10 Things to Do in Fall in San Diego

With a year-round average temperature of 70 degrees, we still enjoy the outdoors in San Diego, even in fall. As an added bonus, the beaches are less crowded even though it's sunny.

Tide pooling is a popular activity in fall and winter during daylight minus tides. Cool little sea creatures reveal themselves in exposed rocky habitats like hermit crabs, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, octopi and more. Two good places for this are La Jolla Shores Beach near Scripps Pier and the Cabrillo National Monument.

We also have a couple of very popular, county-wide events in fall. The first is Kids Free San Diego, which happens in October. During the promotion, kids are free with a paid adult to various museums, theme parks, restaurants, tours, hotels and other fun activities around town. This makes fall one of the most economical times for families to visit San Diego. And, there are also Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebrations to enjoy.

The bottom line is that fall in San Diego equals good weather, less crowds, annual events and some pretty major discounts.


Del Mar horse racing has been a tradition ever since Bing Crosby helped found the track and first greeted fans on opening day in 1937. The fall horse racing season is called Bing Crosby Season in honor of the Hollywood celebrity and horse racing enthusiast. It is four weeks of elite Thoroughbred racing, fun events like Taste of the Turf Club where every Sunday, Chef Brian Malarkey prepares a different menu in the exclusive Turf Club. You can even head to the track on Thanksgiving Day for a special brunch. Kids are welcome to join in the fun, too, and a variety of tickets are available to suit all budgets.

There is so much to do here that it's hard to begin and the beach overall is less crowded in fall. It's one of the best beaches to learn surfing, scuba and stand-up-paddle boarding because of the sandy bottom and ease of getting into the ocean. Entry to La Jolla's Underwater Marine Park full of sea life is here. A nice playground, Kellogg Park, offers tots a break from the beach while boot camp, yoga and running enthusiasts have space on the big grassy area to burn calories. Just a few minutes walk away are the shops and restaurants of Avenida de la Playa. And, during low tides in fall, the tide pools near Scripps Pier reveal themselves.

If it's major league baseball time, as fall is, why not grab some tickets to a Padres home game at PETCO park if they're in town? Not only does PETCO park have the best sight lines in baseball, there are also great views of San Diego from some spots. Innovative design features make it an intimate sports viewing environment and there are also state-of-the-art amenities and awesome food spots inside. Tailgating prior to games is permitted on a limited basis so check PETCO Park's website for details. Driving and parking at the game is relatively easy with 9000 spots designated specifically for Padres fans. The ballpark is operated in an eco-friendly manner due to the Padres' commitment to green practices.


San Diego Beer Week kicks off with Guild Fest at the Embarcadero South in downtown San Diego. Here, guests will enjoy samples from more than 60 San Diego County breweries and feel good about doing so. The event raises funds for local charities (this year, it's I Love a Clean San Diego) in addition to the San Diego Brewers Guild. Over 250 other events are held throughout the week around the county including a grand finale Beer Garden at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It's an awesome change to celebrate San Diego's beer culture and find new suds to enjoy.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Old Town celebrates Dia de los Muertos in style this year between November 1-4. Visitors will be able to take a look at numerous altars of remembrance presented in both traditional and contemporary ways. Museum altars will also commemorate the people who lived and worked in Old Town during the 1800s. There is also a public altar where people are encouraged to leave their own mementos and tributes. This part of San Diego is considered the birthplace of California. The historic park includes several original adobes as well as a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, carriage collection and a museum filled with artifacts. Surrounding the park are some of San Diego's best Mexican restaurants, famous for homemade tortillas and fish bowl-sized margaritas. A perfect family day here would include exploring the park and its museums before a meal. Then digest by browsing the nearby shops.

East County

Five generations of the Bates family have owned and operated the Bates Nut Farm. It started out as a walnut farm but they now sell nuts from all over the world in addition to other old-fashioned delights. Shopping is part of what you do here and not-to-be-missed is are the candy barrels and other specialty items in the huge shop. But fall is when many families make an annual trek out to the farm to celebrate the seasons. Bates Nut Farm has a petting zoo, straw maze, fall activities and a 15-acre pumpkin patch where you can take out a wheelbarrow in search of your perfect pumpkin.

Cabrillo National Monument
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Don't leave San Diego without visiting the Cabrillo National Monument, perched high on the cliffs at the end of the Pt. Loma peninsula. You'll be awed by the spectacular view onto San Diego Bay, downtown San Diego, and the mountains looming beyond the skyline. Pose for a photo in front of the massive statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who sailed into port under the Spanish flag in 1542. A museum, run by the National Park Service, tells the story of San Diego's discovery through films and displays. Wander through the Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse, built in 1854, to see how life was then for the lighthouse keeper and his family. Some of San Diego's best tide pools are here.

The picturesque town of Julian, itself a registered historic landmark, got its start during a minor gold rush in the 1870s. Located about an hour out of San Diego, it's a great destination for a day trip especially in fall when it's apple season. In addition to gold panning, carriage rides, browsing through the museum, touring a candy factory, or shopping at the town's quaint antique shops, visitors can go apple picking and bring home as many as they can eat. Any time of year, apple pie is a Julian must-eat. And during one fall weekend is the Apple Days festival (September 23, 2018) with games, food vendors, beer gardens and so much more.

LEGOLAND California
Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

Brick-or-Treat Party Nights happen on Saturdays at the end of September and throughout October. Kids can get another wear out of their costumes here and participate in dance parties, crafts, safe trick-or-treating and much more. Note that a separate admission ticket is required. LEGOLAND California is one of San Diego's most popular theme parks, a 40-minute drive north from Downtown San Diego. The SEA LIFE Aquarium next door offers educational and hands on exhibits and a walk-through tunnel where you can view sting-rays and other sea creatures swim right in front of your eyes. Note that if planning a weekday visit, it's important to check their calendar as they are not open daily during off-peak season. Halloween decorations are everywhere regardless of when you visit.

Kids Free San Diego is an annual event where kids go free with a paid adult to over one hundred theme parks, museums, tours, restaurants, hotels and other attractions around town for the entire month of October. This includes LEGOLAND California, San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and many other famous and otherwise expensive attractions to visit. The promotion applies to residents and tourists which makes October one of the best months to get out and about as a family in San Diego. It is easy savings to take advantage of. You'll just need to make sure to purchase a qualifying ticket.


Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie