Not-To-Miss Fall Events in Santa Cruz County

The secret’s out! The fall season boasts some of the best weather of the year in Santa Cruz County, plus it’s chock-full of awesome events you don’t want to miss! From music, sea glass, and wine festivals to art and monarch butterfly tours, there is something for everyone this fall in Santa Cruz County. Take a look below for some of the best events happening this season:

U-Pick Apples at Gizdich Ranch
October – mid November (please call for updates on season before visiting)
It’s finally time! If you have not had a Gizdich pie have you really visited Santa Cruz County? Bring some containers to collect your own apples or purchase some there. When everyone is ready for lunch, enjoy a picnic behind their sales barn, and let the young-at-heart keep playing.
Location: 55 Peckham Road, Watsonville

Wednesday Night Sailboat Races
Wednesdays through October 2023
Enjoy an incredible fall sunset! Harbor restaurants & the beach are great viewing areas to watch the sailboat races against the setting sun.
Location: Santa Cruz Harbor, 135 5th Avenue, Santa Cruz

Self-Guided Monarch Butterfly Tours
October – January
Take a self-guided tour of the Monarch Grove at Natural Bridges State Beach. Monarchs tend to arrive at Natural Bridges in mid-October, have peak observation numbers in late-November and early-December, and migrate out of the area by mid to late-January, but sometimes into February. The Monarch Grove Trail is open for self-guided monarch tours during park hours (8am to sunset.) Parking is $10.
Location: Natural Bridges State Beach, 2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Boardwalk Bites & Brews
October 26, 27; November 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 19, 2023
At Brews at the Beach near Neptune’s Kingdom, indulge in top Bay Area craft beers paired with delicious local foods, while enjoying FREE live music!
Location: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz

Chili Cook-Off at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
October 28, 2023
Bring your appetite and join the fun as both professional and amateur chefs work their culinary magic and compete for the title of Best Chili!
Location: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz

Elkhorn Slough: Free Tour of the Preserve
Saturdays and Sundays; 10am & 11am; throughout the year
Docent-led tours of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve are every Saturday AND Sunday, at 10 am and 11 am. Tours are on a first-come, first-serve basis – visitors may sign up at the Visitor Center front desk, or call ahead the morning of using the phone number below. The Docent will craft a walk that meets the groups needs and abilities.

Capitola Plein Air Festival
October 30 – November 5, 2023
Capitola Plein Air is back! This season, forty professional artists will arrive in Capitola to paint the town…literally! Artists set up their easels on the wharf, shore, and streets of beautiful Capitola, to paint live for four days (between October 30 – November 5). You’ll find hundreds of paintings on display, for sale, and entered into a competition on Sunday, November 5. You can take home a piece of Capitola culture, vote for your favorites for the People’s Choice Award, have a delicious meal from the food trucks, or get creative and make some art yourself.
Location: Various locations in Capitola and the Capitola Village

First Friday Art Tour Santa Cruz
November 3, 2023; 5pm – 8pm
On the first Friday evening of every month, Santa Cruz galleries, shops, and cultural venues open their doors to showcase the works of Santa Cruz County artists. With a block party-like vibe, the multi-venue event provides an opportunity to discover local creative talent in a fun and festive setting. Many venues entice attendees with yummy cheese-and-wine-filled spreads, while others have food trucks joining in on the fun. Read our Guide to First Friday for tips on where to begin and more!

Hot Rods at the Beach
November 4, 2023
Check out hundreds of sweet hot rods, street rods, vintage, muscle, custom, and classic cars in the Boardwalk Parking Lot. Free admission!
Location: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Sea Glass and Ocean Art Festival
November 4 – 5, 2023
The Santa Cruz Sea Glass & Ocean Art Festival features genuine sea glass and artist-made creations while benefiting our local marine environment. This year the festival celebrates its 15th anniversary. Over 50 talented artists are bringing their boutique works to the Bay View room & Sunroom in the Historic Cocoanut Grove at the Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk. You’ll find one-of-a-kind pieces, from ceramics, soaps, sea salts, photography, fabric arts and stunning sea glass jewelry. There is plenty of parking, yummy food, views of the Monterey bay, a full bar and a community of ocean-enthusiasts excited to meet you!
Location: Cocoanut Grove, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz

Goat Hill Unique Antique and Artisan Fair
November 10 & 11, 2023; 10am – 4pm
It’s back! Goat Hill is a community event not to be missed. If you have a love for vintage ~ styling your home with old-style objects, wearing vintage jewelry & clothing, and collecting unique art and objects then this is somewhere you need to visit! With over 100 vendors, you can find gardens, rusty, French, farmhouses, industrial and more! Food & adult beverages sold onsite.
Location: Santa Cruz County Fair, 2601 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville

Capitola Village Sip & Stroll
November 11, 2023; 12pm – 5pm
Enjoy sipping local wines and beers while strolling through our charming shops and boutiques in Capitola by the Sea. Pre-registration is $40 and includes: Capitola Village Sip & Stroll commemorative glass, 12 two-ounce pour tickets to be used as you shop, and a map to locate which Village shops are hosting. Be a part of this event in the village and enjoy shopping in our fabulous boutiques as you sip amazing wine!
Location: Capitola Village, 203 Esplanade, Capitola

Downtown Santa Cruz Fall Wine Walk
November 12, 2023; 2pm – 5pm
Presenting the Downtown Santa Cruz Fall Wine Walk 2023! Join us in the heart of the Central Coast to taste great wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond. Enjoy sipping while strolling through many favorite Downtown Santa Cruz shops. At Check-in, receive your glass and a map of the pouring locations, and enjoy an afternoon of tasting and discovering. Plan ahead for a dinner or movie to follow! Buy tickets here.
Location: Downtown Santa Cruz; Registration Check-In at 121 Soquel Avenue (Oswald)

O’Neill Cold Water Classic
November 14- 19, 2023
The O’Neill Cold Water Classic – North America’s Longest Running Surf Contest returns for 2023 November 14th – 19th with an exciting new grassroots format, providing unique content and marketing longevity beyond the on-site experience. Since 1987, The O’Neill Cold Water Classic has been northern California’s premier professional surfing event held at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. “The Lane” is perhaps the best spectator venue for a surf contest to be found anywhere in the world. No surf spot resembles an ancient roman stadium more than Steamer Lane, with steep, vertical cliffs overlooking the fabled right-point break. As a unique destination, event spectators flock to northern California’s iconic point break to hug the cliff railing and witness the world’s top surfers compete.
Location: Steamer Lane, West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Scotts Valley Farmer’s Market
Saturdays through 3rd Saturday in November
Come and get your fill of fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised eggs and meats, and local and sustainably caught seafood. In addition, find ready-to-eat cuisine, baked goods, and a full coffee and espresso bar.
Location: 5060 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley

Redwood Forest Steam Train Rides
Trains depart daily; check the Roaring Camp website for times and tickets
Travel over trestles, through towering redwood groves, and up a winding narrow-gauge grade to the summit of Bear Mountain as conductors narrate the history of Roaring Camp, the railroad, and the forest. (One hour roundtrip).
Location: Roaring Camp Railroads, 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton

Past Events for the 2023 Fall Season

Fire in the Sky
September 2, 2023
A first-of-its-kind drone light show is coming to Watsonville for this year’s Fire in the Sky and Airport Open House. Watsonville’s Airport Open House includes first responder aviation assets, local agri-business flight departments, antique aircraft, flyovers, parachute flag jump, live music, free Kidz Zone, food vendors, and the ever-popular pyrotechnics demonstration.
Location: Watsonville Municipal Airport, 100 Aviation Way #A, Watsonville

Santa Cruz Greek Festival
September 8 9, 2023
Enjoy traditional Greek cuisine, music, and dancing beginning Friday evening from 5 – 10 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.
Location: Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, 223 Church Street at the corner of Center and Church, next to the Civic Auditorium

40th Annual Capitola Art & Wine Festival
September 9 – 10, 2023
Stroll the festival with friends and family, sipping exceptional wines from Santa Cruz Mountain wineries while admiring the artistic talents of over 100 fine artists. Sway to live music and be inspired by local dance groups while taking in the ocean breeze and breathtaking view of the Monterey Bay. Feed your cravings with tantalizing cuisine from local food purveyors, and cruise through the Artisans Marketplace for locally handcrafted goods. If that isn’t enough, Capitola Village is filled with restaurants for every taste and charming boutiques to satisfy a shopper’s dream. Art, wine, music, and gourmet cuisine in the enchanting beach-side setting of Capitola Village…summer’s last hurrah, and truly a weekend in paradise!
Location: Capitola Village, Capitola

