Travelers love autumn for obvious reasons: falling leaves, harvest-themed restaurant menus, and serious deals. Those enticements are on full display in California, where beaches are still warm, festivals are abundant, and ski season is right around the corner. In San Diego, it’s prime time for families, with Kids Free San Diego running all October.
It’s also a great time to check the websites of any destination you have your eye on: You may find shoulder-season deals on hotels (especially in desert spots such as Greater Palm Springs or Borrego Springs’ Casa del Zorro) and early-bird savings at ski resorts such as Big Bear and Mammoth. Here are 19 great reasons to plan a fall (or winter) trip to California right now.
Buellton: 'Sideways’ Getaways
The movie Sideways turns 15 this year, and there are a few ways to celebrate in the Central Coast wine region where the comedy takes place. For starters, there’s the Sideways Fest, (Oct. 18–20) including, a tour, movie screening, and wine tastings. To stay that weekend—or any other time—the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton is offering a Vintners Wine-Tasting Package, which includes freebie tastings at area wineries, good through September 2020. The Sideways Inn—formerly the Windmill Inn, as seen in the movie—has its own 20 percent off deal, good through Oct. 31.
Greater Palm Springs: Shoulder Season Deals
Fall means shoulder season in the desert, a sweet spot when temperatures drift downward but deals still abound. Two cool examples: Get a fourth night free when you stay at desert classic La Quinta Resort & Club (good through Oct. 31) or book stays that include either a $250 dining or $250 spa credit at the retro-chic Parker Palm Springs (good through Dec. 31).
Napa Valley: Cabernet Season Deals
Fall and winter means Cabernet Season in wine country, and Napa Valley celebrates by enticing you with both big names and simple pleasures—like 25 percent Cabernet Season Savings at Silverado Resort & Spa (good through April 30, 2020) or a Bacon & Wine Tasting at Fairwinds Estate Winery (good through Nov. 3).
Mammoth Mountain: Early Bird Ski Season Deals
Now’s the time to lock in a ski getaway: Save up to 35 percent when you bundle lift tickets and accommodations at a Mammoth Lodging Collection property, starting at just $120 per person, per night. Or, just save up to 45 percent on lift tickets: 25 percent on single-day lift tickets, with up to 20 percent more off for multi-day tickets. Must book by Nov. 8.
San Luis Obispo County: $149 at Apple Farm Inn
The Central Coat hub offers a number of packages from the very autumnal-sounding Apple Farm Inn, near San Luis Obispo’s Mill Street Historic District. Choose from the Fall for the Apple Farm special (good through Nov. 14), with room rates of $149 (regularly $219–$329) that include dining credits the longer you stay, and the Hearst Castle Package, which includes a tour at the epic manse in San Simeon (good through Dec. 21).
Casa del Zorro: “Summer” Casita Specials
In Borrego Springs, east of San Diego County, the warm fall days are a blissful time to go on hikes, star-gaze, and enjoy the area’s desert tranquility. Book a casita for three or six nights (the latter averages out to about $150/night) and your digs come with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a private pool or hot tub. The resort, which is not far from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, has a wide range of things to do, including more pools, tennis, a play area, and a spa. Good through Nov. 16.
Temecula Valley: Sip, Sip, Stay Deals
Fall’s crush season is an idyllic time to explore Southern California’s Temecula Valley wine region. Book at least two nights at a participating hotel (a long list that includes spots such as The Inn at Europa Village and South Coast Winery Resort & Spa) and you’ll get at least one Sip Passport (worth $48 value) for wine-tasting flights at five participating wineries. Good through Nov. 22.
Menlo Park: Paw-fect Package at The Park James Hotel
Here’s an excuse to take your dog on a fall vacation: This Silicon Valley boutique hotel coddles them with a puppy spa day, doggie treats, and puppy turndown. Human escorts get goodies from the hotel’s Oak + Violet restaurant (like the “Crabby Puppy” Dungeness crab toast and “Seeing Rye Dog” cocktails with rye, agave, mint and blackberries). Ten percent of the package will benefit a local animal charity. Good through Dec. 31.
