As autumn arrives and the summer air cools, you and your little pumpkins can celebrate the season by enjoying one of San Diego’s many fall festivals and Oktoberfests. From chicken dances and Bavarian pretzels to hayrides, yodeling contests and fun zones for kids, read on for the best fall festival near you.

Fiestas Partias

Immerse yourself in Old Town San Diego this fall to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. Join the festivities that begin with the ringing of the bell at historic Casa de Estudillo at 11 a.m. Then let the dancing begin with historic and traditional music, crafts, games and information demonstrations that show what life was like for the early settlers in the 1800s. Then eat a taco or enchilada at famous Fiesta De Reyes and explore all the cool shops. One kid favorite is the Miner's Gems and Minerals shop where they can pan for precious stones for a fee. 

Date: Sat., Sep. 14
Time: 11 a.m.
Cost: Free admission. Bring money for food, drink, rides and vendors.

Old Town San Diego
4002 Wallace St.
San Diego, CA 92110

Pacific Islander Festival

Aloha! Experience the culture and customs of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia with entertainment, food, music and specialty crafts at the Pacific Islander Festival. From BBQ short ribs and chicken to giant slushies and banana donuts, you'll love the specialty food at this fun festival. 

Date: Sep. 21 & 22
Cost: Free admission. Bring money for food, drink and vendors.

Mission Bay's Ski Beach
Vacation Rd.
San Diego, CA 92109

Encinitas Oktoberfest

Dancing in the streets! Young movers and shakers can don their chicken hats and flap their wings to the sound of music. Even little wallflowers will join the merriment because everyone looks silly doing the Oktoberfest chicken dance. What's more, you'll find fall food like giant pretzels and German beer (for grownups of course!) with plenty of other eats. Also, there's face painting, crafts and a fun zone for half-pints and over 200 vendors selling their wares. Don't miss this fun festival!

Date: Sun., Sep. 29
Time: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free admission, Bring money for food, drink and rides.

Mountain Vista Dr.
Encinitas, CA 92024

photo: El Cajon Oktoberfest

El Cajon Oktoberfest

Kick up your heels to the oom-pah music at this traditional fest where you’ll polka and waltz as well as do the chicken dance. Put on by the German American Societies of San Diego, this is the most traditional Oktoberfest in town. Enjoy classic fare like bratwurst, potato pancakes, and sauerkraut, alongside a large variety of German beers. Half-pints can nosh on pretzels, play festival games and create crafts in the Kid Zone. Sunday is chicken hat day. Wear your most outrageous chicken hat and join in the fun.

Dates: Sept. 27-29 & Oct. 4-6
Hours: Fri., 4-10 p.m.; Sat., noon-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-9 p.m.
Cost: Fri. & Sat., $10/adult; Sun., $5/adult; children are free

German American Societies Oktoberfest
1017 S. Mollison Ave.
El Cajon, CA 92020

La Mesa Oktoberfest

Let the good times roll! The largest San Diego Oktoberfest has a Kinder Karneval for little festival-goers with a giant Ferris wheel, rock climbing wall and an inflatable slide. Even more, you'll find a brat-eating contest and interactive art, a stein-holding contest and scavenger hunts to watch and play. For eats, there are over 50 food vendors including pizza, bratwurst, and Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Finally, visit Dachshund Village and watch the wiener dog races, a dog fashion show, howling contests and more.

Dates: Oct. 4-6
Times: Fri., 4-10 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free admission. Bring money for food, drink, rides and other vendors.

8401 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91942

Carlsbad Oktoberfest & Family Fall Festival

The Carlsbad Rotary Oktoberfest is a family tradition among locals. Join the revelry and eat apple strudel, visit the pumpkin patch, enter the yodeling contest and Halloween costume contest. You'll also enjoy face painting, a bounce house, fire engine and a stage dedicated to children's music.

Good to know: No pets allowed in the park.

Date: Sat., Oct. 5
Time: noon-9 p.m.
Cost: $15/person presale (includes meal); children 9 and under free admission (meal extra). Order presale tickets online. Price goes up the day of the event. 

