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Fall In California–12 Great Destinations For A Weekend Getaway

Where You Need To Go This Fall In California

Fall is my favorite time of year in California. The summer tourists go home, the weather cools down, and there are good deals to be had in many cities throughout the state. In some places there’s colorful foliage, while in others there are fun festivals and events. 

Here are twelve possibilities for spending fall in California.

Fall in California--Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Contributed by Meg of Fox in the Forest

If you want to discover one of the best fall weekend getaways in California, then look no further than Lake Tahoe. After all, this exquisitely blue alpine lake sits high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and straddles the border between Nevada and California. 

So if you plan to visit during the fall, cooler temperatures mean that you catch salmon spawning and go fishing in local hot spots like Taylor Creek. 

Alternatively, you could head out to Hope Valley and enjoy vibrant fall colors less than 30 minutes south of the lake. 

For the best leaf peeping though, try to time your visit for the end of September or the month of October since this is when foliage is at its most vibrant. 

This is also a good time to tackle some of the best hikes in Lake Tahoe, like Rubicon Trail, Cave Rock Trail, and Eagle Lake Trail. 

And if you’re not feeling all that energetic then just head to a local mountain resort, like Heavenly, and do a romantic gondola ride through the area for the best panoramas around. 

Plus, if you’re a fan of Halloween then head to Tallac Historic Estate in mid-October for their annual Tahoe Terror at Tallac event. After all, it’s a fun haunted Halloween walk through the estate that will get you in the spirit of the season. 

Finally, grab a festive pumpkin ale from Coldwater Brewery and Grill before spending the night at the luxurious Edgewood Tahoe. 

One of the top rated places to stay is the Tahoe Season Resort. It’s close to many of the top attractions in the area.

Fall in California--Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach

Contributed by Make The Trip Matter

 There’s no better place to be than Hermosa Beach during the fall. This little beach town located just south of Los Angeles is the perfect getaway to enjoy great dining, boutique shopping, or beach activities such as swimming, sunbathing, playing a game of volleyball, or simply walking along the beach path known as “the Strand.” 

September and October actually tend to be some of the warmer months and have very pleasant weather with temperatures ranging from about 60°F to a high of almost 80°F some days. 

If you enjoy swimming or surfing, the water has been warming up all summer and is at its best by the fall. Hermosa Beach has a long history with surfing and offers lessons to try your hand at the sport.

Additionally, Hermosa Beach has some fantastic events that happen in the fall. One of the most popular, Fiesta Hermosa, occurs every year on Labor Day weekend (beginning of September). It’s a celebration of artisan culture plus a carnival, fantastic food stands, and live music throughout downtown and along the pier.

Hermosa Beach is an especially great place for couples who enjoy a plentiful nightlife. There are romantic bars to get a drink with ocean views or places to dance the night away! Plus, you can stay in one of the oceanfront hotels (The Beach House Hotel or H2O Hermosa) to be steps away from both the relaxing beach and activity on the pier. 

Whether you’re looking for a place to party or just want to enjoy some sun and warm water, Hermosa Beach has some of the best things to do and is the perfect place to visit in the fall.

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Fall in California--Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Contributed by Chelsey Explores

Joshua Tree National Park in California straddles the Mojave and Colorado deserts. The small town of Joshua Tree is just 45 minutes northeast of Palm Springs, 2 hours from Los Angeles, and 2.5 hours from San Diego.

So it’s a very easy commute from many popular cities which has only made visiting Joshua Tree an increasingly popular destination for tourists and California residents like myself to get out of the city and enjoy some tranquility underneath the desert sky filled with stars.  

I would personally recommend visiting during the fall as I have experienced it to be less busy during this time of the year and to me, the weather is the most ideal towards the end of fall between mid-October through November with temps ranging between the 70s and 80s but it will drastically cool off the evenings where I will definitely need to wear my sweats to be comfortable.

Some of my favorite things to do in Joshua Tree are camping in a tent or an RV, stargazing because out here there is minimal light pollution which makes it ideal to do so, and hiking trails where I love seeing the unique landscapes and plants. 

