Labor Day may be the symbolic end of summer, but California enjoys the best of both summer and autumn throughout this month. First of all, September typically brings some of the warmest and sunniest days of the year—so heading to the beach either to catch a wave or watch the experts is the perfect way to celebrate California Surfing Day on the 20th. All month, wine lovers can toast California Wine Month through special events such as barrel tastings, vineyard tours, and grape stomps.
And that’s just the beginning: September is a great month for beer gardens, harvest festivals, and quirky events celebrating everything from Paul Bunyan to Danish heritage to poison oak. Here’s a long list of events to help you extend your summer or fast-track it into fall.
Begins Sept. 2: Halloween Time at Disneyland, Anaheim
Start celebrating the season at the Anaheim resort, where not-too-scary attractions and events include the Main Street Pumpkin festival at Disneyland Park, seasonally decorated rides, and the Oogie Boogie Bash in Disney California Adventure Park. Runs through Oct. 31.
Sept. 2–5: Paul Bunyan Days, Fort Bragg
Some say the mythic lumberjack and his blue ox Babe spent some time in the redwoods around Fort Bragg, so it makes sense that the Mendocino County town has been home to this festival since 1939. Take part in events like a logging show, tricycle races, and an ugly dog contest while enjoying local beer and barbecue.
Sept. 3 and 10: Boots & Brews Country Festival, Santa Clarita and Morgan Hill
Choose from two California towns—Santa Clarita (Sept. 3) and Morgan Hill (Sept. 10)—or head to both for this country-music festival complemented by local cuisine and cold beer. Santa Clarita’s Central Park show is headlined by Brad Paisley, Frankie Ballard, and Morgan Evans, while the Silicon Valley show at Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center showcases the Brothers Osborne, Jordan Davis, and Avery Anna.
Begins Sept. 8: Halloween Horror Nights, Los Angeles
This year’s scarefest at Universal Studios Hollywood features new walk-through experiences, including ones inspired by the original Halloween movie, the Weeknd’s After Hours album, and a showdown with Dracula, Wolf Man, and The Mummy. The Los Angeles fest runs through Oct. 31.
Sept. 8–11: Burbank International Film Festival
Watch screenings and listen to talks from industry insiders at the AMC 16 in Burbank, right in the nerve center of TV and film production. The lineup includes more than 200 feature and short films, along with tributes, Q&A panels, and red-carpet events.
Sept. 9–11: The Ocean Institute’s Maritime Festival, Dana Point
Watch mock cannon battles, pirate adventures, and mermaid swim shows staged on seven different ships in this Orange County town that is also a Whale Heritage Site. Shorebound attractions include live music, food trucks, vendor booths, and craft beers.
Begins Sept. 10: Oktoberfest Big Bear
First launched in 1969 by a duo of German immigrants, this series of weekend parties in Big Bear Lake boasts of being one of the biggest German festivals on the West Coast. Come for the live music and dancing along with log-sawing, beer-stein-holding contests, and lots of regional and international beer. Runs through Nov. 5.
The San Diego County town of Encinitas celebrates its own open-air Oktoberfest on Sept. 25—a tip of the Tyrolean hat to the German immigrants who settled the neighboring community of Olivenhain in 1884. The Bavarian festival will be fueled by great local beer, including Burgeon Beer Company and Eppig Brewing.
Sept. 10: Petaluma River Craft Beer Fest
Sample your way along the waterfront of historic downtown Petaluma. Enjoy food, music, and more than 20 breweries and kombucha makers from Sonoma County and beyond, including Lagunitas, Crooked Goat Brewing, and Hoocha Brewing.
Sept. 10–11: Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival
Browse paintings, pottery, photography, and jewelry at Ventura’s Harbor Village while also checking out the sidewalks emblazoned with large chalk murals. Kids, meanwhile, can express themselves at their own chalk area. Each September weekend, the Seaside Promenade Stage at Ventura Harbor Village offers a soundtrack of live music, DJs, and steel drums.
Sept. 16–17: Fall Into Music Festival, Lewiston
Combine a stay at the Lakeview Terrace Resort in Trinity County with this annual music festival that has the vibe of a friendly hootenanny. About 10 acts perform on the Shasta Cascade resort grounds, complemented by vendors, food trucks, and a laser show. It’s also a great excuse to enjoy this resort on Lewiston Lake, a short drive from the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
Sept. 16–17: Route 66 Cruisin' Reunion, Ontario
Channel some old-school road-trip vibes in downtown Ontario, an Inland Empire town that sits near the path of the original Route 66. Ogle 22 blocks’ worth of classic cars, then catch festival shows by Sheila E. and Jefferson Starship.
Sept. 16-18: Solvang Danish Days, Santa Barbara County
Feast on Danish cuisine and Scandinavian cheer at the 85th edition of this festival that celebrates the town in the Santa Ynez Valley that was settled by Danish immigrants. The weekend includes aebleskiver breakfasts (think spherical pancakes), a Viking beer-and-wine garden, and a parade.
Sept. 17: Big Chill Out Surf Competition, Pacifica
Celebrate California Surfing Day (Sept. 20) a few days early at Linda Mar State Beach in Pacifica, located in San Mateo County. Watch or join in the fun at this annual long-board competition where the participants range from six-year-olds to octogenarians. Stay into the evening for the awards banquet and raffle.
Sept. 17–18: Colfax Railroad Days, Placer County
Immerse yourself in history in this Placer County town that played a big role in the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. Check out model railroad displays, Union Pacific engines, and Old West entertainment, then try some beer from Auburn’s Knee Deep Brewing.
