One of my favorite things to do, after a long trip overseas, is to chill at home and enjoy the cool sea breaze of my little town on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Half Moon Bay, California. It’s vibrant coastal town located approximately 35 minutes south of San Francisco, and it  comes alive during the fall season. The sun shines over bountiful fields rich with brilliant orange pumpkins; fresh seasonal ingredients abound on menus; and nearby wineries are in the midst of harvest season. Home to rugged sea cliffs, long stretches of sandy beaches and abundant fields of fruits, vegetables and flowers, this charming seaside community boasts the best of Northern California all in one conveniently located place.

Below is a summary of what’s new in Half Moon Bay.

For everything visitors need to plan their trip – from information on cozy inns and luxury coastal resorts, to renowned restaurants, farm visits, wine tasting, fishing, whale watching, surfing and much more.

34th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
October 8, 7 to 10:30 a.m.
Pumpkin growers from California, Oregon and Washington descend upon Half Moon Bay with their colossal pumpkins to vie for the coveted title of heaviest pumpkin. Defending champion (and six-time winner) Joel Holland of Puyallup, WA, took top honors in 2006 with his leviathan 1,223-pound Atlantic Giant. In a pay-by-the-pound system, the winners receive $6 per pound for the champion pumpkin. A special $500 prize will be awarded to the "most beautiful pumpkin" as judged by the audience based on color, shape and size. IDES Grounds, 735 Main Street. For more information, call (650) 726-9652 or visit .

Master Pumpkin Carving
October 12, 5 p.m.

Kicking off the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin festival weekend, Farmer Mike, aka “The Picasso of Pumpkin Carvers” takes the spotlight at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay to carve enormous pumpkins into magnificent pieces of art. Guests of all ages are invited to gather around the fireplace, enjoy complimentary hot chocolate and cookies and watch the creative carver in action. This event is free and open to the public.
For more information, call (650) 712-7000. One Miramontes Point Road.

37th Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival  

October 13 & 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay celebrates its bountiful fall harvest with a fantastic lineup of rustic pumpkin patches, harvest-inspired crafts, home-style foods, expert pumpkin carvers, the Great Pumpkin Parade, a bone-chilling haunted house, a titanic weigh-off of champion pumpkins, a pie-eating contest, pumpkin carving, costume contests, a pancake breakfast, a five & 10K run/walk and three stages of blockbuster entertainment. Admission is free. Main Street, Downtown Half Moon Bay.

Nights of Lights
November 30, 6 to 9 p.m.

Stroll along Half Moon Bay’s charming Main Street for some old-fashioned holiday spirit filled with holiday carols, horse and buggy rides and holiday treats including roasted chestnuts and eggnog.

Teddy Bear Tea
Sundays, December 2, 9, 16 & 23 – 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.; 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Children of all ages gather for a favorite family tradition at The Ritz-Carlton. Guests enjoy a fun-filled afternoon in festive surroundings featuring a storytelling teddy bear, a pianist, hot cocoa, tea, and a selection of pastries, mini sandwiches, holiday candies and sweets. Each child takes home a teddy bear and a photo as souvenirs. $65 per child, $75 per guest 18 and over, exclusive of tax and gratuity. One Miramontes Point Road.

For additional information or reservations, call (650) 712-7040.
Gingerbread House Contest and Silent Auction
December 4 – 9
From iced Victorians to candy-covered castles, The Ritz-Carlton features creative works by children, home cooks and culinary professionals, all displayed in the main lobby. Contest winners are announced during the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on December 9, and prizes include cash, overnight stays, spa treatments, dining in Navio and culinary classes at the resort. Many of the gingerbread houses are up for auction, with proceeds benefiting the Coastside Children’s Programs. One Miramontes Point Road.

For additional information and to enter the contest, call (650) 712-7696.
Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration
December 9, 4:30 to 7 p.m.
Guests gather on the Gazebo Lawn at The Ritz-Carlton for a festive holiday celebration that begins with the lighting of the outdoor tree and includes Dickens-era costumed carolers, a sing-along performance by the San Francisco Choral Society, a visit by Santa Claus, the announcement of the gingerbread house winners and complimentary hot chocolate, apple cider, eggnog and cookies. This event is free and open to the public. One Miramontes Point Road.

For more information, call (650) 712-7040.

Farmer John Celebrates Pumpkin Season

Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, a family-owned and operated specialty pumpkin farm, opens up to the public for the fall season. Visitors can check out an authentic Native American Teepee, take a ride on a vintage tractor and choose from more than 60 varieties of pumpkins and squash. Life-long farmers Farmer John and his wife Eda also give private tours of their home farm for an inside look at a working farm. 850 North Cabrillo Highway.

For more information and to make reservations, call (650) 726-4980 or visit
Dungeness Crab Season Kicks Off
Dungeness Crab season begins on November 15 and runs though the end of June. These large, hard-shell crabs with a sweet flavor and flaky texture are found along the northwest coast from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Northern California. Half Moon Bay has one of the largest concentrations of this seafood delicacy with more than 50 commercial boats fishing off Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point Harbor. 