Holiday Park
3400 Pio Pico Dr.
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Pumpkin Festival

Fall fun! Head to Bates Nut Farm for handmade arts and crafts where up-cycled, recycled, restored, vintage, antique, and handmade wares will be offered with a large variety of jewelry, woodworking, candles, soaps, fine art, and more. Additionally, the famous Pumpkin Patch will be open so little ones can take a tractor hayride, run through the straw maze, hop on the pony rides, pet the animals, and eat up from the many choices of food. Even more, you can score fall decorations and food to take home with you.

Date: Oct. 5 & 6
Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free admission. Parking $5. Bring money for food and vendors.

Bate's Nut Farm
15954 Woods Valley Road
Valley Center, CA 92082

Rendezvous in Poway

Stroll back in time to the 1800s as history comes alive at the annual Rendezvous at Old Poway Park. Cowboys and pioneers put on family-friendly reenactments of gun fights and train robberies. Pan for gold and ride the speeder train. An old time craft fair, the Nelson House and the Heritage Museum are open to explore as well. 

Dates: Oct. 5-6
Times: Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Cost: Free, nominal fee to ride the train

Old Poway Park
14134 Midland Rd. 
Poway CA 92064

Harvest Festival

Are you a gift-giving diva? Find unique gifts and get your holiday shopping off to an early start at the Harvest Festival in Del Mar. Browse through hundreds of artisans selling jewelry, ceramics, toys and art. Strolling musicians, a cowboy on stilts and free crafts will entertain the kiddos. You’ll find lots of food options with shaded seating just outside the exhibit halls.

Dates: Oct. 11-13
Times: Fri. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: $9/adults; $4/kids (12-17 years); kids 12 and under free; There is a fee for parking.

Del Mar Fairgrounds
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
Del Mar, CA 92014

photo: Alta Vista Botanical Garden

Alta Vista Botanical Fall Fun Festival

Get the whole family into nature and share a day filled with art and music. Little ones will love relay races, bobbing for apples, a drum circle and face painting. A scarecrow decorating contest is a time honored tradition at this event. For $2, families can create their own unique scarecrow to add to the Garden’s fall ambience and win fun prizes. For the adults, there's live music, a huge plant sale and the Garden’s extensive art exhibits. Ample parking is available in the adjacent Moonlight Amphitheater parking lot.

Date: Sat., Oct. 12
Time: 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Cost: Free

1270 Vale Terrace Dr.
Vista, CA 92084

photo: Horse Heritage Festival

Horse Heritage Festival

Got a unicorn-obsessed little one at home? For a few dollars, you can enjoy a day outdoors horsing around with the next best thing—horses. San Marcos’ Horse Heritage Festival offers pony rides, a petting corral, and frontier games. There are also horsemanship demonstrations and a pumpkin patch. You’ll feel good knowing that funds raised during the event support the Horse Heritage Conservancy that connects people and horses year round and helps animals in times of emergency.

Date: Sun., Oct. 20
Time: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Cost: There is a cost for rides.

Walnut Grove Park
1950 Sycamore Dr.
San Marcos CA 92069

photo: Eder Escamilla

16th Annual Point Loma Fall Festival

Only in San Diego will you find a pumpkin patch with ocean views. Point Loma’s fall festival offers the best of autumn fun with wagon rides, a pumpkin patch, music from local musicians, and exhibit booths showcasing San Diego businesses, artisans, and nonprofit organizations. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. you can also sample food from local eateries at the Taste of Point Loma.

Good to know: The parking lot fills early, so look for the shuttle if you arrive and the structures are full.

Date: Sat. Oct. 26
Time: 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Cost: Free

Point Loma Nazarene
3900 Lomaland Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106

photo: Balboa Park Conservancy

Balboa Park’s Halloween Family Day

Can’t wait for Halloween to dress up? Don your costumes a few days early and join in a day of family fun in Balboa Park. Over two dozen participating museums and cultural attractions present free crafts for kids, costume parades and contests, Day of the Dead-themed activities, and tons of spooky surprises. Live music and dance performances, food trucks, and free candy round out the spooktacular day. 

Good to Know: Free admission for kids 12 and younger with each paying adult at participating museums during the event.

Date/Time: Oct. 26, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101


––Cherie Gough & Nikki Walsh


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