October is my favorite month for families in Orange County! I made my picks of the best outdoor fall family traditions in OC based on the family outdoor experience and if it’s low or no-cost.
Wait! Almost forgot. Before you read any further, think about your fall. Think about how you want to spend your time. If you want to snuggle at home with a cup of soup and a good book, that’s okay!
If you want to be out under the trees with the leaves falling all around – you don’t necessarily need the excuse of an event. Just find a park and hang out. The kids will love it.
Better yet – come up with your own family fall tradition:
- a pilgrimage to a special far away restaurant
- an overnight stay at a certain favorite hotel
- making sandcastles on an empty beach
- cooking a family recipe together
It doesn’t have to be a big deal at a crowded place to be special!
Outdoor Fall Family Traditions in OC (2018)
Make sure you pay attention to the weather and check all the OFFICIAL details for fees and suggested ages. Click on the bold green titles to link to official information.
Outdoor Fall Family Events in Orange County
U-Pick Pumpkin Patch at Tanaka Farms is perfect if you want to take a wagon ride on the farm. September 22nd through October 31st. Themed with Sanrio Hello Kitty. Pay special attention to the PARKING PASS instructions, so you can gain entry with the least amount of hassle.
Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch. Open from September 15th to October 31st. (It’s free if you just wander around the patch.)
1st weekend in October
Acorn Day at O’Neill Regional Park. October 6th from 10am-2pm. This free, family-friendly day of excitement and learning offers activities for every age including free crafts for kids, a live butterfly enclosure, active games, face painting, live music and introductory ukulele lessons, nature and animal exhibits, very special storytelling sessions with painting on water, acorn and oak tree planting and much more for the the entire family!
Autumn Harvest Festival at Heritage Hill Historic Park. Super sweet family event at an amazing location on October 6th from 4:30pm to 8:30pm. Experience the park transformed into a Halloween festival where visitors of all ages can enjoy a family-friendly adventure. Attendees can enjoy Trick-or-Treat stations and a “Harry Potter’s School House.”.Exciting attractions will be spread throughout the park, including: The Superhero Village, The Under the Sea Adventure Maze, Princess Pumpkin Patch, Lake Forest All-Star Glow Party, and Storytelling Adventures. Children of all ages can participate in ghoulish games, costume contests, and pumpkin decorating. Costume and trick-or-treat bags are welcome and recommended. No masks or face paint permitted.
Orange County Fire Authority Headquarters Open House. October 6th from 10am-3pm. Events will include burn demonstrations, search and rescue dog demonstrations, and auto extrications. (I know it seems funny to have this as a fall tradition, but many families look forward to this October event all year long!)
2nd weekend in October
Prehistoric OC. Join OC Parks at Ralph B. Clark Regional Park Saturday, October 13th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. for Prehistoric OC, a free event that invites families to explore the prehistoric history of Orange County. Prehistoric OC will present fun and educational activities and information to the public about Orange County’s rich history, prehistory, and Native American culture with activities, fossils, and artifacts. This annual event welcomes the young and the young at heart, and will foster a sense of pride and respect for local natural and cultural resources. Families can enjoy hands on activities, watch volcano demonstrations by the Geology Department from California State University Fullerton, examine fossils and artifacts, learn about Native American culture, and check out the Junior Scientist camp for educational crafts.
Environmental Nature Center Fall Faire & Pumpkin Patch. October 14, 2018 from 10am to 3pm. Proceeds benefit their environmental education programs. Purchase your pumpkin (become an ENC member on 10/15 and receive a FREE pumpkin!). Play games, go on the Craft Crawl, have your face painted, or treat yourself to a henna tattoo! Ride a pony or pet a friendly farm animal at their petting zoo.
Spooktacular Fun Days at the Orange County Great Park. Saturday and Sunday, October 13th and 14th from 9am to 4pm with morning and afternoon sessions. I hesitate to mention this because it’s BUSY and it sells out quickly. However, at the time of posting (in September) there are still open time slots.
3rd week in October
Bat Night Fundraiser at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary is NOT happening this year. However, I’m leaving it on the list in case it makes a comeback next year. But go ahead and visit this awesome place any time during fall and you’ll enjoy.
Costume Week at Pretend City. October 21st to October 22nd and get 25% off your second admission if you wear a costume. I know, it’s not outside – but hard to pass up a chance to show off the costume. [Tip – Check Pretend City’s event calendar to get info on Frankenstein Friday (Oct 26th), the OC Ghostbusters Visit (Oct 27th), Healthy Halloween (Oct 30th), Trick or Treat through the City (Oct 31st), and Dia de los Muertos (Nov 2nd).]
4th weekend in October
Halloween OC Zoo-tacular is on October 27th from 10am-4pm. It’s awesome – the animals get pumpkins filled with treats. Join us for Halloween fun at the OC Zoo! Activities include trick-or-treating*, spooky kids crafts, a scavenger hunt*, and fun games! The first 100 children in costume receive a free gift!* Come see the zoo animals receive treat-filled pumpkins throughout the day! Reservations are not needed. *Children ages 12 & under. Activities are free with paid zoo admission ($2 per person, ages 2 & under free). Zoo coupons and free passes are not valid for this event. Parking is $5 per vehicle. (It’s easy to pair this outing with the Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch, but it’ll be busy this particular weekend!)
Harvest Faire at Journey School in Aliso Viejo (Nov 10th). A true family event that’s like a “nature-themed maker’s faire for kids” with food trucks and live entertainment.
Apple Picking at Oak Glen* — can’t wait to head up there this year!! I, personally, like to wait until it’s COLD. It may mean there are no apples left to pick, but that’s okay with me. Make sure you hike the Children’s Nature Trail and visit the Montane Botanic Garden.
*Not OC, but as my daughter reminded me — it’s tradition so we have to go!
Remember, you don’t have to wait for someone else to plan fall fun! You can always take your kids outside to play anywhere in this beautiful weather (even if it’s just the front yard!).
Originally published in September 2013.