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Arts & Culture

San Diego's family-friendly fall events you can't miss this year

Helen Woodward Animal Center

It’s that time of year again when everyone starts to dust off their boots and jackets (or in San Diego’s case, when many start adding on some socks with their sandals). There’s no shortage of events happening this season — jam-packed with everything from apple picking and fall festivals to Halloween and Día de los Muertos events. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly ones you won’t want to miss.

Cozy up to fall

Usher out summer and welcome in fall by visiting one of several apple orchards surrounding San Diego County. Pick your favorite variety of apple and then head home to whip up a delicious apple treat. Orchards include Crosscut Farm and Orchard and Volcan Valley Apple Farm. Be sure to check their websites before you head out as some farms may run out of apples soon.

The Kumeyaay New Year, which falls on the autumnal equinox, signals the end of the pinyon nut gathering season and the start of the acorn gathering season. Join Kumeyaay Community College at their student-built Kumeyaay Village on Cuyamaca College's Campus for food, games, and cultural demonstrations. Free. Sept. 22 from 5 - 7 p.m.

Belmont Park

Belmont Park’s Fall Festival is back again at Mission Beach. This groovy celebration offers fun activities for both kids and adults, including iconic amusement park rides, Mr. Jack O' Lantern’s Pumpkin Patch, live music, seasonal beer-on-tap and specialty fall treats across the park. There’s also free trick or treating on Sundays in October and a trunk or treat car show on Oct. 29. Festival runs from Sept. 9 - Oct. 31.

Julian Autumn Jubilee is just what you’re looking for to welcome in the fall season. Relax under the autumn blue sky overlooking Volcan Mountain while you enjoy u-pick veggies, a pumpkin patch, hayrides, cider pressing and live music. Tickets $20-$25. Runs from Sept. 23 - Oct. 28.

The 31st annual San Marcos Harvest Fest features an artisan market, kids festival with carnival rides, beer and wine garden, and live entertainment on two stages. Free. Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The Fall Back Festival is a free children’s historical street fair in the heart of downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Kids can learn about San Diego’s rich cultural history by participating in an assortment of activities and demonstrations taking place in front of the Davis-Horton House on 4th and Island Avenue. Free. Nov. 5.

Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch


Get in the Halloween spirit

Pumpkin patches abound in San Diego County from Bonita to Escondido. Some crowd favorites to check out include Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch in Valley Center, Bonita Pumpkin Farm, Oma’s Pumpkin Patch in Lakeside and the Pumpkin Patch at Liberty Station.

The Pumpkin Express at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum is sure to be a hit for your train-loving kiddos. Ride Halloween themed vintage rail cars or stroll through the pumpkin patch at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. Costs $7 - $30 and runs daily from Oct. 7 - 29.

HowlOWeen Harvest Family Festival at the Helen Woodward Animal Center is another great holiday opportunity for the animal lovers in your life. Get into the Halloween spirit with your little ghouls and goblins as you enjoy hands-on animal encounters, trick-or-treat stations, crafts, face painting, a mini pumpkin patch, and entry into their Spooky Vet Clinic if you dare. Costs $7-13.75 and runs Oct. 14, 21, 28, 29.

Friends of Oceanside Día de los Muertos

The 22nd Annual Oceanside Día de los Muertos festival transforms downtown Oceanside into a vibrant family-friendly event complete with altars, traditional dancers, a classic car show, and shopping mercado. This free event is on Sunday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Howl-o-Ween Costume Contest is a chance for you to dress up your dog in their most fashionable attire and enter to win the fluffiest pageant you've ever laid eyes on. This all ages event hosted at the San Diego Central Public Library is free but registration is recommended. Oct. 28 from 2 - 4 p.m.

Looking for even more family-friendly Halloween fun? Get those season passes out and head over to Birch Aquarium, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo or Sesame Place to check out their frighteningly fun entertainment.

Spine tingling scares

The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park is scarier than ever this year with two haunts in one — the 3,500 square foot eXperiment Maze and a mile long terrifying outdoor trail through twisted pines and gnarled oaks. Please note that the Haunted Trail is NOT recommended for children under the age of 10. Costs $33-$48. Runs Sept. 22 - Oct. 31.

Fright for Future is perfect for those looking for a little more existential dread. Located at the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park, Fright for Future is a haunted maze of “true terrors” bringing scary issues such as climate change, pollution, and animal rights to light this Halloween. This free event is recommended for ages 10 and up and runs Oct. 13-15.

Cinema Under The Stars has all the spooky classic films your twisted heart could ever desire. Starting with showings of the cult classic "Young Frankenstein" from Oct. 20-22 and ending with Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho" from Oct 27-29. Costs $17-$20.

The Haunted Ghost Town offers an all-ages option for those looking to get their scare on this Halloween season. Set among restored historic buildings, this immersive, family-friendly experience combines authentic details, rich storytelling based on local legends and the dark history of the Gold Rush. Nightly tours are available Oct. 20-22 and Oct. 27-30. Admission is $12 for children ages 10 and under, and $22 for adults. Get your tickets here.

This is the place to find news, information and resources to help you make decisions about the children under your care and support you in this adventure we call "parenting."