10 Things To Do in California in October & Top Places to Visit

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California offers endless activities and unique destinations to visit throughout the year. This list of top things to do in California in October includes many must-see locations. Also, there are a lot of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path destinations too. They may not be as well known but are absolutely worth a visit. And October is the perfect month to plan your trip!

I have lived in northern and southern California for the last six years. My husband and I have really taken advantage of road trips and discovering our new home on the west coast. Here is my list of the top things to do in California in October to add to your bucket list.

Is October a Good Time to Go to California?

If you are planning a visit to the Golden State and wondering if October is a good time to go to California. You are in luck. Many people do not know this, but October is a fantastic month to visit California. Also, October is a popular time of year for festivals and events!

The fall months are my favorite time of year to travel around California. You will typically have fewer crowds, especially compared to the summer, and it is the ideal weather for outdoor activities. If you are planning on camping, hiking, or even a trip to the beach, October is the best time to go. The temperatures are usually pleasant and not too hot.

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    Things To Do in October in California: Southern California

    1. See the Iconic Los Angeles

    First up, among the top things to do in October in California is Los Angeles, one of the most iconic and well-known destinations around the globe.

    There are so many incredible things to do and see in LA. Such as viewing Los Angeles from above at the Griffith Observatory, hiking Runyon Canyon, visiting the Santa Monica Pier, dancing the night away in West Hollywood, or going shopping (or window shopping) along Rodeo Drive.

    Griffith Observatory Sunrise Hike

    I lived in LA for a year, and one of the first things I learned was how enormous and spread out the county of Los Angeles actually is. To visit the different cities or beach towns, you will need a car or an uber to get there. And the other thing LA is famous for is its insane amount of traffic.

    October is the perfect time to visit Los Angeles because you will have the opportunity to experience many of the city’s biggest attractions and most popular destinations with fewer crowds and less traffic. Keep in mind there will still be traffic and other tourists. However, October is a way better time to visit than the summer months.

    Where to Stay in Los Angeles

    If it is your first time visiting LA, I recommend staying in Santa Monica. I lived in Santa Monica for a year and absolutely loved it. It is on the touristy side. However, you will be footsteps away from the beach, shopping at the 3rd Street Promenade, and numerous fantastic restaurants.

    One of our favorite things to do was to rent bikes and bike the beach path to Venice, where you can visit the famous Venice Beach and walk along the boardwalk. Venice is known for its bohemian and free-spirited vibes with its artistic shops and various street performers.

    one of the top things to do in california in october is ride your bike along the strand to venice beach

    An amazing, option for a hotel in Santa Monica is the Viceroy Santa Monica. The hotel is located in the main hub of Santa Monica, so you can easily walk to the beach, the promenade, or Santa Monica Pier.

    The Viceroy also offers an updated outdoor pool with open-air cabanas, an onsite bar, and a restaurant. Other awesome perks of the hotel include access to bicycles, fitness and business centers, and beach yoga classes.

    Book your stay at Viceroy Santa Monica here

    2. Get Some R&R in Palm Springs

    Another top thing to do in California in October is to visit Palm Springs. For many years Palm Springs has been known as a popular resort destination for the rich and famous in southern California. However, this luxury desert oasis offers many other things to do. And Palm Springs is absolutely worth visiting!

    relax by the pool in October in Palm Springs California

    Besides relaxing by the pool or enjoying one of the many 5-star spas, Palm Springs also has a variety of outdoor activities. Glide above the cliffs of Chino Canyon in the largest aerial tramway in the world. Or you can go hiking at one of the numerous nearby trails or enjoy a round of golf. Palm Springs is considered the golf capital of the world, with over 100 golf courses in the area.  

    A visit to Palms Springs is not complete without a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. About an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, you can plan a day of hiking, horseback riding, biking, rock climbing, and exploring the national park by car.

