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North Lake in the Inyo National Forest in the Eastern Sierra. In California, color changes happen first at high altitudes. Photo by Elliot McGucken
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Fall fun in California

Dude, autumn happens in California, too, and helps pinpoint where and when the best colorful landscapes can be found. Weekly reports are compiled from information and photographs submitted by more than 100 volunteer observers.

And remember, California color is all about altitude, not latitude.

“Across California, fall color generally descends by elevation at a rate of 500 to 1,000 feet per week,” says Lara Kaylor, publisher and editor of the site. “This explains why elevations are included in our reports.”

For tracking color changes in the rest of the country, there is the 2023 Fall Foliage Prediction Map.

Autumn in California also brings longer, cooler nights, the grape harvest and plenty of seasonal festivals.

We may be a long way from Germany, but Oktoberfest is a favorite celebration throughout Southern California.

A German beer garden, Bavarian music and dance, an international food court, carnival rides and crafts from local artisans are all a part of the Encinitas Oktoberfest & Artisan Faire, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 24 on Mountain Vista Drive. Check site for info on free shuttle.

San Diego’s East Village neighborhood will be alive with the sights and sounds of Oktoberfest on Sept. 30. Courtesy photo

The Quartyard, an event venue and urban park constructed from repurposed shipping containers, and the East Village Association in San Diego have combined to produce the East Village’s 7th annual Oktoberfest. Featured from 1 to 7 p.m. Sept. 30 are craft beer, live polka music, tribute bands, a classic car show and games.

And on weekends between now and Nov. 4, the San Bernardino Mountain town of Big Bear Lake, elevation 6,752 feet, will stage its 53rd Oktoberfest. Featured: two bands direct from Germany; local bands; beer gardens and German cuisine; a Fun Zone for kids; and plenty of chicken dances.

Wineries and farms in Riverside County’s Temecula Valley will mark the season with harvest festivals, multiple concerts, wine-tastings, grape stomps, special dinners, pumpkin patches and “haunted horse” wagon rides.

Learn about the work of Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists during fun, instructive, 90-minute sessions on the 1,090-foot-long pier, normally closed to the public. Hands-on science stations allow participants to scoop up plankton, examine samples under the microscope, dissect a squid and learn about local shark research. The pier also is a great vantage point from which to see surfers and spot dolphins, sea lions and leopard sharks.

Birch Aquarium’s Pier Walks run on select weekends until Dec. 10. $30-$35. Minimum age: 9. Registration required.

Birch Aquarium’s Pier Walks run on select weekends until Dec. 10. Registration required. Courtesy photo

Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale, always free, presents a double-header: Shaping Gravity: Abstract Art Beyond the Picture Plane runs from Oct. 19 through March 10.

“This (interactive) exhibition makes abstraction accessible and fun while maintaining its depth and thoughtfulness,” says curator James Fishburne.

Also on exhibit from Oct. 19 to Feb. 11: Reina de Los Angeles, an exhibit that celebrates the Virgen de Guadalupe and Mexican culture in Los Angeles through photographs of shrines and murals by born-and-raised Angelino Nydya Mora.

“Although I do not consider myself a religious person, I have a lot of pride and reverence for my culture,” she says, “a culture rooted in Mexico and manifested in artistic expressions of devotion in the streets of L.A.”

The free opening night reception is 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 19.

For more photos and discussion, visit


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