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.
Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Shutterstock

Now that we’ve officially transitioned into fall, it’s time to get into the spirit of the season. From film festivals to apple picking excursions, here are some ideas to put you in an autumnal frame of mind.

Finer focus

Colder weather is the perfect excuse to head to the movies. Get a close-up of the Pacific Northwest’s thriving motion picture community at the 45th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival. The Oct. 31–Nov. 5 event, organized by Portland’s Northwest Film Center, screens new works by directors from Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Look for regionally themed short film programs and panel discussions by guest curators.

In California, the Napa Valley Film Festival, Nov. 7–Nov. 11, features a range of programs at venues throughout wine country. If the films aren’t enough to entertain, check out one of the filmmaker panels or various tribute nights, including events honoring 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.

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 WestReaders’ top viewing spots in California, Oregon, and UtahFall color road trip in Utah

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 Acres 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, which opens Oct. 1. Can't wait? Pick up a slice of pie on the way.

Dig into Mendocino

With a swell of new restaurants, shops, and hotels to complement its enduring natural beauty, California’s North Coast is “having a moment,” notes San Francisco magazine. Experience it by way of your taste buds at Feast Mendocino, Nov. 2–11, an event offering 10 days of mushroom foraging trips, wine and beer tastings, special dinners, and many more events throughout Mendocino County.

Low-tech marvels

In an increasingly high-tech world, it’s nice to see something cleverly mechanical. Opening November 8, Curious Contraptions at San Francisco’s Exploratorium displays intricate, charming, and utterly absorbing sculptures made by hand using basic mechanisms and animated with simple cranks. Visitors can see offbeat gizmos similar to Carlos Zapata’s Everlasting Love from the 2017 show, and even learn how to build their own devices at artist-led workshops. (Note: AAA Members can take advantage of discount tickets.)

Cozying 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.

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.