Autumn and winter shake hands every November in California, and 2021 is no exception. Culinary festivals are still celebrating this season’s harvest, while early snowstorms are helping to kick off this year’s ski season a little early: Mammoth Mountain and Palisades Tahoe are already open, Heavenly and Northstar California Resort open Nov. 19, and Sugar Bowl gets going Nov. 26. Of course, in many parts of California it’s still balmy enough to enjoy public art or wine tasting outside. Here are 20 festive events around the state worthy of a November getaway.
Nov. 4: The Rhythm & Roots Fundraiser, Bakersfield
Known for its namesake brand of country music, Bakersfield definitely knows how to put on a good show. Country singer John Pemberton headlines this event at the 1933 Speakeasy Bar & Grill that benefits the Golden Empire Gleaners, a Kern County group that distribute food to folks in need. Come for the evening of dinner, music, and prizes, or chip in online.
November 4–6: Big Sur Food & Wine Festival
Enjoy local food and wine against the backdrop of Monterey County’s breathtaking scenery at this weekend event in Big Sur. Buy individual tickets for festivities such as a "Pinot Walkabout" featuring 20 wineries at the Post Ranch Inn; a Sommelier Dinner at the Big Sur Roadhouse; and the pork extravaganza Wine & Swine at the Henry Miller Library. Proceeds benefit local health, safety, art, and educational programs.
Nov. 6–7: Caviar & Bubbles, Philo
Enjoy the ultimate pairing at this special weekend of tastings at Roederer Estate, a Mendocino County winery with deep French roots. The menu includes five sparkling wines paired with five Tsar Nicoulai caviar bites, with guidance from the winery’s chef, Christina Jones. Reserve your spot online for the hourlong tasting.
Nov. 5–6: Breeders’ Cup, Del Mar
See the unofficial culmination of the thoroughbred racing season at this two-day, 14-race event that boasts the richest purse in North America—more than $31 million total. The Del Mar Racetrack in San Diego County makes a festive spot for the racing weekend: Choose from admission levels that include general seating, reserved box seats, or all-inclusive plans that bundle in meals and meet-and-greets with jockeys.
Learn about the bounty of Ventura County through a variety of farm tours and other ag-themed activities. Do a honey tasting at Blue Ridge Honey, for instance, or hobnob with alpacas. You can also take a walking tour of agricultural-themed murals in the Heritage Valley community of Santa Paula.
Winter’s pomegranate season is starting in farm-rich Madera County, and this annual festival near Yosemite National Park also highlights local almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Taste the local crops, watch cooking demos, and check out the weekend’s other fair-style diversions, such as a Fire Truck Pull and the cosplay-welcome Ohana Comicon.
Nov. 6–7: Palm Springs Pride
While most cities conduct their annual pride events in the summer, Palm Springs prefers November—just as the desert’s high season kicks off. This year’s family-friendly festivities (with the theme “You Are Included”) feature a parade, street festival, a 5K, and musical acts such as Third Eye Blind, Jody Watley, and A Flock of Seagulls.
Nov. 6–7: Ridgecrest Petroglyph Festival
This Kern County town has one of the world’s best collections of ancient rock drawings, which are only accessible by tour. They’re also the centerpiece of this annual festival held during Native American Heritage Month that includes a street fair, Native American live music and dancers, and tours of the Coso Petroglyphs, some of which date back 10,000 years.
Nov. 7: De Portola Wine Trail Harvest Festival, Temecula Valley
One of the best ways to explore the Inland Empire’s wine region is to taste your way along its De Portola Wine Trail. Come to this one-day festival to nosh and sip at up to 10 wineries, including Robert Renzoni Vineyards, Somerset Vineyard & Winery, and Leoness Cellars.
