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Events in California Event_Coachella_1280x642
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.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Majestic Yosemite in winter by btwashburn/Flickr

Majestic Winter Events

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Majestic Winter Events
Spirited celebrations brighten the frosty months

Heading the bill each winter at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee) 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 Majestic Yosemite 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 Majestic Yosemite 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 Taste of Yosemite in November, 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 Majestic Yosemite's kitchen. Beneath its 35-foot/10.7-metre 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.

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 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing
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Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival

Events in Monterey and Carmel

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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

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...

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Richard Masoner/Flickr
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May 11 - May 20
May

America's largest and most prestigious cycling event brings many of the world’s top riders to the Golden State. The 8-stage race changes it up every year, with new courses connecting cities and...

Amgen Tour of California
Amgen Tour of California
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May

Creativity, contraptions and costumes—those are the mantras for this wacky three-day Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May) event on a wild stretch of the North Coast. Dubbed the 'triathalon...

The Kinetic Grand Championship on California's North Coast
Erik Fitzpatrick/Flickr
California's North Coast
May

Rock rolls into the wine country with this three-day event in Napa that features 2019 headliners Imagine Dragons, Neil Young, and Mumford & Sons. With more than 80 performers in the May 24–26...

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Jessica S./Flickr
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Tai Power Seeff

Events in Oakland

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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 week-long event, presented at downtown’s Nokia Theatre/L.A. LIVE complex, includes a diverse mix of...

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Wireimage and Film Independant
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July

Get the Spanish spirit at this colourful event. Stroll the grounds of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards with a glass of bubbly, and take in a whirl of passionate music, flamenco dancing, and food...

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Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
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Courtesy of Legoland California

Holiday Events

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Holiday Events
Giant legos, 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 gifts too. On special nights in December, add holiday fireworks and light shows to the mix.

August

Revel in the flavours 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 the ...

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Gamma Nine/ Eat DrinkSF
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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...

Surfers competing in the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing
Vans U.S. Open of Surfing by William Fovall/Flickr
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September

Television’s biggest stars descend upon this glitz- and glam-filled event wearing their best game-face smiles to see who will win one of the annual ...

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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
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October/November

Get a chance to see the crème de la crème of thoroughbreds at this exciting two-day event at historic Santa Anita Park. This unofficial culmination of the thoroughbred racing season brings...

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Photo by Jean/Flickr
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November

Winter rains signal the beginning of the North Coast’s astounding mushroom season. Celebrate the harvest of one of the region’s most loved bounties—and a few other products of the liquid variety—...

Chefs at work at Feast Mendocino
Brendan McGuigan
The North Coast region of California
December

Rated by The New York Times as one of the country's top holiday happenings, this glittering event is a must see in The OC during the holidays. Local boat owners lavishly decorate their vessels,...

Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade by fortherock/Flickr
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It's a Small World at Disneyland
Lucas Himovitz

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

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Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
Experience the holidays at the Happiest Place on Earth

Southern California is known for sunshine and beaches, even in December. But you can experience a winter wonderland when “the happiest place on Earth” transforms into “the merriest place on Earth” for the holidays.

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort is a special time, with magic around every corner. In Disneyland Park, there’s a 18-metre Christmas Tree in Town Square complete with 70,000 lights and 2,000 custom ornaments. Stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. with the smell of candy canes and gingerbread hanging in the air and decorations adorning the buildings.

Classic attractions take on a whole different feeling. Sleeping Beauty Castle sparkles with snow-capped towers, countless lights and a giant wreath. It’s a Small World Holiday dazzles with a spectacular light show and a holiday version of the classic song. And the Haunted Mansion gets a holiday makeover, courtesy of Jack Skellington and friends, for the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Fan favorites like A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe...in Holiday Magic make this time of year extra special.

Over in Disney California Adventure Park, a 15-metre tree sits on Buena Vista Street, and the spirit of the season is in full swing with the Festival of Holidays, featuring delicious foods and entertainment from many diverse cultures. At night, World of Colour - Season of Light illuminates Paradise Bay combining classic holiday tunes with favorite moments from iconic Disney films. And of course, Santa and his elves have turned up at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail for some seasonal fun and games.

There are holiday treats throughout the resort as well, from holiday-themed beignets and gingerbread men to decorated candy apples and the always-popular candy canes. Only a limited number of candy canes are made, so be sure to line up at park opening at the Candy Palace in Disneyland and Trolley Treats in California Adventure for a chance at this tasty treat. You can find out more by calling the Disneyland Candy Hotline at (714) 781-0112.

Insider Tip: While the parks’ Christmas trees are first lit for the year in early-to-mid-November, both Disneyland and California Adventure have tree-lighting ceremonies every day during the holidays at 5 p.m. Carolers roam the parks singing holiday favorites while the giant trees come to life.

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
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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....

A red carpet scene at the Golden Globes
Jenn Deering Davis/Flickr
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January

Whether you bang your head to rock and roll, groove out to classic jazz, or crank up the hip-hop in your car, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science’s...

Adam Levine performs at the Grammys
Karina3094/Flickr
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February/March

Every February (or early March), film buffs, entertainment industry VIPS, celebrity-spotters, the press, and of course the paparazzi descend upon the...

Oscar statuettes
Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr
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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...

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Photo by David A. Lee
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