When autumn arrives and the summer beach crowds diminish, visitors to San Diego can relish in the region’s sunny mild weather and enjoy a number of fun-filled fall activities to enhance their vacation getaway.
During San Diego’s shoulder season, visitors can find a variety of annual festivals and fairs, haunting Halloween celebrations and diverse cultural entertainment.
FAIRS, FESTIVALS AND PARADES
A San Diego tradition “as American as apple pie” is the popular Annual Julian Fall Apple Harvest, September through October, celebrating this historic mountain town’s famous homemade apple pies and ciders. Visitors can also enjoy acres of colorful fall foliage, apple picking in local orchards, charming bed and breakfast inns, art shows, quaint antique shops, horse-drawn carriage rides and live entertainment. www.julianca.com/events/index.htm
The Julian Apple Days Festival on Oct. 6-7 at Menghini Winery features music and dancing, children’s games and activities, gold panning demonstrations, a wine and beer garden, food and merchandise vendors, apple-related contests, the coronation of Mr. and Mrs. Apple Days and, of course, Julian’s famous apple pies. The festival runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days.
Bratwurst, beer gardens and oompah bands can only mean one thing—Oktoberfest! A number of communities throughout San Diego County celebrate this traditional German holiday, but Oktoberfest in La Mesa, Oct. 5-7, and Oktoberfest in El Cajon, Sept. 28-30 and Oct. 5-7, are two of the largest festivals of their kind on the U.S. West Coast. Visitors can enjoy dancing, German food, Bavarian bands and hundreds of crafts and commercial booths along La Mesa Boulevard in La Mesa and Mollison Avenue in El Cajon.
Cooler temperatures and the picturesque desert landscape welcome visitors to the 47th Annual Borrego Days Desert Festival, Oct. 26-28, in Borrego Springs, East County’s desert oasis town. This popular free celebration features a parade on Oct. 27 with marching bands, floats, classic cars, equestrian groups and Grand Marshal Ricardo Breceda, the local renowned artist who created the unique menagerie of eye-catching, metallic animal sculptures called Galleta Meadows, located on the outskirts of town. The festival also includes the Miss Borrego pageant, live entertainment, a carnival, food vendors, a beer garden, pony rides, a classic car and motorcycle show and more.
The 12th annual Gaslamp Quarter Fall Back Festival brings alive the history and culture of downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Held on Island Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets, the event occurs from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Nov. 4 and features food, live music, historic activities like butter churning and gold panning, spaghetti and pie eating contests, children’s arts and crafts and more.
On Nov. 18, the 66th Annual Mother Goose Parade, the largest parade in San Diego County, brings crowds of spectators to the city streets of El Cajon. Featuring whimsical floats, clowns, bands, equestrians and celebrity appearances, the parade is a cherished local tradition and the annual kick-off to the winter holiday season.
On Sept. 9, Old Town San Diego hosts the Tequila Trail, where guests can sample traditional Mexican dishes from Old Town’s many restaurants. Participating restaurants also offer tasting selections of tequila, mezcal and bacanora.
San Diego’s culinary community joins forces during Sept. 16-21 for San Diego Restaurant Week. Approximately 180 of the region’s top restaurants offer prix-fixe, three-course dinner menus. Visitors can sample the signature cuisine and sophisticated style that makes San Diego’s dining scene one of the region’s top attractions.
The 18th Annual San Diego Festival of Beer goes on tap Sept. 21 in downtown San Diego. Seventy-five local and regional brewers will be in attendance, providing samples and tastings of their signature and award-winning beers. The event will also feature live music, vendors, food booths and more.
On Sept. 30, the Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla hosts the 10th Annual Celebrate the Craft culinary showcase. Renowned chefs, vintners and produce growers from across California gather for gourmet cooking demonstrations which highlight an enthusiasm for natural ingredients and innovative cooking and winemaking.
Guests can enjoy “island fare in the ocean air” during the popular annual Taste of Coronado from 5:30-9 p.m. on October 17, featuring several local restaurants. Shuttles transport guests between restaurants.
During Nov. 2-11, hundreds of beer-centric events will take place during San Diego Beer Week, a countywide festival that highlights San Diego’s award-winning craft beer, breweries and pubs; event dates, times and locations vary throughout the week.
The 9th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, the region’s largest wine and culinary event, takes place Nov. 14-18 on the Embarcadero Marina Park North, located next to Seaport Village, and other venues throughout downtown San Diego. The festival features gourmet food, celebrity chefs, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and more.
ART & SOL
The inaugural Medium Festival of Photography takes place from Sept. 6-8 at downtown’s W Hotel San Diego, featuring lectures and workshops by leading photographers from around the U.S., as well as opportunities for budding photographers to present their portfolios to gallery and museum representatives.
