Bay Area Fall Guide 2023: Pumpkin Patches, Fall Colors & Corn Mazes
We’re very lucky here in the Bay Area for our beautiful autumn weather. We have our gorgeous “Indian Summer” to thank for that which extends a bit of warmth and brings us plenty of dry days to get outdoors.
Despite the warm temps, you can still get into the fall spirit by eating local, seasonal autumnal produce, seeing the beautiful leaves change color, and exploring a corn maze on a pumpkin patch.
Fall Colors of the Bay
The Bay Area may not be renowned for its fall colors, but with a bit of planning, you can still see the beautiful leaves change.
San Francisco | While the color of the leaves in San Francisco will never be confused for Vermont in the fall, that doesn’t mean there isn’t gorgeous fall foliage to be found. San Francisco’s own Botanical Garden is a great place to do some leaf-peeping since their 55-acre garden features plants from around the world. The Garden is one of the most beautiful spots in the city when its Moon View Garden and Temperate Asia Garden begin to turn. Be sure to check out the bright gold Ginko trees and deep purplish-red Dogwoods. The fall peak typically lasts about 2 weeks, often in November. Follow the Garden on social media (Instagram | Facebook) to see how the leaves are changing on a daily basis.
Peninsula: Woodside | The vast woodside estate has gorgeous gardens that feature flora from China, Japan, England, Spain as well as other countries. Come late November through early December, you’ll see gorgeous autumnal colors from Japanese maples, cherries, Virginia creepers, hawthorns, fruit trees, viburnums, ginkgos and other rare plants spread out throughout the gardens.
South Bay: East of Morgan Hill | Take a stroll in the state park in October to see the Bigleaf Maples turn bright yellow and the Black Oak trees turn shades of red. You’ll want to explore the forests on the north-facing slopes which have many deciduous trees.
Wine Country & North Bay
National Geographic named Sonoma County the best place in the country to see changing fall foliage for its stunning autumn colors on both leaves and vines. They suggest a scenic drive through Sonoma Valley along Arnold Drive which is lined with colorful Oak and Maple trees. Then continue through the Russian River Valley, to see fiery orange, yellow and red vineyards.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park (Calistoga) and Trione-Annadel State Park (Santa Rosa) both have Bigleaf Maples and Black Oaks too which when the temperatures cool, the leaves turn, creating a dramatic and colorful display.
Find more great places to see fall colors in the Bay at parks.ca.gov.
Farmers Markets & Fall Produce
Autumn is a wonderful time to hit up the Farmers Markets. Because of California’s ideal climate and soil conditions, we’re lucky to have an extended season of summer crops plus early fall crops too. Tomatoes are still in season until mid-November, as well as potatoes and eggplants.
The arrival of apples and pears signals the start of fall. Look out for Gravenstein and Pink Lady apples and Bartlett pears. Persimmons and pomegranates appear in late September and pick up in October and November when juicy citrus fruit crops come in.
Find more of what’s in season and check out Foodwise (formerly CUESA), SF Environment Department‘s Farmers Markets List, or Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association to find a farmers market near you.
Want fresh fall produce? It doesn’t get any fresher than straight from the tree. Get out of the city and head to a local farm to pick your own apples. Peak apple-picking season is typically September and October; however, due to the past 2023 winter conditions, the fruit may be a little late this year.
Sebastopol | Located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, pack a picnic and head to a local, family-run farm focused on apples and pears. Their ranch has picnic tables and ample parking. In addition to apples, you can also take home some of their award-winning crisp apple cider. Their “U-pick” season is typically offered September through early December (exact dates vary year to year) where you can harvest your own Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, and Roman Beauties apples.
Swanton Pacific Ranch – Expected to reopen in fall 2023 (Sadly closed for the 2022 season due to fire damage from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in August 2020)
Davenport (Santa Cruz County) | The gorgeous 3,200 acre Swanton Pacific Ranch rests among a lush redwood forest, riverine ecosystems and expansive coastal grassland overlooking the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Normally closed to the public, it’s owned and operated by California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly) for educational and research in sustainable agriculture, but they open their doors to the public for their organic U-pick apple season which runs from Labor Day through early October. Their 2-acre orchard produces 16 varieties of apple which ripen progressively throughout the fall allowing for an extended picking season. Browse their Harvest Calendar.