    One of our favorite things that we have done at Joshua Tree is to go stargazing at night. On a clear and moonless night, the dark night sky sparkles with shooting stars, the big dipper, and if you plan accordingly, you could possibly see the milky way.

    top thing to do in california in october is to go stargazing at Joshua Tree National Park

    October is one of the best months to visit Palm Springs for pleasant weather and affordable accommodations. Palm Springs experiences scorching hot summers that easily reach triple digits throughout the summer. 

    Tourist peak season in Palm Springs is between January to April. During this time of year, you will find the best weather, but accommodations are more expensive, and you will see an influx of tourists. 

    Where to Stay in Palm Springs

    Treat yourself to a stay at the Parker Palm Springs, a 5-star resort located only a 10-minute drive from Downtown Palm Springs.

    The Parker Palm Springs Hotel has numerous incredible amenities including multiple pools, tennis, croquet, fitness center, yoga, bicycles to explore the area, and multiple top-notch restaurants. 

    Book your stay at Parker Palm Springs here

    3. Explore & Hike Death Valley National Park

    October is the perfect time of year to visit the one-of-a-kind location, Death Valley. It is known as the hottest place on earth. The sweltering summer heat starts early in Death Valley. By May, Death Valley is already reaching uncomfortable temperatures in the triple digits. 

    In October, the valley has just started to cool off with average daily temperatures of a high of 82°F and a low of 54°F.

    During October, you will also have your pick of the top accommodations as it is usually not crowded during this time of year. The spring months, especially in March and April, are usually packed, and reservations have to be made months in advance.

    one of the best things to do in California in October is visit the salt flats at Death Valley National Park

    Besides being the hottest place on earth, Death Valley National Park features epic landscapes, including enormous salt flats, rolling dunes, massive craters, colorful mountains, and rugged canyons.

    A trip to Death Valley feels like you are exploring a different planet! The otherworldly sights such as Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, and Artist Palette are unlike any place on earth. A favorite location among many is Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America. Walk out to the salt flats and admire the unique honeycomb salt flats that stretch out for miles.

    Where to Stay in Death Valley

    When choosing a place to stay when visiting Death Valley, you need to decide if you would like to stay inside or outside of the national park. If you stay inside the park, it cuts down on your driving time each day to get to the park.

    However, you will find cheaper accommodations in one of the towns outside of the national park, like Beatty, NV. The small town of Beatty is also known as the “Gateway to Death Valley” and is only 7 miles from the entrance of the national park. 

    the inn at death valley

    The Oasis at Death Valley offers two great options of hotels in the national park. The Inn at Death Valley is the more luxurious option for lodging. This hotel is an oasis in the middle of the desert with amenities like a sauna, spa treatments, tennis courts, a gym, a swimming pool, and multiple restaurants.

    Book your stay at The Inn at Death Valley here

    The Ranch at Death Valley is great for large groups or families. The Ranch offers a lot of family friendly activities such as a pool, playground, horseback rides, fire pits, horseshoe pits, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts.

    ✅ Book your stay at The Ranch at Death Valley here

    Things To Do in October in California: Central California

    4. Visit the Purple Sand Beach in Big Sur

    Big Sur is California’s central coast at its finest. Located along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, the drive to big Big Sur alone will leave you in awe. With many vistas along the way, the stretch of road to Big Sur runs between the jagged tall mountainside and the rugged Pacific coast. It’s one of my favorite drives to do in California.

    Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

    Big Sur is a popular location for hiking trails, camping, breathtaking views, and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. October has some of its best weather in Big Sur. You will experience long sunny days, and the summer coastal fog has vanished for the season.

    It is also the perfect month to go camping. During the summer months, campsites book up many months in advance. In October, the Big Sur campgrounds are less crowded, and you will still have comfortable days and nights with an average temperature varying between 66.7°F and 54°F.

    The true hidden gem of Big Sur is Pfeiffer Beach, a small sandy beach known for its one-of-a-kind purple sand. The swirls of violet-hued sand can be found after a recent rainstorm. The purple sand is created by manganese garnet that has trickled down from the nearby mountains.

