Did you know that fall is one of the best times of year to visit San Francisco?
The San Francisco Bay Area is like a whole new world in the fall, with the natural world flourishing in shades of red, orange, and yellow, and the breeze on San Francisco Bay drifting towards a chill wind. (Filled with sequoias and redwoods, Muir Woods retains its lofty green.)
If you’re planning a trip and looking for things to do in San Francisco in the Fall, take a look at our suggestions for the top attractions and activities to check out this year, including…
- Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America
- The Great Pumpkin Fest at California’s Great America
- Fright Fest at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
- Special Exhibits at the SFMOMA
- Wine Country Tours
- and more!
Save on Attraction Admission
Regular admission to a number of these San Francisco area activities are included on the Go San Francisco® Card.
Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.
Please note, some of the Fall events listed below may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go San Francisco® Card.
Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America
Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays, September 21 – October 28, 2018
California’s Great America will transform into Halloween Haunt in late September and all of October for this Frightful time of the Season!
Come enjoy 9 mazes & attractions, 3 scare zones, 4 live shows, and over 20 rides to have a scary good time! Rides will be in operation with exception of Planet Snoopy.
Keep in mind that this event is quite scary and is not appropriate for young children. If you’re traveling with little ones, a visit during the daytime hours is a smarter bet, OR, consider a visit to the Great Pumpkin Fest (more on that below).
Getting In: Admission to Halloween Haunt is only $26 for Go San Francisco Card or Explorer Pass customers. General admission to California’s Great America is included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
The Great Pumpkin Fest at California’s Great America
Weekends, September 29 – October 28, 2018
Planet Snoopy is transformed into Planet Spooky where kids 12 & under can show off their costumes as they trick-or-treat along with Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the PEANUTS gang.
This daytime, non-scare celebration of cheer rather than fear, is a unique experience the entire family can enjoy together.
The Great Pumpkin Fest will be taking place on weekends throughout October. Activities include:
- Hay Maze for children to explore
- Pumpkin Decorating
- Trick or Treating in costume for children 12 and under
- A foam-tastic pumpkin patch for children to play in
- Talented Pumpkin Carvers showing their carving skills
Getting In: Admission to The Great Pumpkin Fest is only $26 for Go San Francisco Card or Explorer Pass customers.
Fright Fest at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Selected Dates, September 21 – October 31, 2018
By day, Fright Fest is a delightful and gently spooky event for the kids, filled with cookie decorating, the adorable Twick or Tweat Trail, and all the top rides and attractions they know and love.
But by night…this place transforms into a Halloween horror-land, full of truly frightening sights and sounds. Stumble your way through four themed scare zones, try to find your way out of a haunted maze, and enjoy tons of live “monstertainment”!
Getting In: Admission to Fright Fest at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is separately ticketed and is not include with the Go San Francisco® Card.
General admission to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
The San Francisco Dungeon
This delightful attraction is just perfect for the fall season and for Halloween-time. Featuring two key components, the San Francisco Dungeon offers double the fun and excitement!
First up is their thrilling drop ride experience, where you’ll be plunged into the depths of their recreated San Francisco underworld on an exhilarating and only slightly terrifying ride.
Then, you’ll be escorted along a 60-minute journey through San Francisco’s past, from the Gold Rush to Alcatraz.
This attraction is an exciting mix of live actor shows, 200 years of history, 360-degree sets, and authentic storytelling. Take a trip through San Francisco’s hysterically horrible past!
Getting In: San Francisco Dungeon tickets are included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
There’s no better place in the entire region to explore inspiring modern art than the newly renovated SFMOMA.
Filled with vast collections of modern and contemporary works of art, the SFMOMA is a place where art lovers can spend hours upon hours.
Be sure to check out special fall exhibits when you’re visiting. My favorite this fall is “René Magritte: The Fifth Season” (on display through October 29, 2018), which showcases the later career of this iconic artist. Other special exhibits include “Sublime Seas: John Akomfrah and J.M.W. Turner” (on display through September 16, 2018), and paintings and drawings by Wayne Thiebaud (opening September 29, 2018),
Getting In: SFMOMA tickets are included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour
If you want to explore the broader Bay Area, there are few better ways to get out of the city than on a mini-day trip.
Go on a guided tour of Wine Country to see some of the most scenic vineyards and sample native California wines in Napa Valley and Sonoma.
The breezes will be crisp and cool, so be sure to wear a sweater for the times you’ll be outside.
Getting In: Weekday Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Tour tickets are available on the Build Your Own Pass.
Autumn weather in San Francisco is ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking or biking. Rent a bike for the day and follow along a self-guided tour or tag along on a guided tour of the city.
Popular bike routes include waterfront pathways and Golden Gate Park trails. You can certainly bike up those iconic hills if your legs can take it, though!
Insider tip: Be sure to dress in layers – you’ll likely be chilly when you start but the ride will warm you up quite a bit.
Getting In: San Francisco bike rental by Blazing Saddles are included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Without the long lines of July and August, and before it really gets a bit too cold to truly enjoy the experience of being on the water, it’s the perfect time to enjoy popular San Francisco attractions like the Golden Gate Bay Cruise or Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise.
Each cruise offers a special perspective on the city’s skyline and attractions, and both provide excellent photo opportunities.
More Amazing Art Museums
The Bay Area has long been an uncontested cultural destination on the West Coast. While the heyday of Haight-Ashbury has passed, the artistic climate of the Mission District, SoMA (South of Market) and Bayview is thriving.
Visit local cultural institutions like the de Young Museum or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA). For a refreshing dose of pop culture, why not check out the Cartoon Art Museum or the Beat Museum, too?
Insider tip: Many of these museums also feature seasonally rotating special exhibits and events, so be sure to check their online calendars before you go.
Getting In: de Young Museum tickets are included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Sonoma County Harvest Fair
October 5-7, 2018
Sonoma County Event Center
Check out the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair to sample world-class wines, award-winning beers, and delicious bites from culinary masters. You’ll enjoy a complete farm-to-table experience at this fun event.
Getting In: Admission to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Castro Street Fair
October 7, 2018
If you’re looking for more artistic inspiration in San Fran, then a visit to the eclectic Castro Street Fair is a must.
Browse arts & crafts booths, enjoy live entertainment, and cheer on dancers and musicians. This multi-cultural street festival is particularly LGBTQ-friendly, too.
Getting In: Admission to the Castro Street Fair is free.
Fleet Week San Francisco
October 1-8, 2018
Embarcadero / Fisherman’s Wharf
Head to the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf to catch some of the excitement of Fleet Week, “The Most Important Fun You’ll Have All Year.” Events include Ship Tours, Blue Angel Practice, the Parade of Ships, and the Air Show.
Getting In: Admission to air shows at Fleet Week is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
October 11-20, 2018
Various locations throughout the city
San Francisco’s favorite literary festival takes place all across the city. Enjoy a week of readings, classes, talks, films, and other special events at various venues throughout the city.
Getting In: Admission to Litquake is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go San Francisco® Card.
More Fun Things to do in San Francisco in the Fall
- Head out of the city to enjoy a hayride or corn maze.
- Go on a whale watch near the end of the season to see migrating whales.
- Listen to free music performances in Golden Gate Park.
- Go apple-picking! It’s not just for New England anymore!
- Sample the fall produce at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.
- Enjoy a harvest party at a local winery.
Who knew autumn could be this much fun? We hope you enjoyed these suggestions of a few popular things to do in San Francisco in the Fall.
And remember, you can save on combined admission on many of these popular attractions, tours, and more with the Go San Francisco® Card.
Please note, some of the Fall events taking place mentioned in this post may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go San Francisco® Card.