Pumpkins, scarecrows and sunny beach days ahead! Fall in SLO CAL is all about enjoying a dose of outdoor fun alongside traditional seasonal festivities like hayrides, cider sipping and apple picking. Truly, it's the best of both worlds, as offseason travelers can expect temperate weather, uncrowded hiking trails, serene coastal vistas and plenty of opportunity to mingle with the local wildlife all while celebrating the turn of the season. Whether you hop onto a surfboard, slip into a kayak or find yourself galloping full speed atop a horse, you'll discover SLO CAL's cornucopia of autumnal wonders as nature intended: completely unencumbered.
Apple picking and tasting
Apple picking. Photo by: Jack Creek Farms
How many apple varieties can you name? Fuji, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith—and dozens more—await hungry visitors of SLO CAL's See Canyon each fall season. It's all happening at SLO CAL's rustic apple orchards and farm stands, many of which feature hard and fresh cider served alongside enticing extras like free range eggs, just-picked produce and local honey. Located only a few miles from the Pacific, Avila Valley is uniquely positioned to grow incredibly crisp, juicy apples that burst with that special SLO CAL flavor. Whether you picnic, U-pick, or simply pick up a few provisions for later, you'll get an up-front taste of fall's most delectable crop.
SEE CANYON FRUIT RANCH
The apple doesn't fall farm from the tree: Since 1984, this family-owned-and-operated orchard has provided a laid back gathering place for locals and visitors seeking an authentic slice of SLO CAL's vibrant apple season. What kind of bounty can you expect to enjoy? Sample Red Gold, Fuji, Pippin and Gala apples (to name just a few), fresh-pressed apple cider with no sugar added, refreshing hard cider, veggies of all kinds, jam, honey and farm-fresh eggs. Trust us, you'll want to bring this haul back to your hotel or vacation rental for further feasting (you can also host a scenic impromptu picnic on-site if the mood strikes). From special events to traditional autumnal adventures, See Canyon Fruit Ranch always affords a fantastic photo opp for the whole family to cherish.
Farm stand open September through November
Hours: daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address: 2345 See Canyon Ranch
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Apple education: Take a crash course in all things orchard-related at See Canyon's popular Gopher Glen, home to hard and fresh cider as well as dozens of exciting, certified organic apple varieties. Nosh on Rhode Island Greening, Skinner, Missouri Pippins, three Limbertwigs as well as super rare and exotic apples—some totally new and never-before-tasted. Hey, you never know: you (or one of your kids) might be the first to bite into a brand new apple unleashed on the world for the very first time. How's that for bragging rights? Still hankering for more knowledge and know-how? With Gopher Glen's friendly growers and pickers often onsite, you can dig into the backstory of new seeds, rootstocks and farming methods just as easily as you can take a bite.
Farm stand open from Memorial Day Weekend through late December (look for the first harvest of apples around July).
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Address: 2899 See Canyon Ranch
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
SLO CREEK FARMS
Pick your pleasure: This friendly U-pick apple stand isn't just a fantastic place to roll up your sleeves and fill up your basket; it's also a local hangout complete with farm stand and lawn games. The 44-acre organic apple orchard features 40 acres of organic apple trees, three acres of organic vegetables and plots bursting with sweet-smelling organic herbs and flowers (yes, you can also pick this bounty, too). As far as apples go, each variety has its moment in the sun: Fujis (pick between September and late November); Granny Smith (pick between late October and December) and Gold (pick between September and November). If all this sounds like a lot of hard work, might we suggest relaxing in the garden with a tall glass of house-made hard cider?
Farm stand and U-pick apples available September through Thanksgiving
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday
Address: 6455 Monte Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
AVILA VALLEY BARN
Apples and farm animals: With a rustic U-pick apple orchard, festive hay rides, and a big red barn overflowing with pumpkins, pies, and local treats, Avila Valley Barn has a way of bringing everyone together for an afternoon of fall fun. Encircled by a menagerie of happy farm animals (including chickens, goats, and llamas), you can easily wow everyone in your group with one spectacular roadside attraction (plus, you can grab great barbecue, roasted corn and sweets like ice cream and fudge all in one dynamic stop). It's easy to become distracted by all this bounty, but keep your eyes on the prize: Amazing U-pick apples, including Mutsu, Gala, Fuji, Jonalicious and Granny Smith.
U-pick apples available August through December
Hours: Farm stand open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Daily
Address: 560 Avila Beach Drive
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Additional farm offerings:
U-pick pumpkins and other seasonal fall produce grown on site.
