Labor Day in California

Places to Have Fun on Labor Day and Ideas for Getaways

Busy Day on Stinson Beach
••• Busy Day on Stinson Beach. ©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Labor Day isn't the end of summer weather in California, but it does mark the end of the summer travel season as families get geared up for the coming school year. 

The last big holiday of summer is one of the nicest long weekends of the year. In fact, most California coastal locations get some of the best weather they will get all year long.

Top Labor Day Festivals in Northern California

  • Sacramento: Gold Rush Days is a family-friendly weekend festival held in Old Town Sacramento. It celebrates the Gold Rush that made California famous.
  • Fort Bragg: The Paul Bunyan Days festival is named for the bigger-than-life logger and his giant blue ox. They say it will take you back to the days of the Wild West.
  • Sonoma County: Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is a multi-day food and wine festival that showcases the county's agriculture and its vintners.
  • Sausalito: The Sausalito Art Festival is a juried show with high-quality artwork and crafts, along with food and wine. It runs all three days of the holiday weekend.
  • Apples in the Sierra Foothills: Labor Day weekend marks the opening of most Apple Hill ranches, where you can pick your own or buy some to take home.

Labor Day Fun in Southern California

  • San Diego: The Festival of Sail is all about those gorgeous tall ships with the billowing white sails. It features family-friendly activities and mock cannon battles to watch.
  • Los Angeles: The Taste is one of LA's many delicious festivals, with lots of local celebrity chefs and bartenders on hand.
  • Pomona: The Los Angeles County Fair lasts most of the month, but it starts around Labor Day and is a great way to say goodbye to the summer.
  • Hollywood: The Hollywood Bowl season is nearing an end in September, but they still have concerts through Labor Day weekend.
  • San Pedro: The annual Conquer the Bridge 5-Mile Race will take you running over the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

    If you're looking for more places to celebrate the Labor Day in the Los Angeles area, you'll find a full listing at Los Angeles for Visitors.

    Labor Day Fireworks

    Independence Day is the traditional time for fireworks, but quite a few places in California also have them over Labor Day weekend. Schedules change frequently, but if you're planning a Labor Day trip, look for fireworks in cities and towns, and also at the big theme parks, especially at Disneyland.

    Great Labor Day Getaways in California

    In Palm Springs, Death Valley and the rest of the California desert, the thermometer is likely to still top out at well more than 100° F on Labor Day weekend, too hot for many of us to even think about going there.

    However, you can still find places to go, and you can get a little further away from home if you have three days off. These are a few places that would make a great Labor Day getaway:

    • Catalina Island: An extra day on Catalina is always welcome, and you don't have to worry about driving home in that awful end of holiday weekend traffic - you just take the boat instead.
    • Eureka: It isn't the town with the quirky sheriff and the talking house you saw in the TV show, but Eureka, California is a charming little place on the northern coast that's filled with lovely Victorian-style homes.
    • Rent a Houseboat: For a fun end-of-summer blowout, grab some friends and rent a houseboat on Lake Shasta or the Sacramento River Delta. It's a fun way to enjoy the end of summer, cruising around and having a barbecue on the deck.
    • Mount Lassen: This volcano last blew its top in 1915, but you'll still find plenty of fire and brimstone simmering beneath the surface. And some magnificent scenery all around. Labor Day weekend is the last good time to go before the roads close because of winter snow.
    • Mendocino: Pretty scenery and relaxing surroundings make "Mendo" a nice place to rest up after a busy summer. And it's far enough north that an extra day to make the trip will be a big help.
    • East of the Sierras on California Route 395: Before Tioga Pass from Yosemite closes for the winter (which can happen as early as November), take a quick trip over the Sierras to Mono County to visit the mother lode of ghost towns and one of California's most scenic lakes.

      Labor Day on California Highways

      Snow seldom happens as early as Labor Day, and all of the mountain passes should still be open.

      The California Highway Patrol always increases their presence during Labor Day weekend, especially on the major highways so you might want to keep your speed in check.

      Labor Day weekend is also one of CalTrans' favorite times to work on road projects, which may include major road closures. Visit their website to check for road closures or call 800-427-7623.