The trails are a bit different from typical hiking terrain but I found that my sneakers were fine for me because they had some decent traction. 

I personally loved renting and staying inside an RV. We parked it at JT Village Campground and they had everything we needed! But there are also so many cute and resort-like vacation rentals like this all-glass luxury Airbnb! If you’re prefer a hotel, head to the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

Fall in California--Catalina
Catalina Island

Catalina Island

Contributed by Awesome Traveler

Catalina Island is a perfect couple destinations, especially in the fall. The island is less crowded but the temperatures are still warm. Everything is more enjoyable without the burden of waiting in line. And it is easier to find hotels in Catalina Island during fall.

Pavilion Hotel is the highest rated hotel in Catalina Island. They have a romance package where you can spend your honeymoon or anniversary in a luxurious room. Plus, it is close to many activities that you can enjoy as couples, such as parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, or scuba diving.

Begin your exploration of Catalina on Crescent Avenue. Here you’ll pass by many beaches including south beach, middle beach, and step beach. You can walk around the beaches and enjoy some water activities like boating, surfing, and boogie boarding.

Then check out the shops and restaurants. The Pancake Cottage is perfect for a delicious breakfast. Or you visit Scoops Catalina Island for some tasty ice cream.

Most people arrive on Catalina Island by ferry from Dana Point, Newport Beach, or San Pedro. Be sure to book your tickets in advance through Catalina Express.

Fall in California--Bishop
Bishop

Bishop

Contributed by Dhara from Roadtripping California

One of the best leaf-peeping destinations in California, Bishop is located in the Owens Valley in the Eastern Sierra of California.

Sandwiched between the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west and the White Mountains to the east, Bishop makes for a great stop on a Highway 395 road trip, especially in the fall, when a riot of leaf colors envelops the region.

Driving California Highway 168 West is a must in the fall. The road is scenic any time of the year, with the Bishop Creek and many lakes, but spectacular when color peaks in the fall, generally in early October.

Be sure to visit North Lake, which is a popular fall photo subject. The drive is a little challenging, up a narrow dirt road, but the leaf colors are usually breathtaking. South Lake and the road leading up to it, and Aspendell are other fall color hotspots in Bishop.

While scenic driving is an easy way to go leaf-peeping, also make time for a few hikes, to view the colors up close.

In town, be sure to stop by Eric Schat Bakkery for their famous sheepherder bread, said to have been introduced to the area during the Gold Rush by immigrants from Basque country.

Fall in California--Monterey
Monterey

Monterey Peninsula

Contributed by McCool Travel

The Monterey Peninsula—including Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel—is the gateway to Big Sur and the area has been called the greatest meeting of land and water on earth. Monterey is on the Central California coast, about 90 minutes from Silicon Valley, two hours from San Francisco, and four hours from Santa Barbara.

Things to do in Monterey include scenic drives, historic attractions, phenomenal cuisine and wine, and more. 17 Mile Drive and Big Sur highlight the area’s scenic drives but also try Carmel Valley Road, which you will recognize from movies, TV shows, and car commercials. Monterey Bay Aquarium is at one end of Cannery Row and both are magnificent Monterey activities. 

History lovers will want to see the oldest stone building in California (in downtown Monterey), an original mission (in Carmel), and downtown Pacific Grove (setting for more movies and shows).

Outdoor lovers will enjoy a whale watching cruise, kayaking in Monterey Bay, mountain biking Jack’s Peak, walking the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail (a great section is from Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove to the Monterey Bay Aquarium) or Scenic Drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Golfers strive to play at least one round in their lives at Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay. But, tip, Pacific Grove Municipal is rated as one of the top public US golf courses (at a fraction of the cost of the other two).

Besides the amazing inns and B&Bs, a great place to stay is Monterey Plaza Hotel

Fall in California--Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles 

Contributed by Paula Pins the Planet

Los Angeles is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit for a weekend getaway as there’s so much to do.  The city is located in Southern California; 384 miles from the state’s capital of Sacramento. It lies within a basin and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains. 

Being one of America’s largest cities, you’ll find plenty of attractions to visit so be prepared to have a jam-packed Los Angeles itinerary.

