October means one thing to thirsty, beer-loving road-trippers: Oktoberfest! Sure, Las Vegas has its share of brew festivals, but if you’re looking to get out of town, a short drive to Southern California, with its thriving brewery scene, can satisfy your lust for suds and adventure.
The fest: Lake Elsinore Oktoberfest, Oct. 4-6.
An uber-traditional Oktoberfest featuring an oompah band, German food, beer and wine galore. And it’s three days long, just in case one day of lederhosen isn’t enough. (stormentertainmentonline.com)
While you’re there: Plummet to Earth with the best at Skydive Elsinore. They have one of the finest skydiving schools in the country, they’re the longest running drop zone in North America — and they offer wingsuit flights. (skydiveelsinore.com, 877-THE-JUMP)
The fest: BAM Fest, Oct. 5.
Kind of like First Friday, but with more drinking. BAM stands for Beer, Art and Music, and this festival delivers. The streets of Santa Monica come alive with art exhibits, open studios, three bands, four wineries and more than 40 craft breweries. (18thstreet.org/bamfest)
While you’re there: Check out the Santa Monica Pier — it’s famous for a reason. Where else can you ride a roller coaster, go fishing, fly on a trapeze and go surfing all in the same day? This pier has it all. Pier included! (santamonicapier.org)
The fest: Santa Barbara Beer Festival, Oct. 19.
Some of the biggest names in small-batch brewing will be at this all-you-can-drink fest. Check out tents by the likes of Deschutes, Stone, Sierra Nevada and Ventura’s Surf Brewing. (sbbeerfestival.com)
While you’re there: Start your day down the coast a bit at the Point Hueneme Lighthouse. The U.S. Coast Guard only gives tours one day per month, and Oct. 19 is that day. The lighthouse was built just before World War II, and its lens dates back to 1897. Catch the first tour at 10 a.m., then take a scenic drive up the 101 to the festival. (huenemelight.org, 310-541-0334)
The fest: Pour It Black, Oct. 20.
Serious beer drinkers only, please. Stone Brewing has its home in Escondido, Calif., and makes its reputation crafting some of the boldest beers on the market. This festival will have more than 100 stouts, porters and black IPAs from a variety of brewers. Bring your big-boy pants. And maybe an extra tongue. (stonebrewing.com/pouritblack)
While you’re there: Just outside Escondido is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It’s one of the few zoos on Earth where animals truly have room to roam and mingle. For an up-close experience, the zoo offers a wide variety of personalized safaris that focus on the animals guests most want to see. They even have a zipline that flies right over the enclosures. The zebras gotta love that. (sdzsafaripark.org, 619-231-1515)