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Experience the Best of Fall in California with Kids

A young boy sits on a green wagon while enjoying an autumn day at the apple orchard in California, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

Fall is a magical time of year. Autumn in California is all about pumpkins, falling leaves, cooler temperatures, and most importantly, family adventures! In fact, California offers a wide range of experiences to help your family treasure this special season. From foothill farms to mountain towns and amazing pumpkin patches, there are many ways to make memories together and Experience the Best of Fall in California with Kids!

The Best of Fall in Northern California with Kids

In Northern California, families will find a variety of exciting opportunities to pick their own apples, find pumpkins to carve, and more! Don’t miss the California fall colors this season as you make cherished family memories together.

Apple Hill

Foothill Farms, Apple Picking, and More

A road extends into brilliant fall foliage at Apple Hill, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

Visitors from all over Northern California flock to Apple Hill to experience the best of fall in California for families. Located in Camino, just an hour outside Sacramento, makes it an easy day trip with kids. Embark on one of the best fall road trips in California for families as you travel to Apple Hill. Families will delight in exploring the 50 farms sprinkled throughout the foothills. Plus, driving the windy roads canopied with colorful trees is the perfect Northern California fall getaway for families! Certainly, one of the best places to spot California fall colors with kids.

Best Farms to Visit in Apple Hill for Families

A young girl holding a yellow bucket walks along a dirt path between apple tress at Denver Dan's Apple Patch, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

Begin the day at O’Halloran’s Apple Trail Ranch and walk the nature trail before sampling their 16 varieties of apples. Next, stop at Apple Ridge Farms for gold panning, pumpkins, a hay maze, and a weekend craft fair. Denver Dan’s Apple Patch is the spot for picking if kids want to climb the trees in search of the perfect apple. Around the corner, Larsen Apple Barn has a collection of historic artifacts in a small museum. Then, visit Rainbow Orchards, the home of the famous apple donut. Finally, drive over to Delfino Farms where you can indulge in a “walkin’ pie” smothered in vanilla ice cream. One thing is certain, parents will enjoy taking in the fall foliage in California, as kids delight in selecting apples to bring home.

Family-Friendly Wineries and Breweries near Apple Hill

In addition to farms, pumpkin patches, and petting zoos, Apple Hill also has amazing family-friendly wineries and breweries. Lava Cap Winery offers spectacular views for a picnic. At Lewis Grace Winery, guests will enjoy the ambiance of a chateau overlooking all the fall foliage in California. Then, don’t miss Boeger Winery, an 1849 Gold Rush homestead, and the first post-Prohibition winery in the area. It’s nestled next to a creek with picnic tables and they have corn hole games and a sandbox for kids! Hwy 50 Brewing Company is centrally located off the main road and has fire pits, outdoor seating as well as wine tasting inside. Finally, Jack Russell Farm Brewery is a casual spot for kids to run around while the adults relax at picnic tables, sample local brews, and enjoy live music.

Where to Stay at Apple Hill with Kids

There are several quaint places to stay in the area if you want to extend your visit to Apple Hill. Eden Vale Inn is a luxurious bed and breakfast with beautiful views, soaking tubs, and a spa where parents can relax at the end of the day. North Canyon Inn Bed & Breakfast is another bed and breakfast surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards and located in the heart of Apple Hill. Rental cabins are also available on Vrbo.com or other home rental websites. Additionally, visitors can also stay down the hill in Sacramento or enjoy Apple Hill in combination with a trip to South Lake Tahoe.

Apple Hill, US Vacation Rentals: cabin rentals & more | Vrbo

Hope Valley

Spectacular Fall Foliage in California

A view of fall colors near Wylder Hotel, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Wylder Hotel

If you are looking for stunning fall colors in California then Hope Valley will take your breath away. It sits at 7,000 ft. on the eastern side of Carson Pass near Lake Tahoe and has long been a draw for artists, hikers, and anglers. Visitors can relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings or take to the trails for the opportunity to appreciate the California fall foliage with kids while on the move. Crater Lake is a 3.7-mile trail that winds along a 4-wheel road and climbs 1,250 feet. In the same area, families can climb to Scotts Lake on a 3-mile trail. Both hikes are rated as moderate and best suited for families with older children. Families can also enjoy the nearby Grover Hot Springs and local mountain bike trails.

Where to Stay in Hope Valley with Kids

The Wylder Hope Valley is a magical resort nestled in the heart of the valley, perfect for autumn in California. Guests can appreciate fall foliage in California with kids while roasting s’mores, eating on the deck, and relaxing on the beautiful grounds. Wylder Hope Valley offers cabins, yurts, camping spots, and a unique vintage Spartan trailer. Additional accommodations can be found in South Lake Tahoe, just 40 minutes away, where you can take in the brilliance of Lake Tahoe’s fall colors with kids.

