12 Things to Do During the Holidays in San Diego

While the holiday season in San Diego may not be your typical snowy winter wonderland, there’s plenty of festive fun to be had in our little slice of paradise! From ice skating by the sea to light parades on the Bay, America’s Finest City has a little something for everyone this time of year. Embrace the opportunity to enjoy must-do activities and experiences during the holidays in San Diego!

Mother Goose Parade

November 18
The Mother Goose Parade is San Diego’s East County’s annual holiday kick-off celebration (and the largest parade in San Diego County!) featuring whimsical floats, clowns, bands, and equestrians. Each year, the Mother Goose Parade attracts thousands of spectators to the streets of El Cajon. More than 100 colorful and exciting parade entries come from around the United States to share in the excitement that is the Mother Goose Parade. The parade entries include spectacular motorized floats, glorious marching bands and drill units, eloquent equestrians, animated clowns, special characters, special guests, performing artists, celebrities, giant helium balloons, specialty vehicles, and of course, Santa Claus.

North Park Toyland Parade

December 1
Celebrate the holiday spirit at the 55th Annual North Park Toyland Parade & Holiday Fair with vintage cars, marching bands, dance groups, beauty queens, and of course, Santa Claus! The historic neighborhood of North Park will warmly welcome friends and family to bundle up and delight in San Diego’s most joyful parade. Gliding down University Avenue between Utah and Iowa Streets, this cheerful pageant will feel like a Winter Wonderland, as melodious marching bands, upbeat dance groups, cool vintage cars, beauty queens and city officials (and more!) warm your spirits. Santa Claus will be riding atop his merry red sleigh and bells will be ringing as loved ones snuggle up in the bright, frosty air.

Ocean Beach Holiday Parade

December 1
This year, the Ocean Beach Town Council is proud to bring you the 39th Annual OB Holiday Parade on Newport Avenue! For nearly 40 years, the quaint little surfing village of Ocean Beach has hosted one of the best Holiday Parades in SoCal; and this year is no different. Watch the Point Loma Marching Band strut their way down the street, or see the SD Roller Derby Dolls in their eye-catching costumes; watch as the VW Beetle club and classic Woodies roll down Newport Ave. There are also motorcycles, bright-lit floats, tons of live music, and of course, Santa Claus, who will make his appearance at the end of the parade.

After the festivities, the nightlife of OB takes off as the locals and visitors celebrate and spread even more Holiday Cheer in one of the many local bars and eateries. People of all ages are invited join us at this fun-filled event – costumes, cheering and laughter are not only welcomed, they are encouraged!

La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

December 2
Spread some holiday cheer at the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival in downtown La Jolla! This fun, family-friendly event is a decades-old La Jolla tradition, and includes marching bands, community groups, drill teams, vintage vehicles, horses, and even a camel! The Holiday Festival begins at 10:30am outside the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, with live entertainment and photos with Santa. The Parade kicks off at 1pm and will head along Girard Avenue.

Little Italy Tree Lighting & Christmas Village

December 1
This holiday season, sidewalks in Little Italy will be filled with holiday cheer for the 20th Annual Little Italy Tree Lighting and Christmas Village from 4pm to 8pm. Families, friends, and visitors will be able to experience a tree lighting ceremony, a Christmas Village with seasonal vendors, festive décor, live music and entertainment, holiday treats, Santa Claus and more.

Santa Claus will be in attendance for meet and greets and photos with all the neighborhood kids and kids at heart starting at 4:00pm. Attendees can catch Santa at “Santa’s Living Room” on India Street and take pictures until 6pm. Next to “Santa’s Living Room” will be fun arts and crafts for the kids to take part in, and seasonal vendors selling perfect stocking stuffers and select Little Italy Mercato vendors with holiday goodies will be lining India Street. Don’t forget to check out the 25-foot tower of more than 1,100 beautiful Poinsettias, located in the center of Piazza Basilone! The community will gather at the neighborhood’s 20’ tall live tree (in the Piazza della Famiglia) at 6:30pm for an official lighting.

December Nights at Balboa Park

December 7 & 8
Join the festivities during Balboa Park December Nights, a two-day holiday wonderland of food, entertainment and fun. The sights, sounds and smells of the holiday season fill the air as the museums and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, open their doors free of charge. Festivities include carolers, live holiday music, twinkling lights displayed all over the park, theater and dance performances, and delicious holiday treats and foods from around the world. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy live entertainment and the holiday spirit.

Coronado Holiday Parade & Open House

December 7
Experience the magic of the holidays on beautiful Coronado Island this December. Festivities kick off at the Ferry Landing with Santa arriving at 3:20 PM, with carolers and snow fun at snow mountain. The Holiday Parade will kick off at 6pm along Orange Avenue, as the village transforms into a winter wonderland. Then, at 7pm, be sure to stop by Rotary Plaza for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by none other than Santa himself.

Before or after the parade, shop in the stores along Orange Ave – they’ll have treats and festivities to make holiday shopping a memorable and relaxing time.

Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights

December 8
The Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights, a uniquely California celebration, features boats decorated for the holidays that will sail around the Bay. This free, distinctly California holiday tradition features boats decorated for the annual holiday season that will sail around Mission Bay. A highly anticipated event in the San Diego community, dozens of vessels take to the water for the parade. The boat parade begins at 6:00 PM from Quivira Basin. Best viewing is from Crown Point, the east side of Vacation Island or the west side of Fiesta Island.

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

December 9 & 16
One of San Diego’s most anticipated holiday events returns Dec. 9th! Enjoy the twinkling waters of the San Diego Bay and more than 80 private boats decorated with holiday lights for the annual Port of San Diego Bay Parade of Lights over two weekends in December. Great views are available on dry land from Shelter Island, Harbor Island, the Embarcadero, Seaport Village, the pier at Cesar Chavez Park and Coronado’s Ferry Landing.

Skating by the Sea at Hotel Del Coronado

Nov 22-Jan 1
One of San Diego’s most beloved traditions returns to the Hotel Del Coronado this November! Visitors will get the chance to ice skate right next to the Pacific Ocean at the only seaside skating rink in San Diego. The spectacular ice skating rink is located seaside on Windsor Lawn and features stunning views of the Pacific and Coronado beach. The Del’s iconic Victorian Building, adorned with thousands of white lights, provides a magical backdrop as holiday music fills the air and guests enjoy hot chocolate and libations.

