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 Mendocino, Bodega 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
What ideas do you have for things to do in Northern California in October?