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November 2, 2017
Half Moon Bay is the "Pumpkin Capital" of the world in the fall.

Things to Do Beyond San Francisco in the Fall

Each month, we offer a few seasonal suggestions for things to do in San Francisco. This month, we are going a bit further and planting some ideas for the perfect fall frolic, whether you prefer to go wine tasting or visit a pumpkin patch. 

East of San Francisco

Well known by visitors to San Francisco, Hornblower Cruises & Events also has an East Bay berth at the Berkeley Marina. Locals favor it for special events—everything from a Sweet 16 celebration to a class reunion. Check out their holiday cruises, too. If you want a break from Thanksgiving Day cooking, the Thanksgiving buffet cruise offers three different entrees and, of course, all the usual fixings.

Just two-and-a-half hours east of San Francisco, Tuolumne County is in the heart of the Gold Country and is the Bay Area’s “front door” to Yosemite National Park. This time of year, don’t miss Columbia State Park’s harvest festival and Railtown 1897’s Harvest Haunt Express in October.

Visitors to the Central Valley town of Stockton might be surprised to discover the Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Wat Dharmararam), an active Buddhist temple that features more than 90 colorful and larger than life jewel encrusted statues, including a 50-foot-long recumbent Buddha.

North of San Francisco

For wine buffs this time of year is known as the “crush.” Just drive through the wine country, roll down the car window and inhale. You'll know exactly what we’re talking about. There are dozens of special events celebrating the annual harvest, from barn dances to outdoor dining events such as Calistoga’s Harvest Table in mid-September, when more than a dozen local restaurants serve guests seated at a 1,000-foot-long (305 m) table. In early September, Sonoma has its annual Crush event, and November brings a Wine & Food Affair to the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

Feeling lucky? Head to Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. This full-amenity gaming resort offers slots and video poker along with an array of table games. Beyond the great gaming, there’s 12 restaurants and a 200-guest room hotel.

Get SMART. That’s right, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) is ready to roll as of Aug. 25, 2017. Golden Gate Transit (Route 70) from San Francisco will get you to the nearest terminal which is located in San Rafael. The rail service makes stops in historic Petaluma, Sonoma and Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is home to the Charles M. Schulz Museum where “Mud Pies and Jelly Beans: The Flavor of Peanuts” opens on Sept. 16, 2017. For transit information call 415-455-2000 or 511 within the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tickets are already available for the annual Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) in November. Ranked among the top 10 film festivals in the U.S. by USA Today, the five-day event showcases some of the best new independent films, and wines are available from more than 100 wineries.

South of San Francisco

Half Moon Bay, on the San Mateo coast, is the “Pumpkin Capital” of the world. What makes it so gorgeously ghordish? Well, for one thing, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Last year’s titanic orb tipped the scales at 1,910 pounds (866 kg). The weekend after is when all orange breaks out with the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. Get inspired by the “Picasso of pumpkin carvers” sculpting pumpkins into masterpieces, harvest-inspired crafts, music and, of course, delicious slices of pumpkin pie.

Monterey County tunes up for the annual Monterey Jazz Festival in September. The longest, continuously-running annual jazz event in the whole wide world began here in 1958. Featuring more than 500 performers on eight stages, it draws 38,000-plus fans to the Monterey County Fair and Event Center. Be sure to include a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, too. With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the Aquarium is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world's richest marine regions.

San Jose has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam and one of the three remaining Japantowns in the U.S.; the other two are located in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, it is also home to the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum and the mystifying Winchester Mystery House.

Football season is nigh and the San Francisco 49ers will play their first regular season game on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers. If you happen to be near Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium on a non-game day, visit the 49ers museum, which is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday-Monday. Not into football? How about Coldplay’s “A Head Full of Dreams Tour,” which arrives here on Oct. 4, 2017?

Still got room on your “to do” list? Be sure to check out our guide or visit one of our Visitors Information Centers before you hit the road. They are located at 900 Market St., in the Cellar level of Macy’s Union Square and at the California Welcome Center, PIER 39.

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