The 4th Annual Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair on Sept. 6-9 in Balboa Park showcases nearly 70 contemporary art galleries, exhibitions by local and international artists, food and wine events and interactive art labs.
On Sept. 8, the San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas hosts an evening of flowers, food, wine and fine art during their 13th Annual Gala in the Garden: A Celebration of Nature, Art & James Hubbell. Guests can soak up beautiful floral designs as they stroll the lush gardens and enjoy live music.
Coronado Art Walk on September 15-16 at the Coronado Ferry Landing is the city’s annual celebration of the arts, featuring outdoor exhibits of paintings, photography, ceramics, hand-crafted jewelry and other mediums by over 100 artists from around the country, plus musical entertainment and interactive art activities for guests of all ages. Admission is free, and a complimentary shuttle transports guests along Orange Avenue with a stop at the popular Art-in-the-Park exhibit in Spreckels Park.
The San Diego International Film Festival returns Sept. 26-30 to downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter with a full slate of films showcasing the best in American and International full-length features, documentaries and shorts. Additional activities include Q&A sessions with the directors, workshops, panel discussions, guest appearances by film and video artists and more.
Southern California’s largest free two-day musical festival, the 31st Annual Adams Avenue Street Fair returns Sept. 29-30 to Normal Heights with three beer gardens, six stages and more than 70 musical acts, performing rock, country, folk, TexMex and more. It also features arts and crafts, carnival rides, food vendor booths and street performances.
Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System present the 14th Annual Trolley Dances, Sept. 29-30 and Oct. 6-7. Guests riding the San Diego Trolley are treated to site-specific choreographed dance performances at unexpected locations along the trolley’s Orange line starting at Grossmont Center in La Mesa. Dances take inspiration from the surroundings and energy at six trolley stops along the route.
On Oct. 6-7, the Old Town San Diego Art Festival features more than 40 contemporary artists, craftsman, fashion and home décor artisans, plus wine tastings, international food sampling and live music.
Held along upper Girard Avenue in the village of La Jolla, the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival on Oct. 13-14 showcases over 150 juried fine artists. The fair also features a wine and beer garden, live entertainment, a gourmet marketplace and the Geppetto’s/Witt Lincoln Family Art Center.
During Nov. 1-9, the 13th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival presents films, videos and workshops that celebrate the work of Asian artists from around the world. Screenings are held at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinema in Hazard Center and showcase feature films, shorts and animation.
Showcasing more than 25 bands from throughout the United States and Canada, the 33rd Annual San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival during Nov. 21-25 at the Town & Country Resort in Mission Valley presents nationally acclaimed musical performances to kick-off the holiday season.
Visitors can become a part of history and celebrate the discovery of California during the 49th Annual Cabrillo Festival on Sept. 29-30. Guests enjoy cultural festivities, educational activities, music, food, dancing and a reenactment of the landing by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo on the shores of San Diego Bay in 1542.
The 18th Annual Pacific Islander Festival on Sept. 22-23 is a free event that showcases the cultures and customs of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia with continuous entertainment throughout the weekend. Held at Mission Bay’s Ski Beach, the event also features food, music and specialty crafts unique to each culture.
Little Italy in downtown San Diego presents the 18th Annual Little Italy Festa on Oct. 14. A grand celebration of Italian culture, this traditional street festival offers music, fine foods, specialty crafts and Gesso Italiano, a classic Italian street chalk painting exhibition.
Visitors can explore the Mexican traditions of the Day of the Dead in Old Town San Diego, where more than 25 museums, restaurants and shops participate in a community-wide celebration of Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 1-2, creating traditional Mexican altars and offerings to departed loved ones. A candlelight procession from the Whaley House to El Campo Santo cemetery to make offerings to Old Town’s earliest families at their gravesites tops off the unique cultural experience.
Halloween makes a splash at SeaWorld San Diego during its Halloween Spooktacular at SeaWorld celebration. This family friendly progrom features trick-or-treat stations, a Sesame Street-themed Halloween show, special Halloween-themed sea lion show and interactive Halloween characters along the pathways of the park. The event takes place every weekend in October.
LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad joins in the Halloween fun every Saturday in October with its annual Brick-or-Treat celebration, featuring a one-of-a-kind, 4-ft. tall LEGO jack-o-lantern. Children ages 12 and under can participate in fun-filled costume contests and trick-or-treat with a souvenir goodie bag along the park’s Brick-or-Treat Trail, featuring a kid-sized cul-de-sac of spooky LEGO homes with fun and creepy creatures.
