What to Do in Northern California This October

October is perhaps my favorite month in Northern California. The weather tends to be perfect: no rain yet, cool mornings and evenings but warm, sunny days. And fall appears with leaves changing color and all the fall traditions that I love. Ironically, I don’t usually travel much in October because it’s a month with no holidays in my teaching schedules, but even when I can’t get away for weekends, it’s a good time of year for day-trips and days out in my hometown.

Like September, October is an excellent time to visit the coast. The chance for warm(ish), sunny days is higher in early fall, so this is a great time to be in San Francisco or places farther north like MendocinoBodega Bay, and Point Reyes.

But unlike September, October is a much better time to be inland. The hot temperatures of late summer have given way to breezy fall days in the 70s and low 80s, making it a perfect time to be in Sacramento, Napa Valley and the Gold Country. And in the mountains near Lake Tahoe or Yosemite, it’s starting to get cold but with beautiful fall colors and thinner crowds.

What to do Northern California October

Here are my picks for what to do in Northern California this month. I’d love to hear yours!

Fleet Air Show, San Francisco

This famous event in San Francisco draws big crowds for a reason. It’s a family-friendly fun-packed day that brings locals and visitors for a big air show on the water featuring the United States Navy Blue Angels and Canadian Snowbirds.

Where: Marina Green, San Francisco

When: Oct. 6-8

Cost: $55-75

More info here


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, San Francisco

This totally free music festival spans the whole weekend and includes music on several different stages.

Where:  Hellman Hollow, Golden Gate Park (851 John F. Kennedy Dr.)

When: Oct. 6-8

Cost: Free

More info here


San Francisco Street Food Festival, San Francisco

With more than 30 local chefs celebrating the diverse foods and immigrant influences that make up American cuisine

Where: Potrero Power Station, 420 23rd St., San Francisco

When: Oct. 15 starting at 11:00 a.m.

Cost: $5 pre-sale, $10 at the door, kids 5 and under free

More info here


Apple and pumpkin picking, 24Carrot in Apple Hill 

This organic farm in the hills outside Placerville is the perfect spot for fresh products for sale at their farmstand and you-pick pumpkins and apples. Try to come on a weekday to avoid the weekend Apple Hill crowds (although I think this place doesn’t get as crowded as some of the older and better known ones just down the road).

Where: 24Carrot Farm, Placerville

When: Starting 10/9, open daily

Cost: Varies depending on what you pick and buy

More info here and here for Apple Hill, and here for 24Carrot


Sonoma County Home Brewers Competition, Petaluma

More than 60 home brews from Sonoma County and beyond will be available for tasting at the third annual Sonoma County Home Brewers Competition. The festivities will include live music, beer games, and food trucks, plus you can learn about home brewing and vote for your favorite beer.

Where: Scott Street, Petaluma

When: Oct. 7 12:00-6:00

Cost: $15 for non-tasting, $35 for tasting

More info here


Salmon run at Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe

Every year the salmon spawn in Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe, and the crystal clear waters make it easy to watch. The Rainbow Trail is short and easy, and includes aspen trees in beautiful fall colors.

Where: Taylor Creek Visitor Center, South Lake Tahoe, California

When: Through Oct. 31

Cost: Free

More info here and here


A Hometown Halloween Party, Downtown Napa

This event allows little ones to celebrate Halloween in Downtown Napa–businesses will be offering trick-or-treat candy, Disney characters will be on site, and a touch-a-truck area will give kids the chance to learn about safety and meet police officers and firefighters. Napa Coffin Races will take place at Oxbow.

Where: Downtown Napa

When: Oct. 28 11:00-2:00

Cost: Free (and parking is free in downtown Napa)

More info here and here


Hopland Wine Passport weekend, Mendocino County

A two-day event with a concert and 12 wineries serving small bites and their favorite wines.

Where: Hopland, near the Russian River in Mendocino County

When: Oct. 14-15

Cost: $35 for Sunday only, $45 for two days if purchased in advance online

More info here

What ideas do you have for things to do in Northern California in October? 



  • Nutan says:

    Hi dear,
    My husband n me r traveling to USA in November.we r fm India.we will be on a month long vacation to usa.pl guide me

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Nutan,

      How exciting that you will be here for a month. I am not sure how I can guide you because the U.S. is such a large country, and there are many factors that can influence travel decisions, such as budget, interests, etc. If you are coming to Northern California, you can find a lot of information on my site https://thisismyhappiness.com/category/california-u-s/ or you can ask me for some suggestions.
      Have a wonderful trip!

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