Santa Cruz County Fair
September 13 – 17, 2023
The show-stopping Santa Cruz County Fair returns September 13-17th for family fun, great entertainment, live shows, animal displays, carnival rides, and more! 2023 entertainment includes: Wednesday 9/13  & Thursday 9/14 Monster Trucks and Motocross; live music every night at the Amphitheater Stage!
Location: Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, 2601 E. Lake Avenue, Watsonville

31st Annual Aloha Outrigger Races
September 16, 2023
The Pu Pu ‘O Hawaii Outrigger Club is ready to race! These short-course outrigger races are designed especially for the new or novice paddlers. Come out and support the racers as well as enjoy hula performances by Kūhai Hālau O Mehanakealohakalaua’eikapoli Pā ‘Ōlapa Kahiko.
Location: Santa Cruz Wharf

Mountain Sol Festival at Roaring Camp
September 16 17, 2023
Join us for the 7th annual Santa Cruz Mountain Sol Festival. The weekend welcomes a variety of artists, multiple stages, camping, and train rides including the ‘Sol Train’ shuttle from the Boardwalk and back again in the evening, craft beer, wine, vendors, and gourmet food.
Location: Roaring Camp Railroads, 5401 Graham Hill Road, Felton

Capitola Beach Festival
September 23 – 24, 2023
Capitola’s Annual Beach Festival will have something for everyone to enjoy! The community event will include a 3-Miler Fun Run hosted by the Wharf to Wharf, a Horseshoe Tournament, the Lighted Nautical Parade, a Fishing Derby, a Sand Sculpture Contest, the Chalk Art Event, a Concert in Esplanade Park, Rowboat Races and more! Join in on the fun at this free, family-friendly event!
Location: Capitola Village, Esplanade Park, Capitola

T-Birds on the Wharf
September 30, 2023
Check out the Classic, Vintage and Retro Thunderbirds on display then stick around to enjoy fabulous shopping and/or grab a bite at one of the many fine local eateries with the best views in Santa Cruz!
Location: Santa Cruz Wharf

Open Farm Tours
October 7 – 8, 2023
Get to know your farmers and get a behind-the-scenes look into our regions vibrant working agricultural landscapes at the Open Farm Tours! There are 15 participating farms this year and a variety of activities. Press apples for fresh juice at one farm, taste over 10 varieties of figs at another, and then head over to another farm to pick tomatoes. Touring farms is a fantastic outdoor family activity and fall is a great time to get out and explore!
Location: Various Farms; see map for location information

Welcome Back Monarchs Day!
October 8, 2023
Join Natural Bridges State Beach in welcoming the monarch butterflies back to the park, where they will spend the winter. Enjoy arts and crafts, active games for kids, live music by the 5Ms, hand-cranked “monarch” pumpkin-flavored ice cream, information booths on monarch butterflies and butterfly gardens, and more! Free event.

Open Studios Artist, Jasper Marino | Photo courtesy of Michael Baba

Open Studios Art Tour
October 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 2023
Open Studios is your opportunity to explore creativity in Santa Cruz County. For for over 35 years, their goal has been simple: connect artists with people who love art. For the first three weekends in October, artists from the redwoods to the bay open their studios so that friends, neighbors, and strangers from near and far can discover art in this stunning county.
Location: October 7-8: Various Locations in South County; October 14-15: Various Locations in North County; October 21-22: All County

Monterey Bay Festival of Birds
October 14, 15, 16, 2023
Mark the fall migration at one of the most beautiful places on the planet for the Monterey Bay Festival of Birds featuring field trips, workshops, family-fun activities, and keynote speakers. Activities are planned throughout the Monterey Bay area in the cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Salinas, and Monterey. This year the theme is A joyful celebration of the life and the death of birds”. Celebrate the birds we have now, while learning about declining populations and conservation efforts. This theme is to honor and give space for different cultures and the different ways we commemorate death. Check out the website linked below for updates as they arrive.

Santa Cruz Mountains Passport Days
October 21, 2023
The Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Passport is the ultimate way to explore the region’s award-winning wineries. This exclusive pass provides access to over 35+ participating wineries, each offering unique tasting experiences and unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains. With the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Passport, you’ll be able to taste them all and discover the unique flavors and characteristics that make each winery so special. With your Passport in hand, you’ll be able to explore the stunning vineyards, enjoy a complimentary tasting flight at each winery, as well gain as access to exclusive events and promotions throughout the year. On Celebration Days Passport holders are welcomed into participating wineries throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains, each offering a unique winery experience from special flights and entertainment to food trucks and more – making them perfect days to explore the region. The Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Passport is available for purchase online or at any participating winery.
Location: Various Wineries and Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains