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Best Outdoor Fall Family Traditions in OC 2023

Best Outdoor Fall Family Traditions in OC 2023

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 or AirBnB
  • making sandcastles on an empty beach
  • cooking a family recipe together
  • attending a local community event or festival

It doesn’t have to be a big deal at a crowded place to be special!

If you want a day-by-day list of ideas, check out my 31 Days of October Play Plan post which has specific things for your family to do each day (a lot of them easy and at home). It even has a printable calendar and list.

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 in Irvine is perfect if you want to visit the farm and support our local farmers. There are wagon rides, a barnyard educational exhibit, and lots to do at the farm. You must book and pay ahead. Opens September 16th through October 31st. The Hana Field Pumpkin Patch & Flower Field in Costa Mesa with U-Pick sunflowers is a smaller and more relaxed experience only open on weekends starting September 30th through October 29th. You do have to pay for this one – prices change so do your research on their website.

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch. Open from September 16th through October 31st. (It’s free if you just wander around the patch.)

Apple Picking at Oak Glen* — 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!).

Fall events in 2nd weekend in October

22nd Annual Irvine Global Village Festival

(FREE Event) is from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, October 14th at Great Park. It’s celebrating its 22nd anniversary and there is plenty for families and your kids to experience.

Our family clears our schedule every year for this favorite of fall traditions and we have so many fond memories of the people we’ve met and the stories they’ve shared with us.

Check the entertainment schedule and event map showing the Kids Village and more.

U-Pick Pumpkins at UC South Coast Research & Extension Center

This doesn’t happen every year, but be on the lookout for this fun and not crowded opportunity by following the @ucsouthcoast account for potential U-Pick. We loved it last year. It was affordable and all we had to do was register ahead of time. It happened in 2023, but it was the 1st weekend in October.

Fall activities starting the 3rd weekend in October

Fall-O-Ween at Heritage Hill Historic Park – October 13-15 & 20-22, 4:30-8:30 PM

(FREE Event & FREE Parking) for 2 weekends October. Super sweet family event at an amazing location.

Tour the decorated historical grounds during special park hours and take your picture at a variety of fall and Halloween-themed photo opportunities.

Try to find your way through the hay maze and complete a scavenger hunt for ghoulish goodies at this free, family-friendly event.

Costumes are encouraged and pets are welcome on leashes no longer than 6 feet. Be sure to bring your cameras!

See the official flyer for all the official information!

Special Note: This event has become more and more popular over the years and for 2023 you might expect long lines. I used to love it because it was mellow with no lines, but in the age of Instagram it’s become very popular.

Courtesy of OC Coastkeeper

Environmental Nature Center Fall Faire & Pumpkin Patch

October 15, 2023. Proceeds benefit their environmental education programs.

Pumpkin Patch, children’s crafts and games, face painting, entertainment, and Savor OC restaurant showcase.

Santa Ana Zoo – Boo at the Zoo

October 21st & 22nd + October 28th & 29th events from 5:30pm to 8:00pm so you get to experience the zoo after hours in the evenings. Must purchase an advance admission ticket online before you go. They say: “Enjoy boo-tiful decorations, nocturnal animal presentations and a treat trail through the zoo!” Boo at the Zoo is a fundraiser to “help upgrade the primate habitats.” Ticket discounts if you are a member.

Fall traditions the last weekend in October

Boo at the Bay: Family Halloween Party at Upper Newport Bay

Visit the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center for a fun family Halloween party featuring spooky stories, creepy crafts, weird science experiments, bizarre animals and hair-raising games.

 All children who attend in costume will receive ghoulish door prizes. The event will also feature booths and exhibits from Orange County Bird of Prey Center, Environmental Nature Center and the OC Parks Archaeology and Paleontology departments. 

The event and parking are free.

See the official flyer for the OC Zoo-tacular.

Halloween OC Zoo-tacular

Saturday, October 28th from 10am-4pm. It’s awesome – the animals get pumpkins filled with treats.

Join them 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!*(*Children ages 12 & under.)  Come see the zoo animals receive treat-filled pumpkins throughout the day!

Reservations are not needed. 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!)

See the official flyer for the OC Zoo-tacular.

Costume Week at Pretend City

Oct 25th-29th: Get $2 off general admission for each person wearing a costume.

I know, it’s not outside – but hard to pass up a chance to play and show off a costume.

[Tip – Check Pretend City’s event calendar to get info on more October events including Día de los Muertos.]

Originally published in September 2013.

Thursday 10th of October 2019

Any recommendations for Julian or Anza Borrego?


Monday 12th of October 2015

I don't have a kid but I am still super excited about my first Autumn/Fall in the USA! We don't seem to go so Fall crazy in the UK! I definitely want to make smores at a fire pit...if it ever cools down!

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