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. To get in on some early leaf-peeping, visit one of California’s nine national parks: September 23 is a National Parks Fee Free Day.
All during September, meanwhile, wine lovers can toast California Wine Month through special events such as barrel tastings, vineyard tours, and grape stomps. California Native American Day arrives Sept. 22, but the whole month is a prime time to see Pow Wows and other Native-themed festivals around the state, such as the three-day Sycuan Pow Wow (Sept. 8–10) in Chula Vista.
And that’s just the beginning. September is also a great month for beer gardens, harvest festivals, and quirky events celebrating everything from Paul Bunyan to Danish heritage to ghosts. Here’s a long list of events to help you extend your summer or fast-track it into fall.
Begins Sept. 1: Halloween Time at Disneyland, Anaheim
Start celebrating scary season at the Anaheim resort, where not-too-frightening 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. 1–4: 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, all while enjoying local beer and barbecue.
September 1, 8, and 15: Jazz and Blues by the Bay, Sausalito
Summer’s outdoor-concert season continues with this series along the waterfront in Sausalito. Bring a picnic blanket or low chair to Gabrielson Park to enjoy both music and big views. Being your own picnic, or buy food and drink on site. The 90-minute concerts begin at 6 p.m. to optimize the golden hour.
Begins Sept. 7: Halloween Horror Nights, Los Angeles
This year’s scarefest at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles features new walk-through experiences, including some inspired by Stranger Things, The Exorcist, Chucky, and a showdown with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, and the Phantom of the Opera. Runs through Oct. 31.
Sept. 8–10: Festa Italia, Monterey
The modern history of Monterey holds a lot of Italian traditions, thanks to the fishermen who started emigrating here from Italy in the late 19th century. Honoring that heritage includes a lot of food: calamari, steak, and sausage sandwiches, as well as pasta, arancini, and cannoli. Between snacks, enjoy the music, dancing, and crafts.
Sept. 8–10: The Maritime Festival, Dana Point
Watch mock cannon battles, pirate adventures, and mermaid shows staged on seven different ships in this Orange County town that is also a Whale Heritage Site. Shorebound attractions at the event (formerly known as the Tall Ships Festival) include live music, food trucks, vendor booths, and craft beers. It all takes place near the Ocean Institute, the marine life and history education center located right on the waterfront.
Sept. 9: Honda Center’s 30th Anniversary with Gwen Stefani, Anaheim
Hometown gal Gwen Stefani headlines the show as Anaheim’s Honda Center celebrates its 30th anniversary. Tickets start at just $30 and some proceeds will go to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Later this month, the Honda Center will welcome back the Anaheim Ducks in their first game of the NHL preseason, against the L.A. Kings.
Sept. 9: 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. The schedule of events typically includes talks from NASA and Caltech scientists in the Giant Forest/Lodgepole and Grant Grove areas, and guided activities such as solar viewing. Bonus: all activities are free. Check out these Sequoia and Kings Canyon lodging and camping options in and around the parks, or choose a hotel in nearby Visalia.
Sept. 9: Petaluma River Craft Beer Fest, Petaluma
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. 9: Fiesta en la Playa, Santa Cruz
A new season of fun kicks off after Labor Day in Santa Cruz at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, where the rides and games are complemented by special events. On Sept. 9, the Fiesta en la Playa celebrates the Latino community through folklorico dancers, mariachi bands, and a free beach concert. Come back on Sept. 29 for the Boardwalk Fall Campout, when your admission wristband lets you enjoy unlimited rides and games, a movie on the beach, and camping with your own tent on the boardwalk.
Sept. 9: Paranormal Research Tours, Columbia
Do your part in the name of research at the Columbia State Historic Park, the living history museum in Tuolumne County that is reputed to have more than its share of ghostly inhabitants. During the four-hour evening, you’ll accompany researchers into four historic buildings and observe as they use specialized equipment to detect paranormal activity. Can’t make it in September? They’ll be conducting two more tours in October.