New this year, you’ll be able to reserve a private lounging spot in Frostbite, the Del’s rink-side lounge area. Guests will enjoy plush, private seating around a roaring fire pit with full food and beverage service. Choose from your favorite holiday-themed libations or snacks and enjoy unlimited hot cocoa and coffee as you enjoy watching the beachfront ice skating!

Holiday Pet Parade in Gaslamp Quarter

December 16
San Diego’s furriest family-friendly parade returns as the 11th Annual Vet & Pet West Gaslamp Holiday Pet Parade takes over the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter! Prepare to unleash holiday cheer through the streets of Downtown San Diego with your furry friends. All pet owners and their furry, feathered, and scaled companions are invited to don their favorite costumes and put their best paw, wing, and fin forward for this jolly promenade and pet expo, which starts and ends at MLK Promenade Park, adjacent to the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter (401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101) at Fourth Avenue and K Street.

Entry to participate in the Pet Parade is just $15 per pet in advance, and $20 on the day of the event.

Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade

December 31
America’s Largest Balloon Parade returns to San Diego this December! The scenic, bayside streets of downtown San Diego will come alive with the 2018 Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade on December 31st. As always, this exciting family event brings together world-class marching bands, magnificent floats, entertaining drill teams, and a procession of enormous balloons – more than any other parade in the US. Over 100,000 street-side spectators will enjoy the parade, along with a nationwide television audience in celebration of Holiday Bowl game day.

Stay tuned for more fun holiday activities in San Diego!

Annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival

The annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival returns to the Village Sunday December 2nd, 2018 from 10:30am to 5pm. The parade will begin at 1:30pm at Girard Ave and Kline Street, and end at the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla (700 Prospect Street). The holiday festival will start at 10:30am and go until 1:00pm, and will include photos with Santa and live stage entertainment. A tradition that’s been going strong for nearly six decades, the parade and festival are one of La Jolla’s most treasured holiday activities!

The Details

This year, the Holiday Festival will begin at 10:30 am and end at 1pm, with live stage entertainment in front of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library. There will also be some arts and crafts and the opportunity to take photos with Santa! The theme changes every year; this year’s being “The Sounds of Christmas.”

The parade will begin at 1:30pm at Girard Ave. and Kline Street. It will head down Girard and make a left onto Prospect, where it will finish in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla.

Santa’s highly anticipated visit to the Christmas Parade is provided by Sunrise Rotary. He will be driven in the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club’s Old Black Goose, a classic 1915 Black Packard Convertible; making it a truly classic La Jolla Christmas!

Highlights

There will more participants than ever before this year from local businesses – the La Jolla Historical Society, the Rotary Club, the Gillispie School, and Birch Aquarium. More than a dozen floats, equestrians, beauty queens and princesses, marching bands, and of course, fire engines, will make up the rest of the Parade. Car lovers will be excited about the lineup of rare and vintage vehicles this year; keep your eye out for some of the rarer cars, like this year’s Antique 1988 560SL Mercedes.

A Few Tips

  • Parking will be extremely limited the day-of, and many streets will become tow-away zones starting at 9:30am. This includes most of Girard Avenue (between Torrey Pines and Kline), most of Kline (between Ivanhoe and Fay), and Herschel (between Torrey Pines and Silverado).
  • Most of Girard Avenue and Prospect Street will be closed, as this is the parade route. Vehicles that are parked in zones cordoned off for the parade or festival will be towed! Make sure you’re aware of all signs and that you park in a designated area.
  • You’ll find all the Holiday Festival activities on the grounds of the La Jolla Rec Center, where the parade will end at 3pm. It’s an easy walk from the parade’s starting location, so it might be easier to just keep your car parked in one spot for the day.

Visit ljparade.com for more information!

[photos courtesy of ljparade.com]

Encinitas Events & Things to Do

Encinitas is a fun beach town in North County, San Diego that’s known for its surf culture, boutiques, great restaurants, and tight-knit community. At just a 30-minute drive from La Jolla and 45 minutes from downtown San Diego, Encinitas is easy to get to and makes for a great place for a day trip from anywhere in the County – and there’s always something to do! From the weekly Farmers Market to the Taste of Encinitas each summer, this funky coastal town is an exciting place to visit any time of year. Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular events and things to do in Encinitas!

Annual Events

Spring Street Fair

Every April, you can enjoy over 450 unique food, arts and crafts vendors plus four entertainment stages, children’s activities, Bike Valets, and a Beer Garden! Take advantage of free family fun, entertainment, a National Award Winning MainStreet and a traditional Southern California beach town.

Savor craft beers and soak up the sun while listening to the best bands in San Diego rock out at the Beer Garden Stage. You can even bring your kids and your dogs! Take a break from the hustle and bustle by listening to the eclectic music at The Lumberyard Courtyard Stage. See the stars of tomorrow perform at the Hansen’s Community Stage! Great news for cyclists, our two Bike Valet stations are open both days to store your bicycles while you peruse the Street Fair!

Encinitas Cruise Nights

On the third Thursday of each summer month from May through September each year, the streets of Encinitas turn into Encinitas Cruise Nights! Old-school hot rods, foreign automobiles, classic cars, and woodies line S. Coast Hwy 101 all the way from D Street to K Street. Classic cars are also parked along the Hwy 101 and on side streets, and oftentimes there is live music being played in various spots along Hwy 101.

The event is open and free to the public. Every car in attendance is eligible for awards and there is no cost for displaying or viewing the cars. Encinitas Classic Car Nights is a great reason to spend a summer night out in historic downtown Encinitas with great restaurants and unique shops.

Taste of Encinitas

Every August, the annual Taste of Encinitas event comes to the streets of historic downtown. This is a great way to experience some of the best Encinitas restaurants and shops, while you slowly stroll through town and listen to the sounds of live music. Treat your taste buds to food samples from more than 30 restaurants and enjoy local wine and craft beer served at 19 “Sip Stops” hosted by shops and salons. Don’t forget to pause along the way to enjoy live music at eight different venues. Tickets cost $45 per person and include all food and 10 drink samples; they can be purchased the day of the event at Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association’s office (818 S. Coast Highway 101).

LeucadiART Walk

Each August, the streets of Leucadia and Encinitas come alive for the LeucadiART Walk, which takes place along two miles of scenic Hwy 101 at various locations in downtown Leucadia. You’ll find local juried artists showing off their art at various booths along the 101, and a few places host live music from local bands. There are also live dance and art demonstrations throughout. This past year, there was a live surfboard art demonstration!