Several companies offer fishing and crabbing excursions including:

Huck Finn Sportfishing, (650) 726-7133,

Huli Cat Sportfishing,  (650) 726-2926 

Riptide Sportfishing, owned and operated by Captain Smitty, (888) 747-8433,

  Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle, (650) 726-2913.
Horticulture Heaven

Yerba Buena Nursery, California’s oldest retail native plant nursery, is home to more than 600 types of California native plants. This spectacular Santa Cruz Mountain farm setting includes a 1905 Farmhouse, historic barn, and extensive demonstration gardens. On October 13 and November 10, guests will have the special opportunity to enjoy traditional tea in the 100-year-old farmhouse complete with homemade sandwiches and pastries. $25 per person. Christmas tea lunches featuring a decadent three-course meal are also held in the farmhouse on select dates throughout December at 12:30 p.m. $40 per person.
In addition, several classes and workshops are being held in the Yerba Buena Nursery Farmhouse including: “Classic Native Shrubs for Northern California Gardens” on November 3 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and “Autumn Wreath Making” on November 17 at 10 a.m. and
1 p.m. Yerba Buena Nursery Farmhouse, 19500 Skyline Blvd., Woodside. For more information and to make reservations, contact (650) 851-1668 or visit
Golf & Massage
Mill Rose Inn, a romantic inn tucked away just off of Main Street, is featuring the “Stay and Play Golf and Massage Package” which includes: a one night stay, two rounds of golf on either the Ocean Course or The Old Course (or one round of golf and a one-hour tandem massage), use of a golf cart, use of the private spa, an afternoon dessert bar and fruit and cheese platter, followed by a gourmet champagne breakfast the next day. The “Stay and Play Golf and Massage Package” is available Sunday through Thursday through November 30, excluding holidays. Packages start at $493.50, based on double occupancy. 615 Mill Street. For more information and reservations, call (650) 726-8750 or visit

Pumpkin Prix Fixe Menu & Gourmet Wine Dinner
Highly acclaimed Cetrella, known for seasonal Mediterranean cuisine and an extensive wine selection, is celebrating autumn’s bounty with a special prix fixe menu highlighting the local fall flavors of the Coastside. Honoring the local farmers, the “Pumpkin Prix Fixe” menu features Daylight Farms red curry pumpkin soup, tantalizing pork loin “saltimbocca,” Baia Nicchia Farms roasted heirloom pumpkin risotto and a pumpkin tart with house-made toasted pecan praline ice cream. The Prix Fixe menu is $35 and is available Sunday through Thursday during October.
In addition, Cetrella is hosting a Joseph Phelps Insignia Wine Lovers’ Dinner featuring a vertical flight of Phelps flagship Insignia from 2000, 2001 and 2002 on October 23. Wines will be paired with a four-course menu complete with Prime Black Angus Filet Tartare, Braised Beef Short Rib Ravioli, Mesquite Grilled Veal Loin Chops and Warm Chocolate Granache Cake. $130 per person.
845 Main Street. For more information and reservations, call (650) 726-4090 or visit

Seaside Dining

New-England seafood restaurant, Sam’s Chowder House, recently opened Sam’s South Beach Bar & Kitchen, an outdoor space off of the main restaurant that includes an outdoor kitchen, a mesquite grill and expanded outdoor seating options overlooking the ocean.  Menu items from the mesquite grill include fresh Mahi Mahi tacos, grilled Maine lobster, grilled corn on the cob, grilled jumbo prawn skewers with mango salsa and a wide variety of other grilled items and fresh seafood selections.

In addition, Sam’s Chowder House is now offering authentic New England-style clambakes to go at the seafood market adjacent to the restaurant. The clambakes include a returnable pot filled with fresh whole Maine lobsters, clams, mussels, red potatoes, fresh corn on the cob and savory Andouille sausage, layered with fresh seaweed.  The feast can be cooked on a grill or stovetop. The clambakes are priced at $35 per person (minimum two people) and must be ordered 48 hours in advance. 4210 North Cabrillo Highway. For more information and reservations, call (650) 712-0245 or visit

On Tap at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
In celebration of the 37th Annual Arts and Pumpkin Festival, Half Moon Bay Brewery Company is crafting a special Mavericks® Pumpkin Harvest Ale, a seasonal brew made with actual pumpkin. The Mavericks® Pumpkin Harvest Ale is the official ale for the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival and will be available beginning early October at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and on-site throughout the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival on October 13 & 14.
In addition, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is also hosting two special, not-to-be-missed events:

·       On October 19-21, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company will pay tribute to all things American during its second annual “Americana Hayride Weekend,” which features classic American cuisine, live country western/rock music and complimentary hayrides.  
·       Kicking off on December 7, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company will host some of the world’s best harmonica players for the Second Annual Harmonica Blowout Weekend. From rhythm and blues to rock and roll, three world class artists will take the stage for a weekend full of harmonica music, dancing and great food. John Nemeth (Dec. 8) and Mark Hummel (Dec. 9) are set to perform.
390 Capistrano Road, Princeton-by-the-Sea. For more information call (650) 728-BREW or visit
Main Street Style
Periwinkle, a jewelry store featuring the work of local artists, has recently opened on Half Moon Bay’s charming Main Street. Main designer and co-owner Sharon Leung sells a wide selection of interesting and unique pieces that incorporate Thai silver pendants, pottery shard pendants, clusters of brilliant red and green coral branches and hand-picked beads. 604 Main Street. For more information, call (650) 712-1898.
Women + Art
The Coastal Art League & Museum will feature jewelry and clay work by three female artists on November 8 through December 4. Works by Patricia Dailey, Kendra Klauber Davis and Becky Madalena will be on display through December 4. 300 Main Street.

For more information, call (650) 726-6335 or visit

Let me know if you’ll be in my neck of the woods, we can always meet for a cocktail at the Ritz!