Pumpkin patches, apple picking and "haunted" trails can only mean one thing: it's officially autumn in San Diego. As the season turns, enjoy these fun fall activities that remind us, once again, that we truly do live in America's Finest City.
Julian Apple Picking
Craving some fresh fruit in the fall? Once the leaves start to turn, San Diegans often head east to Julian for apple picking season, which typically runs from late August through October. Popular "U-Pick" businesses include Apple Starr Orchards (1020 Julian Orchards Dr.) and Calico Ranch (4200 Highway 78). For a full list of prime apple picking spots in Julian, click here.
By the way, the cute little town in San Diego's East County will kick off the season with Julian Apple Days, a fall festival planned for Sept. 23 and Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Menghini Winery.
The fest will include music and dancing, an antique tractor display, children’s games and activities, gold panning demonstrations, a beer and wine garden, contests, food, and, of course, that famous Julian apple pie.
Bates Nut Farm
Nothing says fall in San Diego like a visit to the Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center. The picturesque North County family farm opens its doors to visitors year after year, offering a beautiful setting for picnics, leisurely strolls and, of course, delicious snacks including nuts, candies, dried fruits, chocolates and homemade fudge.
This fall, the farm will open its famous pumpkin patch Sept. 23 through Oct. 31 featuring a variety of pumpkins, gourds, and squash ripe for the picking.
The patch boasts many family-friendly activities to keep the kids entertained, including tractor hayrides, a straw maze, a bounce house, a petting corral and pony rides. Admission is free and parking is $5 on weekends in October. Activities cost $2.50 each.
Over the course of the season, Bates will host many autumn-themed events including the Craft Fair Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8, featuring 80+ vendors, and the farm's annual Scarecrow Contest on Oct. 26. The farm's annual Halloween costume contest and parade is set for Oct. 28, while a "Howl-o-Ween" doggie costume contest is set for Oct. 29.
The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park
As the spooky Halloween season approaches, The Haunted Trail at Balboa Park is a sure-fire way to have a frightening fall. Open this year from Sept. 29through Oct. 31, this mile-long trail is a stroll through the park you’ll never forget. Those who dare enter through a twisted grove of pines and gnarled oaks. After that, all bets are off as scary surprises lurk around every corner.
The Haunted Trail also hosts an additional maze dubbed "The eXperiment," described as "3,500-square-feet of freak-infested terror." Tickets cost $25 per person, including entry into "The eXperiment."
The Haunted Hotel
Looking for spine-tingling thrills? Head to The Haunted Hotel in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter for a good scare – if you dare. For the past 25 years, this spooky fall attraction has invited patrons to make their way through a creepy hotel while trying to escape from all kinds of ghouls. The Haunted Hotel runs from Sept. 22 through Oct. 31; general admission is $19 per person.
San Diego Gulls Hockey Season
With the Chargers long gone, we need another fall sport to root for and the San Diego Gulls will give us just that. The team returns to the rink this fall, playing their home games at Valley View Casino Center. Catch a pre-season game on Sept. 30 or wait for the first home games of the season on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. Tickets typically start around $23.
Dia De Los Muertos in Old Town
Each fall, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park celebrates Mexican culture and those who have passed away with a giant Dia De Los Muertos party, typically at the end of October or early November. This year, the festivities are set for Oct. 28-29, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dia De Los Muertos lands on Nov. 2 and, on that day, Old Town will host activities throughout the park, plus the traditional evening procession, starting at 6 p.m., where attendees can travel from altar to altar, leaving gifts and prayers for loved ones who have entered the spiritual realm. The altars will be set up at shops and museums within Old Town; the procession ends at the historic El Campo Santo cemetery. With San Diego's proximity to Mexico, this cultural event certainly signals that fall is here.
Viejas Ice Rink
Sure, we live in sunny San Diego but ice rinks do exist here, too. Take the family to the ice rink at the Viejas Outlet Center in Alpine (right next to the casino and resort) – the largest outdoor ice rink in Southern California, which sees approximately 33,000 visitors each year. Skating season typically starts at the end of October or beginning of November.
Wine Tasting & the Harvest in Temecula
Temecula, located just north of San Diego County is known for its wine country and in the fall, many wineries host special harvest events in addition to their daily tastings. The community will host AutumnFest throughout the season, with many events to highlight the harvest. Also, from Sept. 30 through Oct. 30, check out the Big Horse Corn Maze & Harvest Festival at the Big Horse Feed & Mercantile (33320 Temecula Parkway), a fall festival featuring an 11-acre corn maze, pony rides, a pumpkin patch and lots of other fun, family-friendly activities.
Surfin’ Santa at Seaport Village
In true Southern California fashion – sporting board shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip-flops – Surfin' Santa is slated to make his 11th annual arrival at Seaport Village on Nov. 25. He’ll arrive in style, via a special watercraft, and enjoy the San Diego sunshine while visiting with locals from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. He’ll also pose for pictures with his surfboard, of course. 'Tis the season to be in SoCal.