Leucadia ArtWalk doesn’t forget about the kiddos either – the event features a Children’s Art Pavilion complete with children’s activities, wearable art fashion show, art demonstrations, and a raffle for prizes.

For thirsty art-lovers, there is a Beer & Wine Garden (21+) featuring local breweries and distilleries, including Lost Abbey, Port Brewing, and Boochcraft. A free shuttle bus runs during the event, as well as two trolleys, which make several stops throughout downtown.

Summer Series at the Lumberyard

The Lumberyard is an expansive shopping and courtyard area in the middle of downtown Encinitas, and is home to nearly 50 stores and restaurants. The Lumberyard puts on several events throughout the year, and one of the most loved by locals is the Summer Concert Series, which happens August-September on weekend nights. Live music from local bands happens from 5pm-9pm; bring your friends and family to enjoy dinner, shopping, and live music on a warm summer night!

Halloween Safe Trick-or-Treat

Every Halloween, The Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association presents its Annual Safe Trick-or-Treat event. Historic Highway 101(from Encinitas Blvd to K Street) will turn into “Pumpkin Lane” as local businesses stay open late to welcome trick-or-treaters. The public is also invited to see the amazing pumpkins carved by the Self-Realization Fellowship monks each year.

Along the 101 there are several places to stop and enjoy Halloween-themed activities. You’ll find live music and games In the Lumberyard courtyard, and in the SRF parking lot (next to their K Street Store) check out the Queens Court! This event is free and families are welcome to join in the fun!

Annual Holiday Street Fair

Every December, get ready for the holidays with more than 450 food, arts, and crafts vendors and live entertainment on four different stages, as well as children’s rides, a Beer Garden, and bike valets! This is a great way to get started on your shopping for the holidays and support local artisans and makers.
There’s plenty to eat and drink, too! Savor craft beers and soak up some winter sun while listening to the best bands in San Diego rock out at the Beer Garden Stage, or take a break from the hustle and bustle by listening to the eclectic music at The Lumberyard Courtyard Stage. The schedule of events and the bands that play varies with each year, so be sure to check the website for details and real-time updates.

Garden of Lights at the Botanic Garden

Each December, the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas is transformed into a dazzling winter wonderland with over 125,000 sparkling lights. Festive holiday activities abound, including sledding and horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, Nutcracker displays, visits with Santa, food trucks, hot mulled wine, nightly live music and live entertainment, and catered refreshments from local eateries.

Kids are welcome — there are numerous family-friendly activities held throughout the festivities!

Seaside Bazaar (weekly)

Every Saturday and Sunday, The Seaside Bazaar opens in the heart of Encinitas on Highway 101. The Bazaar is an offbeat European style open-air flea market, and is one of the best outdoor shopping experiences in North County! More than 50 vendors sell such crafts as artisan jewelry, wind chimes, weather vanes, photography and art, collectibles, inexpensive antiques, leather goods, clothing, and more. The seaside bazaar is also within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and the La Paloma Theater in historic downtown Encinitas.

Encinitas Seaside Bazaar is held on a dirt lot in tent exhibits, just south of Encinitas Blvd and north of the La Paloma Theatre. Free parking is available on the lot next to the bazaar, as well as along nearby streets.

Leucadia Farmers Market (weekly)

For another local shopping experience, head to the weekly Leucadia Farmers Market every Sunday from 10am-2pm. The market features more than 75 vendors selling fresh flowers, plants, produce, and vegetables, including a large Certified Organic Section. You’ll also find specialty foods, including fresh breads, beef, seafood, marinades, pastas, and sauces. Come hungry, as there is a huge food court that serves breakfast and lunch!

In addition to all the great vendors on-site, the market also features a children’s playground, covered picnic area, live music, balloon twisting, and face painting. The Farmers Market is held at Paul Ecke Central School (185 Union Street, Encinitas 92024).

10 Bars in Encinitas to Add to Your List

Looking to bar hop during your time in Encinitas? We’ve got you covered! This funky coastal beach town is home to dozens of bars, wine bars, and restaurants; and there is no shortage of great beer, wine, and food. We’ve rounded up 10 great bars in Encinitas to add to your list next time you’re going out in North County; from cozy cocktail bars by the beach to laid-back pubs along South Coast Highway! Tip: most of these Encinitas bars are easily walkable, and it doesn’t take too long to walk from one end of downtown to the other.

SHELTER

540 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
SHELTER is a trendy cocktail lounge and bar with an eclectic, funky vibe. The spot boasts a retractable ceiling that allows the night sky to illuminate the interior, which includes booths and a patio area featuring a large fire pit. If you’re looking for cocktails, this is the place to go – SHELTER offers a wide array of specialty cocktails with everything from Mules in copper mugs to VIP Bottle Service in a private booth. DJs play most weekend nights, and there is plenty of standing room if you’re in a larger group.

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The Saloon

546 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas


As the area’s beloved local dive bar (it’s been open since 1934!), The Saloon is a great introduction to the bar scene in Encinitas. Dirty Monday’s deep house and dubstep paired with great drink prices mix well for free-spirited dance moves. Friday and Saturday nights, DJs spin popular hip-hop that flows into faster dance jams, perfect for making an impenetrable dance circle with friends. Young and old alike sip and mingle in this intimate bar that easily transforms into a place to boogie. No cover and casual dress code make it a perfect place to have fun, sport a mustache, and have a more casual night out dancing to hip music.

The Bier Garden

641 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
For craft beer lovers, The Bier Garden in Encinitas is the perfect place to start out a pub crawl! Located in a former steakhouse from the 1940’s, the Bier Garden Encinitas maintains the integrity of the beautiful and historic building while creating a place for all to relax and unwind! It features 32 tap handles from Southern California, a retro cocktail menu, California coastal, local, and beer-infused cuisine to be enjoyed for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. They also have a great Happy Hour, if you’re starting early!

Union Kitchen + Tap

1108 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
As one of the earliest trendsetters to open in Encinitas, we had to mention Union Kitchen + Tap for its great beer and cocktail selection! Union offers three separate dining areas, a lively main bar, and a chic, yet relaxed vibe with reclaimed wood accents and modern furnishings. The menu here features traditional American fare made from fresh, local ingredients, an extensive tap list, craft cocktails, and vintage wines. This is a great spot for groups – there are plenty of large tables and seats, and on weekends, the vibe is lively and fun.