    Pfeiffer beach purple sand beach

    Located in the heart of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach is one of California’s most beautiful beaches. The shoreline is scattered with stunning rock formations, including the epic keyhole arch. Watch as the waves rush through the keyhole of this unique massive rock formation.

    Where to Stay in Big Sur

    Big Sur Lodge is a 3-star hotel located in Big Sur, CA, and only 1.9 miles from Pfeiffer Beach. Big Sur Lodge is a great option for a family with amenities like an outdoor swimming pool, an onsite restaurant, and hiking trails.

    Book your stay at Big Sur Lodge

    If you are looking for a more rustic stay and an adventure in nature, Big Sur Campgrounds & Cabins may be the perfect option for you. Their options for stay are an RV site, glamping cabins, tent sites, and cabins.

    5. Wine Tasting in Paso Robles

    One of California’s lesser-known wine regions, Paso Robles, is a magical location with acres of cascading hills of vineyards, olive groves, historic downtown, and hot springs. Keep Paso Robles on your radar because it is an up-and-coming destination in central California.

    Paso Robles Itinerary: Where to wine taste, Eat, Stay & More

    Located on the California Central Coast, Paso Robles is halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It may not be as well known as Napa Valley or Sonoma. However, don’t let that sway you. Paso Robles offers a world-class wine region, laid-back wine tasting experiences, and wineries with stunning vineyard views.

    If you are looking for the perfect wine-tasting experience in Paso Robles, you can book a tour to visit some of Paso Robles’s top wineries. With the Paso Robles Wine Adventure, your guide will help you create your own personal wine tasting tour through Paso Robles that includes stops at four to six wineries.

    Booking a small group tour is a great way to learn more about the wine region and get your own personal DD for the day. Trust me, after a couple of wine tastings, you will be so happy you have someone driving you to each winery.

    🍷 Book the Paso Robles Wine Adventure here

    The month of October is harvest season in Paso Robles. Wine harvest season is when the grapes have fully ripened and are ready to be harvested for production. During this time, you will find many exciting events, tours, winemaker dinners, grape stomps, and more scheduled throughout the month.

    October also brings exceptional weather to Paso Robles with warm and sunny days ranging from a high of 80°F and a low of 55°F at night. The vines begin to change color from a bright green to a golden hue, and the grapes are perfectly matured.

    Where to Stay in Paso Robles

    We have visited Paso Robles a couple of times now, and so far my favorite hotel to stay at is the Allegretto Vineyard Resort.

    Paso Robles Itinerary Allegretto Vineyard resort

    The Allegretto Resort is Tuscan-inspired and surrounded by 20 acres of beautiful vineyards. You can book vineyard tours or spend some time on your own exploring the grounds of Allegretto. They produce delicious wine as well. Allegretto provides wine tastings that you can do either in their tasting room or in the beautiful gardens.

    Bring your dog with you wine tasting in Paso robles

    The hotel is also dog friendly, which was a huge perk for us because we had brought our Golden Retriever with us to go wine tasting. Paso Robles is actually a very dog-friendly location. Dogs are welcomed at most of the hotels, wineries, and restaurants.

    ✅  Book your stay at Allegretto Vineyard Resort here

    Things To Do in October in California: Northern California

    6. Visit the City of San Francisco

    The city of San Francisco is at the top of many bucket lists. It is so unique and different from other California locations, and it is definitely a must-visit destination. San Francisco is an iconic location that is famously known for its diverse culture, incredible cuisine, gorgeous scenery, and renowned landmarks. 

    one of the top things to do in california in october is to walk the golden gate bridge in san francisco

    October is one of the best times to visit San Francisco! October offers some of the city’s warmest temperatures year-round, which makes it great for planning tours and other outdoor activities. Also, the summer crowds have disappeared. So you will have an easier time booking accommodations and city tours.

    San Francisco offers many things to do, such as walking the Golden Gate Bridge, visiting Alcatraz Island, riding a cable car through the hilly city, exploring the majestic redwoods at Muir Woods, or taking a ferry to Sausalito. Booking a tour can be a great way to see as much of the city and the Bay Area as possible.