Sept. 17–18: Lafayette Art, Wine & Music Festival, Contra Costa County
Browse 300-plus booths of artisan crafts and local cuisine at the biggest annual festival in Contra Costa County, located on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. The free-admission festival in Lafayette’s La Fiesta Square also features rides and games for kids, plus live music on three stages.
Sept. 17–24: ISA World Surfing Games, Huntington Beach
The 2024 Paris Summer Olympics are drawing near—as proof, this competition in Huntington Beach is a qualifying event. Watch surfers from dozens of countries compete for coveted slots on their nations’ Olympic teams and soak up the Surf City USA energy.
Sept. 17–25: Open Studios Napa Valley
Experience the work of more than 50 artists during self-guided tours of Napa Valley studios over the course of two weekends. Meet the artists, watch demonstrations, and buy locally made pieces. To chart your path, check out the online catalog and map of studios, most of which are located in Napa or St. Helena.
Sept. 18: Santa Barbara County Farm Day
Tour farms in the fertile Santa Maria Valley, meet farmers, and check out the livestock and produce at this free event that celebrates Santa Barbara County’s agricultural heritage. The dozen-plus participants, nicely charted on a map, include berry grower Reiter (where you can take a tractor tour) and Zaca Mesa Winery.
Sept. 18: Taste of Mt. Veeder, Yountville
The annual Taste of Mount Veeder is celebrating its 22nd year in the garden at Chandon, the esteemed maker of Napa Valley sparkling wines. Sample pours from over 30 wineries producing under the Mt. Veeder appellation, enjoy small bites, and take part in a silent auction.
Sept. 23–24: 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.
Sept. 23–24: Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Street Festival
Stroll this mile-long (and free!) taste-fest along the Capitol Mall, dotted with Northern California produce and cuisine, and you’ll see why Sacramento has earned its Farm-to-Fork Capital nickname. Watch chef demos, taste local wine and craft beer, and listen to live music headliners Japanese Breakfast and Gregory Porter.
Sept. 23–25: Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey County throws the world’s longest-running jazz fest, with roughly 500 artists performing on eight stages at the woodsy, 200-acre Monterey County Fairgrounds. This year’s acts include Gregory Porter, Moodswing Reunion, Chucho Valdés, and Veronica Swift.
Sept. 24: Kelseyville Pear Festival, Lake County
Fall isn’t just for apples and pumpkins in the Lake County town of Kelseyville, which holds a parade and a pear pie–eating contest. Walk Main Street, lined with musicians and vendors offering pear-related merchandise, pear fritters, and pear margaritas.
Sept. 24: Oroville Salmon Festival, Butte County
Check out the salmon run at this Butte County fish hatchery, then make your own run in the 3K Salmon Dash at this festival that celebrates the fishes’ annual journey to the Feather River. Don’t miss the street fair featuring lots of delicious takes on salmon.
Sept. 24: Sequoia Dark Sky Festival, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Come to this pair of national parks for the day, then stay after dark for some world-class stargazing in the Big Stump and Wuksachi Lodge parking areas. During the day, listen to talks from NASA and Caltech scientists in the Giant Forest/Lodgepole and Grant Grove areas, and take part in guided activities including solar viewing. Bonus: all activities are free. Check out these Sequoia and Kings Canyon lodging and camping options in and around the parks.
Sept. 24: Hueneme Banana Festival, Ventura County
Ventura County’s deepwater Port of Hueneme ushers a lot of bananas into our country, so the town celebrates during this annual festival with banana-infused funnel cakes, milkshakes, and more. In between snacks, check out the live bands, banana-cream-pie-eating contests, and kids’ activities, as well as free boat tours of the port.
Sept. 24: Poison Oak Show, Columbia
Expand your idea of nature’s beauty at this cheeky “flower” show at the St. Charles Saloon, located within Columbia State Historic Park in Tuolumne County. Check out the contenders in categories such as best arrangement of poison oak, most original poison oak dish (with recipe), best photograph of poison oak, even best poison oak rash.
Begins Sept. 24: Orchard Days at Filoli, Woodside
Bask in fall color at this San Francisco Peninsula estate, where the century-old Gentleman’s Orchard includes more than 500 fruit trees, including apple, pear, plum, apricot, fig, and quince. On weekends through Oct. 31, listen to live music while you stroll, then pick up some fruit butters and hard cider produced from the trees.
Sept. 24-25: Portola Music Fest, San Francisco
San Francisco’s Pier 80 hosts this new two-day concert (21 and up only) with a diverse lineup of acts including Flume, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, M.I.A., and Charlie XCX.
Sept. 24–25: San Diego Spirits Festival, La Jolla
Enjoy cocktails and works of art at this weekend set at La Jolla’s recently renovated Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Your admission for the two afternoons grants you unlimited cocktails from over 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.
Sept. 24–25: ClovisFest, Fresno County
Watch hot air balloons float in the sky at this Fresno County weekend festival, which begins at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. Then, head to the 12-city-block street fair with food, artisans, live music, and a beer garden.
Sept. 29–Oct.2: Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka
Enjoy a wide range of “American Roots” musical 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 40 bands playing at eight different venues—many of them historic buildings—around the Humboldt County area.
Begins Sept. 30: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Chico
Be prepared to do some chicken dancing at this legendary Butte County brewery that hosts its own autumn party of seasonal beers, food, and music over two weekends. Runs through Oct. 8.
Sept. 30–Oct. 2: Ohana Festival, Dana Point
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder still helms this festival at Doheny State Beach that features his favorite musicians (the word “ohana” means “family” in Hawaiian). Vedder shares top billing with Jack White on Friday night of the festival, while Stevie Nicks takes to the main stage on Friday, and Pink plays on Sunday. The rest of the lineup includes Khruangbin, The Revivalists, Billy Strings, and St. Vincent.