“Fall” in San Diego is pretty synonymous with “summer” — it doesn’t cool down ’round these parts for quite some time. (It’s my dearest wish every year to see a Christmas Day with temperatures below 70 F.) But though the days stay warm, the nights cool down – and the spirit of Fall (and impending holidays) is still with us.
Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate the changing season in San Diego, even if you have to do it in shorts and sandals:
1. Day Trip to Julian
Apple pie, handmade soaps and candles, hard cider tasting, apple-picking, panning for gold, and some of the only trees in the county that actually turn red and gold. What’s not to love about this adorable historic town? Just remember that everyone else in the entire county agrees with that sentiment, so avoid weekends around the holidays if you don’t want to lose your mind.
2. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos
Our proximity to our Mexican neighbors down south lends a shared sense of celebration: we honor our passed loved ones on the traditional Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead (Nov 2.) Old Town throws perhaps the most authentic event this side of the border, complete with sugar skull decorating, fresh handmade Mexican food, dancing, altars, and candlelit processions. It’s worth checking out, whether you’ve attended one before or not.
3. Visit Bates Nut Farm
Pumpkin patches, hay rides, handmade jams and jellies, and tons of fresh-picked nuts…it’s just not Fall without a visit here. Bates is one of the quintessential elements of a San Diego harvest season.
4. Attend “Oktoberfest”
It doesn’t even have to be October. In San Diego, we hardly need a reason to drink beer – and with so many local craft breweries around, you’re bound to find one hosting a German-inspired festival with beer, bratwurst, and pretzels at least once a week. Plus, if you miss out on one – there’s always San Diego Beer Week in November, which lasts for more than a week.
5. Tailgate at a Chargers Game
I’m admittedly not a big football fan, but I’ll root for the Chargers any day. And even I know how much fun a football tailgate is: no matter where you are in America, that just screams FALL. Root for the Bolts while you wash down burgers and dogs with plenty of beer – Slaters 50/50 has a really cool tailgate trip package you can book, too.
6. Watch the Mother Goose Parade
It’s the largest parade west of the Mississippi — and it’s a San Diego icon. Each year, the Mother Goose Parade attracts thousands of spectators to the streets of El Cajon, with more than 100 floats and performing teams from all around the country. It usually takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving, and if you can’t make it out to El Cajon to watch it in person, it’s still fun to watch on TV.
7. Go Wine Tasting
I know, I know, I recommended this for 12 Things to Do in Summer — but come on, is there ever a time NOT to go wine tasting? Some wineries host grape stomps in the Fall, which is great fun if you can secure a ticket ahead of time. Otherwise, just go for a sip and try one of the seasonal varietals most places offer — the wineries in North County (Valley Center, Temecula, Fallbrook, and into Riverside) are typically the most beautiful, though one of my favorites is Orfila Winery in Escondido.
8. Bet on Horses….Again
For only the second year in history, Del Mar will open its track gates for the second time this year for the new “Bing Crosby Season“: a special post-main season four weeks of Thoroughbred horse racing, free concerts, and other events. Opening Day is this Thursday, complete with a vintage Hollywood fashion contest and over $3,000 in prizes. Tickets vary.
9. Watch for Whales
Fall is a mixed grab bag of whale watching, perfect for catching the summer and winter migrations as they cross paths past San Diego. While gray whales won’t start migrating until after December, you can still see giant blue whales and fin whales well into November – as well as the possibility of seeing sperm whale, minke whale and humpbacks.