Events in California
Lucas Himovitz

Events in California

Everyone loves a party, and there’s nothing like the good-time atmosphere at California’s top events. Here, you’ll find festivals, fairs, competitions, and championships worth adding to your itinerary, or making destinations in themselves. Escape to food and wine extravaganzas in bucket-list destinations like Napa Valley and Yosemite.

Take part in rock-the-world music festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs or Outside Lands in San Francisco. 

Take part in rock-the-world music festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs or Outside Lands in San Francisco. See the stars walk by at film festivals and awards shows in Los Angeles, whoop it up with the kids at classic country fairs in the Central Valley, and watch ultimate athletes take on monster waves at Maverick’s or zoom across the state in Amgen Tour of California.

While many events have plenty of space for all, some, such as Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters, often sell out well in advance, so pre-planning is essential (check websites for details on tickets and dates). But some of California’s signature events, like the wacky Kinetic Grand Championship along the North Coast, are walk-on-up-it’s-free gatherings of locals and lucky travelers. So come, join the party, California style.

January-February

Experience one of California’s most magical settings, Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel in winter, during this intimate and outstanding event. Some of the best chefs in the country gather here to create...

Chefs' Holidays
Courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
Ahwahnee Winter Events
Ahwahnee in winter by btwashburn/Flickr

Ahwahnee Winter Events

Ahwahnee Winter Events
Spirited celebrations brighten the frosty months

Heading the bill each winter at Yosemite's majestic Ahwahnee Hotel is the annual Bracebridge Dinner, a lavish 18th-century English Christmas celebration featuring more than 100 performers and a seven-course feast. The December show, a loose adaptation of an episode from Washington Irving's Sketch Book, has been held every year at the Ahwahnee since 1927. The four-hour program features music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance rituals, traditional yuletide decorations, and plentiful food, song, and mirth. The event is held for less than a dozen nights in mid- to late December, so tickets tend to sell out fast.

Other popular winter events at the Ahwahnee Hotel include the Vintners' Holidays and Chef’s Holidays; for both events, the hotel’s Great Lounge is transformed into a culinary classroom. Vintners’ Holidays, a celebration of winemakers’ fall harvests with two-day sessions of wine tastings, seminars, and a gala five-course dinner, are held in November and December. At the Chefs’ Holidays in January and February, California's finest chefs strut their stuff during an hour-long skills demonstration; the master chefs then prepare a gala dinner for all. One of the perks for attendees is insider access to the Ahwahnee’s kitchen. Beneath its 35-foot/10.7-meter ceilings are culinary antiques like the original 1927 walk-in refrigerators, which were kept cool with 500-pound/226.8-kg blocks of ice from nearby Mirror Lake.

March

Get into the checkered-flag spirit at this big and loud NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Cheer for your favourite drivers as they zoom for the front in this 5-wide race event. The action kicks off...

AUTOCLUB 400
Courtesy of Auto Club Speedway
Jun 3
March

So close you can see the fuzz fly on the tennis balls, the top-tier competition at this two-week-long event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden gets you rivetingly close to the world’s best players...

BNP Paribas Open
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing
Events
Randy Aquilizan/ Flickr

Events

Events
Enjoy lively fairs and festivals year-round

Throughout the year, special events offer a great way to wine, dine, listen, play, and mingle with locals. The summer season kicks off in early May with Flavor of SLO, where local chefs, vintners, and craft beer makers showcase their talents on the grounds of the historic Jack House and Gardens in downtown San Luis Obispo. Summer also brings the annual Roll Out the Barrels celebration, featuring local wines and food pairings at an al fresco event at Mission Plaza (attendance also gets you a two-day passport to visit local wineries). In October, Madonna Inn, the incomparable temple to kitsch, teams up with Firestone Walker Brewing Company to present the Central Coast’s own ranch-country take on Oktoberfest, with delicious brews and classic German fare paired with plenty of live music, dusty cowboy boots, and high spirits.

