October in San Diego is a month that is packed with fun family events. Popular Halloween festivities include events where kids can safely trick-or-treat, dress up in costumes, or at least see some decor.

If you’re thinking of planning a San Diego family vacation in October, I would encourage it. Thanks to Kids Free San Diego (more on this below), not only do you still get to enjoy some beach weather but kids receive free admission to select attractions.

The goal of this month-by-month series is to help you decide when the best time to visit San Diego is for you. For residents, I add in tidbits about what’s happening around down. If you make bookings using the links below, I may be compensated.

Two surfers walk on the sand on an October morning at La Jolla Shores Beach.
Surfers at La Jolla Shores Beach on an October morning.

San Diego October Weather

San Diego weather in October is when the change of seasons is the most noticeable to residents. This occurs usually mid-month. (It’s barely a noticeable change for those of you coming from the East Coast and similar climates.)

San Diego in September can be hot and dry in stretches. We’ve come off of an unusually monsoon-like, tropical summer with more cloud cover than usual. September has brought sunnier days and this pattern bleeds into the first 2-3 weeks of October, typically.

In fact, the first week of October 2020 experienced a heatwave of temperatures reaching the mid-90s inland and low 80s on the coast.

During October, the days grow shorter, and the air feels crisper in the morning and the evenings. It’s still shorts weather during the day for the most part.

Our Microclimates

San Diego weather in October that matters to you depends on which of our four microclimates you’ll be in the most. These include coastal regions, inland valleys, mountains, and the desert.

San Diego beaches and most of our major resorts are located in the coastal regions.

It’s Still Sunny in October

We usually have Santa Ana winds for stretches of several days in a row or a bit longer. Temperatures spike during these days, and so does the risk of wildfires across the state.

What you will notice is that as the days slowly get shorter and the ocean temperature cools down, too. It cools only by a degree or two from September averages, but you will feel it.

For those of you who like weather stats, here they are for October:

  • Average temperature (high/low): 74°F/61°F
  • Rainfall: .5 inches
  • Days of sunshine: 68%
  • Daylight: 11.5 hours
  • Ocean temperature (high/low): 66.4°F/63.5°F

If you are planning to visit San Diego in October, try to come during the first couple of weeks. The odds of capturing sunny beach days are higher during this timeframe but certainly not impossible for the rest of the month. There will be days of partial sun and some cloud cover.

Late afternoon on Pacific Beach in San Diego in October.
Mid-October weekday late afternoon in Pacific Beach

What the Beach Is Like

San Diego beaches are less crowded overall in October. In fact, during the week they’re downright mellow.

You’ll still struggle to find parking on sunny weekends, though. They’ll be busier during the hot and dry Santa Ana winds, but not as crowded as they are during peak summer weekends.

Take this opportunity to choose a beach that’s new to you, if you’re a local. If you’re a tourist, there isn’t a need to stress about crowds on the sand at the popular beaches.

La Jolla Cove San Diego on an October morning.
9 a.m. on an October morning at La Jolla Cove

Ocean Tips

Locals are still swimming in the ocean with no problem during the first week or so of October. You can and absolutely should still book snorkeling tours and surfing lessons. I would definitely plan to rent a wetsuit for either activity.


Advice for Booking Hotels in October

October is typically when San Diego hotel rates reach moderate to low levels. It’s a GREAT time to visit no matter what kind of traveler you are. However, because people are not traveling overseas right now people are coming to San Diego. Our drive market of visitors from Los Angeles and Orange County who are desperate for a short stay is strong. Hotels are pricing higher than they normally do with some weekends already sold out.

The one thing to check is how a hotel’s beach offerings may be modified. Some beach valet services (shuttles to the beach, chair set-up at the beach, etc.) may pause in the shoulder and low seasons.

If you are visiting San Diego with kids, October is fantastic. Kids stay free anyway at most hotels that I work with. But, many San Diego hotels offer various special gifts or kids eat free promotions during Kids Free October. You can check the full list on San Diego Tourism’s website, where you also may need to print a voucher to redeem at the hotel. To give you an idea, here are a few examples:

  • Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa: One kids’ meal is free for ages 12 and under with each paid adult entree at Oceana Coastal Kitchen. You’ll also receive one complimentary paddleboard rental with the purchase of one adult one-hour or longer paddleboard rental from the onsite Action Sports Rentals.
  • Hotel Republic San Diego: Up to two kids’ entrees are free with one paid adult entree.
  • La Valencia La Jolla: Kids under 12 receive a free activity bag.
  • Loews Coronado Bay Resort: One child meal is free per paid adult meal at Crown Landing restaurant.

And, there are many, many more. If you’re thinking of coming in a future year, note that promotions for this annual event typically aren’t set until between August and October.

A BENEFIT OF FLEXIBLE RATES

If you book a flexible rate through the hotel and you see the rate drop, the hotels can usually modify your reservation to the lower rate. Or, you can cancel and rebook.

San Diego October Events

San Diego events in October typically focus on Halloween and Kids Free San Diego. Rest assured that the events mentioned below are happening with appropriate health and safety measures in place.

Kids Free October San Diego

Kids eat and play for free at over 90 participating attractions across San Diego County. This annual promotion is one of the best ways for residents and visiting families to save money in San Diego.

You’ll need to check with the specific venue or on the San Diego Tourism website to see what terms and restrictions apply. Typically the promotion applies to kids ages 12 and under, but it can be for ages 9 and under. As already mentioned, you might also need to print a voucher.

San Diego Zoo Halgloween

Three weekends in October are filled with glow-in-the-dark fun, performances, and grins at San Diego Zoo. Halgloween happens on five weekends—Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from October 1–31 between 5–9 p.m.