Santa Barbara: Romance on the Riviera and Whales & Tales
The Central Coast city’s site offers a lot of packages at the five members of the Santa Barbara Hotel Group—like The Lavender Inn, two blocks from Stearns Wharf. The Whales & Tales deal bundles your hotel with a catamaran outing to see migrating whales, while the Romance on the Riviera Package includes a dining credit at bucket-list-worthy Bouchon. Good through Dec. 3.
Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa: 96-Hour Sale
The deal doesn’t last just 96 hours—you can stay 96 hours, at $99 a night, at this classic resort in the San Bernardino Mountains, which has access to either great hiking and leaf-peeping or skiing during fall, depending on when the snow arrives. Good for weeknights through Dec. 19.
Sonoma County: Harvest Season Deals and 15 Percent Off “Suite Life” Package
Sonoma County is celebrating its own Wine Month in October, which has inspired a variety of deals on wine tastings —like a special harvest season tour at Rodney Strong or two-for-one tastings at Merriam Vineyards—all over the area. Or, stay over, with 15 percent off two-night stays at Timber Cove Resort, the mid-century gem in the coastal town of Jenner. Good through Dec. 31.
Sonoma Valley: Up to 20 Percent Off Hotel Rates
There are more Wine Country deals to be found on the Sonoma Valley site, like a special at the Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa, where the longer you stay, the more you save (from 15 to 20 percent); as a bonus, the hotel with chic-cottage decor is a short walk from the Sonoma Plaza. Good through Jan. 19.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows: Fourth Night Free
The lodging deal is nice and easy at Squaw Alpine: Stay for at least four nights at The Village at Squaw Valley and one of them will be free. The Village also has firepits, eight outdoor hot tubs, and multiple restaurants and stores. Good through November 2020.
Love Beverly Hills: Complimentary Use of BMW at Peninsula Beverly Hills
Even folks in Beverly Hills appreciate a nice deal. The Suite Ride package offers a loaner BMW to anyone who books a suite at the elegant hotel (note: you must request at booking and show proof of license and insurance at check-in). Ongoing.
San Diego: 25 Percent Off at San Diego Hotels
San Diego is celebrating Kid Free San Diego all October with great freebies for families at hotels, theme parks and other attractions. But the San Diego Tourism site has plenty of deals for people traveling without kids, too. Check out the 25 percent off deal at Capri by the Sea, which has condo-style lodgings along Mission Bay. Or splurge on La Valencia Hotel, where the Stay More, Save More deal includes a discount from 15–25 percent based on how long you stay. Ongoing.
Catalina Island: Hotel Plus Ferry Deals
You need two things to stay on Santa Catalina Island, off the Southern California Coast: a hotel plus a ferry ride to get there from Long Beach or Orange County. The Visit Catalina Island site makes it easy to book both at once—including the Catalina Express and a choice of four hotels: Pavilion Hotel, Hotel Atwater, Mt Ada, or Banning House Lodge. Choose your hotel based on the listed perks, from free breakfast to use of bicycles or even a golf cart on the no-cars island. Ongoing.
Visit Burbank: Universal Studios Hollywood Vacation Package
Wanna plan a fall or holiday season theme park visit? The Visit Burbank site is a nice way to bundle your hotel plus Hollywood-themed attractions. The Universal Studios Hollywood package lets you choose from hotels and folds in perks like the line-skipping Universal Express Pass. When we checked, the total for hotel plus tickets offered a savings of about $400 total for a family of four. The site also offers packages for Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland Resort, and Warner Bros. Studio. Ongoing.
Visit Oakland: Free Beer Growler
This fun promotion from Visit Oakland charts your course along the craft breweries of the Oakland Ale Trail. And, when you make some qualifying purchases you get a free growler. There’s a version for wine lovers, too, which ends with a wine-and-cheese bag at the end of the Oakland Urban Wine Trail. Ongoing.
Concord: Free Beer!
Fall, with its seasonal beers and Oktoberfests, is prime time for craft beer tourism. Book a visit to the beercation-friendly, East Bay town of Concord, and you’ll get the Craft Beer Bundle, which includes a cup that entitles you to a free flight of beer along the Concord Beer Trail. Ongoing.