19 Actually Fun Things to Do in LA This Fall

From leaf peeping to Dia de los Muertos festivities.

The skies are clouded with morning marine layers, high temperatures are tapering off, and the sun is sneaking behind those Hollywood Hills just a few minutes earlier every evening. All of this signals the upcoming arrival of sweater weather, which sure, in Los Angeles might mean an off-the-shoulder mesh sweater that’s really more of a beach cover-up, but we’ll take what we can get.

Either way, we’re more than ready to embrace autumnal vibes in earnest, which means taking advantage of our slowly resuscitating restaurant industry and all of their new openings, getting spooked at a number of Halloween attractions that are finally welcoming in-person guests after hosting drive-thru experiences last year, cheering with fellow sports fans at live games, donning layers for a belated festival season, and much more.

Keep in mind that many events and businesses now require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test for entry, and the days of showing up without an advance ticket or reservation are still behind us, for the time being. So plan ahead, grab a mask, and enjoy all of the cool things you can eat, drink, and do in LA this fall:

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Descanso Gardens

Check out some local fall foliage

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Arguably the most exciting part of the fall season is watching nature shift from the verdant greens of summer to the rustic reds, mustard yellows, and burnished browns of autumn. And while our perennially sunny city doesn’t undergo the same dramatic transformations that you’ll witness further north, you can head to botanical gardens like the LA Arboretum and Descanso Gardens to observe the seasonal shift. At the Arboretum, you’ll be privy to sights like the Hong Kong Orchid tree with maroon and pink blooms, eucalyptus trees with white, yellow, and green leaves, and oleander trees with vibrant yellow flowers. Fall foliage is on view at Descanso Gardens in October and November, along with blossoming sasanqua camellias, toyin berries, and ginkgo.

Get into the Halloween spirit

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Halloween festivities are mostly back after switching to drive-thru formats for last year’s celebrations. LA’s famous Haunted Hayride will return from September 24 through October 31, including a hayride through the haunted hills of Midnight Falls where the witch of the woods has cast a spell summoning the undead to seek revenge on all those who pass through. Walk around the town square to meet more spooky townsfolk, then wind through themed mazes with frightful surprises throughout.

Local theme parks are also resuming Halloween festivities, including Fright Fest at Six Flags, with scare zones and haunted attractions on select nights throughout September and October. Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Studios on select nights between September 9 and October 31st; this year’s theme is “Never Go Alone” and features mazes that take inspiration from horrors like The Haunting of Hill House, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and more. In Buena Park, Knott’s Scary Farm offers the area’s largest Halloween event with mazes, shows, and more, on select dates between September 16, and October 31.

For a more family-friendly Halloween experience, head to a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own gourd, pet farm animals, and take part in wagon rides without the hair-raising scares. Founded in 1987, Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch opens in Culver City on October 7 through October 31, featuring an Instagrammable wonderland complete with a pumpkin village, pony rides, face painting, a climbable straw maze, slides, and bounce houses. For a slightly more exotic experience, head to Tina’s Pumpkin Patch in Sherman Oaks between October 1 and October 31, where kids can pet llamas in addition to Silkie chickens and other zoo animals, and take part in pony rides, train rides, and a free straw maze.

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Hollywood Forever

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Hollywood Forever cemetery will host the 22nd annual Dia De Los Muertos on October 30, in honor of the Mexican holiday that occurs on November 1 and 2, and centers around honoring the dearly departed by decorating altars, or ofrendas, with favorite foods and photos as a way of inviting them to come back and visit for a night. Given that this is Hollywood, after all, participants go all out, and you can spend hours strolling the cemetery and taking in all of the embellished gravesites. Cash prizes are given for the best event-themed altar, best traditional altar, and best contemporary altar, and past events have included live music and other attractions, though those details are still TBD. Interested in reserving and decorating an altar site this year? Sign up here.

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While the Bavarian-themed Alpine Village’s infamous Oktoberfest celebrations remain on pause this year, you can still stop by the market and pick up imported sausages and fresh-baked goods, plus German and other European biers for celebrating at home. However, if you’re itching to don your dirndl dresses and lederhosen shorts, you can cruise up the 2 freeway to Montrose, which will host its 43rd annual Oktoberfest celebration on October 2, from 12–10 pm, with live music from Past Action Heroes and the German-American Brass Band, food from Schreiner’s Fine Sausages and other vendors, plus rides, games, contests, and of course, lots of German beer. Admission is free.