There will even be live music, performances, interactive games and more hosted by the Zoo’s Dr. Zoolittle.

And, because it’s October, kids ages 11 and under are FREE! Kids ages 11 and under can come in their favorite costumes. Admission to Halgloween is included with admission which you can save on with my promo code.

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Autumn Festival At San Diego Zoo Safari Park

On Saturdays and Sundays from October 16-31, guests at San Diego Zoo Safari Park are treated to special Autumn Festival activities that include Bluegrass music, line dancing, and a chance to learn about the animals and plants that thrive during the fall season.

\You’ll be able to taste fall, too, with the likes of pumpkin-flavored drinks (even beer), apple dishes, and more seasonal delights to eat and drink.

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SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular and Howl-O-Scream

There are two SeaWorld San Diego Halloween events to enjoy this year. The first is the family-friendly Spooktacular and the second is the scarier Howl-O-Scream catered toward older kids and adults after dark.

Spooktacular includes safe trick-or-treating, a costume party, dance party, and other kid fun on Saturdays and Sundays from September 18 – October 31. Because it’s Kids Free San Diego, one child aged 3 – 9 receives FREE admission with a paid adult through November 1. This event is also free for Annual Pass and Fun Card holders.

The Howl-O-Scream event requires a special ticket for those who dare walk through haunted houses and scare zones. It’s happening on select nights between September 17 – October 31 starting at 7 p.m., though you may enter the park at 5 p.m.

Learn more about how to buy discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets.

Haunted Aquarium at Birch Aquarium

Kids all over San Diego look forward to the annual Haunted Aquarium event at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. This year, Haunted Aquarium happens on October 22, 23, and 24 from 6 – 9 p.m.

Look forward to animal encounters with slimy sea creatures, Halloween decor, and spooky science. They would love to see your ocean-themed costumes but any costume is encouraged.

You’ll need to buy a special ticket ASAP as they are expected to sell out!

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

LEGOLAND California‘s annual and super-popular Brick-or-Treat Party Nights is happening every Saturday in October.

Dress up in your favorite costume to dance with the Midnight Monster Jam, hit the 15 treat stations, try your luck in the costume contest parade, and to enter the first-ever LEGOLAND Scare Zone.

Guests can also look forward to seeing favorite LEGO characters in Halloween costumes and becoming detectives who scour the park for clues to the whereabouts of a missing party guest during the Pop Badge Challenge.

A separate ticket is required to attend Brick-Or-Treat.

La Jolla Art & Wine Festival

Come to my neighborhood for the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival happening Saturday, October 9 Sunday, October 10 in the Village of La Jolla.

It’s an enormous fundraiser for local schools that is quite fun. In addition to admiring the work of over 160 artists from across the country and Mexico, you can taste boutique wines (including quite a few from Napa and Valle de Guadalupe), craft beer, and craft spirits in the popular Wine & Beer Garden that you’ll want to buy tickets for.

All of this is combined with a Family Art Center, a two-day silent auction, 15 pet adoption stations, and an all-star line-up of live entertainment and music.

The best part is that it’s free to enter! Get the details.


Things to Do in San Diego in October

Things to do in San Diego in October that are worth considering.

See San Diego’s Spooky Side

You can check into one of our haunted hotels in San Diego, like Hotel del Coronado or Grand Colonial La Jolla.

Normally, I would put The Whaley House on this list but it’s temporarily closed until further notice.

Book the Old Town Trolley’s Ghost and Gravestones tour in the evening. It does take you to many of our spookiest sites and is running on October weekends. Check the schedule to book.

Go to Bates Nut Farm

One place to enjoy fall with the family is Bates Nut Farm. Their pumpkin patch is open and they’re hosting a handful of their usual Halloween events including the scarecrow contest, dog costume contest, and much more.

(Note to locals: Pumpkin Station in Del Mar and National City will not open this year. Their other locations are open.)

Go Apple Picking in Julian

U-Pick apple orchards in Julian are open for the 2021 season. Check with the U-Pick orchards directly for opening hours. Enjoy some fresh apple pie and other fun things to do in Julian, CA.


What to Wear in San Diego in October

I realize I sound like a broken record if you’re reading my other San Diego by month posts. What to pack for San Diego in October includes layers. You’ll probably pack more pants and sweaters than you would in our summer months for evenings.

The packing list is similar to September:

  • Face covering — required indoors at some attractions and suggested in others
  • Bathing suit
  • Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Flip flops
  • Bathing suit cover-up
  • Shorts
  • T-Shirts (short-sleeved and long-sleeved)
  • Tank tops for pool, beach, and hot weather days
  • Pants or jeans
  • Sweater or jacket for evenings
  • Comfortable walking shoes for sightseeing
  • Casual dress or collared shirt and nice jeans (only if you plan to dine in one of our nicer restaurants )
  • Moisturizer if you’re here during Santa Ana winds
  • Wetsuit, if you have one (otherwise they’re easy to rent)

See also: Fall Things to Do in San Diego


Lifestyle: What Residents Are Up To

We are gearing up for Halloween. Festive decor around neighborhoods is starting to roll out even though it looks like trick-or-treating is not in the cards. Our kids love Halloween events across San Diego at the theme parks, so we’re going to them, too.

Restaurant patios that have spanned into the streets still welcome diners who want to soak up the good weather before it turns a chillier San Diego in November.

If you live here, please share your thoughts about San Diego in October!

Weather and temperature sources: seatemperature.org, currentresults.com, NOAA