Corn roaster open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday (or while supplies last)
BBQ open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday
Sweet Shoppe Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Hay Rides: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday-Saturday
Pony Rides noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. To 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
Pick a Pumpkin (or three)
Pumpkin patch. Photo by: Jack Creek Farms
Grab fall by the stem: When it comes to picking the best pumpkin, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Whether you prefer yours smooth and round, bumpy and spotted, or miniature and white, you'll find your perfect gourd at SLO CAL's festive pumpkin patches. But wait, there's so much to marvel at: stick around for hayrides, corn mazes, and farm animals, too.
BROOKSHIRE FARMS PUMPKIN PATCH
All-day fun for everyone: Located on the border of San Luis Obispo and Los Osos, this popular patch is rife with activities—and there are so many to choose from! Although anyone can buy the patch's pre-harvested pumpkins, admission to the farm adventure area gives you and your little ones all-day access to hayrides, inflatable slides, rubber duck races, plus an obstacle course, playground and a corn maze. Bring your flashlights to explore the maze at night (if you dare).
Opens October 1
Hours: Tuesday through Friday noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: Tuesday through Friday $11, Saturday and Sunday $15, seniors 65+ $8 and children under 2 free. Weekday only pass: $48.
Address: 4747 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo, CA
CAMBRIA NURSERY AND FLORIST
Find something to take home: Explore the grounds and take home some spooky decorations too. The Cambria Nursery and Florist is a great place to get in the spirit while taking in the extensive selection of seasonal plants and decor. Pick out an heirloom pumpkin or gourd to take home to dazzle up your porch. Fall decorations are available to stock up on at the nursery’s multiple gift shops which carry a variety of seasonal halloween decorations for your home and garden. While there, stop by the pumpkin photo booth and snap a few pictures with the whole family- pups included!
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week
Address: 2801 Eton Road Cambria, CA
CHESEBROUGH FARM PUMPKIN PATCH
You can't miss it from the road: Why not make this stop a family tradition? At Chesebrough Farm in Templeton, adorable scarecrows stand guard over more than 60 varieties of pumpkins, gourds and winter squash. Discover an old-fashioned roadside stand bolstered by modern perks, like customizable pumpkin scarring (think of it like a pumpkin “tattoo”), and even a pumpkin and winter squash cookbook you can take with you. Speaking of dinner, pick up a few armfuls of edible squash and corn grown onsite!
Opens Oct. 1-31
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week
Address: 790 Moss Lane, Templeton, CA
JACK CREEK FARMS PUMPKIN PATCH
Have a little Picasso on your hands? Don't miss Pumpkin Palooza at Jack Creek Farms in Templeton, where the arrival of autumn signals splatter paint and feathers. Simply pick up a handy to-go kit that includes your pick of pumpkin, plus paint, glitter, glue, pom poms, ribbons, miniature hats and googley eyes to decorate with. Free activities also include a haystack, farm animals, wooden train, tractor tire garden, straw-bale ponies, sawhorses, dummy steer roping and a butterfly garden maze. Happy creating!
Hours: Open Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Address: 5000 Highway 46 West, Templeton, CA
NIPOMO PUMPKIN PATCH
A pumpkin for every personality: Looking for a patch chock full of affordable pumpkins ranging in size from four ounces to 200 pounds? Head to Nipomo! The Nipomo Pumpkin Patch in southern SLO CAL is all about the old school art of growing gourds (they grow more than 50 varieties). You might even learn a thing or two for your own gardening game! Let me tell you—a selfie with a 200-pound pumpkin is liable to get a lot of likes on Facebook (pics are encouraged). It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, indeed.
Open Oct 1-31
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m.
Address: 668 Eucalyptus Road, Nipomo, CA
RIVER K PUMPKIN PATCH
Room to roam: When a pumpkin patch has been around for some 50+ years, you can be pretty sure it's well worth the visit. Sure, you'll explore a vast array of pumpkins of all textures and sizes as well as enjoy festive hayrides at this Paso Robles mainstay. But the real star of the show is a massive corn maze stretching more than three acres. Yes, we said that right. Three acres! Be careful: it's easy (and fun) to get lost!
Open Oct. 1-31
Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Address: 5670 North River Road, Paso Robles, CA
Get into the community spirit
Cambria Scarecrow Festival. Photo by: Highway 1 Discovery Route
Join the fun: Experience SLO CAL like a local when you take part in the area’s colorful local fall events! From foodie fests and carnival rides to whimsical scarecrows and fine wine, you’ll discover just what makes SLO CAL so special (hint: it’s the people!)