    Book a tour to the famous prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco

    The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz is a great option for a tour because you will visit a ton of incredible Bay Area locations in just one day. Your tour includes a day with your informative guide touring the top neighborhoods in San Francisco, a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, lunch with a view in Sausalito, a visit to Muir Woods, and a trip to the historic prison at Alcatraz Island.

    Book the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz here

    Where to Stay in San Francisco

    There are numerous different neighborhoods in San Francisco to choose from for your stay. Some of the notable ones included North Beach, Nob Hill, SoMa, The Mission, Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina, and Union Square.

    Each neighborhood has its own unique personality and perks of staying there. I personally would recommend staying in Nob Hill. It is located in the heart of San Francisco, but not as touristy or expensive as neighborhoods like Fisherman’s Wharf.

    An incredible hotel to stay in Nob Hill is the historic Fairmount San Francisco. Fairmount hotels are notoriously well known for their luxurious amenities and 5 star service. We stayed at the famous Fairmount San Francisco on a weekend getaway to city and it surely did not disappoint.

    The beautiful property is centrally located and hotel rooms offer panoramic views of the city and bay. Other amenities include a rooftop garden, fitness center, spa, two onsite restaurants, and pet friendly rooms.

    ✅ Book your stay at the Fairmount San Francisco here

    7. Enjoy a Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay

    Only 45 minutes south of San Francisco is where you can find the beautiful city of Half Moon Bay. Located along the California coast, Half Moon Bay is the perfect day trip or getaway from the city. Half Moon Bay is also extremely dog friendly.

    The small charming town offers numerous activities for any traveler to enjoy. You can spend the afternoon walking or biking the scenic Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail or relaxing at one of the many white sandy beaches. Another popular thing to do is to take a stroll along the historic downtown. Downtown Half Moon Bay is a quaint area on Main Street with plenty of great restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, and history.

    Visit Sam's Chowder house in Half Moon Bay for their delicious lobster roll

    After you have worked up an appetite, it is time to eat some delicious and fresh seafood at Sam’s Chowder House. One of our personal favorite dishes is their famous lobster rolls. You have the option of ordering your lobster roll either cold and dressed in a lemon aioli or naked with butter served warm. Sitting outside is a must! Their deck has an outstanding view overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Pillar Point Harbor.

    visit Half Moon Bay, California for its pumpkin festival in October

    Besides wonderful weather this time of year, Half Moon Bay celebrates the fall and October with special events held throughout the month.

    The most popular event is Half Moon Bay’s annual Pumpkin Festival. A fun-filled weekend of live music, pie eating contest, expert pumpkin carving, an enormous heavyweight pumpkin weigh-off, costume contests, and other fall activities. Also, you can enjoy lots of yummy pumpkin-inspired food, craft beer, and signature cocktails.

    Where to Stay in Half Moon Bay

    Sit back and relax at the waterfront Oceano Hotel and Spa in Half Moon Bay. The luxury hotel features gorgeous views of the coast and harbor and offers numerous lavish amenities. Such as their spa, fitness center, onsite restaurant, and ideal location.

    Next to the Oceano Hotel is The Shoppes at Harbor Village, where you can spend time shopping at the unique stores or visit one of the nearby wineries and breweries.

    Book your stay at the Oceano Hotel and Spa here

    8. Visit the Aquarium or Go On a Whale Tour in Monterey

    Monterey is a gorgeous town located on California’s rugged Pacific coastline. It is the perfect stop to make when driving the Pacific Coast Highway or making a trip from San Francisco. There are so many wonderful things to do in Monterey. I suggest at least staying a night so you can experience all of the beauty this coastal town has to offer.