Some of the most popular places to visit within the city include Griffith Observatory, the iconic Hollywood Sign, Universal Studios, and the Walk of Fame. If you’ve got time, you can even head out to Sunset Boulevard or visit one of the many theme parks in the city. 

You’ll also want to explore the vibrant neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach during your stay. With so many attractions to visit, it’s only natural that you’ll want to cut costs somewhere. The best way to do this is by purchasing the Los Angeles city pass.  It can save you up to 55% on ticket prices and includes all the top attractions like Universal Studios. 

If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, then the best place to stay is in downtown LA. It’s got great transport links and you’ll find plenty of fantastic attractions nearby, 

There are great accommodation options in the area including Hotel Indigo and Omni Los Angeles California Plaza.

Fall in California--Carmel
Carmel

Carmel

Contributed by Nikki of Inspired Routes

 An amazing weekend getaway in California in the fall is Carmel-by-the-Sea. The seaside town is charming and the perfect vacation for couples. Located just south of Monterey along the central coast of California, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a historic town full of picturesque cottages, a darling downtown and plenty of adventures for entertainment.

 Spend a day strolling the shops and restaurants along Ocean Avenue. Bring beach chairs or grab a spot on the bench at Carmel Beach and enjoy the sunset as it dips into the Pacific Ocean.

 For an active vacation, be sure to check out Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The coast and sea are protected, which provide a safe haven for sea otters, pelicans, whales, seals and countless other sea creatures. Walk the South Shore Trail, which is an easy hike on a paved path along the water.

 Spend a day – or more – exploring one of the most dramatic coastlines in the USA – Big Sur, California. Chase waterfalls and relax on the beaches. See the famous Bixby Creek Bridge and countless overlooks. There are so many things to do in Big Sur, you’ll fill your day with never-ending adventure.

 One of the best things about visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea in the fall is that the marine fog is typically lightest in September and October. The area is known for its fog, which can impact your views when visiting the sights, and also bring in cooler temperatures. The fall also sees less tourism than the busy summer months, so expect fewer crowds in the fall.

For the perfect weekend getaway plan to stay at Horizon Inn & Ocean View Lodge. It’s just eight minutes from Pebble Beach.

Fall in California--San Francisco
San Francisco

San Francisco

Contributed by Tori Pines Travels

San Francisco is the perfect destination for a fall getaway thanks to its mild weather, loads of outdoor activities, and many professional sports teams playing during this season. Stay near Fisherman’s Wharf, steps from some major sights like Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square. The Argonaut Hotel is the ideal place for a romantic getaway. If you’d rather be in the center of town, look at Union Square, or for a more local vibe, stay in Nob Hill.

Start your day with breakfast at Home Plate, a local restaurant with a large menu, and the best French Toast I have had in my whole life, their Crispy French Toast. Visit the restaurant or opt for a lazy breakfast in bed, because they deliver.

With so many things to do in San Francisco, I recommend filling your time with a blend of unique activities and classic tourist attractions. To see the Golden Gate Bridge, drive across it to Battery Spender for the best view with the city as your backdrop. Spend half a day at Alcatraz, the tickets are reasonably priced and you get a boat ride included. The audio tour is free and will leave you feeling emotional.

Spend the rest of your day at the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, relaxing at Alamo Square to see the famous Painted Ladies or at the Walt Disney Family Museum. For sports fans, see the Warriors, Giants, or the 49ers, as they all will be playing during this time of year. End the day with dinner at Sotto Mare, for San Francisco’s famous Cioppino, a seafood stew to be shared by two.

Fall in California--Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead

Contributed by Jenifer of The Evolista

Fall is a beautiful time of year, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than Lake Arrowhead. Nestled in the San Bernardino mountains, this scenic spot offers stunning views of fall foliage and plenty of autumn activities. 

One of the best ways to take in the fall colors is on one of the many hikes in the area – a favorite being the Heart Rock hike. And don’t miss the chance to take a lake tour on the Arrowhead Queen where you’ll be surrounded in fall hues. Pack your lederhosen if you can time your trip to be there for Oktoberfest in the Bavarian styled Lake Arrowhead Village.

