.
Oct. 5–15: Aftershock Festival and GoldenSky Festival, Sacramento
Two distinct music festivals return to the 275-acre Discovery Park this month, further cementing the case that the capital city is becoming a hotbed for big music events. First is Aftershock (Oct. 5–8), which showcases metal, punk, and hip-hop acts with headliners including Incubus, Limp Bizkit, and Korn. From Oct. 14–15, country music fills the park during GoldenSky, with headliners Jon Pardi, Maren Morris, and Eric Church, along with its own beer festival.
Oct. 6–8: The Big Crush Harvest Wine Festival, Amador County
More than 40 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, tastings, and pairings at six wineries each day, along with a commemorative glass.
Oct. 6–8: Redding Rancheria’s Annual Stillwater Pow Wow, Redding
Experience a classic Pow Wow—singing, drumming, dancing competitions, and handmade goods—that represent tribes from across North America. Redding’s Rodeo Grounds hosts the free, family-friendly event, but you can also book limited camping spaces and rooms at the nearby Win-River Resort & Casino.
Oct. 6–8: Oakhurst Fall Festival, Madera County
Madera County’s annual festival, which dubs itself a “small town fair,” offers rides, food trucks, and even a Jedi Academy for honing one’s lightsaber skills. It’s also a good chance to sample the best of this under-the-radar wine region near Yosemite.
Oct. 6–8: California Avocado Festival, Carpinteria
The Golden State grows 90 percent of the nation’s avocados, so it makes sense that this free-admission festival south of Santa Barbara is known for having the world’s largest vat of guacamole. Watch the festival’s guacamole-making contest and then “get ready to guac” during the concerts on four stages.
Oct. 6–29: Carved at Descanso Gardens, Pasadena
Holiday lights come early to the Pasadena area at this giant display of illuminated carved pumpkins along a one-mile walk in Descanso Gardens’ Camellia Forest. You can also watch demos to help boost your carving skills at home.
Oct. 7: Corning Olive Festival & Car Show, Corning
Olive trees cover more than 13 square miles in Tehama County, the Shasta Cascade home of this festival that dates back to 1947. Sample the savory pitted fruit along with its accompanying oils and other products, then check out the associated car show.
Oct. 7: Atascadero Colony Days, Atascadero
This annual festival in San Luis Obispo County celebrates Atascadero’s early-20th-century beginnings as a would-be utopian community. This year’s festivities—the 50th anniversary—include a parade, live entertainment, and small-dog races.
Oct. 7: Oxnard Multicultural Festival, Oxnard
Start your visit at this international festival by grabbing a “passport” and taking it to the various booths representing the diverse communities found in Oxnard, including Belize, China, Guatemala, and Kenya. A fully stamped passport earns you a prize and entry into hourly raffles. Along the way, enjoy a global feast from the various food trucks and vendors in the international food court.
Oct. 7: Crush It Harvest Festival, Yountville
Enjoy wine country’s version of autumn apple-bobbing at this annual event season at The Estate Yountville in Napa Valley. Take part in wine tasting, lawn games, face painting for kids, and lots of grape crushing. Refuel with the BBQ bites that come with your ticket or purchase more food and merch from vendors.
Oct. 7–8: Johnny Appleseed Days, Paradise
This Butte County fair has been around since 1888, and it still celebrates the classic fall fruit through pie, ice cream, and sightings of a cosplay Johnny Appleseed. This year’s event also includes a pumpkin patch, a giant cornucopia, and a festival pub, as well as DIY apple pie kits from local farm Noble Orchards. For more homegrown flavor, visit on the following weekend for the Sierra Oro Farm Trail Farm-to-Fork Dinner (Oct. 15) at TJ Farms Estate in Chico.
Oct. 7–8: San Diego Spirits Festival, La Jolla
Enjoy cocktails and works of art at this weekend set at La Jolla’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Your admission for the two afternoons grants you unlimited cocktails from more than 65 brands—ranging from high-end spirits to ready-to-drink cocktails and seltzers—along with live music and entertainment as you explore the museum’s galleries.
Oct. 8: 178th Wharf Birthday Party, Monterey
Luckily, no one is expected to blow out 178 candles at this birthday celebration for Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf, which was built in 1845. The first 178 party guests, however, can collect a free piece of candy at each of the wharf’s three candy shops in its first ever Candy Crawl, and most everyone can get a slice of free birthday cake (while supplies last) and enjoy the live music, giveaways, and photo ops with the pirate statues.
Oct. 8–9: Idyllwild Arts Honors Indigenous Peoples Day, Idyllwild
Come to the Inland Empire mountain town of Idyllwild to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day. The Idyllwild Arts center—located on land originally inhabited by the Qawishpa Cahuillangnah people—will feature artwork, food, talks by artists and filmmakers, and a concert by Navajo pianist Connor Chee.
Oct. 9: Pride ’N Vino, Santa Rosa
Taste some of the best wines of Sonoma County at this event (formerly known as Pinot on the River) at the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. Meet winemakers and taste the best from more than 40 small-production wineries, along with a variety of artisan food vendors. Proceeds benefit Sonoma County Pride.
