Who says summer is ending? In California, the early fall months are actually some of the sunniest and warmest all year—a perfect time to play at the beach, explore the cities, and enjoy the best that California has to offer. And in some ways, the fun is only beginning, from insider peeks at the new TV season to fall festivals and the best month of the year for wine lovers. Here are 17 reasons to plan your own trip to California during September.
All month: California Wine Month, Multiple locations
Great wine is produced all over the Golden State, and this month-long celebration offers up dozens of events across California’s many wine regions—from barrel tastings and grape-stomps to dinner-and-dancing nights and vineyard hikes. Check the schedule of events and choose your favorite ways to celebrate California’s most famous crop.
September 1: Taste of Sonoma
This one-day event at the Green Music Center showcases Sonoma County’s bounty: its wine. Taste your way through events such as Rosé All Day, Grill Station Pairings, and Bring on the Bubbly (the latter sponsored by Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards). Upgrade your ticket to the Club Reserve and you can sample wineries’ limited productions, reserves, and award-winning wines.
September 1: Big Foot Daze, Humboldt County
There were a few possible (and much-discussed) Bigfoot sightings in the Humboldt County town of Willow Creek in the late 1950s and 1960s, and the mythic creature has been treated like a beloved local ever since. Get there by way of the Big Foot Scenic Byway (Highway 299) to watch the parade, enjoy the live music, and take part in Sasquatch-themed kids’ activities.
September 6–16: PaleyFest, Beverly Hills
Even if you’re not planning to walk the red carpet at the Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, this weeklong event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills is the perfect gathering for TV nerds. Check out screenings of new shows—each day is devoted to a network, from CBS to Hulu—or spot some of your favorite stars. This year’s lineup includes Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tim Allen.
September 7–9: Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point
The Orange County harbor town embraces its maritime history with this annual parade of historic tall ships, complete with cannon battles, ship tours, mermaid breakfasts, and an old-fashioned beer garden.
September 8–November 3: Oktberfest Big Bear, Big Bear
As one of the biggest German festivals on the West Coast, this Oktoberfest was first launched in Big Bear Lake in 1969 by a pair of German immigrants and looks right at home in the alpine scenery of the San Bernardino Mountains. The festivities run every weekend through November 3, with lots of live music and dancing, as well as log-sawing and beer-stein-holding contests.
September 13–16: Mountain Bluegrass Festival, McCloud
Listen to classic bluegrass music in the Shasta Cascade town of McCloud—and, if the spirit moves you, join in yourself. The four-day event offers chances to take banjo and guitar workshops and to play in jam sessions.
September 15: Sample the Sierra, South Lake Tahoe
This one-day farm-to-fork festival in South Lake Tahoe celebrates the local flavors of the High Sierra, from jam and honey to olive oil. The day includes chef throwdowns using local ingredients, along with farm tours, live music, and art exhibits.
September 14–November 3: Halloween Horror Nights, Universal Studios Hollywood
The L.A. County theme park keeps finding new ways to freak out its fans during its annual scarefest of walk-through experiences inspired by Hollywood horror greats. This year’s terrain includes experiences inspired by Stranger Things, Halloween 4, and Poltergeist. Even if you don’t make it here during the Halloween season, the permanent Walking Dead attraction can scare the bejeezus out of you year round.
September 14–16: KAABOO Del Mar
Now in its fourth year, this three-day festival at the oceanfront Del Mar Fairgrounds, in north San Diego County. blends big-name acts, chef demos, art installations, and comedy, all with plenty of couches (and even a spa tent) scattered around the festival grounds. This year’s headliners include Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, and Robert Plant.
September 15–23: Oakland Cocktail Week
Dozens of bars around the Bay Area city were invited to create a special cocktail to salute local culture. Go to Alamar Kitchen & Bar to sip the SideShow (a riff on a sidecar) that pays tribute to the old vaudeville-era shows that used to play around town. Or go to The Cat House to try Kitten’s Milk, inspired by the original 1944 Mai Tai created at Oakland’s Trader Vic’s.
September 19–October 31: Mickey’s Halloween Party, Disneyland Resort
Select evenings during the Halloween season bring a lot more than just jack-o’ lanterns to the two theme parks in Disneyland Resort. Come in costume and watch for trick-or treat stations, the Main Street parade led by the headless horseman, and meet-and-greets with Disney characters. This is the prime time of year to get pics with Captain Hook, Maleficent, and a variety of great villains.
September 22–23: Julian’s Old Fashioned Country Fair
Autumn means a lot of apples—and pie—in the east San Diego County town of Julian, which surprises a lot of guests with its mountain-town ambience. The weekend event includes a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, games, and a pie-baking contest (and plenty of chances to taste and buy pies to go).
September 21–23: Monterey Jazz Festival
It boasts to being the world’s longest-running jazz fest, with roughly 500 artists spread over eight stages at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. This year’s acts include Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Jon Batiste, and crossover stars like Lucinda Williams.
September 28–29: Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Festival
With 1.4 million acres of surrounding farmland, Sacramento easily lives up to its nickname of the Farm-to-Fork Capitol, and this taste-fest along the Capitol Mall makes a lovely showcase for Northern California produce and cuisine. Watch chef demos, taste wine and beer, and listen to live music. This year the event also includes Friday evening.
September 29: Bites & Brews at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Which craft beer pairs best with a lobster taco or garlic fries—or chocolate-covered bacon? Find out at this one-day event along the classic boardwalk. Choose your level of pass: you can opt for food-and-drink tastings, just-beer tastings, or just-food samples.
September 29: Surf City Surf Dog, Huntington Beach
Clearly, this Orange County town’s nickname of Surf City, USA does not apply solely to bipedals, as this is considered the premier event for dog surfing. Come watch the pooches catch (fetch?) waves; you can also register your own dog to compete, or just bring her along to pick up pointers. While you and Sparky are in town, check out a few of the 11 great dog beaches in California.