    Monterey is famously known for its diverse marine life. It is home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is considered one of the best aquariums in the country! The aquarium features the marine habitats of Monterey Bay. Such as playful sea otters, translucent jellyfish, adorable penguins, sharks, and thousands of other sea creatures.

    visit one of best aquariums in the county in Monterey Bay

    An adventurous and fun thing to do in Monterey is to book a Whale Watching Tour. October is one of the best months to see Humpback and Blue Whales in Monterey Bay. If you have never been on a whale watching tour, this is your time to book one. Seeing these enormous and incredible mammals up close is truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

    Book a Whale Watching Tour here

    Another must thing to do in Monterey is the 17-Mile Drive. Hop in your car and spend the day driving the picturesque Pacific coast. The 17-Mile Drive is by far one of the most stunning and scenic drives in California.

    Where to Stay in Monterey

    Portola Hotel & Spa is a great option for your stay in Monetery. The hotel is in the perfect location; you will be within walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and other popular hot spots in Monterey. It’s a little more budget-friendly than some other hotels nearby. However, Portola offers the same incredible amenities.

    the monterey lone cypress located on the 17 mile drive in Monterey

    Such as an award-winning spa, onsite dining, and rooms with private balconies. The Portola Hotel & Spa is also dog-friendly! We stayed here in the past and were very impressed by their dog-friendly rooms. Everything was white and clean, and we really enjoyed our stay here.

    Book your stay at Portola Hotel & Spa

    9. Harvest Season in Napa Valley

    When people think of California Wine Country, Napa Valley is the destination that comes to mind. Napa Valley is one of the world’s most well-known and prestigious wine-tasting regions. And it is 100% worth visiting.

    gorgeous bright green vineyards in napa valley

    Napa Valley is a destination in itself. Forget about San Francisco. Many people travel to the Bay Area to just spend time wine tasting in Napa Valley. If you are trying to decide how many days to spend in Napa Valley, I have a complete guide with tips here.

    💰 Want to Save $$ Wine Tasting

    The cost of wine tastings can easily add up when you visit multiple wineries in a weekend.

    If you want to save money on wine tasting and use it elsewhere like towards accommodations, restaurants, and tours- Priority Wine Pass can cut your tasting fees in half! Literally.

    They offer 2 for 1 tastings at participating wineries. So you would only need one pass per couple! It’s a pretty incredible deal!

    * My readers get the Wine Pass at a discounted rate. Make sure to use the coupon code TTWT to get the best deal!

    If you don’t have a lot of travel time in northern California, Napa Valley can be visited on a day trip. It is about an hour to an hour and a half drive from San Francisco. You can either rent a car. Or a simpler and safer option would be to book a tour. A tour that I suggest to Napa Valley from San Francisco is the Small Group Napa Valley Tour for Wine Lovers.

    Del Dotto winery in Napa Valley

    This tour does all of the planning for you. Don’t worry about the hassle of driving or deciding on a designated driver. This company will provide you with a private driver/guide that will pick you up from your hotel or residence in San Francisco.

    They have a custom itinerary of 3 wineries that are already chosen for you and a designated location for lunch. Your knowledgeable guide is a wine-enthusiast guide that will be with you at each winery. You basically just get to sit back and enjoy the views and delicious wine.

    ✅ You can book the Small Group Napa Valley Tour for Wine Lovers here

    One of the ultimate things to do in California in October is to go wine tasting in Napa Valley. October is a fantastic month to visit Napa Valley because it is the region’s harvest season.

    October brings warm autumn weather, changing leaves, and the excitement of the harvest season. During this time of year, expect lots of events at the wineries and food events, including Napa Valley restaurant week.

    One of the best things to do in California in October is wine tasting in Napa Valley

    However, if you plan on visiting Napa Valley in October, I recommend booking your accommodations and wine tastings as soon as possible. October is considered Napa’s peak season.

    First time to Napa Valley? Check out my guide that provides all of the tips you will need for visiting Napa Valley.

    ⭐ And don’t forget. If you want to save money on your wine tastings get your Priority Wine Pass here

    Where to Stay in Napa Valley

    You will quickly discover that accommodations in Napa Valley can get very pricey! If you want the best of the best in Napa Valley without paying an arm and a leg, The Meritage Resort and Spa is a great option. The grounds at The Meritage Resort and Spa are breathtaking. The resort is surrounded by rolling hills of 9 acres of gorgeous vineyards.

