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The Ultimate California Bucket List: The Top Places to Go This Fall
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The Ultimate California Bucket List: The Top Places to Go This Fall

Don your coziest crewneck and grab your best buddies—a weekend of fall festivity in the Golden State is on the horizon.

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5 min read

November 14, 2021

Crisp, cool weather and beautifully colored foliage make autumn the perfect time to travel in California. Whether you want to head to the mountains to watch the changing leaves or hit up the sunny shores to soak up a few more days of sunshine before winter sets in, we've rounded up the best fall getaways every type of traveler can add to their California bucket list. Don your coziest crewneck and grab your best buddies—a weekend of fall festivity in the Golden State is on the horizon. 

A cool breeze and colorful leaves. Crisp, colorful, and cool. Embrace this season of renewal as colorful transformations are brewing.

Southern California Bucket List

These beaches, gardens, and spectacular state parks belong on your Southern California bucket list any time of year, but they’re extra magical during the fall season.

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Los Angeles Bucket List Places

Descanso Gardens

Located just 20 minutes from Downtown L.A., Descanso Gardens is a Los Angeles bucket list destination and a place where you’ll find year-round natural beauty. Internationally renowned botanical collections and spectacular horticultural displays make this spot an outdoor lover’s paradise, but autumn is when it shines the brightest—Descanso Gardens puts on a spectacular display on Halloween and other national holidays. Wondering what you’ll see when you visit this California bucket list spot? The What’s in Bloom page gives you a sneak peek in advance.

Corn mazes always give us the perfect fall adrenaline rush. Adventurous nature trails never fail in the fall.

Malibu

Malibu may seem like the model summer travel destination in California, but this L.A. County gem is perfect for fall because the crowds start to dwindle away. Not only are the beaches pristine and devoid of tourists, but the city also hosts many pumpkin patches, dons lots of decoration, and gets into a cozy fall mood that secures it a spot on your Southern California bucket list.

Hayrides are our preferred mode of fall transportation. Life starts all over again when things get crisp in the fall.

San Diego Bucket List Places

Julian

Sitting pretty between the desert and the coast, Julian is a quaint mountain town that’s perfect for a fall family vacation. This San Diego bucket list destination is famous for its delicious pies and beautiful orchards, making it the perfect spot to visit before you head back home for Thanksgiving and start whipping up a delectable apple crumble.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The sprawling Anza-Borrego Desert State Park can get a little too hot to bear in the summer, but by the time the fall season rolls around, its clear skies, incredible hiking trails, and crimson sunsets call for visitors. Spend the weekend camping and getting to know the rich flora and fauna; this California bucket list spot is an adventurer’s dream.

A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summer’s wave goodbye. And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.

San Bernardino Bucket List Places

Oak Glen

Oak Glen is a bucket list spot that comes alive during fall. With pretty colors in every shade and apple farms abound, this underrated San Bernardino destination is what SoCal fall dreams are made of. Check out the town on a day trip to visit U-pick farms, eat delicious treats from local bakeries, and have a scenic picnic in the woods—what could be more delightful?

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is another desert destination that’s better enjoyed during the autumn months. Not only is the weather more temperate, but the crowds are also far less, letting you have your space when hiking and camping. If you have enough time to spare, we highly recommend checking out Palm Springs while you’re there. Another California bucket list locale, this glam desert oasis is closeby and a worthy stop in every way.

The heart of autumn must have broken here and poured its treasure upon the leaves. Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.

Northern California Bucket List

See the fall foliage, taste the fruits of autumn harvests, and enjoy seasonal activities at these Northern California bucket list destinations—the opportunities to adventure and explore are plenty.

Bay Area Bucket List Places

Napa Valley

There are two ways you can go about visiting Napa Valley after summer. If you don’t mind the crowds, this Bay Area bucket list locale is super fun during harvest season. But if lines and tourists aren’t your cup of tea, head over there just after harvest in November and you’ll catch the grape leaves changing color and the vineyards putting on a vivid display.

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go. How beautiful the leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.

San Francisco

Blue skies, no crowds, and no fog—that’s what you’ll be missing out on if you don’t visit San Francisco in the fall. The legendary Bay Area bucket list city sees the summer fog go away along with the crowds during September and October. This is also a great time to visit the city’s beaches and squeeze in a last beach day or two before the temperatures drop further.

Tea and fuzzy socks season. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers, we more than gain in fruits.

Greater Sacramento Bucket List Places

Lake Tahoe

There’s nothing quite like visiting Lake Tahoe on the brink of winter. The green pines surrounding the lake get interspersed with golden aspens, pink dogwoods, yellow maples, and warm orange oaks, forming a palette of colors that are as welcoming as ever. While you’re at this Northern California bucket list spot, don’t forget to check out some of the awesome hikes and charming small towns nearby.

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden

The entirety of Davis puts on an impressive fall color display during the season. However, the UC Davis Arboretum is an especially beautiful corner in town that’s enchanting, to say the least. A great spot for a date or a little solitude, this California bucket list destination is as autumnal as you’d imagine it to be.

"A time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!

Sierra Nevada Bucket List Places

Gold Country

You probably won’t find gold in Gold Country anymore, but you’ll find brilliantly golden leaves if you visit during the fall months. Make a weekend getaway out of this Northern California bucket list destination and explore all the cool Gold Rush towns that’ll transport you to a bygone era in the state’s history. Who knows, you just might actually find gold… 

Yosemite National Park

Last but not least, Yosemite National Park blooms with the essence of fall every time October comes around. A California bucket list entry in true Golden State fashion, this beautiful Sierra Nevada locale invites you to get outside, go a hike, and revel in the majestic spirit of your surrounding nature. Not only is the park absolutely breathtaking, but the crowds at Yosemite are also far less after summer is officially over—you’re in for a win-win situation.

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