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Yellow gingko trees line a road in Napa Valley in autumn. Stock photo
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Celebrating fall in California

It’s autumn, and if you think you have to visit Vermont to be a leaf peeper and celebrate the season, think again. There’s plenty to see and do right here in the Golden State.

Yes, Virginia, there is color in California. Several websites have up-to-date information on tracking the color in our state and when to go where. A rule of thumb for California and the West in general: The trees transform first at higher altitudes, unlike in the East, where the colors come first in the higher latitudes.

Check out these sites: Natural History Wanderings at; California Fall Color at; and Adventure Sports Journal at

For an up-to-date, interactive map of California’s changing colors, visit


Birch Aquarium’s 20th annual Sea Monster Mash is Oct. 25-27. Courtesy photo

Never heard of a haunted aquarium? Leave it to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla to come up with one. Bring the kids to the (20th annual) Haunted Aquarium: Sea Monster Mash. Make seaweed slime, meet scientists who can talk about creeps of the deep, and for those who choose to, watch a super-sized squid dissection. There is music and dancing and ghoulish treats. The event is popular, so advanced tickets are a good idea. 6 9 p.m. Oct. 25, 26, and 27. Visit or call 858-534-FISH.

Hairy and harmless. That’s what the folks in Oakhurst, near the south entrance of Yosemite National Park, want

The Tarantula Festival in Oakhurst, near Yosemite, is Oct. 26. Courtesy photo

you to know about tarantulas. And each year the town celebrates the arachnoids with the Tarantula (Awareness) Festival. The event draws folks from the world over who come to learn about tarantulas, which emerge from their burrows each fall to find a mate, then hunker back down for the winter. The emergence serves as a forecast for cooler weather and rain in the coming weeks. (Eat your heart out, Punxsutawney Phil.) The festival features a tarantula derby; arachnid races; crafts; costume parades; a hairy legs contest (men and women); pizza eating; pumpkin cake; and scream-off contests. Takes place in Coarsegold Historic Village. Call 559-683 -3900 or visit

Madera, near Fresno, hosts the annual Pomegranate, Fruit and Nut Festival on Nov. 2. Courtesy photo

Pomegranate party. If you’ve never tasted or celebrated the pomegranate, here’s your chance. These sweet, soft-seed, exotic fruits, a favorite of Middle Eastern countries, grow in abundance in the state’s Central Valley. The City of Madera, 25 miles north of Fresno, holds its annual Pomegranate, Fruit and Nut Festival 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Madera District Fairgrounds. Free admission and parking.

The festival features pomegranate products; assorted local nut vendors; Ohana Comic Con, featuring the world of comic book culture; celebrity guests; live entertainment; cooking demonstrations from local chefs; a kid zone; and arts and crafts. See a video of last year’s event: For information:

Christmas (Circle) in October. This year marks the 54th time that the town of Borrego Springs has hosted the Borrego Days Desert

Borrego Days Desert Festival includes a parade on Oct. 19. Courtesy photo

Festival, held in the town’s party spot, Christmas Circle. The fun runs Oct. 18, 19 and 20. Free parking. The event features a parade (10 a.m. Saturday) with high school marching bands; a flyover; live entertainment; a car show; art exhibits; kids’ zone; food vendors; beverage garden and more. Visit or call 760-767-5555.