D Street Bar & Grill

485 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
D Street is a comfortable neighborhood pub that offers classic bar food (think onion rings, nachos, and burgers), plus plenty of beer on tap and a fun cocktail menu that features a solid mix of classic and creative. After 10pm most nights, the entire bar turns into a dance venue – DJs and live music play late into the evening, and the seats and chairs are taken away to create a full-bar dance floor. Come here for the drinks, and stay for the dancing!

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Encinitas Ale House

1044 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
Another locally-loved spot, Encinitas Ale House is a small, cozy, and friendly little pub located on a quieter street corner. Besides their large beer selection, the Ale House is known for its incredible variety of “Locally World Famous” Angus and Kobe Wagyu burgers. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask your server about their wild game burgers – we’ve heard they often have everything from lamb to wild boar!

32 rotating taps of Belgian, German, and local San Diego beers, as well as an extensive bottled beer list (many of which are rare vintages or special limited-releases) make this a must-try for any sort of beer lover.

Lumberyard Tavern

967 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
Another historic spot, the Lumberyard Tavern offers a variety of yummy comfort food favorites (including the area’s famous “Cardiff Crack” specialty), as well as an extensive liquor selection: more than fifty different bourbons, Tennessee whiskeys, scotch-whiskey blends, and single malts are all on the menu here.

Lumberyard Tavern has plenty of TVs, a pet-friendly patio, and a large family-friendly dining area. If you’re looking for a laid-back pub that feels like a comfortable place to spend an hour or two after work, this is your place!

1st Street Bar

656 S. Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas
1st Street Bar was recently renovated, but has been a longtime local watering hole for years; complete with a retro vibe, full bar, live music, plenty of large TVs, and billiards, this is a great spot for watching sports on a sunny weekend afternoon. 1st Street has great weekly drink specials, including Happy Hour seven days of the week until 7pm ($2 off drafts, $4 well drinks, and pitcher specials); $4 and $6 specials on certain drinks from 9pm-close on Monday through Thursday; ½ price pitchers on Friday and Saturday from 7pm-9pm; and industry drink specials plus Karaoke on Sundays starting at 9pm.

It may not be the trendiest spot in town, but come here for the drink specials, the billiards, and the big screen TVs!

Mr. Peabody’s Bar & Grill

136 Encinitas Blvd., Encinitas
Mr. Peabody’s has been in the same Encinitas location since the early 2000s, located next to I-5 in the newly remodeled Lazy Acres shopping center. The spot offers live music and dancing several nights a week, and also offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are plenty of TVs, a jukebox, and Karaoke is offered a couple of times a week. Mr. Peabody’s has a great Happy Hour lineup, most notably because each night of the week is something different: Sundays feature $5 Jameson; Mondays it’s $2.75 well drinks and domestic drafts; Tuesday it’s $10 Budweiser pitchers from 8pm-close, etc.

The music scene here is pretty lively, and you’re guaranteed to happen upon an open mic night or a local band any night of the week. Check their website for the event lineup and full Happy Hour specials.

Beachside Bar & Grill

806 S. Coast Hwy, Encinitas
Beachside Bar/Grill is a fun, friendly neighborhood spot in Encinitas. Beachside features plenty of outdoor seating, 24 different beers on tap, an extensive food menu, and great drink specials. Some kind of event or activity happens most nights of the week: including a weekly Trivia Night, Industry Night, a Wing Night, and a Tacos & Tequila Special on – you guessed it – Tuesdays.

Locals come here for the casual vibe and big tables; perfect for larger groups or big families. They are kid-friendly, too, so this is a good spot to grab dinner and enjoy the football game.

Read more about things to do in Encinitas here, or check out our Encinitas date night tips!

San Diego Halloween Events For Kids

Halloween is in the air and the holiday can be full of fright for little ones. But we’ve rounded-up plenty of scare-free fun so kids of all ages can dress up in their favorite costume and go enjoy the lighter side of the holiday. From the San Diego Zoo’s first Halloween event ever to the Aquarium’s Sea Monster Mash, read on to learn where you can have a monstrously great time with your little ghouls and goblins.

Pillage the Village

Downtown La Jolla
Tuesday October 31st, 3pm-6pm

It’s almost time for the 8th annual Pillage the Village! Every year, trick-or-treaters in La Jolla walk around the Seaport Village in costume and treat the locals to a little Halloween spooky fun. Participating merchants and businesses will have orange and black balloons visible, so you know where you’ll be able to get some goodies. A good starting point is Girard and Prospect. Work your way around downtown La Jolla until you’ve trick-or-treated everywhere!

SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular

SeaWorld San Diego (500 Sea World Drive)
Weekends through Oct 28th

Watch silly and spooky live shows and presentations, enjoy fun Halloween activities, and trick or treat for candy and goodies throughout the colorfully decorated park! Halloween Spooktacular is one of San Diego’s biggest fall festivals, with weekends brimming with family fun. Get in the spooky spirit and catch popular live shows like Clyde & Seamore’s Big Halloween Bash and the all-new Sesame Street Halloween Parade, join delightful Halloween dance parties and let the little ones trick or treat throughout the park in a safe, family-friendly environment. Oh, and be on the lookout for singing pumpkins in SeaWorld.

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

LEGOLAND California (1 Legoland Drive)
October 6, 13, 20, 27

Halloween festivities await at LEGOLAND California! Each Saturday evening throughout the month of October, families and little ones will enjoy live entertainment and new shows, character meet-and-greets, costume contests, treat stations (featuring more than 1 million pieces of candy), an AstroBash Dance Party, craft time, and more! Plus, don’t miss special treats and decorations in SEA LIFE Aquarium and take a spook-kooky ride on our updated Ghost Cruise adventure. The home of Halloween fun awaits for your next family adventure!

Boomont & Fall Fest

Belmont Park (3146 Mission Blvd.)
Weekends in Oct & Nov

Returning for its sixth season this year, Boomont & Fall Fest 2018 transforms Belmont Park with fall thrills and chills throughout the beachfront amusement park! Halloween and fall-themed festivities will be happening on Fridays and Sundays in October through November. Attractions include The BOOmont Manor (a family-friendly haunted house), a pumpkin patch where you can participate in pumpkin painting, the Spooky Coaster ( the 1925-era Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster), the Superhero Zip Line & Rock Wall, and Zombie Laser Tag, where creatures will join you in a three-floor maze.

Belmont Park Costume contests on Saturdays. Each day includes trick-or-treating from 6:30pm-7:30pm. The event runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 31.

