October in San Diego is shaking out nicely given that this has been a most unusual year. It’s a month that is usually packed with fun family events. Some popular Halloween festivities have been canceled, but several local attractions are hosting 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.
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. And that was no different in 2020. This pattern bleeds into the first 2-3 weeks of October, typically. In fact, the first week of October 2020 experienced a heat wave 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.
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
As I said, I’m typing this one day out from October, and it’s hot and dry outside in La Jolla. 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 fires (they are burning in Northern California).
What you will notice is that as the days progressively get shorter, 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.
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.
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.
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 Kitchen)
- Hotel Republic San Diego (up to two kids’ entrees are free with one paid adult entree)
- Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina (kids 12 and under eat free with a paying adult in all hotel restaurants)
- La Valencia La Jolla (kids under 12 receive a free activity bag)
- Pacific Terrace Hotel (kids under 12 eat free with a paying adult)
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 RATESIf 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
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 October 9-11, 16-18, & 23-25. There will even be a DJ spinning tunes. And, because it’s October, kids ages 11 and under are FREE! Kids ages 11 and under can come in their favorite costumes.
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SeaWorld San Diego Spooktacular
This theme park’s limited reopening comes in the form of special events that run on weekends including SeaWorld Spooktacular between October 2 and November 1.
Guests will be able to enjoy physically distanced Halloween dance parties, cookie decorating with Cookie Monster and Elmo, fall menu items, and plenty of candy through safe trick-or-treating.
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. Rides are still closed. (By the way, if you plan to visit the park more than once between now and the end of 2021, you should look at the new Fun Card promotion.) Learn more about how to buy discount SeaWorld San Diego tickets. Reservations are required.
Haunted Aquarium Remix
Kids all over San Diego look forward to the annual Haunted Aquarium event at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. This year, Haunted Aquarium Remix mixes the fun up outdoors with animal encounters, Halloween decor, and special activities the appeal best to kids ages 2 to 10. Reservations are required.
LEGOLAND Brick-or-Treat Party Nights (Postponed to 2021)
LEGOLAND California is still closed though we are expecting a reopening announcement as soon as the state releases guidelines. Either way, LEGOLAND’s annual and super-popular Brick-or-Treat Party Nights will not occur in 2020, sadly.
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
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
Try a Workcation or Schoolcation
I’m checking into The Lodge at Torrey Pines to decompress in October. You can book a room as an office or classroom for the day or upgrade your package to include a priority tee time at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Again, other options include:
- La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla: Office by the beach package in a newly-renovated Vintage room starts at $75.
- San Diego Mission Bay Resort: Recess at the Pool package that includes complimentary Wi-Fi, a $25 resort credit for break time, two bike rentals, and a s’ mores kit. Use promo code RECESS on their website (rates start at $215/night).
Watch an Outdoor Movie on the Bay
Book dinner and a movie with Hornblower on the top deck of their biggest yacht — Inspiration. The latest schedule is as follows:
- Thursday, 10/1 – Dirty Dancing
- Sunday, 10/4 – Back to the Future
- Thursday, 10/8/20 – Beerfest
- Sunday, 10/11/20 – Star Wars
- Thursday, 10/15/20 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
- Sunday, 10/18/20 – Black Panther (Back by popular demand!)
- Thursday, 10/22/20 – Anchorman
- Sunday, 10/25/20 – E.T.
- Thursday, 10/29/20 – TBD
- Sunday, 11/1/20 – Nightmare Before Christmas
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 everywhere you’re not 6′ from someone
- Bathing suit
- Rashguard or UV shirt for sun protection
- Flip flops
- Bathing suit cover-up
- 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!