    The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley

    We recently stayed here with a group of friends and really enjoyed our time. After a day of wine tasting, we loved heading back to the Meritage for some pool time. The hotel is also in a great location. It is only a 10 minute drive from all of the action in downtown Napa Valley.

    The Meritage Resort and Spa offers a number of luxurious amenities including, a spa in an underground estate cave, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, a bowling alley, wellness classes, an onsite tasting room, and multiple onsite restaurants.

    Book your stay at the beautiful Meritage Resort and Spa here

    10. Explore the One of a Kind Mono Lake

    Mono Lake is probably one of the most underrated and least well-known locations on this list of things to do in October in California. Personally, I stumbled upon it when we were creating our road trip from Death Valley, and I am shocked that I didn’t know this place existed before then.

    You can find Mono Lake in eastern California in the small rural town of Lee Vining, near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Located at the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, it is often referred to as the “Gateway to Yosemite National Park.”

    Mono Lake Tufas

    Mono Lake formed over 1 million years ago and is one of the oldest lakes in North America. What makes this lake so special is the high levels of salt that cause the water to be alkaline. Over many years this has created the unique tufa columns along Mono Lake. The ghost-like structures are formed by the carbonate-rich saltwater that has created the limestone.

    a top things to do in California in October is to visit travertine hot springs

    After visiting Mono Lake, you should discover the other diverse and epic landscapes in Mono County. Black Point Fissures is a unique hike in Mono Lake with gaping slot canyons, volcanic rock, and panoramic views of the ancient lake. Or take a dip a Travertine Hot Springs, a natural hot spring that showcases stunning views of the Sierra Mountains.

    Mono Lake in October is one of the few places in California where you can experience fall colors. Between mid-September and mid-October, the leaves will start to change in Mono Lake to beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown.

    Where to Stay in Mono Lake

    Accommodations near Mono Lake are very limited, I suggest staying in one of the nearby towns like Bridgeport or June Lake.

    Double Eagle Resort and Spa is a great option for accommodation in June Lake. June Lake is often referred to as “The Switzerland Of California,” for its beautiful landscapes. It is located south of Mono Lake towards Mammoth. The area is also great for hiking, kayaking, and taking scenic drives.

    The Double Eagles Resort offers large cozy cabins, an onsite restaurant and saloon, pet-friendly accommodations, and a spa including a fitness center, pool, and hot tubs.

    Book your stay at the Double Eagle Resort and Spa here

    Weather In California In October

    California traditionally has exceptional weather in October. There is a small chance of rain in October, so most days are warm and sunny. October is the perfect month to visit California for planning hiking trips, camping, sightseeing, beach days, and other outdoor activities.

    California has a Mediterranean climate, which means warm dry summers and cool, mild winters. Depending on what part of the state you are visiting, the highs range from the 70s to the low 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows rarely dip below the 60s or mid-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

    What To Pack For California In October

    When packing for a trip to California in October, it is important to bring lots of layers. Layers are key when traveling to any location in California throughout the year. You will want light layers that you can easily take on and off throughout the day. Especially, if you are staying on the coast, like San Francisco. Even on sunny days, it can get chilly from the bay breeze.

    what to wear for a trip to California in October

    You are going to want to pack a warm jacket for the nighttime. Once the sun goes down, the temperatures will immediately drop. Usually, in October, you will experience nights in the ’50s.

    Other items you will want to pack are comfortable walking shoes, we do a lot of walking and hiking in California. Flats or booties and jeans for dressing up for dinner. Light sweaters or pullovers for the daytime. And don’t forget your sunscreen.

    In Conclusion: Things To Do in California in October

    There are loads of fun and amazing things to do in California in October! As a person who has lived in California for the last six years, I think October is one of the best months to visit this gorgeous and diverse state.

    Want more California? For all of my California content, you can check out my California Travel Page which has guides to many more top California destinations. Do you know someone who lives in California or is obsessed with visiting California? Find my 21 California Themed Gift Ideas.