HalGLOWeen at the Zoo

San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Drive)
Oct 26, 27, 28

Join the world-famous San Diego Zoo for a colorfully creepy celebration October 26 through 28, from 5pm to 8pm. Guests will get the chance to enjoy myriad ghoulishly fun activities and entertainment, including the interactive “Boolahoops,” the hip-hop dancing Funky Monkeys, amazing acrobats, pumpkin and cookie decorating, cupcake walks, and the DJ Dance Party — a rousing bash where guests are invited to dance to spectacular Halloween tunes among bursts of bubbles, with a fun finale featuring black-light bubbles!

The Zoo’s zany maestro of fun, Dr. Zoolittle, will astound the crowd with a special “Creepy Crawly” show that just might change your mind about snakes and spiders. Magician Glowinda the Great and jugglers Humerus and Femur will mingle among guests, astonishing everyone with amazing feats and mind-blowing acts, while the Zoo characters will get into the spirit of the season and don their best Halloween costumes.

Haunted Birch Aquarium: Sea Monster Mash

Birch Aquarium at Scripps (2300 Expedition Way)
October 26 & 27

Enjoy close encounters with Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists and search the galleries for unusual underwater creatures rarely seen at Birch Aquarium during its spooktacular Sea Monster Mash! This spooky San Diego spot allows you to explore a sea of glowing beasts (big and small), make your own seaweed slime, get up-close-and personal with Frankensquid and other spooky species, and enjoy ghost stories, all while boogieing down to live music courtesy of Billy Lee and the Swamp Critters, and having a monstrously good time.

Other Halloween activities this year include:

  • Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography showcasing exciting, and sometimes spooky, research.
  • Glow Critters: Witness creatures that create their own light and glow in the deep, dark ocean.
  • Story Time: Little ones can gather around and listen to a spooky (but not too spooky) tales
  • Witch-Crafts: Enjoy creepy crafts that are fun for all ages, including making your own trick or treat bag

Balboa Park Halloween Family Day

Balboa Park
Oct 27, 11am-4pm

San Diego’s largest free Halloween carnival celebrates its 10th annual extravaganza in Balboa Park! Balboa Park Halloween Family Day features dozens of free craft projects for kids, Day of the Dead-themed display altars and crafts, costume contests and parades, carnival games with prizes, live entertainment, and food trucks. Participating museums also offer free admission to children 12 and under with paying adult.

More than two dozen participating museums, cultural attractions, and community partners will present free hands-on activities for kids in the Plaza de Panama and El Prado walkway, while select museums offer additional Halloween-themed activities inside their buildings. Other highlights include a free performance by the San Diego Children’s Choir, mini-carnival games for prizes, a doggie costume contest in the Spanish Village Art Center, a rooftop pumpkin drop experiment at the San Diego Air & Space Museum, “Thriller” flash mob dance in the Plaza de Panama, and more!

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Halloween Carnival at the La Jolla Rec Center

La Jolla Rec Center (615 Prospect St.)
Oct 27, 1pm-4pm

Head to the La Jolla Rec Center for an afternoon of Halloween inspired games, a bounce house, arts and crafts, and more spooktacular activities! There will be several costume contests held throughout the day (grouped by age), and the first costume contest starts at 1:30pm. Families can purchase wristbands for the day for $10, which include the bounce house, face painting, carnival games, and the arts and crafts stations.

Halloween Celebration at Liberty Station

Liberty Station (2848 Dewey Rd.)
October 28, 12pm-4pm

Liberty Station is inviting the community to join in on a free family-friendly Halloween celebration this October! Fun daytime festivities will include a costume contest, trick-or-treating throughout Liberty Station, a play area presented by Kid Ventures, live music and entertainment, a Hollywood car show, and tons more! Families can also snap some pictures with 501st Stormtroopers and participate in festive games, as well as find their way through an inflatable obstacle course and the Liberty Public Market pumpkin patch.

Kids Halloween Party at the Hotel Del

Hotel Del Coronado (1500 Orange Avenue)
Oct 27, 6pm-11:30pm

Kids ages 4-12 can attend their own Halloween party at the Hotel Del Coronado (while you and your date party at the Hallo-Wine and Spirits Party!). Little ones will delight at all of the spooky decorations and costumes as they enjoy trick-or-treating, games, a themed dinner, and more. This year’s theme is Hotel Transylvania, so bring your favorite vampire, mummy, or spooky monster costume and enjoy all the spooktastic fun. This San Diego Halloween event is a bit of a splurge, but it will make for a memorable evening that can only take place on Coronado Island. Plus, the Hotel is rumored to be haunted – what could make a Halloween evening more fun?

Haunted Tales Aboard the Star of India

Star of India (1492 N Harbor Drive)
October 20 & 27, 6pm-10pm

Is the Star of India haunted? Find out as you board the ship for two nights of creepy storytelling! Enjoy lantern-led tours around the ship while you hear eerie legends from the Star of India’s past. Hear the tales of how young John Campbell fell to his death from the rigging, and other creepy events from the ship’s 153 year history. These tales are creepy – and true – and you aren’t likely to hear these stories during its daytime operating hours; which makes it all the more special. Be sure to bring a sweater because if the harbor air doesn’t chill you, the stories will! Starting at 6pm, storytelling tours begin each 15 minutes, with the last tour starting at 9:15pm. Note: this may not be the best event for children younger than 4 or 5.

Taste of La Jolla 2018: Wine, Dine, & Stroll Through Downtown La Jolla

The Annual Taste of La Jolla, sponsored by the Foundation of La Jolla High School, returns to the Village on October 22, 2018 from 6pm – 8:30pm. Enjoy a fun, festive evening while strolling through the streets of downtown La Jolla Village and sampling signature dishes from a number of local restaurants – from fine dining to quick bites.

Tickets are $50 online or $55 at check-in at Chase Bank (7777 Girard Avenue) on Monday evening, October 22nd.
taste of la jolla

This year’s participating restaurants include:

  • Acquavite
  • Beaming
  • Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar
  • Girard Gourmet
  • Sushi on the Rock
  • George’s at the Cove
  • We Olive & Wine Bar
  • Herringbone La Jolla
  • Jose’s Courtroom
  • Hennessey’s
  • Gelateria Frizzante
  • Cafe La Rue

For nearly 100 years, La Jolla High School has provided a top-rate public education and vibrant campus for the entire community. In order to maintain this tradition and to enhance the overall experience for our children, The Foundation of La Jolla High raises necessary funds each year to provide school programs and capital items not paid for by the San Diego Unified School District. This year, 100% of the Taste of La Jolla proceeds benefit the students of La Jolla High School! To purchase tickets in advance, head to their website.

