Celebrate California agriculture with like-minded fans at these gatherings centering on specific edible delights or simply hyper-local areas with something special to celebrate. Below is a list of 12 events—one per month—but when it comes to California food and beverage festivals, there are plenty more festivals where that came from.
JANUARY: Mendocino Crab, Beer & Wine Festival (Mendocino). The fisherman, winemakers, and brewmasters of the North Coast show off their bounty at this festival, which features family-style crab feeds, winemaker dinners, surprising wine and crab pairings, and the popular Crab Cake Cook-off & Wine Competition.
FEBRUARY: Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival (Indio). Lovers of this sticky-sweet treat can get their fill of date-filled treats, as well as family-friendly entertainment and carnival rides. Don’t miss the camel and ostrich races, which are—as expected—unpredictable and hilarious to watch.
MARCH: Latin Food Fest (Santa Monica).The L.A. version of this spicy festival is hosted next to the Santa Monica Pier and features cooking demos and tastings of Latin cuisine. There’s more here than just tacos, though—expect dishes with an influence from Salvador, Cuba, Bolivia, and more. There’s also an event in San Diego in August and an Orange County event in November.
APRIL: California Nut Festival (Chico). Come sample locally grown foods and watch nut-inspired cooking demonstrations at this outdoor festival held on the historic grounds of the Patrick Ranch Museum. The festival also features live music, an art show, and a competition for the annual title of Nutty Chef.
MAY: California Strawberry Festival (Oxnard). Enjoy the obligatory strawberry shortcake, ice cream, and pie-eating contest, but also sample strawberry beer, strawberry popcorn, and even strawberry pizza. Strawberries are celebrated in multiple California regions in May, including at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival and Vista Strawberry Festival.
JUNE: Castroville Artichoke Festival (Castroville). These nutty-sweet edible thistles get fried, added to soups, marinated, pickled, grilled, and more at this celebration of everything artichoke along the Central Coast.
JULY: Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy). You can actually smell this popular festival before you see it. Enjoy chefs cooking up garlic specialties, a garlic cook-off, and dozens of vendors selling garlicky goods.
AUGUST: Chula Vista Lemon Festival (Chula Vista). Celebrate Chula Vista's title of lemon capital of the world by partaking in one of the festival's juicy contests: pie eating, sour tasting, or lemon peeling. Or simply kick back in the beer garden where, in addition to craft brews, you can sample flavours from Mike's Hard Lemonade—the premier sponsor, of course. Yellow outfits encouraged.
SEPTEMBER: Sample the Sierra (South Lake Tahoe). Watch chefs pair up with farmers, brewers, and winemakers to create exciting dishes showcasing local produce, with wine pairings and entertainment too.
OCTOBER: Hoes Down Harvest Festival (Capay Valley). Kids flip over this family-friendly festival’s countless activities, like making ice cream, climbing giant hay forts, and sheep-shearing. There are farm tours and special dinners too.
NOVEMBER: Springville Apple Festival (Springville). Sample all things apple at this annual event held in Springville, about 90 minutes northeast of Bakersfield. The festival also ties in an apple-themed 5K run and beginner-friendly 12-kilometre fat-tire bike race.
DECEMBER: Indio International Tamale Festival (Indio). Just south of Palm Springs, you can eat your way through plenty of authentic tamales in Indio. The festival includes a recipe competition, tamale-eating contest, mariachis, and a car show.
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