Root for the home team

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We can finally attend sports games in person again and as if that wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve also got two new NFL teams—the LA Rams and LA Chargers—to cheer for. The regular football season begins in September, with the Rams set to faceoff against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, September 12, and the Chargers’ first home game scheduled for Sunday, September 19, against the Dallas Cowboys—both games are guaranteed to bring out some superfans so get there early for some lively tailgating at the new SoFi Stadium. If football isn’t your thing, baseball season extends through the end of September, and the Dodgers are all but guaranteed to be in the playoffs that continue throughout October. Finally, you can catch the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), our city’s pro soccer team, play at the Banc of California stadium through early November.

Get your thrills in

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It’s true, theme parks have been up-and-running at full speed since the state of California dropped COVID restrictions in mid-June, but they’ve been crowded with kids and tourists all summer and we much prefer trekking them in milder fall weather. If you really want to skip the lines, avoid days where Halloween festivities are in swing and consider purchasing a fast pass. At Disneyland, the Avengers Campus is the latest attraction, with a new Web Slingers ride that lets you play Spider-Man’s sidekick in an action-packed adventure, and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Mission: BREAKOUT!, where you’ll join the character Rocket for a free-falling rescue mission. At Universal Studios, you can board their new Jurassic World Veloci Coaster, watch the high-intensity Bourne Stuntacular show, and join Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For even bigger thrills, head to Magic Mountain to experience the world’s first single-track, quadruple-launch racing coaster with West Coast Racers.

Take advantage of an extended festival season

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Festival season usually starts in the spring and lasts through the summer, but many fests rescheduled their dates for the fall to make up for missing last year. The 13th annual LA Beer Fest will take place on September 18, at LA Center Studios, offering over 200 beers from more than 80 breweries, plus eats from the city’s best food trucks and live music. Prefer something a little stronger? Sip from over 40 tequila and mezcal brands, dine at gourmet food trucks, and enjoy lawn games and live tunes from DJ JenaRed, Stephanie Loayza and Zavala at LA Tequila Fest, taking place at LA Historic Park on September 25. Also on September 25 is Fiesta de Taco, a day-to-night fest in Norco with tacos, tequila, margs, and micheladas, plus performers like Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Too $hort, and more. Finally, on November 14, satisfy your sweet tooth at Donut Fest, where you can sample rings while drinking beer and/or coffee.

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LAAX

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Indoor axe throwing has risen in popularity since the trend first popped up in Ontario, Canada, in 2006, with multiple axe throwing facilities opening across the city in the last few years. Try it out at LA AX, an indoor/outdoor axe-throwing facility in North Hollywood with 38 lanes for perfecting your pitch. Don’t worry if it’s your first time, as your booking includes an axe coach who will supervise you throughout your visit, teaching you the proper form and running down everything you need to know about axe-throwing safety. Walk-ins are accepted, guests can bring their own food, and beer and wine are available for purchase. The facility is 21+ and closed-toed shoes are required.

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Two Bit Circus is back, with a new reservation-based ticketing system to help protect guests. You can book with a date or for a group of up to eight people, and your 90-minute reservation grants you access to themed and immersive story rooms like Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School; a VR playground with games like Hologate, a four-player game that involves robots, zombies, dragons, and music; an arcade with classic pinball machines, retro and modern games, and air hockey; and reimagined carnival games at the Midway. Your package can also be applied towards carnival-inspired food and beverage, including a full bar. If you prefer to spend your credits on VR and other experiences, you can purchase food and drinks at an additional cost.

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LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Tour a museum IRL

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OK, so we tried to keep up with culture during this whole thing, but looking at a Van Gogh on your iPhone screen just isn’t the same. Nearly all of LA’s most impressive museums are back open, many with new and exciting exhibits—just take note that many now require that you reserve your spot in advance. Speaking of Van Gogh, the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is still ongoing, inviting you to immerse yourself in 500,000 cubic feet, 60,600 frames of video, and 90 million pixels of the Dutch impressionist’s most famous works, like Starry Night and Sunflowers, plus still life and portrait paintings.