Nov. 11–14: Velocity Invitational – A Luxury Motorsports Festival, Monterey
It’s one thing to gawk at cool vintage cars on display—it’s something else to watch them race. This weekend event at Monterey County’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca features more than 200 elite, historic cars racing in nine brackets, such as Pre-War Sports Cars and Historic Trans Ams. The weekend also includes tastings from regional wineries and restaurants, and a special exhibition of historic McLaren Racing Formula 1 race cars by two-time Formula 1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen.
Nov. 11–14: San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
The annual food festival along the San Diego waterfront offers plenty of local flavor, such as home-grown chefs (like Brian Malarkey and Jojo Ruiz), local crops, and a Grand Tasting with more than 200 domestic and international wines. Special dinners and tastings include the Sustainably Sexy Seafood Dinner, the Chablis Master Class, and a Taco TKO competition.
Starting Nov. 12: Holiday season begins at the theme parks
After many cancellations in 2020, iconic holiday festivities are returning to California theme parks this year. Come to Southern California for the much-anticipated candy canes at Disneyland Resort (begins Nov. 12); the snowfall at Knott's Merry Farm (starting Nov. 19); the LEGO-themed holiday spirit at LEGOLAND California (Nov. 20); and Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood (Nov. 26)
Nov. 12–14: 28th Annual Placer Studio Tour
Experience Placer County’s thriving art scene in this open house–style festival spread over a variety of Gold Country towns. Use the map to explore watercolor painting, glass-blowing, and craft galleries in towns such as Colfax and Auburn, and be sure to stop at wineries and cheese shops along the way.
Nov. 13–14: Grand Opening at The Hive, Woodland
Sample honey and mead the way you would wine or olive oil at this new expanded location of the Yolo County gem Z Specialty Food. The longtime family business in Woodland makes its own honey but also distributes honey and mead (the alcohol made from honey) from all over the nation. The free opening weekend features live music, tours of the honey-making operation, and local vendors such as Upper Crust Bakery and Campus Brewing.
Nov. 13–14: Goat Hill Fair, Watsonville
Kick off your holiday shopping at this unique fair in Santa Cruz County featuring more than 100 juried vendors offering up antiques, vintage pieces, and “clever, upcycled junk.” The secondhand specialties are all paired with artisan food at the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds. Only 20 percent of any vendor’s merchandise can be new or crafts, making this gathering a treasure trove for cool pieces.
Nov. 13–14: Colony of Coastside Artists Open Studios, Half Moon Bay
This weekend art walk in the Half Moon Bay area showcases a diverse collection of artists working in various media, with most creations displayed outside studios in the communities of Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada, and Half Moon Bay.
Nov. 16: 149th Anniversary Celebration of the Pigeon Point Light Station, Pescadero
Set on a cliff 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay, this 1872 lighthouse stands 115 feet tall—one of the biggest in the U.S. Celebrate its legacy with live music, native plant sales, tours, and lovely views over the water.
Nov. 20: 12th Annual Doggie Street Festival, San Diego
Bring your pup to Liberty Station for a street fair that caters to both of you. Enjoy food, live music, and pet-product vendors at this San Diego branch of the West Coast dogfest—and mingle with pups up for adoption to perhaps add to your brood.
Nov. 22: The Art of Banksy Begins, San Francisco
The infamous activist and outdoor public artist has created many pieces of indoor-friendly art on paper, canvas, and wood. This exhibit of 80 works is considered the biggest authenticated private collection of his work (worth $35 million). Adding to the intrigue: the exhibit location (somewhere in the heart of San Francisco) will remain secret until the opening; buy a ticket and you’ll get an email telling you where to go.
Nov. 26–28: Comic-Con Special Edition, San Diego
After more than two years, the beloved comic-book and pop culture festival (usually in July) returns to San Diego’s Convention Center for Thanksgiving weekend. While this year’s festivities will be scaled back, you’ll still find exhibits, cool guests, gaming, shopping (dubbed Fannish Friday), and lots of opportunities for cosplay. Extra good news: As of press time, badges are still available.