Fall Bucket List! 36 Autumn Activities for Families

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Fall has arrived! And, there’s no better time to craft a bucket list of activities and outings your whole family will love than at the start of a new season. One of the coolest things about creating a family bucket list is taking the time to think about what you all love doing (especially if it only comes around once a year!). From the little everyday things, like filling your cart with the best pumpkin spice goodies of the season, to bigger adventures like heading to Brick-or-Treat at LEGOLAND, we’ve got three dozen activities for San Diego families that will make this an extra-awesome autumn.

1. Indulge in everything pumpkin spice. Transition from summer to fall like a true San Diegan. Pack your surf-loving crew and your favorite fall-inspired goodies and head to a family-friendly beach

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

3. Get the face paint ready and celebrate Día de Los Muertos (aka Day of the Dead). Here's everything you need to know about this special holiday.  

4. Celebrate the season at LEGOLAND's Bricktacular Halloween. Starting at 11:30 am on the day of your visit, the fam can experience six themed trick-or-treating locations, meet with spooky LEGO characters like Lord Vampyre and check out shows that include The Groovin’ Graveyard. Also, the Park is open after dark at the only kid-focused Halloween event in Southern California, every Saturday in October. Enjoy rides open late, trick-or-treating, live entertainment, Halloween décor, and more!

5. Take a hike! Enjoy the cool crisp air of autumn on a hike you haven't tried before. Here are cool, off-the-beaten-path hikes for kids to get you started.   

6. Catch a live performance under the stars. The Moonlight Youth Theater performs The Wizard of Oz two weekends in October, and you and your family will be dazzled by the iconic music and characters. 

7. Interact and learn about "creepy" critters (and some fluffy ones too!) at Howl-O-Ween Harvest at the Helen Woodward Animal Center! Have a spook-tacular time, pick a mini pumpkin, and depart on an Eerie Expedition.

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. Spend the remaining days of October wisely with free admission to family favorites like SeaWorld, San Diego Air & Space Museum, Japanese Friendship Garden and the USS Midway Museum. From toddlers to tweens there's so much for kids to discover this month and this nifty guide breaks it all down.  

12. Dive deep into Birch Aquarium's Haunted Aquarium. 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! Face coverings are required for this event. 


20. Pick up a delicious, gluten-free treat! Swing by The Gluten-Free Baking Company in North Park and pick up some delicious and treats in fall flavors like apple-maple or ginger-chocolate, 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.

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. Party at the Pacific Beachfest. Kids are welcome at San Diego's premier beach festival. The youngest dudes and dudettes will love the beachside rides as well as other free fun games and activities.  

30. Go on a hayride. A hayride 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.


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. Order fresh, seasonal produce from a local San Diego CSA 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. Grab your little foodie and hit one of the 90 restaurants participating in San Diego Restaurant Week. It's the perfect opportunity to try someplace new. 

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

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.

––Aimee Della Bitta, Jeannette Swanson & Beth Shea


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