Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Peach Loop. Today we are exploring fun you and your family can have this fall. Lots of fun can be found locally!
Summer travels are over, the kids are back-to-school, and fall is in the air! Or, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area like I do, you know that fall is in the air somewhere. We don’t exactly have seasons in my part of Northern California.
Even though the Bay Area can’t match the breathtaking autumn leaves of the East Coast in September and October, the fall season in the San Francisco Bay Area has a lot for families with kids to do. Whether you’re a local looking for a weekend staycation or a visitor to the Bay Area looking for a seasonally appropriate adventure, here are 10 fun fall activities for kids near San Francisco.
Winchester Mystery House (San Jose)
Winchester Mystery House is a mansion built by the eccentric widow of the Winchester Rifle Company owner, with doors and stairs that often lead to nowhere. While touring the home is a fun excursion for families year-round, the most fitting time to visit is the month of October. Legend has it the house is haunted by the ghosts killed by Winchester rifles, and its former owner apparently built it in such a haphazard fashion to appease spirits who were haunting her. For even greater thrills, families with brave kiddos can take a special event candlelight tour 10 evenings each October (in 2016: Oct 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, and 28-31)
Fall means tons of opportunities to take your kids to one of the many apple orchards in the greater Bay Area for a day of apple picking. The most convenient options with pick-your-own fields for San Francisco day trippers are:
- Chileno Valley Ranch (Petaluma): Picking only on Sundays in late August, September, and sometimes also October, with reservations required.
- Apple-a-Day Raztlaff Ranch (Sebastapol): Open Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays during September and October.
- Clearview Orchards (Watsonville): Opens Saturdays and Sundays during September and October.
- Gizdich Ranch (Watsonville): Open daily late August through early September (call or check website for dates)
Fleet Week (San Francisco)
In early October, the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard descend upon the City by the Bay, bringing lots of visitors with them. The highlight of the week’s celebrations is an impressive air show over the water, with the Navy’s Blue Angels doing stunts and tricks. The noise can be quite deafening, so be ready with some earplugs or comfort for the little ones. Fleet Week for 2016 is scheduled for October 3-10 (it always falls on Columbus Day weekend).
Mystery Spot (Santa Cruz)
Another local attraction that is fun year-round but especially during the Halloween season is the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Kids will be amazed at this “gravitational anomaly” that is said to defy the laws of physics. Water flows uphill and weird phenomena abound. Whether the cause be aliens, the supernatural, or just a good optical illusion, it’s good clean family fun.
Boo at the Zoo (San Francisco)
The San Francisco Zoo gets in the spooky spirit with an annual Boo at the Zoo event in late October (October 29 and 30 for 2016). Kids can trick or treat around the zoo while the animals get to feast on a few pumpkin treats. The Zoo also offers a Spooky Sleepover event on October 22.
(And for East Bay centric families, the Oakland Zoo has its own Halloween Boo at the Zoo event also on Oct 29 and 30, plus a Family Sundown SPOOKfari sleepover event Oct 29).
California’s Great America “The Great Pumpkin Fest” (Santa Clara)
Northern California’s beloved theme park gets in the fall spirit, with a family-friendly Halloween celebration during the daytime before the scary stuff takes over at night. The Great Pumpkin Fest offers trick-or-treating with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, a hay maze, pumpkin decorating, and even a foam pit. And it’s all included in the price of regular theme park admission. Check the theme park’s calendar for exact dates, but Great America is usually open most Saturdays and Sundays in October for the event. (Plus, don’t miss my complete planning guide to California’s Great America with kids before your visit.)
Gilroy Gardens Lumination (Gilroy)
Gilroy Gardens isn’t as well known of a theme park as some of the big names in Northern California. But it’s probably my favorite for families with young kids (see my full Gilroy Gardens guide here). While Gilroy Gardens often has its “Scary Boo” Halloween event, this fall brings something new and different. Lumination is a special evening event celebrating Chinese culture and heritage with enormous and breathtaking light displays.
Lemos Farm (Half Moon Bay)
Lemos Farm is the Bay Area’s most well-known pumpkin patch and for good reason. With pony rides, a haunted house, a not-so-haunted train, hay rides, and a petting zoo all in addition to a great pumpkin selection, it’s a Halloween tradition for many Bay Area families. While the farm is open daily, the special Halloween events are only offered on the weekends, so plan accordingly!
Oktoberfest by the Bay (San Francisco)
Even with the beer flowing freely, Oktoberfest events are usually quite family-friendly. San Francisco’s Oktoberfest by the Bay is no different, making a special effort to include kids on one day of the festivities. The event takes over Fort Mason with authentic Oompah bands, pretzels, brats, and – of course – beer. The event takes place in late September (Sept 23-25, 2016), but plan to bring kids only on Sunday Sept 25.
Hit the Wharf (San Francisco)
September and early October are often the sunniest and warmest times in San Francisco proper, so the fall is a great time to get the kids outside for an adventure strolling the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf. Although it’s definitely touristy, that’s always part of the fun for me and especially for my kids. You can easily spend a full day or more at Fisherman’s Wharf, so check out my Fisherman’s Wharf guide for families to pick the best activities.
And for a really spooky twist during October, add in a trip to Alcatraz while you are at the wharf. The world’s most haunted prison even offers night tours for the truly brave.
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Blogorail Peach | Family Adventure | Fall Travel
- 1st Stop – Love Our Crazy Life | Should Your Child Miss School for Vacation?
- 2nd Stop – Adventures in Familyhood | Halloween in Sleepy Hollow
- 3rd Stop – Trips with Tykes | 10 Fun Fall Activities for Kids Near San Francisco – YOU ARE HERE
- 4th Stop – Adventureland Pam | Massanutten Resort in the Fall