Fall comes on strong during the month of October, filled with nostalgic and rustic harvest-season traditions, from pumpkin patches to hay rides.
The month packs a cultural holiday punch, too, with the spooks and shrieks of Halloween, and the more contemplative and spiritual mood evoked by El D? de los Muertos.
Festivals, events and destinations abound in October, but here are 13 selections that capture the flavor of the season:
Traffic tends to slow down along southbound Highway 101 north of Petaluma every fall as drivers gawk at the 4-acre <strong>A-Maze-Ing Corn Maze and Petaluma Pumpkin Patch</strong>. It runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, until Nov. 1. Attractions include rubber duck races, a jump house, farm animals, and at 7 tonight, an outdoor screening of the film "The Nightmare Before Christmas." 450 Stony Point Road, Petaluma. Free admission. 781-3132, <a href="http://petalumapumpkinpatch.com" target="_blank">petalumapumpkinpatch.com</a>.
Pick a pumpkin, dig for potatoes, pet baby animals, milk a cow, take a hay ride or taste fresh cheese at the <strong>Great Peter Pumpkin Patch</strong>, open from 9 a.m. to dusk daily through Oct. 31 at the Petaluma Creamery, home of Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, 4235 Spring Hill Road, Petaluma. Live music on weekends. Free admission and parking. 762-3446 weekdays; 775-1183 weekends; <a href="http://springhillcheese.com" target="_blank">springhillcheese.com</a>.
The Petaluma Art Center's annual D? de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead") exhibit this year is titled <strong>"Arbol de Vidas"</strong> ("Tree of Lives,") a tribute to all of our loved ones who have gone before us. The show, featuring work by Latino artists from across the Bay Area, continues through Nov. 3. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. Free. 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma. 762-5600, <a href="http://petalumaartscenter.org" target="_blank">petalumaartscenter.org</a>.
The <strong>Blind Scream Haunted House</strong> promises zombies galore and invites you to climb inside a real coffin. It runs 7-10 p.m. selected days from Oct. 11 through Nov. 2 at 1400 Valley House Drive, Rohnert Park. $5-$20. 523-3728.
Looking for the gentler side of the fall season? The Graton Community Club presents its Fall Flower Show, themed "<strong>Winter Wonderland</strong>," from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday at its clubhouse, 8996 Graton Road, Graton. Admission is free, and lunch is available for $10, with plants, crafts, beverages and desserts also for sale. 829-9440.
The <strong>Tolay Fall Festival</strong> offers two weekends of old-fashioned fun, with hay rides, a pumpkin patch, a pumpkin-seed-spitting contest and more, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Oct. 19-20 at Tolay Lake Regional Park, 5869 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma. $4; $1 for 12 and younger. 565-2041, <a href="http://sonomacountyparks.org" target="_blank">sonomacountyparks.org</a>.
Meadowcroft Wines celebrates the season with its inaugural <strong>Harvest Party</strong> at noon Saturday in its pinot noir vineyard, with a gourmet lunch by chef Darby Tarantino. 23574 Highway 121, Sonoma. $45. 934-4090, <a href="http://meadowcroftwines.com" target="_blank">meadowcroftwines.com</a>.
The <strong>Fall Festival and Santa Rosa Mini Maker Faire</strong> features more than 100 exhibits, performances and hands-on activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $10 adults; $8 ages 12-18; $4 ages 5-11; free for age 4 and under. 546-3600, <a href="http://sonomafamilylife.com" target="_blank">sonomafamilylife.com</a>.
If you're looking for a seasonal event that's just a little bit different, try the third annual <strong>Floating Pumpkin Patch</strong> from 2-6 p.m. Oct. 19 at Ridgway Pool, 455 Ridgway Ave., Santa Rosa. Fish a pumpkin out of the pool and decorate it yourself at the craft table. $5; $10 including pumpkin. 543-3421, <a href="http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us" target="_blank">ci.santa-rosa.ca.us</a>.