Your Guide to the Best Halloween Parties in San Diego

It’s that time of year again – Halloween is just around the corner, you’re beginning to see Fall colors in San Diego, and the spooky celebrations are already getting started! Leave the trick-or-treating to the kids and throw on your best costume to roam the streets and clubs of downtown San Diego and beyond – from epic outdoor parties to all-night bar crawls, there’s definitely something for everyone happening this Halloween.

Halloween Pacific Beach Pub Crawl

When: October 27, 2018
Come in costume and hit the streets of Pacific Beach for a Halloween pub crawl night out! Tickets to this year’s Pacific Beach Halloween pub crawl will get you drink discounts and free welcome shots and entry at over 10 different Halloween parties. Featuring some of the best bars with amazing drink and entertainment specials, there’s no shortage of fun entertainment at this year’s Pacific Beach Pub Crawl. Meet new friends and visit new places on one of the most popular nights of the year, and prepare to dress yourself up in one of your favorite costumes!

San Diego Pre-Halloween Pub Crawl

When: October 26, 27, 31
Put on your best costume for this massive Halloween Pub Crawl over three Spook-tacular nights with a half dozen bars! During select hours on the 26th, 27th, and 31st. Show your wristband at over 10 different bars and nightclubs for free entry and exclusive drink specials including free welcome shots at select venues. The best part? There’s no schedule – so you and friends roam the streets at your own pace and party non-stop all night. This year’s pre-Halloween Pub Crawl will happen on three separate nights at the end of October.

San Diego Zombie Crawl Gaslamp Takeover

When: October 26, 27, 31
If you love Halloween, dining and the nightlife, you won’t want to miss San Diego’s #1 Halloween Celebration! Your San Diego Zombie Crawl ticket includes three nights of access to more than 25 premier club destinations, welcome shots, and food and beverage specials in the Gaslamp Quarter and downtown San Diego. Closing parties will be held at different clubs each night: Parq Restaurant/Nightclub, Bassmnt, and Omnia, three of the most popular spots in San Diego. This is the ultimate way to experience the nightlife and Halloween festivities the Gaslamp Quarter is famous for!

Sinners & Saints: Night at the Haunted Museum

When: October 26, 2018
Head to the San Diego Museum of Man for a spooktacular extravaganza as they raise money for a great cause: Urban Street Angels and the mission to end youth homelessness in San Diego and beyond. 100% of proceeds from the event go directly to aiding homeless youth in the local community.

Sinners & Saints promises to be a frightfully fantastic evening with delectable appetizers, stocked bars, costume contests, live entertainment from DJ Aaron K, and amazing raffle and silent auction items. The Museum will have all of their exhibits open for your enjoyment, including Ancient Egypt, Monsters, and Beerology, so it’s a great time to explore everything Balboa Park has to offer!

WCKD Village

When: October 27, 2018
Monster Bash is now WCKD Village! After 19 years of thrilling festivals, Monster Bash is getting WCKD: prepare to enter into a realm of electrifying adventures as San Diego’s favorite Halloween festival returns, bringing you all the exhilaration of previous years, with a new WCKD twist. Six blocks in the East Village will transform right before your eyes as the WCKD Village comes to life.

Life-size interactive games, four stages of live music and entertainment, extravagant thrills, a creepy costume contest, and haunting experiences (including The Demented Circus and The Village Crypt) converge to become one of San Diego’s biggest Halloween parties of the year!

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Nightmare on Normal Street

When: October 27, 2018
Hillcrest’s epic haunted dance party and Halloween costume competition is back! Nightmare on Normal will take over the Pride Flag Plaza at Normal and University on Saturday, October 2 from 6pm-11pm! This year’s event benefits the San Diego LGBT Community Center and Fabulous Hillcrest.

With late night live entertainment, costume contest (including a special pet contest for your furry, fuzzy, and feathery companions), outdoor bars, and the best people watching in all of San Diego, this is an event you won’t want to miss!

Hard Rock Hotel’s “A Halloween Odyssey”

When: October 27, 2018
Hard Rock Hotel is famous for throwing massive Halloween parties each year, and this year is no different! The theme for 2018 is “A Halloween Odyssey,” and guests will get to experience a chilling reenactment of Stanley Kubrick’s most infamous films on October 27th at one of the biggest parties of the evening.

More than 4,000 costumed party-goers will drink and dance in five rooms over three decked-out floors, each room with a different music format accompanied by a notorious Kubrick-inspired theme. Over 15 DJ’s and two headliners will keep the downtown odyssey going all night long. This year’s headliners include Oliver Heldens and several more TBA.

Hallo-wine and Spirits Party

When: October 27, 2018
Celebrate Halloween at San Diego’s famous haunted hotel on Saturday, October 27! Wear your best costume and head to the 9th annual, adults-only Hallo-wine & Spirits Party full of spooky surroundings, great eats, drinks, and dancing. This year’s theme is Legendary Screams from the Silver Screen. Don’t forget to use #DelHallowine to post your photos and videos of the event!

The evening begins at 9 pm with a reception on the Garden Patio featuring culinary delights and wine tasting. Afterward, the party starts to head into the Crown Room for dessert, drinks, dancing, and the crowning of the year’s best Halloween costume. Make reservations early for this one, as tickets often sell out in advance. The event goes from 7pm-12am.

Halloween Yacht Party

When: October 27, 2018
If you’re looking for a different way to celebrate Halloween this year, try a harbor cruise! Guests will board the Spirit of San Diego from San Diego Harbor for a three-hour cruise with hundreds of fellow costumed party guests. The luxury party yacht will feature all kinds of treats and appetizers, a full bar, DJs and dancing on multiple levels, and costume parties (including a chance to win a $500 cash prize for best costume!). The event is 21+ and the cruise starts at 9 pm.

For more Halloween festivities, fun, events, and Fall activities, visit our Events Page to stay up-to-date on the city’s latest happenings!

Annual La Jolla Art & Wine Festival

The 2018 La Jolla Art & Wine Festival returns to downtown La Jolla on October 6th and 7th! Now in its tenth year, this two-day festival is packed full of great art from more than 120 juried artists, a beer and wine garden featuring local brews and wine from California’s best wineries, a kids’ activity zone, and plenty of food and local craft vendors. Along with a gourmet marketplace, a two-day silent auction, 15 pet adoption stations, and an all-star line-up of live entertainment and music, there is something for everyone at this local festival!