Begins Sept. 9: Oktoberfest Big Bear, Big Bear Lake
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 and beer-stein-holding contests, and lots of regional and international beer. Runs through Nov. 4.
For more Oktoberfest fun, head to Benicia for the Benicia Oktoberfest & Marketplace (Sept. 16). The Bay Area town celebrates for a third year with Bavarian cuisine and live music by bands including Alpentanzer Schuhplattler and Igor and the Red Elvises. In San Diego County, Encinitas throws its own open-air Oktoberfest party on Sept. 24—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 beers like Burgeon Beer Company and Eppig Brewing.
Sept. 9–10: Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival, Ventura
Browse paintings, pottery, photography, and jewelry at Ventura’s Harbor Village while also checking out the sidewalks emblazoned with chalk murals. Kids, meanwhile, can express themselves in their own chalk area.
Sept. 10: 10th Annual Windsor Chili Cook-Off, Windsor
Chili-making teams comprised of both amateur and professional chefs will throw down for both trophies and glory at this annual competition in Sonoma County. As an attendee, you get to be a judge, tasting and voting on the competing chilis. The Windsor event includes live music and local beer and wine for sale (bring your own reusable beverage container), and proceeds benefit a local food bank.
Sept. 15–16: Route 66 Cruisin' Reunion, Ontario
Channel some old-school road-trip vibes in downtown Ontario, an Inland Empire town that sits just off the path of the original Route 66. Ogle 22 blocks’ worth of classic cars, then catch festival shows by Grammy winners Thelma Houston and Ozomatli.
Sept. 15–17: 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. More than a dozen acts perform on the Shasta Cascade resort grounds, complemented by vendors, food trucks, an on-site massage therapist, 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. 15-17: Solvang Danish Days, Santa Barbara County
Feast on Danish cuisine and Scandinavian cheer at the 86th 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. 15–17: Bhakti Fest, Joshua Tree
Take your yoga and meditation practice to the next level at this festival that is returning after a three-year absence. The festivities at the Joshua Tree Lake & Campground, north of Joshua Tree National Park, includes music as well as wellness workshops on yoga, breathwork, and sound healing. Accommodations include both tent camping and RV hookups; buy your tickets online or book them at the California Welcome Center, Yucca Valley.
Sept. 15–17: Fiestas Patrias, Oxnard
Celebrate Mexico's Independence Day (Sept. 16) and kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–Oct. 15) in downtown Oxnard, a Ventura County town with a rich Mexican heritage. The festivities kick off on the 15th with a recreation of "El Grito” (meaning “the cry”) first delivered by Father Hidalgo in 1810, then the rest of the weekend is filled with live music and entertainment, as well as local vendors lining the streets.
Sept. 16: 49er Festival & Chili Cook-Off, Groveland
Toast Gold Rush history with a bowl of chili at this Tuolumne County festival held off Highway 120 near Yosemite. Now in its the 33rd year, the festival (which used to be known as Old West Days) also features a parade, Old West gunfight recreations, and beard and moustache contests.
Sept. 16–17: Colfax Railroad Days, Placer County
Immerse yourself in history in this Placer County town that played a key 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 Co.
Sept. 16–24: Open Studios Napa Valley, Napa County
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, Yountville, Calistoga, and St. Helena.
Sept. 21–24: Burbank International Film Festival, Burbank
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; check the website for event updates about tributes, Q&A panels, and red-carpet events.
Sept. 22–23: Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Street Festival, Sacramento
Stroll this mile-long (and free!) taste-fest along the Capitol Mall and you’ll see why Sacramento has earned its Farm-to-Fork Capital nickname. Watch chef demos, sample Northern California produce and cuisine, taste local wine and craft beer, and listen to live music.
Sept. 22-23: Redding Roots Revival, Redding
The natural beauty and mellow vibes of the Shasta Cascade region create a perfect setting for this roots-music festival now in its fourth year. More than 30 national and regional acts will perform on three stages around downtown Redding, with the main stage at the Art Deco Cascade Theatre, which first opened in 1934. Headliners include G Love, Seth Walker, Chuck Prophet and Shawn Mullins.
