Cozy sweaters, cooler days and plenty of pumpkin spice make everything nice… and so does our bucket list, filled with festive fall activities and outings your whole family will love. Revel in the season by riding the Pumpkin Express train, navigating corn mazes, pumpkin picking, and so much more! Read on for where to have an awesome autumn doing the best fall activities in San Diego for families!
photo: Alan Batt/Pixabay
1. Get ‘corn-fused’ in a baffling corn maze down on the farm. Here are several ‘a-maize-ing’ local labyrinths kids will love.
3. Raise a pinky at The Witches of Westgate Tea. Celebrate witching season with a deliciously magical afternoon tea at the Westgate Hotel, hocus pocus guaranteed. Come dressed in your most bewitching costume and enjoy the Hotel’s renowned afternoon tea complete with house-made pastries, savory tea sandwiches, gourmet teas, and a host of treats with a distinctly wicked twist.
4. Celebrate the season at LEGOLAND‘s Bricktacular Halloween. Halloween in Miniland features character meet and greets, virtual costume contests, a Miniland scavenger hunt, LEGO building activities, and a goody bag filled with candy and a LEGO surprise. Families can enjoy savory food options at Smoke House BBQ and NINJA Kitchen and satisfy sweet cravings with LEGOLAND California’s world-famous Granny’s Apple Fries.
photo: Chip Litherland/LEGOLAND
5. Take a hike! Enjoy the cool crisp air of autumn on a hike along one of our favorite kid-friendly hiking trails.
6. Head to Track or Treat, a Halloween themed event at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. They’ll have different areas around the grounds for kids to get candy and other prizes! Plus keep an eye out for additional games and activities that will be going on during their Antique Engine & Tractor Show. They’ll also have their first ever Pumpkin Patch open for picking your own pumpkin and taking family pictures. Kids in costume get in for free.
7. Enter your pooch in the Howl-o-Ween Doggie Costume contest and parade. Venture over to Bates Nut Farm and bring your pups out to the pumpkin patch dressed in their best Halloween costume.
8. Ride the Pumpkin Express. Climb aboard this beloved seasonal excursion where you can enjoy a train ride, Halloween themed displays and an outdoor Pumpkin Patch.
9. Visit a local farm to learn about planting and harvesting and to let those little hands dig in the dirt.
10. 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 coffee shop. Don’t miss our list of local, kid-friendly coffee shops we love.
11. Kids go free this October. Spend the remaining days of October wisely with free admission to family favorites like San Diego Air & Space Museum, Japanese Friendship Garden and the USS Midway Museum.
12. Dive deep into Birch Aquarium’s Haunted Aquarium Remix. Kids will have the opportunity to learn about and touch spooky creeps of the deep on Tide Pool Plaza, including slimy seaweed, small sharks, rays and other local animals, as well as enjoy a haunted kelp maze, find hidden pumpkins, and explore fun decor throughout the aquarium. Kids are encouraged to dress up!
photo: Laura Green
13. 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.
14. Dress up for Halloween early at Halloween at the Station. Liberty Station invites guests to participate in a virtual costume contest throughout the month of October. Visit Liberty Station sporting your best Halloween costume and strike a pose in front of your favorite spot around campus. Upload your photo to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, making sure to hashtag #HalloweenAtTheStation, to be entered to win prizes.
15. 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: Beth Shea
16. Talk to the animals at one of our favorite petting farms and zoos.
17. Follow the Halloween Trail at Petco Park. Visit Halloween Trail at Petco Park, a socially distanced one-way Halloween-themed pumpkin patch in Gallagher Square where you will have the opportunity to visit various themed booths, collect candy and toys and partake in spooky festivities!
18. 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.
19. Enjoy a Halloween Princess dance class. Not much of a trick, but definitely a treat! Have your kids dress up for Halloween, dance their hearts out and enjoy a special appearance by Princess Aurora. For the month of October, every first time class is only $10, including the Halloween Princess dance class. On Halloween morning, kids ages 3-6 years-old are invited to wear their favorite costume that they can twirl around in and then hang out with Princess Aurora afterwards.
20. Pick up a delicious, gluten-free treat! Swing by The Gluten Free Baking Company in North Park and pick up some delicious and spooky treats like candy cupcakes and donuts or grab a candy apple decorating kit for a fun at-home activity. The bakery will be having a costume celebration from Oct. 29-Nov. 1. Customers that come dressed in costume (no age limit!) will receive a free mini donut or mini cupcake (dairy free and vegan options available). And mark your calendar to visit The Gluten Free Baking Company’s churro cart on Halloween!
21. 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.
22. 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.”
23. 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. Better yet, go enjoy this not-so-spooky Halloween camping adventure at Lake Poway Oct. 30-31!
24. Have bushels of fun apple picking at one of these glorious u-pick apple orchards.
25. Picnic in the park. Grab your car keys and your picnic blanket because we’re telling you all about secret spots to picnic around San Diego paired with nearby take-out food.
26. Visit the Old Town Model Railroad Depot. Here you’ll marvel at trains traveling over a 2,000 sq.ft. layout which features a city at night, including over 100 buildings with lights and flashing neon signs, a ballpark, zoo, depot, industrial district, and even a Drive-In Theatre! Continuing on your journey you will pass a large farm, quaint country town, beautiful mountain range, a large lake and dam with trestles traversing over a large gorge. Click here to learn how to book a private experience with a group of up to 10 people.
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? 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 pumpkin recipe to munch on between quarters for an even better time.
29. Enroll the kids in cooking class! This Halloween baking class is fun and festive and it teaches your kiddos some. kitchen skills! They’ll learn how to make mummy dogs, a spooky calzone snake and more.
30. Go on a hay ride. A hay ride might as well be the official mode of transportation of autumn. Visit Bates Nut Farm for a ride pulled by a tractor and an all-inclusive pumpkin patch experience.
photo: Birch Aquarium
32. Stroll through one of our favorite local farmers markets. Pick out some fresh veggies with your kids and then make a big pot of autumn inspired soup to enjoy as a family.
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. Halloween night drive-in showing of Coco. Pile into the car and take in a family flick at this special drive-in movie event. Don’t forget the treats and snack pack!
36. Indulge in decadent fall desserts at San Diego’s best sweet shops serving up so much beyond pumpkin spice––from seasonal ice cream flavors to show-stopping pies.
––Jeannette Swanson & Beth Shea
featured image: ksenija18kz via iStock