PLANTS, PUMPKINS, AND A PARTY: While Halloween has a lot of charms that spring from things created by humans -- witch costumes and spooky candles and glowsticks and all of those too-easy-to-eat miniature candies -- much of the holiday finds inspiration in nature. Look to vintage postcards and decorations and you'll see a surfeit of full moons and bare-branched trees and owls and cats lending the eeks, a testament to the fact that the spookiest day of the years has one foot in the wilder world. So to spend a couple of hours among plants and trees and flowers, in the fresh air, while marking the last day in October feels like one is honoring a very venerable tradition. The San Diego Botanic Garden will be doing just that on Saturday, Oct. 31 via its annual Fall Festival. The kid-sweet, craft-tastic day is definitely about being in the open air, but it also involves dressing up (at least for the tots, though not the grown-ups) and maybe snapping a few photos with the Big Pumpkin, who is as sweet and approachable as can be (not to mention the most ginormous gourd you'll likely ever encounter, and possibly the only ambulatory, social pumpkin around).
THE DAY WILL BE ALL ABOUT... Halloween crafts -- pumpkin painting was a popular exercise at past fests -- as well as hay wagon rides, a tradition that seems nearly as old as the holiday itself. The garden also promises a petting zoo, so make sure your little one's costume does not hold them back from giving a goat a few gentle head pats. As far as food goes? Leucadia Pizza and The Taco Man'll both be on the grounds, selling lunch-ready bites to keep the fall activities going.
AS FAR AS WHAT'S BLOOMING GOES? The garden is alive with autumn beauty, so keep an eye out for the Dragon Fruit, the Brazilian Plume, the Coral Vine, and more fall florals that may be showing their best stuff off. We may not get the fall foliage of New England 'round these parts, with the fiery maples and such, but the season has its own soft sweetness close to the Pacific. And few places show that off as well as the Encinitas-based garden.