Family FunFamily TraditionsSan Diego Families

Top 25 Things for Families to do in the Fall

Fall Traditions for Your Family

I love when the weather starts getting crisp again and I can start bringing out a jacket. I start thinking of pumpkins and hiking. Even living in San Diego where the season changes are pretty minimal, I like to go through the mental process of entering a new season. I bring out my fall clothes and start cooking my favorite fall recipes.

These are great opportunities for parents and grandparents to make memories with their children and grandchildren. Don’t forget your photo and video cameras.

1. Decorate for Fall – Come October 1st, it’s our family tradition to bring down the Halloween boxes and transform our house for fall. My three boys love waking up to the spooky decorations.

2. Create a Halloween Countdown Calendar – We have a Halloween Countdown Calendar with 31 pockets on it. Every day the boys wake up to find a little surprise in the number of the day. Little resin animals fit perfectly into it.

3. Head to the Pumpkin Patch – This usually coincides with our fall decorating. In San Diego our tradition is to go to the Bates Nut Farm Pumpkin Patch. We search far and wide for our favorite “Mr. Big” pumpkin. Then we head over for a pony ride and a chance to hold a bunny in the petting zoo.

4. Go For a Hike – There is nothing better than a hike into the back-country on a cool crisp day. In San Diego one of our favorite hikes is the Harvey Moore Trail in Descanso and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Mammoth we love the Little Lakes Valley Hike starting from the Mosquito Flat trail-head.

5. Plan or Attend a Halloween Costume Swap – Most costumes are only used once. Get your friends or children’s schools together. Everyone bring the old costumes and trade them for a new size. Save money and resources.

6. Make Your Own Costume – For those of you that are handy with a needle and thread, some of my favorite costumes as a kid where the costumes that my Mom made. The quality and the details were so much better than store bought costumes.

7. Enter a Costume Contest – Many neighborhoods host costume contests at local shopping centers. Since you have gone to the work of picking out the perfect Halloween costume, you might as well get a prize for it!

8. Enjoy Theme Parks – Living in San Diego, California our family is spoiled to live in close proximity to such great theme parks: LegoLand, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Knott’s Berry Farm or Knott’s Scary Farm (if you are really brave) and Disneyland. All of them do a great job decorating and many of them have special trick-or-treat opportunities. You can even go dressed up in your costumes.

9. Bake Some Pumpkin Recipes – I love having pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice coffee in the fall. Enjoy the slow-cooker pumpkin oatmeal recipe that I have included.

10. Go Apple Picking – From San Diego, we head to the hills and go apple picking near the small and very fun town of Julian. Children can enjoy picking their own apples. Then it is a lot of fun to go into the town of Julian and have a slice of apple pie. When it’s cold outside, try the pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melted on top instead of à la mode. It’s different but you will love it.

11. Make Carmel Apples – Take all the apples that you picked and make some caramel apples. Try rolling them in nuts, chocolate chips, or marshmallows for some extra fun.

12. Plant Your Own Apple Tree – Why not plant your own apple tree? That way your family can enjoy watching your apples grow from blossoms to huge delicious apples. In San Diego we planted Fuji and Anna apple trees that are doing really well.

13. Plant your Winter Vegetables – Fall is a great time to plant your winter vegetables. We have had the best success with: peas, broccoli, carrots, beats, and fresh herbs (rosemary for your Thanksgiving turkey).

14. Plan a Road Trip – October is our family’s absolute favorite time to travel. Everything is less crowded and the fall temperatures are more enjoyable than the hot summer months. Some of our favorite fall family road-trips from San Diego are: Mammoth Area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce National Park, and Zion National Park. And if you get lucky, you might get to see the fall colors change.

15. Sip Apple Cider – A yummy warm cup of apple cider does the trick on these cool crisp days. I like a nice mug on the lucky days when my boys are napping.

16. Enjoy a Movie Night By the Fireplace – I love when it is actually cool enough to light a fire again. Take your cup of apple cider and snuggle up with your family in front of the fire.

17. Enjoy some of the Fall Movie Classics – While you are snuggled up next to the fire with your apple cider, enjoy some of the fall classics with your children and grandchildren. Some of our favorite preschool Halloween Movies are: It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Arthur’s Scary Stories, Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Monster’s Inc.

18. Plan a Fall or Halloween Party – Since your house is already decorated, plan a Halloween Party to catch up with friends. Make it a potluck and have everyone bring his or her favorite fall dish. Have a costume contest and play some classic games like bobbing for apples. Your family will love it!

19. Have a Football Party – For you sport families, fall certainly marks the return of football. Have everyone dress in his or her favorite jerseys. Make a chili bar with mix-ins like: cheese, onion, and Frito’s.

20. Host a World Series Party – If your family’s favorite baseball team is still playing, host a play-off or World Series party. Fall parties are so nice as you can enjoy the company of family and friends before you get into the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

21. Buy or borrow your winter gear – I like to make sure we all have the appropriate winter gear in early fall. Living in San Diego, there are a couple of weekends a year where you need the snow gear. But, if you wait until it actually snows, all the stores are sold out. Ours came in handy when the snow dumped on us during our Mammoth camping trip.

22. Gather Extra Jackets to Donate – Fall is a great time to clean out your closet and find clothes to donate to families in need. Jackets and warm sweaters are especially important this time of year with the drop in temperature.

23. Back up Your Family’s Photos and Home Movies – This is just a reminder, as you should be doing this every time you download your photos. If you need help to make sure you’re doing this right, please contact me at (858) 461-9123 to set up a digital training workshop.

24. Video the Season – Videos tell a million words. You can capture so much with sound and pictures. Try to capture your family at least once a quarter. Tell about the adventures your family has had. Sharelooms can edit your videos into family documentaries that your family will love watching over and over again. Who needs to go out and rent a movie when you have your own and your family members are the stars?

25. Create a Fall or Halloween Photo Book – Put your favorite fall pictures of your children or grandchildren in an album. Each year keep adding to it. After a few years, you will have a history of your family’s fall traditions. We are happy to help you create a custom album for your family.

These are some of our favorite traditions. What are yours? To share e-mail or like us on Facebook and comment on our wall at

Photos are always welcome too!

We love to get new ideas from our families!

Originally posted in 2011 and updated for 2022.