CAMBRIA SCARECROW FESTIVAL
Give them something to crow about: For more than a dozen years, SLO CAL's colorful coastal scarecrows have greeted Autumn visitors with fistfuls of straw, elaborate hand-made costumes and vibrantly painted smiles. The Cambria Scarecrow Festival continues to feature hundreds of scarecrows bowling, bathing, painting, pedaling, fishing and—yes, even flying—through Cambria, San Simeon and Harmony Oct. 1-31. Created by local youth and businesses, you'll get a festive wallop of local color just by taking a spin around town.
ATASCADERO FALL FESTIVAL
Thrills for the whole family: Carnival rides, craft beer and live music come together to create a festive celebration at Atascadero’s Fall Festival, held in Sunken Gardens Friday, Nov. 19 through Sunday Nov. 21, 2021. For the mighty fine price of free, enjoy music from 25+ bands on two stages, carnival rides and games (including a Ferris Wheel illuminated in front of the historic city hall building), local arts and crafts vendors, delicious food, craft beer, seltzer and wine, and more. The best part? With three days of nonstop fun on the roster, you won’t miss a moment.
HARVEST WINE WEEKEND
Grow wild: In SLO CAL, we sure love our wine (and the busy harvest time is a flavorful expression of that passion). Barbecues, live music, winemaker dinners, barrel tastings, and more unfold across the Paso Robles wine region each fall (the 2021 event is held Oct. 16-17) providing ample opportunities to celebrate the coming of a fresh, new vintage. Plus, with more than 250 wineries ranging from family-owned and funky to opulent and awe-inspiring, the party can be as casual or upscale as you desire. Vertical flights, gourmet pairings or a game of horseshoes? All of these can be in your future when you celebrate harvest season in Paso Robles. In fact, there are as many local grape varietals as there are experiences to explore. Cheers to that!
CENTRAL COAST RAILROAD FESTIVAL
Chug into the station: Train enthusiasts, this one’s for you! The Central Coast Railroad Festival, hosted Oct. 1-3 throughout the region, promises to deliver your need for steam, speed and history. Marvel at these spectacular feats of engineering with exhibits at the SLO Railroad Museum, Oceano Depot, Paso Robles Pioneer Museum, and Dana Adobe, among other SLO CAL locales. You can even check out real life replica model railroads presented by the SLO Model Railroad Association. Whether you’re a wannabe engineer or just a casual admirer, you’ll find a reason to hop on board.
ART IN THE PARK AT DINOSAUR CAVES PARK
Stock up on holiday presents early: Shop, eat and enjoy the view! Held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3, 2021 in Shell Beach, Art in the Park at Dinosaur Caves Park is the perfect place to gather unique holiday gifts (or anytime gifts) while savoring expansive views of the coastline below. The outdoor art festival features more than 40 awesome artists and vendors selling everything from glassworks, pottery, jewelry, textiles, furniture, sculpture, paintings, photography, bath and beauty products, gourmet food, plants and more. Groove to live music or sample local food and beverages without paying a penny for admission. Kind of seems like a no-brainer, right?
OKTOBERFEST AT MADONNA INN
Grab your lederhosen: Cold beer, hot brats and lively German music--what could be a better way to ring in October? If you’re looking for a taste of SLO CAL’s diverse brews paired with authentic German grub, this Oct. 9 event held at the Alex Madonna Expo Center should be on your fall itinerary. Loosen up with live music, stein hoisting, hula hooping, fun contests, prizes and more. Needless to say, this one’s for the grown-ups 21+ only (although kids at heart are more than welcome to join in the shenanigans).
CENTRAL COAST CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL
Frothy fun: Whether you prefer a hopped IPA, mellow lager, refreshing blonde, or rich stout, you’re likely to find a tall pint of happiness with your name on it at the third annual Craft Beer Festival, held noon to 4 p.m. on at Atascadero’s Sunken Gardens Oct. 23, 2021. Sample ice cold offerings from more than 50 incredible local and regional craft breweries, chill out to live Reggae tunes and graze among a variety of mouthwatering food truck fare. Bottom’s up!
Road trip on the off season
Highway 1. Photo by: Highway One Discovery Route
Take the driver's seat: Road trip through SLO CAL this fall, when crowds are few and adventure awaits around every corner. Discover lush vineyards in striking shades of gold, peaceful sanctuaries with room to wander and breathtaking hiking trails leading to secluded beaches.
