18 Fun Things To Do To Celebrate Fall in Northern California
Looking for autumnal activities? We’ve got you covered.
1) Get lost in Dixon
It’s no exaggeration when this California corn maze calls itself the biggest in the world. A Guinness Book World Record holder, the Cool Patch Pumpkins corn maze is more than 40 acres of narrow paths and dead ends. There are also scarecrow competitions and food and drink vendors, including a barista on select dates.
2) Take in the fall foliage
Our seasons may be a bit wonky out here in the West, but we do have some places for fall color enthusiasts to bask in the reds and golds. Right now, the California Fall Color report recommends visiting higher elevations in the the Eastern Sierra (pictured) as well as Inyo and Mono counties, but lower elevations should catch up in the coming weeks.
3) Clam Festival on the coast
A clam chowder contest, a clam dig, a clam bake and wine tasting. There’s not much not to like about Pismo Beach’s annual Clam Festival (unless, of course, you just don’t like clams). Take a scenic drive down the coast and dig into the 71st annual event.
4) Gourd old-fashioned fun in Half Moon Bay
From a bounty of food options (including pumpkin pie and ice cream, of course) to the annual pumpkin weigh-off, the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is all about celebrating the harvest season. If you go, know that traffic gets tough so plan to head out early.
5) Pretend it’s autumn at Downton Abbey
As the period drama airs its final season, embrace the Downton Abbey vibe at Filoli, a Woodside country house built in 1915. The estate features acres of Georgian-style gardens and there are an array of fall tours around the estate to explore.
6) Alight in crane country
Experience one of nature’s great sights — the annual return of the sandhill crane to the Central Valley’s rich delta wetlands. The Sandhill Crane Festival in Lodi offers a bevy of activities that celebrate the regal northward migrating birds, from art shows and beginner birding workshops to tours of the cranes’ habitats.
7) Take a walk in the park
Jack London State Park near Glen Ellen offers all kinds of fall activities — like writing in the park or special fall hikes. If you’re in the mood for music, the park is hosting a family-friendly hike on Oct. 14 with food and musical acts.
8) Afternoon in the orchard
Apple Hill, just off Highway 50 north of Placerville, is in full swing for fall with apples ready for the picking, pressed into cider or baked into goodies. If apples alone aren’t enough for you to get into the fall spirit, you can also pick out a pumpkin and walk your way through a hay bale maze.
9) Dinner and a show in Mill Valley
If you can’t get out of town for a full day, let alone a weekend, make it an evening with a trip over the bridge and into the woods for the upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival. Grab dinner before or after.
10) Go camping
It’s true that many campsites are booked through the year, but Tom Stienstra has some places worth looking into during the fall months. And if you can’t get in this year, there’s no harm in planning ahead for next year.
11) Head south for a spooky experience
If you’re going to visit the Winchester Mystery House, the candlelight tour is the way to go. Everyone knows haunted houses are scariest at night. (If one spooky mansion isn’t enough, here are some haunted hangouts in the Bay Area you may want to check out.)
12) Go Boo at the Zoo
Kid-friendly Halloween activities will be located all over the Oakland Zoo later this month. There’s even a treat station where kids can make special treats for the zoo’s animals.
13) Celebrate the harvest in Sonoma
It’s harvest time in Wine Country! Honor this auspicious annual event at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. There’s plenty to eat, drink and do, like watch the World Championship Grape Stomp
14) Drink up
Or, you know, just skip the fair and go wine tasting. We won’t judge.
15) Beach eats in Santa Cruz
No matter the temperature outside, when football rolls around it’s time to dust off the crock pot and get chili cooking. Santa Cruz celebrates the fall favorite with its Annual Chili Cookoff at the Boardwalk. Sample the food and brave a few rides — though you may want to start with the latter — and finish the day with a walk along West Cliff to work off the calories.
16) Get in the fall spirit at a beautiful regional park
For the little ones, the Tolay Fall Festival in Petaluma is full of fun activities. The two-week festival at Tolay Lake Regional Park has a hayride, a pumpkin seed spitting contest and hands-on archery and astronomy demonstrations.
17) Watch Stern Grove become ScareGrove
SF Rec and Park’s most beloved holiday tradition is back again this year as Stern Grove hosts ScareGrove. The Halloween event has a haunted house, jump houses, hayrides and a climbing wall.
18) Get your science on
The California Academy of Sciences is hosting SuperNatural Halloween, complete with trick-or-treating and magic shows. Tickets are pricey ($50 for adults and $35 for children) but proceeds go toward supporting low-cost admission for local families.
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