Wine & Beer Garden

Festival visitors who are 21 and older can enjoy regional and international wines as well as local San Diego craft beers at the Wine & Beer Garden. Stop by and sample delectable wines from Valle De Guadalupe, California, France, and of course, a wide variety of internationally renowned brews by several local San Diego craft breweries.

This year, the festival will be highlighting two great restaurants in the Wine and Beer Garden! Sample bites from the Melting Pot on Saturday and Farmer & the Seahorse on Sunday.

Single wine or beer tasting: $5
Five tastes: $20

Live Music & Stage Entertainment

On both days, there will be live entertainment on two different stages starting at 12pm, and ending at 7pm. Artist highlights this year include Whitney Shay, the La Jolla High Marching Band, and Stone Horse.

Some highlights of this year’s live entertainment include a variety of different talks and discussions from local businesses. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the stilt walkers! They’ll be wandering around the festival (and make for some great photo ops) all day.

Geppetto’s Family Art Center & Lab

The Geppetto’s Family Art Center and Lab is an extensive family area that will not only feature fun crafts and art projects, but will also include science experiments and other participatory activities for kids of all ages.

The La Jolla Art & Wine Festival encourages kids to roll up their sleeves and express themselves, all day long. Kids will be able to paint on a car, enjoy multiple hands-on activities, learn all about how 3-D printing works, and contribute to a public space art project. The inspiration is endless and the fun is abundant in this free activity center that continues to grow every year.

The Art

Art is definitely the highlight of the festival! Featuring the works of over 150 established artists from San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Baja and beyond, the LJAWF features something for everyone. The carefully curated, handpicked and juried collection of artists truly showcases the incredible talent of today’s top creators in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, jewelry design, fine glass, ceramics, woodwork, mixed media, and photography. You’ll be able to purchase most artwork that you see, and the artists will be around to answer any questions or discuss their work.

Stay tuned for more detailed information on which artists will be there this year!

Silent Auction

There will be several auction items this year for trips, spa resorts (including Rancho la Puerta), La Jolla’s finest restaurants, jewelry, and clothes from our best boutiques, gift certificates for local hair and spa services – and much more.

There will be two separate auctions, one on Saturday and a separate one on Sunday. Last year the silent auction raised more than $26,000 to support the underfunded programs in the elementary and middle schools in La Jolla! All of the profits go towards a fantastic cause.

Food, Food, and More Food!

The food never disappoints at the LJAWF! From Greek food to crepes to Maine lobster and everything in between – this is more than your typical festival food so be prepared to indulge in something delicious at this year’s food court. Here’s a list of this year’s vendors!

  • Bread & Cheese Catering
  • Hunter’s Steak House
  • Cousins Maine Lobster
  • Bullseye Kettle Corn & Shaved Ice
  • Rebound Nutraceuticals / Magic Bullet
  • Greek Snack
  • Tacos El Rorro
  • Isola Pizza Bar
  • Sicilian Breeze Gelato
  • Desert Valley Concessions
  • Hawaiian Honey Cones
  • Doggos Gus
  • Lick it Lolly Pops

La Jolla Art & Wine Festival Hours & Location

Saturday, October 6th: 10am-6pm

Sunday, October 7th: 10am-6pm

The festival will take place all along Girard Avenue, between Torrey Pines Road and Prospect Street.

For more information and an up-to-date activity and event schedule, visit the LJAWF website.

Kids are FREE for October Only: Sea World, Belmont Park, and 100+ More San Diego Attractions

During the month-long Kids Free October celebration, your little ones will be treated to free admission at attractions, meals on the house, and tons of other great perks throughout the city. Enjoy more than 100 partner offers —as well as warm fall weather without the summer crowds! There’s big fun waiting for kids, with savings that parents will love. Explore below and plan your perfect trip to San Diego this October.

Kids Free Admission

Note: exact ages included in the promotion may vary for each attraction; check website for details before you go.

  • La Jolla Historical Society
  • Birch Aquarium at Scripps
  • Belmont Park (play and ride for free)
  • Empress Hotel (free Kids’ Welcome Gift, $25 value)
  • Bike & Kayak Tours of La Jolla (ride for free)
  • Balboa Park Museums:
    • San Diego Automotive Museum
    • San Diego Air & Space Museum
    • Museum of Photographic Arts
    • San Diego History Center
    • San Diego Model Railroad Museum
    • San Diego Museum of Man
    • Timken Museum
    • Mingei International Museum
    • Fleet Science Center (Galleries only)
    • Japanese Friendship Garden
    • Marston House Museum & Gardens
    • San Diego Natural History Museum (Nat)
    • The San Diego Museum of Art
    • Veterans Museum
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • San Diego SEAL Tours (ride free)
  • San Diego Fly Rides (ride free)
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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Kids Eat Free:

  • The Shores Restaurant (La Jolla Shores Hotel)
  • Sheraton La Jolla
  • Embassy Suites San Diego/La Jolla
  • Torreyana Grille (Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines)
  • Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

SeaWorld Specials

  • Free single-day admission kids ages 3-9
  • Free Aquatica San Diego admission kids ages 3-9
  • Eat for free at Breakfast with the Orcas and Dine With Killer Whales
  • Free Dolphin interaction programs

San Diego Zoo Specials

  • Children ages 11 and younger free admission (when accompanied by an adult with a valid form of entry).
  • There are special activities happening both on weekdays and weekends throughout the month, as well!
  • The Kids Free Special includes the Skyfari Aerial Tram
  • For $5 extra, kids can also ride the Guided Bus Tour and the Kangaroo Bus.

HalGLOWeen on October 26, 27, and 28

From October 26-28, head to The Zoo for a colorfully creepy celebration from 5 to 8pm! The Zoo will be aglow with activities and entertainment: a DJ spinning spooktacular tunes for everyone to dance to among bursts of bubbles, acrobats, jugglers, a cupcake walk, and more. Kids are free for this event, and may wear costumes according to the guidelines posted on the HalGLOWeen website. Dr. Zoolittle has a special “creepy” show, and there is plenty of other festive family fun in store. For more information head to their website.

There are tons of other spots throughout San Diego that are offering special deals and activities in October, so be sure to keep checking the website for updated information!

Where to See Fall Colors in San Diego

Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel to the East Coast to experience fall colors, you can stay right here in southern California! There are a bunch of places in and nearby San Diego County to see the leaves changing colors, many of which are state parks. Every October and fall, the leaves of the black oak make a transition from green to vivid golds and oranges.

