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.
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!
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 20 evenings each fall (in 2017: Sept 29-30 and Oct 6-8, 13-15, 18-22, 25-31)
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 early 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 2017 is scheduled for October 1-9 (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 & Oakland)
The San Francisco Zoo gets in the spooky spirit with an annual Boo at the Zoo event in late October (October 28 and 29 for 2017). Kids can trick or treat around the zoo while the animals get to feast on a few pumpkin treats.
For East Bay centric families, the Oakland Zoo has its own Halloween Boo at the Zoo event also on Oct 28 and 29, 2017, plus a Family Sundown SPOOKfari sleepover event Oct 28 and 29 as well.
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. Great America is open Saturdays and Sundays from September 30 to October 29 for the event (note that the park is closed on Sunday Oct 22 due to a 49ers home game). Don’t miss my complete planning guide to California’s Great America with kids before your visit.
Gilroy Gardens Scary Boo & Halloween@Night (Gilroy)
Gilroy Gardens isn’t as well known of a theme park as some of the big names in Northern California. But it is probably my favorite for families with young kids (see my full Gilroy Gardens guide). While Gilroy Gardens took a break from its usual Halloween offerings last year with Lumination, Halloween is back in a big way in 2017.
During the day, kids can enjoy Scary Boo during regular theme park hours from September 29- October 29, 2017. The park is decorated with scarecrows, cornstalks, a hay maze, and more. Children 12 and under receive a goodie bag for completing a scavenger hunt and can wear costumes. There is even the “Spooky Zoo” petting zoo with creepy crawlers like snakes, lizards, and, tarantulas for an additional fee.
But Gilroy Gardens isn’t done during the day. Halloween@Night lights up the park with not-so-scary decorations and photo opps in the evenings too. There are no rides operating at night but young kids can wear costumes and trick or treat at 6 strategic locations in the park.
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 at Speisekammer (Alameda)
Even with the beer flowing freely, Oktoberfest events are usually quite family-friendly. My little hometown of Alameda hosts quite the celebration at the local German watering hole, Speisekammer. For four Sundays in late September and early October, the restaurant celebrates in family-friendly style with plenty of German food and beer, polka music and dancing, and a jumpy house (haus!) for the kids.
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