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.

This month-by-month series aims 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.

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, 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 usually occurs 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 from 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.

To give you an idea, 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 in 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 hot and dry 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. It’s important to stay hydrated and moisturize during Santa Anas.

You will notice that the days slowly get shorter, and the ocean temperature also cools down. 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 coming 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 still swim 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

If you book early, October is typically when San Diego hotel rates reach moderate to low levels. However, don’t be surprised to encounter sold-out weekends or price spikes on odd dates as hotels reach full occupancy.

With many Halloween-themed activities popping up all over SoCal, it’s important to acknowledge the higher volume of tourists who might show up for their favorite haunts. It won’t be as packed as, say, Labor Day weekend, but October may still be a bit crowded.

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 or kayak rental with the purchase of one adult one-hour or longer paddleboard or kayak rental from the onsite Action Sports Rentals.
  • San Diego Mission Bay Resort: Enjoy one kid meal per adult meal purchased at Solrisa, Plaza Del Sol, or Covewood Restaurant
  • Kids checking into the newly renovated Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina can enjoy a free meal with a paid adult meal at any restaurant, excluding the Marina market, during the entire month.
  • Kids also eat free at Kings Inn’s Waffle Spot or Amigo Spot.

And, there are many, many more. If you’re considering 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.

Kids Free October San Diego

Kids eat and play for free at over 85 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

Weekends in October are filled with glow-in-the-dark fun, performances, and grins at San Diego Zoo. Halgloween happens Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in October between 5–9 p.m. 

In addition to live music, acrobatic performances, and interactive games, the whole family can jump in a bubble dance party,  check out Dr. Zoolittle’s tips and tricks, and jam to a mariachi band.

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 San Diego Zoo 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 in October, guests at San Diego Zoo Safari Park are treated to special Autumn Festival activities that include live bluegrass music, interactive characters (Robert the Zebra is a personal favorite), 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.

ACCESS MY EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT

Check for unpublished deeper savings on tickets through my partnership with aRes Travel, an authorized San Diego Zoo Safari Park ticket seller.

*By texting the word SAFARI to 1-833-490-0799 you agree to receive automated promotional messages with how to secure my deeper ticket discount and this agreement isn’t a condition of any purchase. Msg and data rates may apply. 2 msg/mo. Reply STOP to cancel. Read my full privacy policy.

SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular and Howl-O-Scream

A young girl trick or treats with her mom.

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, cookie decorating, a pumpkin scavenger hunt, a parade, a hay maze, and an all-new O.P. Otter’s Spooktacular surprise you won’t want to miss. Be sure to join in on the fun on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from September 15 –October 29.

Because it’s Kids Free San Diego, one child aged 3–9 receives FREE admission with a paid adult in October. 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, brave rides in the dark, and sit down at the sinister cocktail bar. It’s happening on select nights between September 29 –October 31, starting at 7 p.m., though you may enter the park at 6 p.m. to head to the Carnival of Chaos.

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

2023 Halloween In San Diego Zombie Crawl

This haunt is designed for older kids and adults to head out to the Gaslamp Quarter for tons of grownup tricks, treats, and more.

The Zombie Crawl takes place from October 27-31, with costume contests, DJs, drinks, food, and tons more, creating an epic weekend of evening entertainment for your San Diego trip.

LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights

LEGOLAND California‘s annual and super-popular Brick-or-Treat Party Nights is happening September 16, 23, 30 and select Saturdays and Sundays in October. 

Dress up in your favorite costume to join this year’s Monster Party, filled with live shows and character meet and greets. Kids also always love hitting the trick-or-treating stations (starting at 3 p.m.) and the costume contest parade.

Guests can also look forward to seeing their favorite LEGO characters in Halloween costumes.

Trick-Or-Treat On India Street

On October 29 from 5:30–7:30 p.m., explore the Piazza della Famiglia in your favorite costumes. The businesses in Little Italy encourage you to knock on their door for a trick or treat on a cool, October night.

This Trick-Or-Treat event is fun for the whole family. Businesses give out treats that kids and adults of all ages will scream for. 

Everyone is encouraged to wear a costume to this event!

Del Mar Harvest Festival

In its 51st year, this is the largest arts and crafts show of its kind on the West Coast on October 13-15. Come explore an eclectic makers market of original wares ranging from jewelry, ceramics, specialty foods, kids’ clothing, and seasonal decor – all under one roof.

La Jolla Art & Wine Festival

Come to my neighborhood for the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival happening on Saturday, October 7, and Sunday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 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 Geppetto’s Toys Family Art Center, a silent auction (bid online!), 14 pet adoption stations, and an all-star line-up of live entertainment and music.

The best part is that it’s free to enter — just buy your beer and wine tasting tickets! Get the details.

Adventure Race: A Family-Friendly Scavenger Hunt

Work with your team to solve as many challenges as possible in this adventure race sponsored by Habitat for Humanity! Scour the streets of Escondido and put on your thinking caps in a thrilling and fun scavenger hunt. A delicious BBQ lunch awaits to reward you and your team for all the effort – that’s winning in our book!

Carlsbad Oktoberfest 

Bring the entire family out on October 7th to the 41st annual Oktoberfest for live music, a Bier Garten, a magic show, a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, and a petting zoo for the kids. With all proceeds going to the Rotary Club and Boys and Girls Club of Carlsbad, spending a fun day out with the family doesn’t get any better!   

San Diego International Film Festival 

From October 18-31, the film festival will be “Celebrating the Power of Film”. For five days, enjoy inspiring and thought-provoking films and documentaries by filmmakers worldwide. A highlight of the film festival this year is the Culinary Cinema event on October 23, featuring renowned San Diego chefs and a cuisine-themed movie. 

Walk for Literacy 

Traveling Stories’ Walk for Literacy on October 7 encourages everyone to enjoy a donut and coffee before strolling around Chollas Lake on a 0.8-mile dirt path. All kids will receive a free book and are invited to the Kids Zone for face painting and other activities.  Because it is October, there is a costume contest but with a twist: dress up as your favorite book character!


Things to Do in San Diego in October

Things to do in San Diego in October that are worth considering include the below!

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.

Take a self-guided tour through The Whaley House, arguably San Diego’s most haunted house in Old Town — where you can also walk through El Campo Santo cemetery.

Spend a spooky night camping out with Lions, Tigers & Bears!

Book the Old Town Trolley’s Ghost and Gravestones tour in the evening. It takes you to many of our spookiest sites and runs nightly. Check the schedule to book.

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos 

The Day of the Dead celebrations are happening all over San Diego, so catch one of these to celebrate and honor lost loved ones. 

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 their usual Halloween events, including the scarecrow contest, dog costume contest, and much more.

Go to A Pumpkin Patch

It may be warm in San Diego, but our pumpkins still hold up against the heat. There are several pumpkin patches that your whole family will love.

Pumpkin Stations are always favorites. The Del Mar location offers train rides, slides, a petting zoo, and much more you can visit.

Carlsbad Strawberry Company’s pumpkin patch is open with a petting zoo, tractor rides, a corn maze (an evening one for older kids and adults, too), and more.

Go Apple Picking in Julian

U-Pick apple orchards in Julian are open for the 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 — not required anymore but you may want one just in case
  • 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.

There are so many unique experiences in San Diego in October. For example, it’s hard to find a Dia De Los Muertos celebration anywhere else in the United States that’s quite like ours.

Plus, our restaurants are still perfect for outdoor and indoor dining. It’s a great idea to soak up the sun for as long as possible before it gets chillier, like 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

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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