The ‘Golden State’ may be a strong summer favourite, with miles of glorious coastline reliably pulling in visitors aching for a dose of its iconic sun and surf, but one of California’s best features is its fantastic year-round appeal. With crowds dispersing as the school holidays wind down, a more sedate side of this ever-enchanting slice of the USA is revealed, offering an enticing choice for couples seeking solace from darkening days back home, with spectacular shades of turning leaves, and a fabulous place to set children free for some October half term fun.
As America’s much loved ‘fall’ season gets into full swing, California does not lag behind when it comes to autumnal treasures. Take to the highways, relieved from the heavy traffic of high season, and savour the spectacular displays of the effervescent foliage, burning with shades of orange, gold and auburn, and explore a world of artisan food festivals, craft beer celebrations and musical extravaganzas. As Halloween creeps in, experience the marvel of spooky wonders unique to stateside culture or, to shelter from the shocks, head to the wine valleys for a taste of world-famous wines in the beautiful vineyard regions. Whatever you are looking for this autumn, California has an answer.
Vibrant Vineyard Visions
Wine is a staple of California living, and there is no finer time to discover the refined beauty of the wine valleys than during autumn’s harvest season, usually running from late-August to September, sometimes extending into November. With over three-thousand wineries across the state, including one owned and run by Academy Award-winning director, Francis Ford Coppola, touring the evocative vineyards and their captivating country roads in the gleaming late-summer sunshine is an unmissable experience, with rich hues of merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay complementing the spectrum of autumnal leaves. Napa and Sonoma reign as two of the most sought-after spots, with the former offering elegant estates and prestigious tasting rooms, and the latter fostering a more intimate environment, with cosy boutique wineries nestled along the Russian River. Twisting through redwoods and across hillsides blanketed with falling leaves as the glimmering sun hangs low in the sky, couples can discover the romance of this breathtaking destination with bike-rides and hikes, stopping to sample world-class vintages, before settling down for a meal at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants and dining rooms, all boasting fantastically fresh ingredients and expertly crafted menus.
Halloween Frights and Christmas Delights
Halloween has become an all-American institution, and the stops are pulled out in California more than anywhere else. It comes as no surprise – being home to the world’s film powerhouse of Hollywood – that the celebrations take an unrivalled scale of production in Los Angeles, and horror fans will be thrilled by Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. Cinematic scares are in store for those brave enough to enter, with theatre screens jumping to life as the back lots are filled with haunted mazes designed to perturb, ghostly apparitions guaranteed to unsettle, and adrenaline-pumping encounters with spine-chilling spooks inspired by icons of the genre. Strictly for those over the age of thirteen years only, this is a must-do for fans of the macabre and those who love nothing more than a good scare, while the new Walking Dead attraction, set to be revealed on 4th July 2016, gives guests the chance to fight for survival in a world overrun by zombies – not for the faint-hearted, but good half-term fun for those up for the challenge!
If you’d rather leave the bogeymen where they belong, Christmas is the next spectacle on the cards. Disneyland® turns into a winter wonderland over the festive period, as the halls are decked in dazzling decorations and illuminations, with Mickey and his gang spreading yuletide cheer throughout the park for truly magical Christmas memories to cherish for years to come. Beyond the boundaries of the theme parks, there is a myriad of festive marvels to discover, including the long-established Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade – now in its hundred-and-seventh year. Watch in awe as an impressive chain of illuminated yachts and vessels light up the waterways for a sight that will never be forgotten.
A Feast of Festivals
With a reputation for its agricultural prowess, musical legacy and passion for keeping its finger on the pulse of every emerging trend, California is the place to be when it comes to hunting down some of the most diverse festivals in the country, where a fascinating experience of the state’s well-known ‘lifestyle culture’ can be tasted. If you embark on an intra-state road trip across the Golden State this autumn, you will be met with endless opportunities to sample the bounty of delights California is blessed with, from humble artichokes grown organically under year-round sunshine, to delicacies meticulously crafted by renowned chefs.
While viniculture often steals the spotlight when it comes to California’s epicurean offering, the growing popularity of the craft beer revolution is something to jump on board with. Long Beach Craft Brew Circus, taking place on 10th September 2016, offers a fabulously unconventional celebration of some of the regions favourite breweries, where stalls set up to offer tastings, while troops of performers, from fire breathers to sword-swallowers, take stage to provide thrilling entertainment. Stop by San Francisco on 23rd September to visit the tenth annual WhiskeyFest, where aficionados will love attending the free seminars and digging in to the gourmet buffet, while fans of fine cuisine will feel in their element at The Big Sur Food and Wine Festival – set to be held from 3rd to 5th November this year, some of the most celebrated chefs are set to converge for an event set in the staggering beauty of the Big Sur area. For a musical interlude, the Monterey Jazz Festival has consistently been voted ‘World’s Best Jazz Festival’ by JazzTimes Magazine, and this year boasts no fewer than five-hundred artists across the weekend of 16th to 18th November, including Quincy Jones and Gregory Porter.
For more information on festivals and fun in California this autumn, or to book your luxury holiday to the Golden State, please call our expert Travel Consultants on 01244 897 221.