Super scenic route: The heavenly slice of Highway 1 between Cambria to Ragged Point is some of the most photographed in the world (perhaps that's why Highway it's been nationally recognized as a scenic byway). Motor along winding, surf-beaten cliffs, stopping for epic sunsets, black sand beaches, and secluded waterfalls along the way. Ragged Point Inn offers up a farm-fresh meal (and incredible selfie spot) paired with staggering views of Big Sur's majestic gateway.
Step into a storybook: Princesses and wizards wanted! Located between Cambria and Cayucos, the tiny town of Harmony is a local gem you have to see to believe (don't blink—you just might miss it!). This funky little hamlet boasts a population of 18 (if you count the cows) and is a prime pit stop for young and old each and every fall. Explore the miniature post office and wedding chapel, watch glass blowers create their unique molten art, lap up some local ice cream or grab a glass of wine at Harmony Cellars, perched atop a neighboring hill. How does this story end? Only one way to find out!
Vines for days: With two world class wine regions—Edna Valley to the South and Paso Robles to the North—you're never far from your next great sip in SLO CAL. Of course, driving through oak and vineyard-studded hillsides provides a real treat all in itself. Pack a picnic (and pick up a few bottles to enjoy later). Just a few miles from the Pacific, Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande and Avila Beach boasts cool climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In Paso Robles, more than 250 wineries nestled among more than a dozen microclimates offer everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to bold blends. Fall signals the beginning of harvest season in SLO CAL, when special winery events, winemaker dinners, tours and pairings abound.
MORE SCENIC ROUTES TO EXPLORE:
From vine to sand on Highway 46: Experience wine country and the beach! Motor from Paso's popular Highway 46 West Wine Trail to Highway 1 and Cayucos' stunning coast this fall. On your way toward the sea, you'll pass dozens of unique tasting rooms ranging from robust reds and craft spirits to gourmet small plates. Get the backroads experience on Huasna Road: Drive through a tapestry of flowers, farmland and vineyards when you cruise through the Arroyo Grande countryside on Huasna Road. Pack a picnic and enjoy Biddle Regional Park surrounded by autumnal colors before embarking on this backcountry journey. Survey the sea: Savor a bird's eye view at the Perfumo Canyon Scenic Overlook, which takes you from San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach with dreamy hilltop views of Morro Rock in between).
Discover outdoor adventures
Hiking. Photo by: marknakamuraphoto
In SLO CAL, it's always a great day to get outside. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, fall is less about bundling up and more about getting out! Whether you grab a zip line or sink into soothing hot spring waters, it's easy to make the most of the next 24 hours.
Zip it good: Ready for a thrilling experience that flings you hundreds of feet high above oak trees and chaparral? Head to Margarita Adventures in Santa Margarita, where the wilderness meets your sense of adventure (with a side of premium wine). Choose from several zip lines or enjoy them all, just be sure to bring your sense of daring.
Families that fly together: With several high-speed zip-lines positioned high above the hills, rugged adventure courses designed to test your strength and an exciting Chipmunk Park designed for kids, Vista Lago Adventurepark is a dynamic outdoor destination that combines action-packed family fun with the thrill of the great outdoors.
Choose your steed: Glittering tide pools, sandy bluffs and incredible views of the ocean are made even more amazing when enjoyed from the saddle. You, too, can turn this fantasy into a reality with horseback riding offerings at Montana de Oro, Los Osos/Baywood Park's go-to spot for breathtaking sunsets, spectacular coastal hiking trails and an Elfin Forest populated by ancient pygmy oak trees.
Cowboys wanted: You need not know how to rope or ride when you saddle up to a pony in Creston's blissful backcountry. Spend the afternoon galloping (or cycling, if that's more your thing) through the region’s rural countryside, punctuated by wineries, olive oil purveyors and ranches.
Do the dunes: A surreal dunescape awaits explorers in Oceano and Nipomo, where you can hike, bike and view hundreds of sea birds flourishing in their natural habitat. You'll also want to check out Oso Flaco's meandering trail from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes to Mussel Rock Preserve, which spans about 5.2-miles out and back. The trail leads to a picturesque lake, grasslands, coastal brush, and a wide beach flanked by rolling dunes worthy of an all-day affair.
Go fly a kite: Yes, we mean this 100% seriously. Each fall, our local beaches are brightened by colorful kites twisting in the air, producing that innocent glee that of childhood wonder. When the wind rolls of the ocean just right, you're in a prime position for a major happiness boost. Enjoy this simple, family-friendly activity anywhere you roam along the SLO CAL coastline from Nipomo to Cambria. Think of this as parasailing for those who enjoy hanging close to the ground!
