Autumn is a wonderful time to head out on the road and explore the beautiful state of California. While California generally doesn’t observe Columbus Day, several major Californian cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Luis Obispo, celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same date. Moreover, some school districts close in observance, which leads to a three-day weekend. There are plenty of California vacation rentals perfect for a relaxing weekend getaway. Take a look at several of the most amazing places for a fall adventure in California.

1. Avenue of the Giants

Yosemite National Park
Source: Flickr / Bernard Spragg. NZ

Redwood trees may not change colors in the fall, but nothing can compare to the spectacular feeling of being surrounded by these giants, and the crisp weather of fall is a perfect time for this adventure. Head to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, about an hour south of Eureka, to hike amid the giants. Some trees are even big enough to drive through!

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2. Solvang

Solvang, CA Hamlet Square
Source: Flickr / Andrew Dupont

October in the Santa Ynez Valley town of Solvang means Scarecrow Fest, which is always a fun time. Check out the creative scarecrows waiting to greet you outside the charming shops and restaurants of Solvang, a Danish town that takes its heritage seriously. Vacation rentals in Solvang or nearby Buellton provide a perfect home base for bicycling around the lush valley. If you’re a wine lover, you’ll find yourself surrounded by boutique vineyards and wineries.

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3. Anza-Borrego Desert

Anza-Borrego desert
Source: Pixabay / joeroeder

As temperatures start to drop in the fall, the Anza-Borrego Desert, a couple of hours outside San Diego, beckons weekenders to enjoy its crisp night air. Bring your telescope to gaze at the stars with no city light pollution, since this desert features some of the darkest skies in the country. Pay attention to moonrise as well to capture the glories of a harvest moon over the badlands.

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4. Cardiff-by-the-Sea

Cardiff-by-the-sea
Source: Wikimedia Commons / Amar

Summertime crowds may have left San Diego County’s North County beaches by Columbus Day, but ocean temperatures are typically still warm enough for you to indulge in a weekend of surfing or water play. Book a vacation rental within the sound of the waves to wake up in total relaxation every morning. The ecological reserve at San Elijo Lagoon features guided walks, extensive trails, and boardwalks to let you explore the estuary.

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5. Edna Valley

Edna Valley winery
Source: Flickr / Harold Litwiler

California autumns bring out the wine lovers throughout the state. To check out one of the state’s rising winery regions, head to the Edna Valley in Central California. Pick a vacation rental in Pismo Beach or Arroyo Grande to center yourself in this region, and then check out the Edna Valley Vineyard and other local wineries to start stocking up on your favorites — after all, Thanksgiving is just around the corner!

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6. La Jolla

sea lions, san diego, california
Source: Pixabay / MonicaVolpin

This charming artistic community just north of San Diego is delightful around Columbus Day, when weather is still warm and inviting but the crowds have all gone home. Book tickets for a production at the acclaimed La Jolla Playhouse, where the fall season is just getting underway, or play a round of golf at Torrey Pines. If you just want to enjoy the natural beauty of La Jolla, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is filled with nature trails that take you by the region’s rare tree species.

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7. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak, California
Source: Wikimedia Commons / Daniel Schwen

Lassen Volcanic National Park is snowed-in through much of the winter, so it’s typically only accessible from June to October, making it an ideal choice for a Columbus Day weekend getaway. A vacation rental between Redding and the park’s entrance puts you in prime position to head in to this unspoiled park to enjoy beautiful hikes past natural hot springs and up the side of the volcano.

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8. Calistoga

Castello di Amorosa Winery, Napa Valley, California, USA
Source: Wikimedia Commons / Jim G

More wine-tasting is definitely on the schedule when you head to Calistoga for Columbus Day weekend. Visit the Tuscan castle at Castello di Amorosa (and taste their wines while you’re at it), or take the gondola up the hillside at Sterling Vineyards. Calistoga is a great weekend getaway with the kids as well. Head to Safari West to take a Jeep tour through this private wildlife reserve packed with giraffes, rhinos, zebras, cheetahs and more.

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9. Julian

Julian, California night sky
Source: Wikimedia Commons / Taylor Durrer

Head inland from San Diego to enjoy fall apple-picking in the tiny Gold Rush town of Julian. This town celebrates its heritage by offering gold mining tours with the Eagle Mining Company. You can pan for gold and maybe pick up a few nuggets to take home along with your apples.

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10. Yosemite National Park

Source: Pixabay / 12019

Locals call autumn the “golden season” at Yosemite, and it’s easy to see why when you find yourself surrounded by golden grasses and leaves changing color. Explore the whole park during this less crowded season. Of course you’ll want to spend time in Yosemite Valley, but don’t leave out Tuolumne Meadows (which is often inaccessible during the winter), as well as Wawona at the park’s southern end. Vacation rentals abound in the mountains around Yosemite to give you a relaxing spot to come home to each evening.

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11. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California
Source: Pixabay / bryc42013

Just 50 miles south of Los Angeles, Laguna Beach becomes relaxed and crowd-free by Columbus Day, even though the water and weather are still warm and inviting. Explore some of the more secluded beaches beloved by locals, such as Treasure Island Beach or Victoria Beach, and spend some time strolling through the art galleries and boutiques in the town’s shopping area — with the summer crowds gone, you may even pick up some great deals!

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