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7 Ways to Experience Fall Fun in the West

Get into the spirit with these fun fall activities.

Apple season is in full swing. Head to a local orchard to load up on your favorite varieties.

Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

With school back in session and fall upon us, it’s time to get into the spirit of the sweater season. From film festivals to apple-picking excursions, here are some ideas to put you in an autumnal frame of mind.

Movie Nights

Colder weather is the perfect excuse to head to the movies.

The Napa Valley Film Festival, Nov. 13–17, features a range of programs at venues throughout California wine country. If the films aren’t enough to entertain, check out one of the filmmaker panels or various tribute nights. Last year's events honored Geena Davis, Laurence Fishburne, and Billy Bob Thornton. It wouldn’t be a Napa Valley event without an opportunity to taste local wine. Over the weekend, Festival Intermissions offer a chance for passholders to sip between screenings.

An hour and a half south, the small Marin County town of Mill Valley hosts its own fall film extravaganza at multiple local venues. The festival, Oct. 3–13, showcases acclaimed films from over 50 countries, as well as the work of Bay Area filmmakers.

In Oregon, the Porland Film Festival, Oct. 14–19, is as unique as the city it calls home. All genres are welcome here, and past festivals have also included industry networking opportunitues and workshops, like "Female Voices in Filmmaking" and "The Art of Adaptation."

Fall for a Getaway

There’s still time to take advantage of fall’s cooler temperatures and scenic landscapes before the true cold season hits—and holiday madness begins. Even a day long trip to a nearby town can provide the escape you need to make it through the end of the year. But if you’re looking to venture farther afield and need a little inspiration, we have a few ideas. For instance, you might head to lush Silver Falls State Park in OregonCanyon de Chelly in Arizona or small-town Healdsburg in California's Sonoma County. And, of course, a weekend in Lake Tahoe is always a pleasure, particularly in autumn. 

Colorful Foliage

You don’t need to hightail it to New England to experience the splendor of fall’s annual explosion of color. Plenty of forested spots in the West put on their own stunning displays in nuanced shades of yellow, red, and gold. Even California has something to offer. Click the following links for suggestions: Where to See Fall Color in the West | Fall color road trip in Utah

Check out California Fall Color’s regularly updated Fall Foliage Map for peak viewing times in the Golden State.

Apple Extravaganza

Like pumpkins, apples are a sure sign of autumn’s arrival. Enjoy them every which way at Apple Hill in Placerville, California, an idyllic setting for dozens of farms and apple orchards. In Washington state, Bellewood Farms in Lynden is a u-pick paradise with multiple apple varieties and a train that takes visitors through the orchards. Or take home gobs of sweet Jonagolds from nearby Apple Creek Orchards. (Click here for opening day updates). Can't wait? Pick up a slice of pie on the way.

Cozy Up with a Cup of Joe

Coffee is a year-round delight, but there’s something extra cozy about sipping your favorite coffee drink from a real mug in a local coffee shop. Take fifteen minutes to sip, savor, and relax at one of these top coffee shops in the West. If your favorite mug is the one you find at home, try this easy recipe for a pumpkin spice latte. Rather skip the caffeine altogether in favor of something scrumptious? These beloved bakeries won’t disappoint.

Gourds Galore

Nothing says fall quite like the appearance of a certain popular orange gourd, and the world-famous Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, on California's Highway 1, celebrates the pumpkin like no place else. Monday before the event, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off pitts (gigantic) gourd against gourd to determine the world’s heavyweight pumpkin champion. The winner and runner-ups are on display during the festival, Oct. 19–20, which also features other pumpkin- and harvest-themed attractions.

Corn Maze Adventures

If giant pumpkins aren’t enough to, ahem, squash your fall cravings, how about a huge corn maze? Located just over 20 miles southwest of Sacramento, Cool Patch Pumpkins’ corn maze was declared the world’s largest by Guinness Book of World Records in 2014. Lazy P Farm in Winnemucca, Nevada, offers a fun twist with its Flashlight Maze evenings, when brave visitors, or those with a particularly impressive sense of direction, can attempt to navigate the maze on Friday and Saturday nights. Check websites for opening dates and hours. 

Heading to any of these fun fall events? AAA Members can take advantage of special discounts on hotel rates to make a weekend getaway even more affordable.