Top 50 South Lake Tahoe Beachfront Vacation Rentals – Vrbo

Dixon

Massive Corn Maze & Family-Friendly Farms

The town of Dixon is halfway between the Bay Area and Sacramento, convenient for a fall day trip in Northern California with kids! Not to mention, one of the best places to see fall colors near the Bay Area for families. Here, make your way through a record-setting mega corn maze at Cool Patch Pumpkins. After successfully completing the maze, kids can take a spin on a tractor or ride the pedal cars. Next, visit Silveyville Farm for all the fall activities little kids enjoy, including a petting zoo, pumpkin painting, ATV and tractor rides, and a duck pond. Additionally, down the road in the town of Davis, families will fall in love with Grandpa’s Barn at Impossible Acres. Kids can hold a variety of animals and brush the donkeys before picking out the perfect pumpkin.

Pro Tip: Make sure your phone is well charged because there are few things more precious than your little one holding a baby duck!

RELATED: 8 Awesome Weekend Getaways From The Bay Area With Kids

Lathrop

Family Fun Near the Bay Area

An aerial view of the Dell'Osso Family Farm, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Dell’Osso Family Farm

Every October, Bay Area families embark on fall day trips in California with kids to the massive Dell’Osso Family Farm. Fall in California with kids means the Dell’Osso Family Farm comes alive with a full range of activities to entertain the whole family. Teens can shoot pumpkins from a cannon, explore the haunted castle and play mini-golf. Meanwhile, younger children will delight in the animal zoo, pillow jumping, gem mining, and the scarecrow ride. Adults will find food, drinks as well as cabanas, and fire pits available for an additional fee. Without a doubt, your entire crew will have a blast enjoying all the California fall festivities for families at Dell’Osso Family Farm! Lathrop is certainly one of the best fall experiences near the Bay Area with kids.

Half Moon Bay

Pumpkin Patches Along Scenic Highway 1

Two young boys stand near a wagon filled with pumpkins at Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Short

Half Moon Bay, 40 minutes south of San Francisco, is the perfect fall road trip in California for families. The small oceanside town, along scenic Highway 1, is host to multiple pumpkin patches and family farms. You can spend the entire day at Lemos Farm, which has a petting zoo, train and pony rides, slides, coin-op games, and even goat yoga! Or visit Arata’s Pumpkin Farm and entertain your crew with Minotaur’s Labyrinth Hay Maze and Haunted Barn. Right off Highway 1, you can pick up pumpkins at Farmer John’s, while kids play in the giant teepee and take a ride on the old tractor. Other traditional pumpkin patches in the area include Pastorino Farms, The Farmer’s Daughter, and Bob’s Vegetable Stand & Pumpkin Farm. With so many options, it’s no wonder Half Moon Bay is at the top of the list for places to experience fall in California with kids.

RELATED: Best Family Hotels In San Francisco (With Great Options For Large Families & Pools)

The Best of Fall in Southern California with Kids

Southern California offers an array of fall activities for families. From bursting autumn colors to cozy cabins, each location offers unique fall road trips in California for families. Regardless of where you go, take in the best fall foliage in Southern California with kids at these locations.

Big Bear

Mountain Escape Bursting with Color

A family of five walks along a trail near Big Bear, California on a crisp autumn day, one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Big Bear

Surprisingly, there are terrific places to see beautiful fall foliage in Southern California! Big Bear Lake, two hours from Los Angeles, is an easy escape into another world with colorful trees and a quaint mountain town. Several hiking trails allow families to enjoy the beauty of fall. The Woodland Trail departs from the Big Bear Discovery Center and is a nice 1.5-mile loop. There’s also the 3-mile San Bernadino Town Trail, or the 6-mile Pineknot Trail. Another option is the 2-mile Castle Rock Trail, although it can be a steep climb for little ones. After exploring head over to Big Bear Village for restaurants and local souvenir shopping. There’s so much to do in the Big Bear area that families enjoy returning year after year. Big Bear is truly one of the best places to see fall colors near Las Angeles with kids!

Where to Stay in Big Bear with Kids

Big Bear is an easy day trip from Los Angeles, however, it’s also a great place for a fall weekend getaway in California for families. Holiday Inn Resort The Lodge at Big Bear Lake has everything your family needs for a comfortable stay. The property features a family room with bunk beds and is a short walk to the lake and downtown shops. Alternatively, families can relax lakeside at Marina Riviera. With a private beach, outdoor pool, and hot tub as well as a sand volleyball court it’s a great spot to enjoy California’s fall colors! Of course, there is a range of rental options on Vrbo.com and other home rental websites. From luxurious chalets to charming old-school mountain cabins you can find it at Big Bear.

