Northern California Festivals: October

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This Murphys park is a fantastic place to celebrate grapes and wine.

Ain’t no party like a Nor Cal party, or so we say up here. And for those of you traveling in and around Northern California, here are my favorite October festivals and events.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: While this massive free concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park might not need any more PR (over 500,000 people crowd into this three day festival, held annually on the first weekend in October), if you’ve never attended, add this to your bucket list. Though the line up varies by year, you can usually guarantee performances by rapper and Bay Area local MC Hammer, as well as big names like Bonnie Raitt. Since so many people attend this festival, crowd-phobic readers, or families with little ones, might consider taking Muni to get out here super early and claim a spot under a tree for a day of music and the city’s best people watching.

Litquake: If you’re a bookworm like me, you can’t miss San Francisco’s most inspired tribute to authors. This year’s annual event takes place October 11-19 and boasts hundreds of author readings, signings, panels, and events. It’s capped off with a fun Litcrawl through the Mission District, with hours of free readings. Some of this year’s author’s include Piper Kerman, TC Boyle, Mary Gaitskill, and ZZ Packer.

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival: The state’s biggest tribute to pumpkins, this two-day festival celebrates the iconic October veggie with music, yummy treats, activities for the whole clan, and the annual weigh-in to crown the largest pumpkin grown that year. The festival occurs October 19-20. For those interested in making a day-trip to Half Moon Bay, click here.

Mill Valley Film Festival: October 3-13 celebrities descend on Marin County to celebrate the release of their films at this notable festival. Come out to Mill Valley to rub elbows with the stars. Or better yet, pick up tickets to view a film before the masses get a chance to.

Calaveras Grape Stomp: Celebrating its 20th year, this fun family-centered festival occurs in Murphys, a Gold Country town known for its artsy residents and excellent wine. October 5, come out to the park and stomp some grapes, or just sip some vino and let the kids run around. There are wild costumes as well as that small town charm ideal for a wine-centered festival.

Grizzly Century: For 21 years cyclists have braved this ride through the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway. And while the race might not be fit for most, its worth a visit to cheer on the racers, head up to Yosemite (a mere 20 miles away) and explore the exact center of California in North Fork. This year’s event takes place October 5.

For more information on seasonal festivals and events, pick up a copy of Northern California: An Explorer’s Guide.

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