These trees, along with conifers like white fir, Jeffrey pine, and incense cedar, can be found throughout many of San Diego’s mountainous northern regions. As leaves change, these gorgeous trees put on a spectacular show each fall, and it’s definitely worth a weekend day trip! Wondering where to see fall colors in San Diego? Look no further! Here are five great spots to scope out the colors of fall in San Diego. Soon, you’ll be a San Diego Expert.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Drive about an hour and fifteen minutes east of San Diego and you’ll find one of San Diego’s most glorious state parks, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. It features over 100 miles of hiking opportunities, a plethora of campsites, and 24,700 acres of oak and conifer forests. At an elevation of 5,000 feet, the seasons come and go similar to Northern California. There is a distinct difference in scenery between fall, summer, winter, and spring. Whenever I am in need of a good hike and dose of nature, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is my go-to location.

Just about every hiking trail here will have something to offer in terms of cool autumn hues on the surrounding trees. There are also plenty of hiking options ranging in length and difficulty, making this a great option for both kids and elderly hikers. We recommend the Azalea Glen Loop Trail: a short 3.8-mile trail located near the Paso Picacho Campgrounds, which features plenty of changing colors on the abundance of trees found along this trail. Another option is to hike around Lake Cuyamaca, which provides a nice backdrop for those fall colors.

Looking for more great trails in San Diego? Check out our guide to the best hikes in San Diego.

Palomar Mountain State Park

Some weekends it’s nice to leave behind our hectic lives and hit the road to a quiet place to be one with nature in the mountains. Palomar Mountain is the ideal destination for just this. Palomar Mountain State Park features over 11 miles of trails through oak forests, chaparral, expansive meadows, and staggering fir and cedar woodlands. The views are scenic, the air is crisp, and the foot traffic is minimal.

Aside from all its scenic glory, Palomar Mountain is also worthy of the hour and a half drive to simply see its fall foliage. Thanks to its dense woodlands, high elevation, and remoteness, it is the dream location to watch the leaves change colors. Bring the family or simply a friend to walk one of the park’s many trails. Varying in both length and difficulty, there’s a trail for everyone to enjoy. We recommend the French Valley to Weir Trail, a relatively flat 3.8-mile trail that showcases the best of Palomar Mountain’s woodlands and is a prime destination for fall foliage!

Julian

This little mountain town is the epitome of Southern California autumn charm! Once a prominent gold mining town, Julian is now known for its famous annual apple harvest, apple pie, and as one of the best places to go apple picking in San Diego. It’s also known for having four distinct seasons: in winter snow is known to dust the countryside landscape, in spring wildflowers bloom, and in autumn there is no shortage of burnt leaves falling to the ground!

If you want a true fall experience, Julian is the place to visit. Spend a day walking the historic streets, visiting an old gold mine, or hiking the nearby trails, or better yet, make a weekend out of it by staying at one of the local lodges. Julian is located about an hour and fifteen minutes east of San Diego. To really get the fall foliage experience, we recommend hiking the 1.65-mile Canyon Oak Trail within William Heise County Park for views of the great oaks towering above.­­

 

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Mount Laguna

At just an hour drive east of San Diego, Mt. Laguna offers one of the best San Diego hikes and undoubtedly one of the most popular places to see fall foliage in the area. It lies on the eastern edge of the Cleveland National Forest at close to 6,000 feet above sea level in a towering forest of Jeffrey pines. The main area features a general store, a restaurant/bar, campgrounds, and plenty of hiking opportunities.

Among the several hiking trails, we recommend the 3.25-mile Sunset Trail. The trail hikes hikers through a dense pine forest and features stunning panoramic views of the area below. During the fall, this trail is spotted with yellows, oranges, and reds galore.

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Idyllwild

Idyllwild is a small, artsy mountain town located about two hours northeast of San Diego.
This area, as well as nearby Lake Hemet, boast incredible fall foliage each year with cottonwoods that turn bright yellow as the summer season comes to an end. Stop by in late November for the town’s annual Harvest Festival, or travel there throughout the months of October or early November to see the leaves changing colors.

We recommend Deer Springs Trail, which features towering ponderosa and Coulter pines as you ascend to a rock plateau at 7,500 feet with a panoramic view of the town. This hike is one of the most popular on Mount San Jacinto, above Palm Springs, and it’s accessible any time of year. Deer Springs Trail begins a mile north of Idyllwild on Highway 243, just north of the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse.

Big Bear Lake

While it is technically a bit beyond La Jolla, its proximity to the city and incredible fall colors makes it worth it! Big Bear Lake is nestled among the trees in the San Bernardino Mountains. In the fall, the changing colors contrast dramatically against the many evergreens in the area.

While you can see fall colors almost immediately as you climb the ascent to the lake, we recommend 1.5-mile Woodland Trail. It’s a family-friendly loop that starts at the Big Bear Discovery Center and is a great place to see fall foliage and the lake below. The prime time to see the changing leaves are Mid-October through early November, and the best views are from the hiking trails north of the lake. Big Bear is a 2.5-hour drive from San Diego depending on traffic. Pro-tip: leave very early Saturday morning to avoid the crowds and the traffic! Avoid traveling here on a Friday, as the two-lane roads up to the lake can easily become congested.

Lake Arrowhead

On the way to Big Bear Lake, you’ll pass by the small town area of Lake Arrowhead. The fall season here is truly magical and features some of the most exquisite colors of the year. At about a two hours drive from San Diego, you’ll be able to see fall colors as soon as you begin to ascend into the San Bernardino National Forest.

If you’re in the mood for a hike, we recommend the North Shore National Recreational Trail. It features gorgeous mountain vistas and makes for a great day trip to escape the city. You’ll be greeted with incredible fall colors among the pine, cedar, and dogwood trees before you pass by the scenic Little Bear Creek. The trail is about 1.9 miles long and begins just behind the North Shore Campground on Hospital Road off of Hwy. 173. Afterward, visit the little town of Lake Arrowhead Village, where you’ll find several shops and cute restaurants along with scenic views of the lake.

On your way home, stop by Lake Gregory in Crestline for more foliage views. You’ll be greeted by black oak and pockets of aspen providing orange, buff, gold and yellow splashes of color among deep green pines. It makes for a lovely walk, and a great pit stop on the way back to San Diego.

For more autumn fun, visit our list of fall activities in San Diego, or check out our guide on the best San Diego pumpkin patches!