photo: Jessica Paterson via Flickr

So long, summer, hello autumn! Soon we’ll be bundling up in soft sweaters, sipping hot cocoa and getting into the Halloween spirit. We’ve got 35 kid-friendly activities to add to your fall bucket list to revel in the season. From kids baking classes full of spooky delights to corn mazes, pumpkin patches and a ride on the Pumpkin Express train, read on for where to make this fall fantastic.

1. Get ‘corn-fused’ in a baffling corn maze down on the farm. Here are 13 ‘a-maize-ing’ local labyrinths kids will love.

2. Fall in love with autumn and the changing foliage at these gloriously colorful San Diego spots where you can enjoy the change of the season.


3. Have bushels of fun apple picking at one of these must-visit u-pick apple orchards.

4. Indulge in the season’s most decadent dessert: s’mores! Here are 15 places to get your s’mores fix… no campfire required.

5. Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND. Don’t miss this super annual event where kids can revel in Halloween themed activities and not-so-spooky fun at the beloved theme park’s monster mash bash.

6. Take a hike! Enjoy the cool crisp air of autumn on a hike along one of our favorite kid-friendly hiking trails.

7. Get into the groove with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins at the Disney Junior Dance Party.

8. Celebrate fall by attending one of our top picks of the best fall festivals in the city.

9. Enter the kid’s pumpkin contest at the Fall Harvest Festival at City Farmers Nursery.

photo: Justin Young via Unsplash

10. Visit a local farm to learn about planting and harvesting and to let those little hands dig in the dirt.

11. Add some spice to your coffee. Please your taste buds with the flavor of the season and order a pumpkin spice latte from your favorite local coffee shop. Don’t miss our list of local, kid-friendly coffee shops we love.

12. Kids go free this October. Fill up your October with free admission to family favorites like Birch Aquarium, The New Children’s Museum and The USS Midway Museum.

13. Go on a nature walk. Mission Trails Regional Park hosts a Family Discovery Walk the fourth Sun. of each month. Families will learn how the park changes in autumn and will go home with fun tidbits to share such as what trees lose their leaves, which flowers will bloom and what traveling birds will come to nest.

photo: Julia Raasch via Unsplash

14. Go pumpkin picking and decorate a pumpkin. First visit a pumpkin patch that’s ripe for the picking, then decorate your gourd! For tots too young to carve a pumpkin face, try painting or adding stickers to bring a jack-o’-lantern to life.

15. Visit Old Town: a neighborhood rich in character. The architecture in Old Town is slightly reminiscent of the town in Hocus Pocus and its personality is lively! You can trick-or-treat in Old Town on Halloween from 4-6:30 p.m.

16. Break out the muffin tins. Your muffin tins may have been hibernating over the summer, but now is the time to warm up the house with some homemade baking. Make pumpkin muffins for a snack on the go or to accompany a school lunch.

photo: Sugar Sweet Farm via Yelp

17. Talk to the animals at one of our favorite petting farms and zoos.

18. Acquire some creepy, crawly baking skills. Bake up a trio of frightful treats at Sur La Table the 27th and 28th of October. Bakers ages 8-12 will return home with a scary medley of frightful spiderweb brownies, claw cupcakes and mummy cookies. But don’t worry, they’re more than good enough to eat!

19. Treat the birds. Make an edible treat in the form of a pine cone bird feeder for your backyard feathered friends. Go on a pine cone walk or find some cones at a local craft store and get to work on their sweet treat. Here are some simple DIY bird feeder tutorials for kids to try.

20. All aboard! Go down to the station for a ride or two on the choo choo. The Balboa Park Mini Train and Poway-Midland Railroad offer rides throughout the year, but you’ll get some spooks if you dare to ride The Pumpkin Express at the Pacific Southwest Railway.

21. Visit an indoor playground. Temperatures might soon be a little brisk to be playing near the bay and your favorite indoor play center offers the perfect solution. Your littles can frolic til their heart’s content at Kid Ventures in Liberty Station or the newish indoor wonderland for kids to hit the scene: The Backyard at The Nat.

photo: Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash

22. Make a Halloween sensory bin. If you have an extra pumpkin that you bought along with the one that was decorated with paint and stickers, scoop out the guts and put them in a small plastic tub or Ziploc bag for some sensory play. Your tot is sure to think it’s the silliest thing to play with gooey pumpkin innards.

23. Have a spooky dance party. Host an impromptu living room dance party with your best dance partner. They’re sure to love the “Monster Mash,” “Purple People Eater” and “Ghostbusters.”

24. Go camping. Imagine a crackling campfire with s’mores and a lighthearted Halloween story before snuggling into your sleeping bag and you’ve got a fall-worthy activity. Check out some of our favorite camping sites for families to see where to set up camp.

25. How ’bout them apples? The apples are crisp for the picking, eating and baking in Julian. Click here for some of the best places we found for each occasion.

26. Julian day trip anyone? While you’re at it, go explore the quaint mountain town of Julian with help from our handy guide.

photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

27. Spoon up some cocoa. Make hot chocolate kits and gift them to your neighbors, friends or teachers. As the outdoor temperatures slightly dip, our bellies will welcome a warm and chocolaty treat. These are the best sweet spots for hot chocolate all over town.

28. Are you ready for some football? The Chargers may have left town, but you can watch your favorite teams on television. To some, the sound of whistles blowing and crowds cheering for a touchdown is just as much a sign of the season as is the pumpkin spice latte. Make your favorite shareable dish to munch on between quarters for an even better time.

29. Fly me to the moon. The hot air balloon at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park will make you feel as if you’re actually rising to the moon. The balloon is massive and it gives its passengers a panoramic view of the park. The ride is no more than 12 minutes and it can easily be added to your day once you’re at the park.

30. Go on a hay ride. A hay ride might as well be the official mode of transportation of autumn. Visit Oma’s Pumpkin Patch or Bates Nut Farm for a ride pulled by a tractor and an all-inclusive pumpkin patch experience.

photo: Pixabay

31. Go on a family bike ride. Feel the wind in your hair and the spirit of childhood while riding bikes along one of these awesome family-friendly bike paths.

32. Have a picnic and bask in the cooler weather. Here are our fave spots to pick up picnic food to-go and where to put down your blanket nearby.

33. Bundle up and go stargazing. Look up at how the stars shine for you at one of these stargazing spots that are sure to put a twinkle in your eye.

34. Get fishy at Birch Aquarium’s Haunted Aquarium Sea Monster Mash where you’ll discover glowing beasts and get sticky with slime.

35. Sink your teeth into a mouthwatering donut from an amazing local donut shop. Here’s where to get the goods.

––Jeannette Swanson & Beth Shea


15 Places to ‘Fall’ in Love with Autumn in San Diego

We’re All Ears! 13 ‘A-maize-ing’ Corn Mazes Near San Diego

Bushels of Fun! U-Pick Apple Orchards to Visit This Fall