10/08/2013 02:39 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2013

Northern California Weekend Getaway: Half Moon Bay

Hidden in the shadows of San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay might not lure the masses to her shores, redwood groves, and hiking trails, but Bay Area peeps flock to this region in October to celebrate California's official Pumpkin Capital, complete with vegetable themed spa treatments, beers, tasting menus and art installations. Throw in Northern California coast's biggest fall celebration, and you see why you should go now!


Day trippers and weekenders clutter the coast in the fall not only because the Bay Area finally has a glimpse of sun, but also because no place celebrates pumpkins like Half Moon Bay. There are seriously so many pumpkin farms that you won't know where to start. Here's a little guide to ensure you encounter the best of the region.

Where to Stay: There are a slew of properties in town and in the surrounding areas. My favorite property is Beach House Inn, which is perched on the bay and is walking distance to restaurants, kayaking and more. In October the inn is serving pumpkin muffins for breakfast.

In town, the sweet Half Moon Bay Inn provides both luxury and style to an upscale crowd. Rooms might be on the smallish side, but the proximity to restaurants and shops, as well as the thoughtfully decorated interiors make this a favorite for urbanites.

Where to Eat: Some days my family and I drive from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay Bakery just to score a loaf of their decadent pumpkin bread (it's available year round).

For meals, I am a sucker for the fish tacos at Flying Fish Grill, the picnic sandwiches at New Leaf, and the ocean views paired with pumpkin beers and nachos at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

What to Do: Personally, I could spend the entire day chilling by the beach in Montara, or exploring the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve's tidepools. This astounding beach might not look like much when the tide is in, but at low tide, you'll find starfish, crabs, eels, and a collection of resident seals ready to inspire.

For those less wooed by the sea, you can hike and bike the coastal trail, or kayak in the harbor, or take to the trails through the Purisima Creek Redwoods just east of town.

In October, the pumpkin farms explode all over the bay. Over 3000 pounds of pumpkins are grown here and it is a treat to go picking for your faves. Be aware that on weekends these farms are packed with families, especially at Lemos Farm. You can't go wrong with any farm you pick. Though my favorite is Farmer John's pumpkins, as he has been an institution in town for as long as anyone can remember.


Don't Miss: October 19-20 is the annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, which features the pumpkin weigh-off for the largest veggie to grace the coast, plenty of yummy treats and lots of fun for the whole family. It gets super crowded out here that weekend, so if you plan to come, book a hotel room in advance.

For a comprehensive list of activities, restaurants and hotels, pick up a copy of my Northern California: An Explorer's Guide. For more on Northern California travel, visit Planet Playground.

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