Now that we’ve officially transitioned into fall, it’s time to get into the spirit of the season—even if the warm weather won't cooperate. From corn mazes to apple picking, here are some ideas to put you in an autumn frame of mind.
Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival
Nothing says fall quite like the appearance of a certain popular orange gourd, and Half Moon Bay’s world-famous festival celebrates the pumpkin like no place else. Monday before the event, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off pits (gigantic) gourd against gourd to determine the world’s heavyweight pumpkin champion. The winner and runner-ups are on display during the festival, Oct. 14-15, which features other pumpkin- and harvest-themed attractions.
Corn Maze Adventures
If giant pumpkins aren’t enough to, ahem, squash your fall cravings, how about a huge corn maze? Located just over 20 miles southwest of Sacramento, Cool Patch Pumpkins’ huge corn maze is 40 acres and open through Oct. 31. The Lazy P Farm corn maze in Winnemucca, Nevada, is smaller at just six acres, but there's a fun twist: Its Flashlight Maze evenings let brave visitors, or those with a particularly impressive sense of direction, attempt to navigate the maze in the dark on Friday and Saturday nights. Lazy P’s maze is scheduled to open Sept. 30.
You don’t need to hightail it to New England to experience the colorful splendor of fall’s annual fireworks show. Plenty of tree-rich spots in the West put on their own stunning displays in nuanced shades of yellow, red, and gold. Even California has something to offer. Click the following links for suggestions: Where to See Fall Color in the West | Readers’ top spots in California, Oregon, and Utah | Fall color road trip in Utah
And check out California Fall Color’s regularly updated Fall Foliage Map for peak viewing times in the Golden State:
Harvest in Wine Country
For a different kind of fall color showing, look no further than your nearest wine country. The leaves on the vines take on autumn’s brightest hues, reminiscent of the maroons and golds you’ll find in your glass. Harvest usually begins in late summer, but events last through October. Consider checking out the Paso Robles Harvest Wine Weekend in California, or see wineries in action at the two-weekend Crush Festival in Lake Chelan, Washington, Oct. 7-2 and 14-15. In Arizona, 80 miles east of Tucson, visit the Wilcox Wine Country Fall Festival Oct. 21-22. Listen to live music while you sip on varietals from more than a dozen local wineries.
Like pumpkins, apples are a sure sign of autumn’s entrance. Enjoy them every which way at Apple Hill in Placerville, California, an idyllic home for dozens of farms and apple orchards. In Washington state, BelleWood Acres in Lynden is a u-pick paradise with multiple varieties and a train that takes visitors through the orchards. Take home gobs of sweet Jonagolds from nearby Apple Creek Orchards, which opens Sept. 30. Or skip the snacking and picking, and go straight to sipping with a refreshing cider tour. Click here for some stops to include, mostly in Oregon, Washington, and California.
Mendocino Mushroom, Wine, & Beer Festival
On the Northern California coast, earthy mushrooms are the harvest of the season during the annual Mendocino Mushroom, Wine, & Beer Festival. From chanterelles to candy caps, all manner of wild funghi spring from the moist forest floors of Mendocino County. The festival, Nov. 3-12, honors these flavorful treasures with 10 days of activities, including mushroom hunts and wine-paired tasting menus.
San Francisco’s Annual Literary Festival
Sunny fall days in San Francisco don’t always feel particularly of the season, but any bibliophile knows that a good book can cozy things right up. During the annual LitQuake Festival, Oct. 5-14, books, and all things literary, get top billing. The festival’s final event, LitCrawl, is essentially a bar crawl with a literary bent. Fans flock from one venue to another in the Mission to listen to thematic readings by journalists, poets, and novelists. It's a don't-miss experience.