Beginning September 4, UTA Artist Space presents Literary Muse, a group exhibition inspired by Black literary figures that makes their words tangible with paintings, photographs, sculptures, and prints by 12 contemporary artists from across the country. At the California African American Museum (CAAM), Altantica: The Gilda Region, Afrofuturist artist April Bey’s first solo museum exhibition in LA, remains on view through January 17, 2022, while Sanford Biggers’ quilt-based Codeswitch exhibit can be seen through January 23, 2022, and Rights and Rituals: The Making of African American Debutante Culture is up through February 27, 2022,

Trekkies will want to put a calendar reminder for the upcoming Skirball exhibition Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds that runs from October 7, through February 20, 2022, and dives into a half-century of television series, spinoffs, and films that showcase the enduring legacy of this pop-culture phenomenon. The immersive exhibit provides insight into Star Trek’s lasting impact on culture, art, and technology with more than 100 rare artifacts, set pieces, and props, in addition to interactive, state-of-the-art photos and videos.

Finally, attend the West Coast debut of The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall at the Natural History Museum (NHM) beginning November 7, an exhibition that’s presented by National Geographic in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. The exhibit delves into the primatologist’s lifetime of work, from her early field research in Gombe, Tanzania, to her current community-oriented work, with experiential activities that include an immersive projection of Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park.

Hike it out

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Yes, we can do a lot of cool stuff indoors again, but the tapering summer heat means that we can finally climb those steep LA hills in more comfortable temperatures. Entertaining out-of-towners? Take them on an unforgettable hike that drops you right in front of the iconic Hollywood sign. If you’ve got your pup in tow, you’ll want to hit Runyon Canyon, of course, one of LA’s most dog-friendly hiking areas. For a more lowkey trek, try one of these less-trafficked, secret hikes around the city. For a serious sweat, trek the Westside’s Los Liones trail, a seven-mile-plus in-and-out trail that pays off with awesome ocean views up top. If you’ve got time for a ride up the coast, make your way to Sandstone Peak—the tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains at 3,114 feet—that offers a six-mile loop trail with equally excellent views and quad-burning potential.

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Photo by Holly Beaupre, courtesy of Don't Tell Comedy

Laugh your ass off 

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We all deserve a good laugh right now and luckily, you happen to live in a city with the highest number of comedians per capita in the world (a totally made-up but potentially true stat.) Some of LA's top comedy clubs have recently reopened with shows several nights a week featuring lineups of both household names and lesser-known funny folks. The Hollywood Improv (which has announced it will only allow vaccinated comedy-seekers in) is putting on shows every Thursday-Saturday, and The Comedy Store is back to a near-nightly schedule. If you’d prefer to take your comedy outdoors, Don’t Tell Comedy, an underground series of “secret” standup shows is still offering pop-up shows at venues including parking lots and rooftops.

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Photo courtesy of n/soto

Blow some cash on a big fancy dinner

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If your dining out game has gotten a little rusty, there’s no better way to get back at it than with a big old blowout dinner worthy of a serious celebration. In Century City, Eataly’s rooftop restaurant Terra is hosting a pop-up chef series called A Study of Fire that will center around its wood-burning Italian grill, featuring BBQ king Kevin Bludso on September 22, Argentinian chef Norberto Piattoni on October 20, and pop-up pitmaster Rebecca King on November 17, with each chef serving up fire-filled creations that will be available for one-night only. A portion of proceeds from each collaboration will go towards Restaurants Care, a year-round, emergency assistance fund for California restaurant workers. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.

In preparation for their late fall opening in Mid City, n/soto, a California-Japanese Izakaya from Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama, will host a temporary residency at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)’s new cultural facility. The nine-course tasting menu is led by chef Yoji Tajima (Yojisan Sushi, Sushi House Unico) and offers a preview of the dishes, flavors, and concepts that will dominate n/soto’s menu. The center is directly adjacent to the James Irvine Japanese Garden, where guests will enjoy an al-fresco beverage before their indoor dinner experience. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to JACCC to support the promotion of Japanese and Japanese American culture and heritage. The residency will take place Wednesdays through Saturdays, with wine, sake, and some cocktails and spirits available to purchase a la carte. Reservations open every Sunday at noon and can be booked 21 days in advance via TOCK.

