Family Friendly Fall Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area

Today is officially the start of Fall!  That time of year when the air becomes a little crisper, you can put on sweaters, and you can engage in all things pumpkin spice.  In the Bay Area, we aren’t known for our fall foliage but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of activities to get in that Fall Family Fun Spirit!  We are in the Fruit Basket of the country, with farms galore to grab a pumpkin or do some apple picking.  There are also train rides, festivals, and even a ballet get you and your family happy and in the fall spirit.  Check out some of our favorite fall fun activities here in the Bay Area

Pumpkin Patches

Lemos Farm

Lemos Farms Pumpkin Patch Sign

A fun farm in the Half Moon Bay Area, it’s been a Bay Area favorite since the 1980s. There is a train ride, pony rides, a haunted house, a petting zoo, and so much more.  We took the kids when they were younger, and they loved running around the farm, picking out pumpkins, playing on the rides, and my son wanted to do the train ride over and over again.  This is great for kids who are 70 lbs. or less.  Once your child hits 70 lbs., the rides they can enjoy becomes limited.  You can buy timed entry passes online for either the morning or the afternoon. 

Dell’Osso Family Farm

This one is a bit of a drive, but worth it.  Out near Tracy, there is Dell’Osso Farms.  It’s known for its elaborate corn maze, where you can quite literally get lost in the corn.  They also have rides, bounce houses, a haunted castle and more.  We went when my son was a toddler, but I have wanted to return with older ones for a long time.  It really is a fun experience for any age, even adults.  And there is a food court and gift shop, so you can spend a whole enjoyable day here. 

A young boy looking at the camera in a corn maze, with a young woman and man walking ahead
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Apple Picking

Full disclosure:  I have not been to either of the Apple Farms below.  Our go to farm, Chileno Valley Ranch, is no longer doing U-Pick, only allowing pick ups of apples.  These two below are well recommended by numerous Bay Area sites, particularly Red Tricycle and 510 Families.

EARTHseed Farm

Located in Sebastopol, a cute town along the ocean that was features in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, it’s a popular spot in Sonoma County to go Apple Picking.  It’s about an hour from San Francisco but feels like a world away.  The $25 fee covers a Saturday U-Pick time slot, that you can book a week in advance starting the Tuesday before.

Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch

Also in Sebastopol, this is a place that solely focuses on apples.  You can check online to see what apples are in season before you head up.  They are about $2 a lb., or $50 for 40 pounds.  You can check their website for U-Pick times but be warned they are closed on Saturdays.  There is also a store which sells award winning cider. 

Train Rides

Pumpkin Patch Express

A young girl looking out the side of a train going past a river

We did this train ride last Halloween and it turned out to be an amazing surprise find.  Just outside Sacramento, it’s a 2-hour affair that includes an hour steam train ride through the farmlands outside Sacramento, trick or treating with the costumed attendants, fun games with prizes in the field outside after the ride including some panning for gems, a costume contest, and a pumpkin to take home from the pumpkin patch.  The seating is all in its open-air seating, and masks are required for COVID safety.  Kids are encouraged to attend in costume, making it a fun outing for the day. 

Old Sacramento Steam Train

Spending time in Old Sacramento is always fun, and if you have little ones, you’ll going there to enjoy the California State Railroad Museum, and the Excursion Train Rides on Saturdays and Sundays.  It’s a 30-minute ride up and down the Sacramento River.  During the fall, you will see gorgeous foliage, and the beautiful views of the river.  Plus, it’s still warm enough to do the outdoor cars, which give better views and provide for a COVID safe experience.  You can see more about things to do in Old Sacramento here. 

A steam train at the platform

Tilden Park Stream Train

A young boy sitting with his mom on an small open air train in the woods
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Closer to home, there is a fun little steam train ride right in the hills of Tilden Park in Berkeley, CA.  It’s a small train, for little ones, but it takes you though the hills of the park, helping you feel far away from the urban sprawl just a few miles from the spot.  It’s very affordable, with five rides being just $14.  Each ride is about 15 minutes, and we usually rode it at least 2x when we went with the kids when they were little.  It’s finally reopened, and with it being entirely open air it’s very COVID safe.  No need to make reservations but know that it can get crowded on the weekend and you might have to wait in line. 

Halloween / Día de Los Muertos Activities

Luna Mexicana – Oakland Ballet

The stage at the Paramount Theater

The newest ballet by the Oakland Ballet Company, it celebrates the Mexican culture and centers around Día de Los Muertos.  It takes place in the beautiful Paramount Theater, an art deco theater rich with history in downtown Oakland.  There are two performances over the weekend of Día de Los Muertos (November 5th and 6th).  (Note:  Those over 12 will need to show a vaccination card.  Those under 12 will need to show a negative COVID test within in the last 3 days). 

Boo at the Zoo – Oakland Zoo

The Oakland Zoo is back with its fun holiday themed events.  This year Boo at the Zoo is being Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October.  A self-guided scavenger hunt, goodie bags with treats, and children are encouraged to come in costume.  There will be a costume contest this year where the winners will receive tickets to Glowfari!  Make sure to book your tickets in advance, they will sell out!

To sky gondolas at the Oakland Zoo overlooking Oakland

Halloween Jam – Children’s Fairyland

A young girl and boy in front of the shoe-house in front of Children's Fairyland

Fairyland just by Lake Merritt is always a fun time for the under 7 set.  A cute little amusement park with rides and play areas perfect for little ones, they set up for Halloween 10/22 – 10/31.  There will be decorated rides, a physically distance Monster Mash Parade, and costumes are encouraged but not required.  You should book your tickets in advance, and you will need to choose a morning or afternoon session. 

September and October are a great time to get out in the Bay Area.  It’s generally before the rain really comes on, and the weather is still beautiful (though it can be hot mid-day).  The fields are golden in color, and all the fall fruits and vegetables are out and ready for the picking.  It’s a wonderful time as a family to bond, and if you are looking to get those holiday photos, now is a good time to take them with the gorgeous outdoor fall colors.  Make sure to plan ahead and enjoy this time.  You will always appreciate the memories. 

Family Friendly Fall Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area

* Photos taken by Atma Photography

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