Secluded scenery: With thousands of acres of protected open space framed by majestic views, hiking is legendary in SLO CAL. Whether you traverse the family-friendly Pismo Preserve in Pismo Beach (with several trails winding from oak woodland to seaside cliffs) or test your skill on the Ragged Point Cliffside Trail (which affords views of Ragged Point's famous 300-foot Black Swift Falls), you'll experience uncrowded trails in an unparalleled setting. Happy trekking!
Bubble up: Call us too lucky, but SLO CAL has been blessed by several natural hot springs, all of which are bound to bring you closer to a state of calm. You, too, can enjoy the hot, healing waters that our native residents and early settlers so thoroughly relished. This fall, sink into a tub perched atop an oak-shaded hillside in Avila Beach at the Sycamore Mineral Springs or head to Paso Robles where spas and hotels have harnessed this natural wonder with zen-link results. Of course, a glass of local wine always helps elevate the experience.
Bike or walk with Bob: A leisurely and flat pedestrian route perfect for all ages (and dogs, too), the Bob Jones Trail is a favorite wonderland among parents with strollers, kids on bikes, and grown ups who love both the journey and the destination. Starting in San Luis Obispo and snaking along meadowland, creek beds and a golf course, you'll end your journey 2.8-mile journey in Avila Beach, just a stone's throw from the sand. How cool is that?
Find your wild [life]
Elephant seals. Photo by: serenareneephotography
From Hearst's famed Zebras grazing along Highway 1 to playful otters and fluttering butterflies, you'll be surprised at how many wild critters make a cameo in SLO CAL.
Wag more: With pet-accommodating beaches, trails and hotels, SLO CAL is proud to welcome four-legged pals with open arms this fall. One such example, among many? Heilmann Dog Park in Atascadero, which features picnic tables, shady oaks, a doggie spa almost an acre of land where the pups can run, leap and wag. Want to throw a ball beside the surf? In Cayucos, you'll find a sprawling off-leash dog beach perfect for your four-legged friend to explore. Similarly, the beach adjacent to Avila Beach’s historic Port San Luis Pier allows pups to frolic to their heart's content (while you bask in the sun). That's a win-win if you ask us.
Lions, tiger and monkeys: For animal encounters far out of the ordinary, plan a family trip to Atascadero's Charles Paddock Zoo. Yes, SLO CAL's only zoo is a true gem: you'll find rare inhabitants like a Malayan Tiger, black-handed spider monkeys and a Gilla Monster all in one walkable outdoor safari. Plus, each fall brings the zoo’s Zoo Boo! Come costume ready and attend a not-too-scary evening complete with Halloween decorations, carnival games, a costume contest, Halloween activities, a haunted house and more.
Say hi to the seals (and sea critters): With dozens of wild Elephant Seals playing out their daily dramas at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, who needs reality TV? In the fall, these fascinating creatures are beginning their journey back to this protected sanctuary, and are easily visible basking in the sun from Highway 1.
Underwater wonder: The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – one of the nation’s largest wildlife sanctuaries – is also a fabulous place to kayak among whales, seabirds and other aquatic life. Each fall you’ll find an array of animals to discover, including dolphins, whales, sea birds and more.
Whale of a time: Hoping to catch a massive fluke or an awe-inspiring breech? Highway 1 Discovery Route's Whale Trail features ten unique stops nestled along the SLO CAL coast perfect for whipping out those binoculars. Look for the Whale Trail signs along your way—each stop is well positioned for catching sight of these majestic creatures, which make appearances December-May.
Butterflies take flight: What's orange and black and fluttering all over? The Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach is a must-see spectacle that you might be surprised to find tucked away along Highway 1. If you've never seen these graphic beauties flutter in unison, plan to do so October through February, when populations are at their peak. This truly is a magical experience!
Z is for zebra: See stripes in San Simeon! It's well known that the late great print media mogul William Randolph Hearst loved to collect exceptional people. Everyone from rising Hollywood starlets to famous politicians were invited to his lavish San Simeon palace, known today as Hearst Castle. But did you know that Hearst also collected exceptional animals? At one time, his on-site zoo contained an ever-changing menagerie of 300 rare creatures, including bison, elk, camels, kangaroos, giraffes and—yes—even zebras. Next time you drive through San Simeon on Highway 1, keep an eye out. You just might see the ancestors of Hearst's beautiful zebras grazing on rolling ranch land, not far from the Hearst family's grass-fed cattle!
Cover photo by: camdensperson