With a chill in the air, couples will enjoy a cozy stay at a designer perfect Lake Arrowhead Airbnb. Whether you curl up by the fire with a good book or snuggle under a blanket to catch the sun setting over the lake, it’s sure to be romantic. If you prefer a hotel, stay at the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa.

There are plenty of great Lake Arrowhead restaurants for a night out. Before or after dinner, try one of the Fall-inspired beers at the Lake Arrowhead Brewing Company. Fall may be brief, but there’s no better place to enjoy it than at Lake Arrowhead.

Fall in California--Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Contributed by Uprooted Traveler

Mammoth Lakes, a charming ski town nestled in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains, is gorgeous year round, but fall is especially spectacular. The trees blanketing the mountains’ slopes turn brilliant colors of gold, orange, and scarlet and the blistering summer heat cools off to the perfect temperature to enjoy the epic hiking and camping in the area.

Located along the stunning Highway 395, Mammoth Lakes is conveniently located near other points of interest in Northern California, like Yosemite or the Alabama Hills.

The most popular thing to do in Mammoth Lakes is to explore the beautiful alpine landscapes surrounding the town. For example, hit any of the trails in the 3,000 square miles of Inyo National Forest, including climbing Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. 

By early to mid-November, Mammoth’s world-class ski resorts, which enjoy one of the country’s longest ski seasons, open up. Here, everyone from beginner to expert skiers and snowboarders will get to tear up the slopes with the incredible Sierras, aflame with fall foliage, as the unforgettable background.

After all that hiking and playing in the snow, take advantage of one of the many hot springs sprinkled throughout Mammoth Lakes. For example, Wild Willy’s Hot Spring is the largest geothermal spring and the only one in Mammoth Lakes that provides natural pools to enjoy the soothing waters in. After a long day out exploring, find a natural hot spring to sit back in and soak in the incredible surrounding views of the snow-capped mountains.

The perfect place to stay during your time in Mammoth Lakes is The Village Lodge. This centrally located resort offers large suites with full kitchens along with easy to access shops and restaurants.

Fall in California--Napa Valley
Napa Valley

Napa

Contributed by Emma’s Road Map

If you hear fall, you might think of glowing hills full of vineyards and sitting in the sun sipping from some delicious wine. That’s precisely why Napa might be the perfect getaway destination in California.

Napa Valley is one of the world’s top wine regions with many award-winning wines, countless wine tours, and delicious food. Napa Valley and Napa City are located just north of San Francisco, which also makes this a perfect day trip to add to your San Francisco itinerary.

Wine tasting in Napa Valley is a must. Here are a few wineries to consider visiting;

  • Charles Krug
  • Ehlers Estate
  • Larkmead Vineyards
  • Nickel & Nickel

Good food can be found in one of the many Michelin restaurants of Napa such as the Japanese restaurant Kenzo and the contemporary La Toque.

If you’d like to combine wine tasting with something more adventurous, you might want to book a hot air balloon flight or go hiking in between the vineyards of Napa Valley and enjoy the view up in Westwood Hills Park. Combine these tasty and adventurous experiences with some culture by visiting the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art.

One of the top hotels in the area is definitely Harvest Inn. This lovely tree-filled property is located within walking distance of several popular wineries.

In short, Napa is the perfect fall weekend getaway if you’re looking for a phenomenal sensory experience in terms of wine and food. But there’s also plenty to do in the region for the adrenaline junkies.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Amy

    Gosh, there are so many wonderful places to see in autumn in California. Catalina looks esp. gorgeous! We’ll have to visit again soon.

  2. Hannah

    Great list! I live in California so I’ve been to most of these places (I want to go to Catalina Island and Joshua Tree though), and they are just stunning. I live in Sacramento and while it’s still pretty hot in the fall, it cools off by November and we have crunchy, orange and red leaves. It’s so beautiful!

    1. Wendy

      It’s been many years since I’ve been in Sacramento, so I’m definitely due for a visit!

  3. Natalie

    I never thought of California as a fall destination, but it seems like a great time to visit! I love avoiding peak season, so next time I’ll definitely skip summer and visit in the fall 🙂

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