Fans of Netflix’s High on the Hog series will want to book a spot at Post & Beam’s new Hemings & Hercules supper series that celebrates historic African-American cuisine with an intimate, eight-course dinner prepared by chef de cuisine Martin Draluck, accompanied by live music, and a paired wine menu from Brown Estate Winery. Expect to see dishes like black-eyed peas served with pickled greens and red pepper jelly; braised rabbit with toasted middlins, roasted vegetables, and madeira wine sauce; and a whole roasted suckling pig with wood-roasted vegetables, fried potatoes, and creamy parmesan macaroni. Seatings are every Thursday and Friday from 6–9 pm, and reservations can be booked on Resy.

Get back to the beach

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Remember that big blue thing just west of you called the Pacific Ocean? It misses you. Head to any number of LA’s beautiful beaches and take advantage of everything our sandy stretch of coastline has to offer. True, you might be met with a marine layer and cooler winds, but you’ll also have more space to spread out now that summer crowds have thinned out. Sign up for a surf lesson, rent a standup paddleboard, pedal the bike path, take an oceanfront yoga class on the sand, get in on a beach volleyball game, or just relax and take in the views. You deserve it. And just in case you need a refresher on the best beaches, here’s everything to know before you hit the sand.

Malibu Wines & Beer Garden
Malibu Wines & Beer Garden

Go wine tasting

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Malibu may not be an international destination for oenophiles, but it’s completely serviceable for LA peeps who want to spend the day sipping. The Sunday Funday hotspot Malibu Wines is currently closed, but has opened its sibling spot, Malibu Wines & Beer Garden, in West Hills in the meantime, serving both its wines by the tasting flight, glass, or bottle and local craft brews, plus pizza on weekends. They’re also offering wine hikes and tours if you want to break a sweat while you sip. Up for a longer day or weekend trip? Temecula Valley, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo are awash in wineries and well-worth the drive.

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Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

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We never knew how much we wanted to see blue-eyed black lemurs, western lowland gorillas, Nigerian dwarf goats, and southern hairy nosed wombats until we weren’t allowed to anymore. And lest you think we’re making up any of the above species, we most certainly are not and all of them—along with around 270 other species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians—are currently living their best lives at the LA Zoo, which has been welcoming humans back for a few months now. Since the zoo is operating at limited capacity, you’ll need to buy a timed-entry ticket in advance.

Catch an outdoor movie

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While drive-in theaters made a serious comeback in and around LA (and around the country) thanks to the pandemic, we’re happy to report that many of our favorite outdoor movie series are extending their lineups through the fall. Street Food Cinema is back at locations around the city including Griffith Park, Downtown’s LA State Historic Park, and Veterans Memorial Park in Culver City, screening faves like Men in Black, Big, and Back to the Future. Opt for dinner at a movie at JW Marriott LA Live, which is showing films like The Hangover and Black Panther at their rooftop poolside venue, or head to Melrose Rooftop Theatre to catch nightly showings of flicks like Clueless, Reservoir Dogs, and 10 Things I Hate About You, with the option to add a pre-theatre three-course dinner.

Downtown Santa Monica
Downtown Santa Monica

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If you can dream it (and it’s in season) you’ll find it at the farmers market—from the tomatoes and berries of your dreams, to obscure heirloom beans, to every fresh herb known to man. Now that summer is in full swing, LA’s farmers markets are more abundant than ever, providing Angelenos with daily opportunities to stock their fridges with fresh produce, pantry items, desserts, and more. If Downtown Santa Monica’s massive market is too much to take on right away, work your way up with a visit to Culver City’s farmers market on Tuesdays from 2–7 pm, or head to The Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax (open daily) early to beat the rush. If you’re up early on a Saturday, the CrenshawEast LA, and Noho farmers markets are great, less crowded options.

Do some good 

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Volunteering gets a lot of buzz around the holidays, but nonprofits focused on making the lives of our fellow citizens better need help all the time. So, if you’ve got a free Saturday or want to make volunteering a regular part of your life, now is the time. If you’re not sure where to start, check out helpful sites including VolunteerMatch and LAWorks, where you can find organizations that match your interests, skill sets, and the time you have to commit. Right now, you’ll also find plenty of virtual opps as well if you’re not ready for in-person stuff just yet.

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Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @lalizbeth.

Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at
Thrillist.