Watsonville | Bring the family to one of the most popular U-pick apple orchards in the Bay Area where you can pick your favorite fruit of the season right off the tree or vine and then picnic among the apple trees and the hills. Gizdich Ranch’s “Pik-Yor-Self” program allows you to harvest your own strawberries, olallieberries, boysenberries, and apples. Apple picking season runs from mid-September for about 3-4 weeks. Check their website to find out what’s currently available for U-pick. Don’t miss their pie shop and deli which has seasonal favorites including their famous homemade pies.
Greater Placerville (50 miles east of Sacramento) | If you’re up for a little road trip to a countryside getaway, drive along Highway 50 between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, to a bountiful Gold Country with 50 locales featuring fruit orchards, roadside stands, ranches, breweries, tree farms, wineries and even a spa. Check out their Harvest Calendar to find out what’s in season, review their Apple Hill Growers map, or download their dedicated app for updated info on every ranch plus food, lodging, events and more.
The Apple Hill region typically extends the apple picking season throughout October where you can harvest Fuji, Granny Smith, and Pink Ladies.
Check out Sactown Mag’s Ultimate Guide to Apple Hill for more info and tips.
Corn Mazes & Pumpkin Patches
Get into the fall spirit by embarking on an adventure through a corn maze or picking out your favorite pumpkin at a local pumpkin patch.
San Francisco | Keep it local; this pumpkin patch is right in San Francisco and has been a neighborhood staple for over 70 years. Visit the patch any day in October to find pumpkins of all sizes and shapes. Gourds, corn stalks, and Indian corn are in abundance. During October, come see the ghosts in their trees, the scarecrows in their patch, and let the kiddos crawl through a tiny hay maze meant just for little kids.
Livermore | It twists, it turns, it dead-ends; it’s six green acres of good old-fashioned family fun. Featured twice on the Late Show with David Letterman, G&M Farms Cornfield Maze and Pumpkin Patch was voted Best Seasonal Attraction in the East Bay by Diablo Magazine. There’s also a free straw bale maze corn box, and farm animals. In addition to their famous corn maze, weekends feature additional paid attractions including pony rides, cow train, pedal carts, jumping pillows, and their newest attraction the hayride.
Petaluma | This real pumpkin patch located on a cheese farm invites you to find your perfect pumpkin and cut it from the vine. Plus there are tons of free activities including learning how to milk a cow, a corn pit, a hay maze, a hay pyramid, a corn maze, and free hayrides. Plus you can dig for your own potatoes, eat some BBQ or pumpkin ice cream, and listen to live music on weekends. Please note, 2023 info is not yet available, but we expect it to be similar to years past.
Road Trip: Hollister | Worth the drive, Swank Farms Corn Maze was listed as one of the most insane corn mazes in America in Reader’s Digest online magazine. Info for 2022 is not yet available, but it should be similar to years past. In past years, unlimited entry to the park included the Maniac Maze, the Kiddy Corral, and Spooky Maze, Jumping Pillow, Cow Train Pedal Karts, and a slide. You’ll receive one pumpkin Sling Shot and one Corn Cannon.
Find more epic corn mazes in our round-up of the Best Corn Mazes in the Bay Area. Last updated 2022
To find more pumpkin patches, check out this great roundup for 2023 from Marin Mommies.
Awesome Fall Fairs & Festivals
Fall in the Bay also means several big Bay Area events to look forward to.
October 3-11, 2022
San Francisco’s largest annual civic sponsored event, San Francisco Fleet Week is a series of free, family-friendly events that honor the contributions of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. The highlight of Fleet Week is The U.S. Navy Blue Angels dazzling air show, taking place over three consecutive days.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
September 30 – October 2, 2022
One of the largest, free-est and beloved music festivals in the country is held annually the first weekend in October. Be one of over 750,000 attendees over the three-day musical extravaganza in beautiful Golden Gate Park.
Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 14-15, 2023) & World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off (Oct. 9, 2023)
Want to see a pumpkin that weighs almost as much as a Smart Car? Witness the humongous, mind-bending, Volkswagen-sized weigh-off champion pumpkin on display, plus, stare in awe at the mesmerizing and remarkably talented “Picasso of pumpkin carvers” sculpt and shape monster pumpkins into one-of-a-kind masterpieces.