Oct. 12–22: JazzTrax Festival, Catalina Island
The 36th year of this festival—reportedly the longest-running smooth jazz fest in the world—spans two extended weekends (Oct. 12–15 and Oct. 19–22) at Catalina’s classic Descanso Beach Club & Casino Ballroom. This year’s lineup includes Sergio Mendes, Jesse Cook, and Keiko Matsui.
Oct. 13–14: Night Sky Festival, Twentynine Palms
Enjoy the heavenly views in and around Joshua Tree National Park at this weekend that raises funds for nonprofits including the Sky’s The Limit Observatory. Weekend activities include guided hikes, talks, photography workshops, and lots of chances to sharpen your telescope skills.
Oct 13–15: Sausalito Boat Show, Sausalito
Explore Sausalito’s Clipper Yacht Harbor at this inaugural event that celebrates this picturesque seaside town’s unique personality. You’ll get to ogle cool boats, from sailboats to luxury yachts, across this three-day event that includes live music and lots of fresh seafood from local vendors.
Oct. 13–15: Leaves in the Loop, June Lake
Take your leaf-peeping up a notch in the Mammoth Lakes area to see the gorgeous fall colors along the June Lake Loop. Embrace the scenery through activities like photography and painting classes and a downtown history tour.
Oct. 14: McCloud Apple Harvest Festival, Siskiyou County
Inhale that apple-cinnamon magic in Siskiyou County, watch the apple pie–baking competition, and enjoy live music, apple-pressing tastings, wagon rides, and a pumpkin patch. Don’t leave without picking up a few apple pies to go.
Oct 14: Oktoberfest at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding
Enjoy a classic Oktoberfest with beer, food, games, and live music, with all proceeds benefitting the Redding park that houses the Sundial Bridge. Don a dirndl or some lederhosen to enter the Best Dressed Contest too.
Oct. 14: Brews on the Bay, San Francisco
Enjoy craft beer from the deck of the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien, one of the few remaining “Liberty Ships” that transported supplies and personnel during World War II. This fundraising event which benefits the living-history ship docked at San Francisco’s Pier 35, features beers from local breweries such as 21st Amendment Brewery and Hop Oast Pub & Brewery, food from gastropub Monk's Kettle, and easy views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Oct. 14: Oktoberfest, Colfax
Break out your lederhosen for this new annual event in historic downtown Colfax. Beyond a mere love for beer and sausage—both of which will be in abundance here—the Placer County area has authentic German roots, since settlers from Bavaria arrived here in the mid 1800s. The day will also include more food vendors, games, and music.
Oct. 14: MammothMarch, San Jose
Join this “mammoth-sized” hike in Santa Clara County: a 20-mile, single-circuit loop along the foothills, grasslands, and oak trees of Joseph D. Grant County Park. Just sign up for your selected time slot (starting times are staggered) and plan for the event to last about eight hours. There will be stations set up every 5–7 miles for pitstops and refreshments. This is an everybody-gets-a-medal situation, with no official timekeeping.
Oct. 14: Mountain Harvest Beer Festival, Quincy
Sample more than 20 small-town microbrews—as well as wine, hard cider, and local cuisine—at this afternoon event at the Plumas County Fairgrounds. Stay at a local hotel or take advantage of overnight camping at the fairgrounds starting at $10 a site. Brewers include Quintopia Brewing and Feather Falls Brewing, and the event benefits Plumas Arts.
Oct. 14–15: Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, Half Moon Bay
Located on the San Francisco Peninsula, the coastal town of Half Moon Bay is surrounded by pumpkin patches and has become the self-proclaimed “World Pumpkin Capital.” This beloved festival celebrates with enormous pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns, a Great Pumpkin Parade, pie-eating contests, and seasonal craft beer. Come early if you want to catch the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off on Oct. 9.
Oct. 14–15: Harvest Festifall at Columbia State Historic Park, Columbia
Celebrate autumn 1850s-style at Columbia Historic State Park in Tuolumne County, where this weekend features crafts, jewelry, and baked goods sold by vendors in their best 1850s cosplay. Watch weaving and spinning demonstrations and enjoy the live music and dancers.
Oct. 15: Truckee River Day, Truckee
Plan a weekend around fresh air and “voluntourism” in the North 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.
Begins Oct. 19: Boardwalk Bites & Brews, Santa Cruz
The boardwalk in Santa Cruz hosts its own form of Oktoberfest during the fall—an extended happy hour (4–8 p.m.) on select evenings through Nov. 19. Sample flights of Bay Area craft beers at Brews at the Beach, paired with small plates such as poke nachos or chili-and-biscuit bites. Play some old-school boardwalk games afterward at neighboring Neptune’s Kingdom.
Come on Oct. 28 during the day for the Boardwalk’s Chili Cookoff, where your tasting ticket grants you six samplings of chili from the dozens of competitors—and then you get to vote on the eventual winner.