Big Bear Lake, CA Vacation Rentals: cabin rentals & more | Vrbo

Palomar Mountain & Cuyamaca Rancho State Parks

Fall Color on Full Display

When people think of San Diego sun and sand are the first things that come to mind. Surprisingly, there are two State Parks within a 1-1/2 hr drive that showcases amazing fall foliage in Southern California for families. When visiting Palomar Mountain State Park, take a hike to see some of the best of the fall foliage in California with kids on full display. The French Valley to Weir Trail is a 3.8-mile walk that takes you through the woodlands and is perfect for a fall day trip in California for families. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park boasts 100 miles of hiking. At a 5,000 foot elevation, the area experiences the seasons, similar to Northern Calfornia. Visitors will marvel at how the yellow black oak trees sparkle against the beautiful lake. Certainly, one of the best places to see fall colors near San Diego with kids!

Julian

Mining Town with Colorful History…and Trees!

The quaint town of Julian offers some of the best fall foliage in Southern California with kids. At Julian Mining Company, kids can participate in gold panning, gem sluice mining, play in a dig pit, and take a ride into a mine tunnel. Meanwhile, brave adults can try their hand at axe throwing! Then, the Julian Pioneer Museum provides a history of the area and has impressive displays of Indian and pioneer artifacts. For a unique family experience, take a tour of the Eagle and High Peak Mines with the Eagle Mining Company (no reservations are needed). Kids will be impressed with the chance to travel inside a mountain! To see some of the best fall foliage in California for families on foot, take to the trails at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve or nearby, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Disneyland, Legoland, and Universal Studios

Halloween Festivities for the Whole Family!

Several people enjoy a parade during the fall at Legoland.
Photo Courtesy: LEGOLAND California Resort

The Southern California amusement parks go all out to make Halloween a family affair. In Disneyland Park, guests will see characters in costumes, watch the main street pumpkin festival, and enjoy themed attractions. Families without early bedtimes can also attend the after-hours Ooogie Boogie Bash, a Disney Halloween Party. Autumn in California with kids isn’t complete without wearing their favorite costume to visit Mickey Mouse!

LEGOLAND California Resort delivers the magic for younger children. Specifically, the park hosts “less scary” events such as the afternoon Brick or Treat event and the chance to participate in the Costume Contest Parade. The festive Halloween LEGO® décor is a treat for all ages.

Additionally, Universal Studios Hollywood provides some frighteningly good fun. Prepare to jump and scream during Halloween Horror Night or Sinister Scare Night! Then, your family may even get lost in one of the terrifying themed mazes (not recommended for young children). There’s no doubt Halloween at one of California’s amusement parks will be a unique way to experience fall in California with kids.

Local Pumpkin Patches in Southern California

Fun for the Whole Family

Two boys stick their heads through holes in a large pumpkin sign reading "Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch", one of the best places for fall in California with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Alyson Aurigemma

Tanaka Farms brings fall in California to families in Orange County. The barnyard animals are sure to bit a hit along with U-pick pumpkins, wagon rides, and crafts. Next, try the Irvine Park Railroad’s pumpkin patch for carnival games, train rides, and a host of family-friendly activities. In Culver City, check out Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch for some spooktacular fun. And, Inland Empire families will enjoy the rides and slides of The Pumpkin Factory. Near Santa Monica, Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch provides a bit of country in the middle of the city. Kids wanting to experience fall in California don’t have to travel far from home to take a pony ride, hop on a train or play with animals. There are so many great local places to explore in each neighborhood to experience the magic of fall in California for families!

Happy Traveling!

A family of five sits together on large boulders with a large winery behind them.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

It’s a delight to watch kids roam pumpkin patches, pretend to drive tractors, hold baby animals, and marvel at colorful trees. Little ones won’t be little long so enjoy every minute of this special season and the best of fall in California for families! Certainly, you’ll make many family memories soaking in the best fall colors in California with kids.

RELATED: 16 Best Places To See Fall Colors In The US For Families

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Emily Kapic

Emily's globe-trotting adventures began in 2003 when she left her job with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and bought an around-the-world plane ticket. 40 countries and 18 years later, she’s still planning trips! Emily, her husband and 13-year-old triplets are based in Sacramento, California. When they aren't out of town on an adventure, she's researching trips and sharing tips. Emily loves making it easy for families to explore the world, get off the beaten path and make memories. Some of her favorite family activities include snowboarding in the mountains, relaxing on a beach, floating down the river and, ideally, boarding a plane headed to a place where you can zip line and drink something fruity.
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