Events in Monterey and Carmel
Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival

Events in Monterey and Carmel

Events in Monterey and Carmel
Food, jazz, and dancing year round

The region’s Mediterranean climate means anytime is time for a party—or festival. One of the biggest—and splashiest—is Pebble Beach Food & Wine, a dress-up fancy multi-day affair showcasing celebrity chefs (Thomas Keller, Tyler Florence) and winemakers for a decadent weekend of feasting, toasting, and learning. Beautiful cars, exclusive settings, luxurious atmosphere—sure it’s a splurge, but it’s worth it, at least once. Another premier event is September’s Monterey Jazz Festival, a 3-day party of sound. The world’s best jazz performers (think Herbie Hancock and Booker T. Jones) take part, bee-bopping, boogying, swinging, and syncopating on eight local stages.

Other events round out the calendar. Two premier fall festivals are the Carmel Mission Fiesta, celebrating the region’s Spanish and Mexican heritage, and Taste of Carmel, with local restaurants and food purveyors serving their culinary creations at a series of events, including a swanky soiree at the Carmel Mission.

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste, and enjoy the leafy campus just north of...

U.C. Davis Picnic Day
Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
April

Known as the ultimate “celebration of cycling,” this four-day event in the rolling coastal hills near Monterey brings more than 10,000 athletes and 65,000 fans together for an action-packed series...

Subaru Sea Otter Classic
Richard Masoner/Flickr
The annual race promises great views of cyclists and the Golden State

The eight-stage Amgen Tour of California is the largest cycling event in North America and every year the course brings new challenges—grueling mountain passes, epic coastline views, and dramatic...

Amgen Tour of California
May

Rock rolls into the wine country again this summer with this three-day event in Napa that features headliners Florence + the Machine, Stevie Wonder, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. With more than 80...

Bottlerock Napa Valley
Jessica S./Flickr
Mar 6
May

Saddle up for Stagecoach, the country cousin held in the same venue—the Indio Polo Grounds south of Palm Springs—as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. From the impressive inaugural...

Stagecoach
Courtesy of Stagecoach
Events in Oakland
Tai Power Seeff

Events in Oakland

Events in Oakland
Come see where art is paramount

Need something to do? Oakland’s event calendar is packed with a wide array of ways to learn and experience the character of this dynamic city, first hand. In summer, take part in Art + Soul Oakland, with live music and dance parties, barbecue face-offs, poetry slams, and an eclectic, multicultural artisan marketplace.

September’s Eat Real Fest feels like a state fair in the streets—an urban celebration that aims to help people understand where their food comes from, and who grew, raised, or made it. It’s all about delicious, regionally sourced, sustainably grown foods, and you’ll find plenty of ways to eat and learn about the ultra-fresh food showcased here.

Oakland also offers cultural events throughout the year, including performances by the Oakland Ballet and Oakland East Bay Symphony, at the Paramount Theatre, an Art Deco masterpiece in downtown Oakland (guided tours, the first and third Saturdays of the month, are well worth it).

June

Here’s a film festival with an entertaining twist—it’s got music videos too. This long-running weeklong event, presented at downtown’s Nokia Theatre/L.A. Live complex, includes a diverse mix of...

Los Angeles Film Festival
Wireimage and Film Independant
July

Yoga meets alpine wow at this ohm-filled, 5-day event. Daytimes are filled with workshops and workouts lead by eminent yoga instructors, all taking place in indoor and outdoor settings that...

WANDERLUST
Christen Vidanoviv/ Wanderlust Festival
July

Since the 1850s, locals and visitors have flocked to the California State Fair for a gamut of fun activities. Over a century and a half later, there’s still a bit of that downhome vintage...

California State Fair
Lucas Himovitz
Holiday Events at LEGOLAND
Courtesy of LEGOLAND California

Holiday Events at LEGOLAND

Holiday Events at LEGOLAND
Giant lego bricks, real snow, & sweet treats

LEGOLAND California keeps things lively on special holidays. For Halloween, the goal is to entertain—not frighten—the smaller set. There’s a “Brick-Or-Treat” party every Saturday night (and some Fridays) in October, with special entertainment, costume contests, giant LEGO Halloween models, fireworks, and of course plenty of sweet treats. At Christmastime, the park brings snow—yes, real snow—to Southern California, using it to dress up various sites around the park, including the world’s largest all-LEGO Christmas tree (a cool fact, but how much competition does it have?). Build a snowman using LEGO bricks, sing carols with the Jingle Jammers, and stock up on LEGO brick gifts too. On special nights in December, add holiday fireworks and light shows to the mix.

