01 of 03
California in September: What Can You Do?
September is one of California's best months. Summer coastal fog retreats, temperatures moderate and summer's crushing tourist crowds disappear faster than you can say "bye-bye."
On California highways in August — especially in the Central Valley — be on the lookout for truckloads of bright red tomatoes headed for the canning plant and loads of garlic shedding its paper thin skin along the highway going to Gilroy.
Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes also show up at farmers markets on restaurant menus. Deliberately deprived of water while growing, these concentrated bits of goodness are enough to send California foodies into a feeding frenzy. In fact, they could redefine your idea of a good tomato forever.
September's Big Holiday: Labor Day
I just love that summer begins and ends with a three-day holiday weekend. Always observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. That makes it a good time to take the day off from all that work to relax and play with friends and family.
To get some ideas about what you can do over the long weekend, check out the guide to Labor Day Fun in California.
Top Picks for September in California
This is the short list of things we've done in September that we think are worth recommending to all our friends and readers.
September is California Wine Month. You probably think of Napa or Sonoma first when someone says California wine, but this would be a very good time to check out some of the other great wine-growing regions, too.
The Los Angeles County Fair runs through most of the month of September. It's one of the state's biggest and most elaborate county fairs, held in Pomona.
The Monterey Jazz Festival kicks off mid-month, with an always-outstanding lineup of great musicians. It's almost always a sellout, making it a good idea to buy tickets at least two weeks in advance.
California lobsters are called "Spiny" - you'll know why when you see one. They have smaller claws than their Atlantic coast cousins, but many Californians love them just the same. Lobster-catching season starts near the end of September, and you'll find meals featuring them on menus in their Southern California range, which extends from San Diego up to San Luis Obispo.
Things That Look Like Fun To Do in September
These events look like fun, but we haven't had time to try them yet.
Autumn Moon Festival, San Francisco: A harvest festival some say is a bit like "Chinese Thanksgiving."
Grape Harvest Festival, Lodi: A family-oriented festival to celebrate the harvest.
International Dragon Boat Festival, San Francisco: The boats are gorgeous, and admission is free.
California International Airshow, Salinas: It's been going on since 1980 and is always popular
Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point: An excellent opportunity to see those beautiful, tall-masted sailing ships.
Surf City SurfDog Competition, Huntington Beach: Dog owners from around the world, bring their pups to "Hang 10" in this surfing competition where the dogs are the contestants.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
02 of 03
Things to Do in California in September That You Must Plan Ahead For
Arena seating and Single Day Tickets for the Monterey Jazz Festival go on sale in July, and they often sell out by late August. Find out all about it in the Monterey Jazz Festival Guide.
If you want to go to the Sausalito Floating Homes Tour in September, they often sell out about a month ahead.
If you want to go camping at a California state park in September, make your reservations six months ahead of time in March. Everything you need to know is here.
If you're planning to camp at Yosemite next August 15 through September 14, finish that tax return early and be ready at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time on April 15 to make your reservations online. For camping September 15 through October 14, it's May 15. You can do that online or by phone at 877-444-6777 or 518-885-3639 from outside the US & Canada. Get an overview and more options here.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
03 of 03
More About California in September
More California by Month
If you're just starting to plan your California trip and want to know what it's like year round and not just in January, you can get a look at every month of the year using these guides: California in the Winter is great for skiing and snow play and all the events you'll find in the guide to California in December, January, and February. It's also a great time for a winter weekend getaway.
Spring gets going in March and April, and clear skies will continue at the coast into May. Get an overview of Things to Do in California in the Spring and try some of these California Spring Getaway Ideas.
Summer holiday season starts in June and continues through July and August. It's the busiest tourist season and some parts of the state get almost unbearably hot, but it's a great time for mountain hiking. Start exploring Things to Do in the Summer and get busy planning your Summer California Getaway.
Fall is my favorite time of year in California. You'll see why in this Guide to California in the Fall. Weather is beautiful in September and October. By November, winter rains may have set in – or not. Start thinking about your California Fall Getaway now.