As summer reaches its peak in California, the festival scene only intensifies, with events celebrating surfing, early harvests, and of course music—from smooth jazz to quirky accordions and even jams that audience members are invited to join. Or head up north, where you can recharge by sitting in peace and studying a brilliant night sky. Top off your summer with one of these uniquely California events.

 

August 1–5: Epic Surf Events

This is high season for surfers—or for anyone who just enjoys watching really good surfing. The first five days of August bring the second half of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, the world’s largest surfing competition, set in Orange County’s surf mecca Huntington Beach. Not far away, the International Surf Festival is in L.A. County’s Redondo Beach has amateur surfing competitions, body surfing contests, and paddleboard races.

 

August 2–5: Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluespalooza, Mammoth Lakes

It’s hard to feel blue in idyllic Mammoth Lakes during the summertime, as this music fest blends traditional blues with R&B, soul, and rock, thanks to acts such as The Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo Band and ZZ Ward. Or, focus your energy on the craft beer portion of festivities, featuring 55 beer makers, such as nearby June Lake Brewing and Santa Rosa–based Seismic Brewing.

 

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August 3–4: Dark Sky Festival, Lassen Volcanic National Park

Located far from any city lights in the Shasta Cascade region, this other-worldly national park makes for great stargazing almost any time of year—but August is prime time. This annual festival includes special “constellation tours,” ranger-led hikes, and Junior Ranger Night Explorer activities.

August 6: Chula Vista Lemon Festival

From the late 19th century until about 1950, this citrus-growing San Diego County town was the Lemon Capital of the World. While the local farms waned, the bustling town has made lemonade, as it were, by creating this yearly celebration with cool drinks, lemon-pie-eating and an invitation to wear your best yellow. The festival also offers sour contests, live music and, since this is San Diego, a craft beer garden.

August 10–12: Outside Lands Music and Arts Fest, San Francisco

This now-annual event in Golden Gate Park mixes live music with a lot of local food and drink—like the steamed baos of Chairman Truck, Humphry Slocombe ice cream, and the burgers of Jackrabbit—among the festival's food trucks and its Cheese Lands area. This year’s headliners are The Weeknd, Florence & the Machine, and Janet Jackson, though the lineup also includes standouts such as Beck, Bon Iver, and Carly Rae Jepsen, along with non-musical notables such as Bill Nye the Science Guy.

August 10–12: Long Beach Jazz Festival

The setting of this weekend festival in L.A. County—in grassy Rainbow Lagoon Park, overlooking the water—may be as blissful as the jazz itself: The lineup includes singer Randy Crawford,  pianist Keiko Matsui, and saxophonist Kirk Whalum.

August 10–12: San Jose Jazz Summerfest

The Silicon Valley hub loves festivals, and this late summer party focuses on jazz in its many forms, from big band to Latin, blues, and standards. The lineup features Lalah Hathaway and Yissy & Bandancha, along with classic acts like Kool & the Gang and Herb Alpert. Throughout the weekend, you can take free swing lessons, too.

 

August 11–12: Gravenstein Apple Fair

Fall feels right around the corner at this festival in Sonoma County’s Sebastopol, where the sweet Gravenstein apple is starting its harvest season. There’s live music, arts and crafts, kids activities, and lots of chances for tastings: Visit the various tents for craft cider, wine, and food pairings. This year also features Agrarian Games, with events such as watermelon-seed spitting and an Ugly Produce Beauty Contest.

August 11–18: Eureka Street Art Festival

This North Coast town is already home to several photo-op-ready public murals, but this week-long festival in Eureka’s Old Town area lets you witness new art as it gets created. Watch a range of international painters at work each day, take city mural tours, or try your hand at a street-painting workshop. On the last day, a party celebrates the new murals’ official debuts.  

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August 17–18: Latin Food Fest, San Diego

Now in its sixth year, this weekend of cuisine—some inspired by Mexico, some with roots in South America and Spain—takes place on downtown’s Embarcadero, featuring cooking demos, tastings, chef’s dinners, and cookbook signings. Try the wares of artists like Venezuelan chef Tati Polo or Peru’s Ricardo Zarate, with a soundtrack of great Latin music. The next round of the Latin Food Fest happens in March in L.A.

 

August 18: Woodland Tomato Festival

It’s peak tomato season right now in the Central Valley’s Yolo County, where there are 42,000 acres of tomato fields. Right in the middle of that is this festival, offering plenty of tomato tastings, chef cook-offs, and salsa competitions (in the latter, you even get to be a judge).

 

August 18–19: Cotati Accordion Festival

It’s billed as the “Woodstock of the Accordion World,” and it would be hard to argue with the infectious good cheer of this musical weekend in Sonoma County. It kicks off with a performance at Lagunitas Brewing Company and then continues over the next three days at the town’s La Plaza Park, fueled by lots of polka and zydeco music.

 

August 18–26: Concours d’Elegance, Pebble Beach

You’ll see classic cars all over the Monterey area during this weekend-long event—with car auctions, shows, and forums, happening in spots ranging from public parks to the Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. The weekend’s finale brings 200 eye-popping collector cars onto the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links.

 

Through August 23: Wonderspaces

PIeces from this pop-up art exhibit and installation have appeared at Burning Man, Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW. Get advance viewing tickets online for the exhibit, housed at downtown San Diego’s B Street Pier.

August 24–26: L.A. Food & Wine Festival

L.A.’s culinary scene spreads across the entire city, so it’s not a surprise that this festival has chef’s dinners and experiences all over town (with a la carte admission), including up-and-comers Chad Valencia and Jon Yao in Chinatown, Robert Irvine in Beverly Hills, and Curtis Stone in downtown L.A..

August 24–26: Eat Drink SF, San Francisco

Nosh on the best of the San Francisco foodie scene in the Golden Gate Recreation Area. The weekend is filled with four Grand Tastings, featuring local restaurants and chefs and 70-plus purveyors of wine, beer, and spirits. To pace yourself, head to the Backyard Bites area, where you can play lawn games.

 

August 25: Village Days at La Purisima Mission, Lompoc

Kids will love getting hands-on at this time capsule for the mission days of California history—acorn grinding, making Tule dolls, and playing Chumash games.  Today La Purisma—the most extensively restored mission in the Golden State—sits on a 2,000-acre park with miles of trails. Come for a free tour, or check the calendar for other events during the year from Mission Life Day to candlelight tours.

 

August 30–September 3: Strawberry Music Festival, Tuolumne

There are two Strawberry Music festivals each year—the Grass Valley version in May, and this Labor Day Weekend version in Tuolumne, just east of Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. The focus here is more on music than berries: Many fans come and car camp on the 175 acres of meadows, streams and plateaus, while enjoying 20 live acts on the main stage. Or, bring your own instrument and join one of the all-are-welcome camp jams.