This four-day event embraces San Francisco’s global status by keeping the flavor super-local

Revel in the flavors of the ultimate foodie city as San Francisco’s premier chefs—many of them movers and shakers in the sustainability movement—strut their stuff at this festival in the ...

Eat Drink SF
Courtesy of Eat Drink SF
July/August

With a nickname like “Surf City, U.S.A.,” Huntington Beach is the obvious place for this 9-day, sun-and-wave extravaganza, the world’s largest surf event. Top pros including Kelly Slater and Rob...

Vans U.S. Open of Surfing
William Fovall/Flickr
SEPTEMBER

Televisions biggest stars get dressed up, duded up, and put on their game-face smiles to see who wins one of these annual awards, which recognize outstanding work in dramas, comedies,...

Emmy Awards
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
September

Enjoy three days of smooth jazz at this lauded event, alleged to be the world’s longest-running jazz fest. Top names, newcomers, and favorites—some 500 artists in all—jazz it up on eight stages at...

Monterey Jazz Fest
Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival
October

Honor the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, just north of Sacramento, has one of the world’...

Hoes Down Festival
Seasonal events
Lucas Himovitz

Seasonal events

Seasonal events
Find out when the “happiest place on Earth” gets extra dressed up

Southern California is better known for beach weather in December than its white Christmases. But Disneyland Resort turns into a winter wonderland during the annual Season to Sparkle. Classic attractions take on a whole different feeling, including Sleeping Beauty Castle, where snow caps its tower and 80,000 lights sparkle like icicles. It’s A Small World features a spectacular light show and a holiday song medley, and parade characters don plenty of red and white.

The resort gets tricked up for Halloween, too, as Main Street, U.S.A. is transformed into a Pumpkin Festival with scores of hand-carved Jack O’ Lanterns. Prepare to get spooked at the Haunted Mansion, draped in black for the ghostly-ghastly holiday. Frontierland has a cultural spin, displaying traditional skeletons to commemorate Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). After dark, let the little ones come in costume (you can too) to join special dance parties and photo ops with classic Disney villains, and of course enjoy treats, during Mickey’s Halloween Party (offered on select evenings in September and October).

December

Combine top performers, top skiing and snowboarding, and New Years Eve, and you know you’re in for a one-of-a-kind happening. This South Lake Tahoe outdoor blowout is an annual three-day...

Snowglobe Music Festival
Courtesy of Snowglobe Music Festival
December

Enter Yosemite Valley to travel back in time to Christmas Past. Heraldic horns sound throughout Yosemite National Park's elegant Ahwahnee Hotel, calling guests to enter Bracebridge Hall. Come...

 Bracebridge Dinners
Lana Spicer
November - December

As autumn gives way to winter, slip away to this signature event, presented at the Ahwahnee in incomparable Yosemite Valley. Leading winemakers celebrate the fall harvest by pouring their prized...

Vintners' Holidays
Courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
January

Often seen as a precursor to who’ll nab an Oscar, this annual event hands out awards to actors, directors, and other artists in all kinds of entertainment—film, television, domestic, and foreign....

Golden Globes
Jenn Deering Davis/Flickr
February

Whether you rock around the clock, groove out to classic jazz, or crank up the rap in your car, this is your night to tune in to music’s premier celebration. Downtown Los Angeles is the centre of...

Grammy Awards
Karina3094/Flickr
February/March

Every February (or early March), the red carpet rolls out for one of the world’s most star-studded affairs, the annual Academy Awards.

This exclusive red-carpet event may be reserved for...

Academy Awards
Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr
February

Home to one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country, the Palm Springs region is a natural setting for this citywide event. Join thousands of design buffs...

Palm Springs Modernism Week
David A. Lee