During Sept. 21 - Oct. 31, screamin’ good times await in downtown San Diego at the Gaslamp Quarter’s popular The Haunted Hotel, where guests venture through rooms and hallways inspired by haunts from Hollywood’s favorite horror films.
During Sept. 28 - Oct. 31 at the Haunted Trail of Terror in Balboa Park, guests run for their lives through an outdoor maze of walkways patrolled by creepy spooks and spirits.
During Sept. 28 - Oct. 31, more thrills and chills await guests at the Del Mar Fairground’s massive Scream Zone, with featured frights including a 3-D ghost maze, 25-room house of horror and haunted hayride.
Home of famous resident ghost Kate Morgan, the Hotel del Coronado gets into the spirit of the season during its 3rd annual Hallo-wine and Spirits Party on October 27. On The Del’s ghoulishly-decorated Garden Patio, guests can enjoy grown-up trick-or-treating, DJ music and dancing, along with a variety of wine, cheese and chocolate tastings from the hotel’s ENO wine bar.
Night crawlers enjoy the annual Monster Bash in the Gaslamp Quarter occurring 6 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 27. This annual outdoor music festival takes over the streets of downtown’s historic neighborhood with live musical performances on multiple stages, beer gardens and an extreme costume contest. This ticketed event is for guests ages 21 and older.
San Diego’s uptown community of Hillcrest offers devilish delights during Nightmare on Normal Street, an annual Halloween street party and costume contest on Oct. 27 at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. Festivities include music, food, a beer garden and other ghoulish entertainment.
Hornblower Cruises & Events offers a Thanksgiving Day Buffet Cruise on Nov. 22 that is perfect for entertaining guests without all the hard work in the kitchen. The traditional Thanksgiving buffet is decorated in the holiday spirit and includes all the Thanksgiving favorites, including a glass of champagne upon boarding.
Guests can enjoy an elegant Thanksgiving buffet dinner on November 22 at the Hotel del Coronado’s oceanfront Ballroom and magnificent Crown Room, featuring all the trimmings and live musical entertainment. Also during Thanksgiving weekend, the Del kicks off its holiday programs, including seaside ice-skating and the illumination of thousands of white lights adorning the grand Victorian structure.
Guests can give thanks at a lavish Thanksgiving buffet dinner from 2-7 p.m. in the upstairs Constellation Foyer of Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
SPORTING GOOD TIMES
During Sept. 14-16, the thrilling San Diego Bayfair features thunderboat racing, tunnel hulls, drag boats, hydroplanes, fireworks and concerts, as well as specialty vendors and food, along and on the waters of Mission Bay.
Starting in September, the National Football League’s San Diego Chargers begin their 2012 season with home games at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley. The first home game of the season pits the Chargers against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 16.
The 34thAnnual Superfrog Triathlon jumps into action on September 30. Starting at Silver Strand State Beach, this challenging long-distance triathlon includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike course and 13.1-mile run along one of the most scenic stretches of Southern California coastline.
During the 13th Annual Silver Strand Half Marathon and 5K on November 11, visitors can run, walk, rollerblade or roller-skate from Coronado to Imperial Beach along the scenic Silver Strand. Handcyclists and wheel chair participants are also welcome to participate.
Held Sept. 8 - Oct. 14, Fleet Week San Diego is heralded as the largest military appreciation event in the nation and features a variety of events and activities throughout San Diego.
During September 22-23, guests can enjoy fast-paced fun during the 15th Annual Fleet Week
Speed Festival at Coronado’s Naval Air Station North Island. Held in conjunction with San Diego Fleet Week, the thrilling vintage auto “Race at the Base” features more than 200 classic cars racing a 1.6 mile course along North Island’s runways. Spectators can also stroll through a bustling Vendor Village and Car Show.
Also held in conjunction with San Diego Fleet Week, guests are invited to the NAS North Island Open House on September 23, the only Navy open house on the West Coast. This rare glimpse at the birthplace of naval aviation features free U.S. Navy Ship Tours, including the USS Boxer, USS Halsey and USS Momsen, flyovers, performances by the Navy SEAL Leap Frogs parachute jump team and a multitude of military displays, including Navy jets and helicopters, vintage aircraft, boats and hovercraft.
And on Oct. 12-14, guests can enjoy Fleet Week San Diego’s annual MCAS Miramar Air Show, showcasing several types of aircraft, including vintage biplanes, Air Force Thunderbirds, a Navy Super Hornet and numerous stealth fighter jets. Held at the Marine Corps Air Station in inland North County, the event includes simulated combat demonstrations, a Twilight Show with the Great Wall of Fire and a firework grand finale.