Temperatures may be falling and weather worsening elsewhere, but here in the Bay Area, autumn is characterized by clear days, mild temperatures, and some of the best weather of the year. That makes it the perfect time for outdoor festivals, and there are no shortage of them from which to choose.
Here are a few of our favorites, celebrating autumn in some traditional and decidedly non-traditional ways:
The Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt invite you to “Get lit for a good cause” at their Autumn Lights Festival. More than 100 local artists’ illuminated art installations have been installed throughout the gardens. The evening’s lights will be accompanied by musicians, fire and light dancers.
Friday and Saturday, October 16-17 | 6:00-11:00 PM | Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA | $10-20
The 2015 Grand National Rodeo comes to town for two weekends of bronc’ bustin’, steer ropin’ and bull ridin’ fun. To help you get your fill of yee-haw, the event also features the Grand National Horse Show and the Junior and Open Livestock Shows.
Fridays and Saturdays, October 16-17 and 23-24 | 7:30 AM-7:30 PM | The Cow Palace, Daly City, CA | $14-44
Lords and ladies, jousters and jesters, merchants and merrymakers convene annually on the Northern California Renaissance Faire. Fairegoers might meet Queen Elizabeth I, watch a fire-eater, learn a courtly dance, sip mead and more. Huzzah!
Saturday and Sunday October 17-18 | 10:00 AM-6:00 PM | Casa de Fruta, Hollister, CA | $25
The greatest gourd of them all will be crowned at the 45th annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, featuring the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Once you’ve gawked at the prizewinning giant, you can enjoy food, brews, an impressive lineup of local bands and even a pumpkin parade.
Saturday and Sunday, October 17-18 | 9:00 AM-5:00 PM | Half Moon Bay, CA | Free
The Tolay Fall Festival offers two weeks of old-time, nature-based fun each October at Tolay Lake Regional Park. This seasonal celebration connects visitors with the beauty and history of the park through hands-on educational activities and displays.
Saturdays and Sundays, October 17-18 and 24-25 | Tolay Park, Petaluma, CA | 11:00 AM-5:00 PM | $3-5
The educational farm Slide Ranch, located right on the stunning, rocky coast of Highway 1, opens up to the public every fall for its annual Harvest Celebration. Churn butter, spin wool, make a scarecrow, meet farm animals and listen to music against one of the area’s most beautiful ocean backdrops.
Saturday, Oct. 17 | 10:00 AM-4:00 PM | 2025 Shoreline Hwy, Muir Beach, Ca | $30
If you can’t wait until next May to get your next dose of Maker mania, you’re in luck! The East Bay Mini Maker Faire is bringing the clever, the quirky, the unusual and the self-made to Oakland this month.
October 18 | 10:00 AM-5:00 PM | Park Day School, 360 42nd & Opal Streets, Oakland, CA | $13-20
You can celebrate the intersection of food and Jewish life right here at the OFJCC when Hazon celebrates local, sustainable, thoughtfully-sourced food at the Farm to Table Food Fest. Food purveyors, producers and devourers will gather for a day of tasting, learning and “hands-on doing” that culminates with a demonstration by Calafia’s famed head chef Charlie Ayers.
Sunday, October 18 | 2:00-5:00 PM | Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto CA | Free
The STEAM Carnival (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) is high-voltage entertainment showcase for all ages, bringing high-tech games, interactive installations, dynamic build zones, stage shows, lab demos, aerialists, artists, food and more to San Francisco’s Pier 48.
Friday-Sunday, November 6-8 | 10:00 AM-6:00 PM | Pier 48, San Francisco, CA | $20-25
Aspiring scientists and engineers are invited to celebrate all things nerdy at the Discovery Day Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park. Over 150 exhibits and activities will run the gamut from astronaut training to a robot zoo.
Saturday, November 7 | 10:00 AM-4:00 PM | AT & Park, San Francisco, CA | Free