Fall Feels in San Diego – 5 Ways to Experience Autumn

San Diego doesn’t get much “grown up weather.” Do you get a bad case of wanderlust when you see friends posting gorgeous pictures of crisp autumn walks, with golden leaves crunching underfoot? It fills me with envy and hot apple cider wishes. Your pals are wearing boots and cute scarves, and you’re still rockin’ flip flops! The fashion faux pas of Uggs, shorts and a tank top totally makes sense here, in fall! Believe it or not, autumn vibes are possible in San Diego! Here’s where to find them!

1. Visit a Pumpkin Patch. There’s nothing like a pumpkin patch to get the fall feels going.

  • Bates Nut Farm
    We love Bates. There’s so much to do and the scenery makes a perfect backdrop to get that fall family photo. The Big Mac Pumpkins are enormous! Take a hayride on a giant tractor and enjoy the views from all around. They’ve got every variety of pumpkin you can think of from ghost to fairy tale. I love their old fashioned store, where they stock the best candies and unique gift items. Really, it’s never too early to get a jump on holiday shopping. On weekends, Bates has live music and special events.
  • Corn Maze at the Carlsbad Strawberry Company
    I hear it’s EPIC. This would be a great maze for older kids and adults. Be sure to snap a picture of the map before you enter the maze, or we may never see you again! They even have a haunted, night time maze called The Field of Screams. Are you brave enough to try it? I’m too skerd to do the night maze, but if you do it, you’ll have to let me know that you made it out alive! There’s a pumpkin patch and hayride on site as well. Bonus that this place is right next to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, so you can get a nice meal and shopping done before, or after.
  • Omas Pumpkin Patch
    Omas is the perfect place for little ones to get all their energy out. Check out Cotton Seed Mountain where kids love to climb up and slide down! Fun for hours! You get a lot of play out of the admission fee, $12- which includes their hayride that takes you around the dairy. The kids will love seeing all the cows! Make sure the kids are dressed to play and get dirty… because if you’re a kid and you didn’t get dirty, you didn’t have fun!
  • Zoomars
    I know, I know. Zoomars is not really a pumpkin patch, and it’s even not technically in San Diego! I still felt like I had to include this awesome petting zoo, because it’s not so far from San Diego. San Juan Capistrano is at the south end of Orange County. It’s easy to get there via car or train, and the surrounding area is just gorgeous this time of year.  Make a day of it, you’ll love it. Until October 31st, Zoomars has Pumpkinpalooza going on! You’ll be able to experience all of that scrumptious fall color AND participate in all the fun. Horseback rides, a train ride, playgrounds, panning for gold, the ultimate petting zoo (bunnies, chickens and guineas) and a corn corral. What is a corn corral? Think a giant sandbox but instead of sand, it’s filled with corn kernels! So satisfying! I had to drag my kids out! There are plenty of parks and restaurants within walking distance. San Juan Mission is just behind Zoomars, and completely walkable.

2. Dia De Los Muertos Festivals – The culture and colors of Dia De Los Muertos is a beautiful thing, and it only happens this time of year.

  • The Mission San Luis Rey
    I can’t think of a more authentic place to experience Dia De Los Muertos than at the Mission San Luis Rey, in Oceanside. If you’re looking for ancient traditions and a true culinary experience, visiting the mission is a must. The mission has been around for two centuries, so the atmosphere is both serene and festive this time of year. A local bakery makes the traditional “pan de muertos” or bread of the dead. It might sound morbid, but it is actually not. The boned shaped bread is eaten at grave sites or memorials to honor and remember good times spent with loved ones who have passed on. The mission has recently added a kid zone to the festivities so it’s a great day to spend with the whole family. Spend the “dia” of Sunday, October 28th at the Mission San Luis Rey. Be sure to check the schedule for all the events they have planned for the day.
  • Old Town San Diego at Fiesta De Reyes
    Old Town’s festival spans 4 days (November 1-4) so there are great opportunities to come and see all they have to offer. Free face painting, music, even a costume contest will be happening at Fiesta De Reyes. You’ll see fantastically colorful, larger than life displays, and countless altars, all beautifully decorated to pay homage to ancestors and relatives that are no longer with us.

3. Get out to the Gardens. Even if you can’t make it to their special fall festivals, botanical gardens are a great place to experience autumn.

4. Go Tide Pooling. October and November are prime tide pooling months for San Diego. Our beaches aren’t just great for summer, they’re wonderful year round. Check the tide schedule for negative tides, and make sure you wear the appropriate footwear. The rocks can be very slippery.

  • Carlsbad Tide Pools- the tide pools are located off Carlsbad Blvd (aka Pacific Highway) near Shore Drive. You’ll see gorgeous homes on the bluff side. Find a spot to park along the road. There are stairs just south of the last house on the bluff.
  • Swami’s State Beach in Encinitas is another popular spot for tide pooling. Located off Coast highway, the parking lot for the beach will be on the west side just before you reach the downtown area.  If you see the white domes of the Self-Realization Fellowship, turn back. There are no signs, so look for the tiki head statue on the grass!

5. Take hike! Hiking in the fall is pretty sublime. The days are bright and skies are clear, but the air is cool and crisp.

  • My favorite park to go to for fall color is San Dieguito Park in Encinitas. We love the duck pond there, and the trees have shed their leaves well enough to make a pile and jump! There are many trails to take for short walks, and picnic tables throughout. San Dieguito Park is hosting a Fall Festival on October 20th. They will have sack races, face painting, pumpkin decorating and a pumpkin seed spitting contest! It’s a free event, but there is a $3 parking fee.
  • If you’re looking for a more strenuous hike, here’s a link to visit San Diego’s list of great places to see fall foliage.

Do you have any favorite fall spots near San Diego? Leave me a comment!

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  1. Christine F. says:

    The Fall Back Festival is another fun event in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter this time of the year!


    1. eileen says:

      Pie eating, bubble gum blowing, pumpkin seed spitting! Yes, that sounds so fun! Thanks for sharing Christine!

  2. These all sound like so much fun! Guess I will have to plan a trip to San Diego next year 🙂

    1. eileen says:

      San Diego would love to have you, Darla! It’s a great city to be in, with so much to offer.

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