From wine festivals to gay pride parades, California covers the gamut of fun throughout the year. You don’t need to be in the state’s big cities to find a special event. There are reggae festivals in Humboldt County and rodeos in Truckee, food festivals in Chico and the Mammoth Jazz Jubilee way up in the mountains.
San Francisco Jazz Festival
In its 29th year, this world famous series of jazz concerts brings some of the biggest names in the genre to the Bay Area. Sonny Rollins, Branford Marsalis, and Gilberto Gil are just a few of the bigwigs on an average year’s schedule. The shows run all summer long at the SFJAZZ Center, the city’s newest and most modern music venue.
Los Angeles Film Fest
Even Hollywood A-listers get excited for this hot ticket independent film festival. Legendary directors give talks and unknown writers get their chance to show off their creative genius to the world’s most discerning audiences. Movies are screened at several cinemas around LA in mid-June, with red carpet events, awards, and other fun side shows helping to create a genuine gala.
Music in the Vineyards
Napa Valley has more than its fair share of annual events, many of which revolve around wine, good food, and live music. This hugely popular chamber music puts a touch of gentrified class on the scene from July 29 to August 19 each summer. All kinds of other events are scheduled at the valley’s top wineries around this California festival, adding to ambiance.
US Open of Surfing
Huntington Beach is the site for this annual surf contest that pits the world’s best against some of southern California’s finest waves. For nine days, it’s nothing but surfing, surfers, and partying at Huntington Beach. This is a big name event, so expect to see some of the world’s premier athletes looking to add points to their championship rankings every July.
San Diego Festival of Beer
At least 50 craft breweries participate in this excessively popular beer tasting festival every September. The intersection of Columbia and B Streets in downtown San Diego transform into a street mecca, with some of the tastiest beers in California backed up by music, food, and of course the big competition.
Tall Ships Festival
One of the more unique and inspiring events in southern California is the Tall Ships Festival at Dana Point. For two days every September, the bay off Dana Point becomes filled with bobbing old-school sailing ships. The highlight is when they all sail together in a water parade of sorts through the entrance of the bay. There are arts, crafts, music, maritime workshops, and other great events. Particularly popular with kids, all ages will enjoy a day of sails.
Taste of Newport
One of the premier foodie festivals each September is this event in the posh seaside town of Newport. Newport Center Drive becomes a vortex of wine, food, and live music as 30 restaurants and 15 wineries bring out their best goods for the 75,000 or so guests to enjoy. Great scenery and nosh always seem to be the perfect pairing.