Los Angeles, despite claims from outsiders, does have distinct seasons; it simply has less climatic drama than its all-over-the-place East Coast counterparts. All of that sunshine can make it a bit tough to get into the seasonal spirit—after all, LA’s best rooftop bars don’t exactly scream Halloween—but there are plenty of things to do in Los Angeles to feel the season's changes without having to plan weekend getaways to more autumnal pastures. We put together our recommendations for fall activities and events to make the city feel a bit more festive—it’s not quite the Berkshires, but we wouldn’t want it to be anyway.
LA's flora is no stranger to spectacular seasonal color—just think of the purple jacaranda tree-lined streets and buildings covered in magenta bougainvillea—but fall foliage isn't usually on our radar. You can trek up to the Sierra Nevadas or the more reasonably distanced San Jacintos (Idyllwild, in particular), but we don't think it's worth it to drive for hours just to see some dying chlorophyll. Take a look at an aerial map of Los Angeles—looks pretty gray, right?—and you'll easily be able to spot the dense green areas where you'll most likely find some bonafide fall colors. Start out by taking a drive down Homewood Road in Brentwood or Warner Avenue in Westwood if you're on the Westside; trees are fickle about changing colors, but use those streets as starting points to explore in late November. For you Eastsiders, cruise along California Boulevard from Pasadena to Arcadia, and then spend an afternoon walking among the crape myrtles and grape vines at the Los Angeles County Arboretum for some autumnal colors close to home.
Of course LA knows how to throw a costume party—after all, this is the home of the iconic Universal monster movies—and there’s no shortage of Halloween parties, from the hip and mysterious KCRW Masquerade Ball to the adults-only West Hollywood Halloween Costume Carnaval. If you’d rather trade in your ghoulish gear for lederhosen, then head over to Torrance’s Alpine Village for a proper Oktoberfest celebration: oom-pah-pah bands, brats and beers fill the packed event hall. And make sure to check out biergartens all over the city.
While it's unclear if an NFL tean will land here anytime soon, we do still have a pair of elite college football teams. Dress up in your best Trojan cardinal red or Bruin blue, and spend a fall afternoon with 90,000 new friends. Let's be honest, USC fans: The LA Coliseum has seen some better days, so consider a trip to Pasadena for a UCLA game if you're just looking for a chance to watch football in the autumn breeze (i.e. Santa Ana winds). Seats at both stadiums can run well over $50, but you can grab a general admission ticket to the Rose Bowl starting for only $20.
Don't be fooled by the palm trees; plenty of traditional harvest activities aren't too far away, from an afternoon at a local pop-up pumpkin patch to a day trip spent apple picking. You'll have to take the 10 east to the San Bernardino Mountain towns outside of Yucaipa or the 14 north to the ranches dotted along the desert side of the San Gabriels (expect an hour-plus ride to either one). Closer to Halloween, check out some of the best haunted houses and hay rides in the city, or, for a less frightening affair, head to the centrally located Farmers Market for their children-friendly Fall Festival. Banjo bands, carnival games and a petting zoo are all mainstays at this annual harvest fest. But for a more distinctly LA activity, stash the hay and pumpkins and honor the dead with marigolds and sugar skulls at Hollywood Forever's Dia de Los Muertos celebration.
It might not fit in with typical notions of changing seasons, but fall ushers in a few magical changes in LA: the end of summertime tourist traffic, lighter crowds at Disneyland and, most notably, one of the best times to hit the beach. Ocean temperatures actually peak in early September and retain their summertime “warmth”—don't expect the Pacific to climb above 70°F—for weeks. The best beaches in LA can still draw crowds on weekends, but, compared to summer, it's a ghost town. So pack a picnic lunch, bring along a warm sweatshirt—that counts as autumn apparel, right?—and celebrate a "cold-weather" fall day by the ocean.