Sure, Los Angeles lacks the splendid autumnal scenery of other parts of the country, but that doesn’t mean the season skips this coastal city completely. Southern California celebrates fall in other ways: by watching football, indulging in fall foods and wines, throwing harvest festivals, and getting spooked for Halloween. And leaf-peeping opportunities are only a day's drive away.
In 2020, many events have been altered or canceled. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.
Pick Your Own Apples
California's U-pick season generally kicks off over Labor Day weekend and continues through Thanksgiving. Most orchards are at least an hour from Downtown LA—in places like Yucaipa and Oak Glen—so plan to make a day of it. At Los Rios Rancho in Yucaipa, you can hop on a hayride or enjoy a tri-tip sandwich and live bluegrass after picking your Granny Smiths. Just down the road, Riley’s Farm specializes in heirloom varieties and sells homemade pies from its own colonial bakery. The Driscoll Family welcomes visitors for apple and berry picking as well as U-press cider, s’mores, and wine tasting at Willowbrook Apple Farm in Oak Glen. For the alcoholic kind, stop by Julian's Calico Ranch.
Tehachapi, which hosts an annual apple festival that was canceled in 2020, is home to several U-pick options including Pulford Appletree Orchard, where you can choose from an astonishing 19 varieties. Another Antelope Valley option is Brian Ranch, an airfield and U-pick farm growing apples, pears, and plums.
Root for the Home Team
Los Angeles has gridiron game days galore between its abundance of high school, college, and pro teams. Both the Rams and Chargers keep the energy high at the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, but one of the biggest face-offs of the season is between crosstown rivals UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans, who play each other on November 12, 2020. The city also has two NBA teams, the Clippers and the Lakers, and two soccer clubs, The Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club.
Throw Back a Few at Oktoberfest
Every Friday in October (as well as select Saturdays), The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott L.A. Live becomes a celebration of sausage as the chef grills currywurst and bratwurst whilst pouring Sam Adams and Angel City suds. Otherwise, you can get your pretzel and lager fix five nights a week at Old World Huntington Beach. Its party includes clog troupes, wiener dog races, and an army of shot girls. The former has been canceled in 2020, but the latter is happening through November 1. Bonus points if you come in a dirndl.
Imbibe in Seasonal Swill
In case you still crave beer after a month of Oktoberfests, Los Angeles has a host of local breweries, all of which whip up their own limited-edition batches inspired by fall flavors. Seasonal brews abound at Frogtown Brewery, Angel City Brewery, Highland Park Brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, and Arts District Brewing Company.
Attend a Film Festival
Regardless of the season, Los Angeles is an industry town and, as such, there's always a screening on deck. You can watch Oscar hopefuls at November's annual AFI FEST (which is virtual in 2020) or get spooked at Screamfest (a drive-in experience from October 6 to 15, 2020) for Halloween. The DTLA Film Festival on October 21, 2020, gives out coveted grand prizes to screenplay writers every year, and, though not a film per se, the LA Comedy Festival takes place in November (but has been moved to January 7 to 17, 2021).
Learn to Cook With Fall Flavors
With Thanksgiving always imminent throughout the season, you may want to get your culinary skills in check. Thankfully, The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica hosts cooking and baking courses centered around making the perfect autumnal pies, festive sides, fall tarts, and more. It even offers lessons on how to prepare meaty or vegetarian Thanksgiving meals from start to finish. In 2020, all classes are being held over Zoom.
Conquer a Corn Maze
Life takes a corny turn (or two, or 10) at mazes throughout the Southland. Forneris Farms in Mission Hills carves a detailed design into more than four acres of stalks. Open every day in October, tickets include unlimited train rides. Alternatively, Temecula's Big Horse Maze is worth a road trip as the military-themed labyrinth occupies 11 challenging acres. The property also has a pumpkin patch, tractor rides, and a corn cannon. Both have been canceled in 2020; however, Frosty’s Forest in Chino will operate an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed corn maze starting October 10.
Let the Gourd Times Roll at a Harvest Festival
The Original Farmers Market’s Harvest Festival has been a tradition since 1934. These days, it includes candy corn hole, arts and crafts, a petting zoo, and rockabilly acts. The one at Griffith Park, on the other hand, starts with food trucks, a craft beer garden, and a climbing wall and ends with a free movie screening under the stars. Twelve acres in South El Monte is home to the annual Los Angeles Fall Fair and its classic carnival rides. Likewise, the Calabasas Pumpkin Festival is where you'll find giant slide rides, a DJ zone, reptile shows, and a costume parade. All events were canceled in 2020.