Sept. 22–24: Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey
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 Herbie Hancock, Thundercat, and Dianne Reeves.
Sept. 22–24: Nissan Super Girl Pro, Oceanside
Featuring more than 60 top professional female surfers, this annual Oceanside festival is equal parts competition and entertainment. It’s the largest women’s surfing event in the world, with head-to-head battles, an adaptive surfing exhibition, and a pro-am longboard competition taking place over the course of three days. In addition to a festival village with female-focused vendors, fitness classes, and women’s esports tournaments, the weekend features a lineup of free concerts.
Sept. 23: Santa Barbara County Farm Day, Santa Barbara County
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 the specialty produce of Babé Farms.
Sept. 23: Dine in the Vines, Paso Robles
Enjoy a winery dinner in Paso Robles as ONX Estate Vineyard hosts this evening featuring chef Amy Robinson from Epicurean Santa Barbara. The evening begins with hors d’oeuvres underneath a giant oak tree, then proceeds with an elegant three-course dinner with wine pairings followed by dessert. (Basque cheesecake mousse, anyone?)
Sept. 23: 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. The day also offers chances for kayaking tours, a street fair, and the riverside “Salmon Soiree” dinner.
Begins Sept. 23: A Taste of Fall 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 Saturdays through Oct. 28, the resident horticulturist and beekeeper will show you the bee hives and heritage trees, then offer samples of the Filoli butters, honeys, and hard ciders.
Sept. 23–24: 2023 California Capital Airshow, Rancho Cordova
Watch the U.A. Air Force Thunderbirds and stunt performers perform in the sky at this annual air show in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento. On the ground, get up close looks at vintage warbird planes, look around inside workhorse UPS and FedEx planes, and check out unique aircraft such as the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft the U-2 Dragon Lady. Round out the day with a few tastings in "The Hangar," a collection of four breweries, a hard kombucha brewery, a distillery, and a meadery from Rancho Cordova's Barrel District. Check our Rancho Cordova’s Stay & Play Bundle that combines discounted admission tickets with a local hotel room and a $25 Lyft gift card.
Sept. 23–24: 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 four stages.
Sept. 23–24: ClovisFest and Hot-Air Balloon Fun Fly, 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. 23–24: 36th Annual Pacific Coast Fog Fest, Pacifica
Located on the San Francisco Peninsula, the beach town of Pacifica is known for its good surf, beaches, and for the dramatic fog that regularly rolls in off the ocean. This free annual event—always scheduled for what is typically a sunny weekend—embraces the spirit of the town through a parade, three stages of live music, and lots of local food and craft vendors.
Begins Sept. 29: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Chico
Be prepared to do some chicken dancing at this legendary Butte County brewery located in Chico, which that hosts its own autumn party of seasonal beers, food, and music over two weekends. Runs through Oct. 7.
Sept. 29–Oct. 1: Ohana Festival, Dana Point
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder still helms this three-day weekend at Dana Point’s Doheny State Beach that features his favorite musicians (the word “ohana” means “family” in Hawaiian). The Killers and Haim headline Friday night, while Vedder shares top billing with The Chicks on Saturday night. The Pretenders and Foo Fighters close out the weekend on Sunday. The rest of the lineup includes Japanese Breakfast, Suki Waterhouse, and Dhani Harrison.
Sept. 29–Oct. 1: Pacific Air Show, Huntington Beach
One of the biggest air shows in the nation, this annual event in Orange County happens far above Surf City USA’s signature waves. Watch U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, Canadian Forces Snowbirds, and the F-22 Raptor Demonstration team along with dozens of other aerial performances by aviators from around the globe. Choose from different levels of admission, including chalets and cabanas, in the viewing area stretching from the Huntington Beach Pier to Beach Blvd. Book a stay at one of the nearby hotels or camp near the action in your RV.
Sept. 30: 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. 30: 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. 30–Oct. 1: 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 Skrillex, DJ Eric Prydz, and Nelly Furtado.