Autumn and winter shake hands every November in California, and 2023 is no exception. Culinary festivals are still celebrating this season’s harvest, while several California ski resorts hold their opening days this month. Of course, in many parts of California it’s still balmy enough to enjoy public art, music festivals, or wine tasting outside—or to start exploring the holiday decor and lights at theme parks and other attractions. Here are 20-plus festive events around the state worthy of a November getaway.
Through Nov. 4: Dia de los Muertos Festival, Los Angeles and Oxnard
The annual Day of the Dead remembrance for departed ancestors—rooted in Mayan, pre-Columbian, and Aztec traditions—gets several nights’ observance along Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Come each evening (festivities run from Oct. 25–Nov. 2) for the processions, blessings, dances, treats, and face-painting.
The Central Coast town of Oxnard hosts its own Dia de los Muertos observances. From Nov. 1–3, visit the giant altar—adorned with marigolds, sugar skulls, and candles—on the steps of the town’s Carnegie Arts Museum. On Nov. 4, soak up the decor, music, and Mexican and Filipino cuisine at Dia de los Muertos at Oxnard Performance Arts Center. This free event includes dance performances, interactive art experiences, and an all-are-welcome community altar where you can add photos for remembrance.
Through Nov. 5: Turn It Out with Tiler Peck, various cities
See the principal ballerina from the New York City Ballet on her California “homecoming” tour: The dancer, who grew up in Bakersfield, is performing a group of original works with collaboration from artists including Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and renowned San Francisco choreographer Alonzo King. The tour begins in late October at The Granada in Santa Barbara (Oct. 25) and The Soraya in Northridge (Oct. 28–29), then heads to San Diego’s Civic Theatre(Nov. 1) and Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Nov. 4–5).
Through Nov. 12: Harvest Festival Mendocino, Mendocino
In Mendocino County, autumn harvest season means lots of mushrooms—ideally paired with local wine and beer. This food-forward festival, which kicks off Oct. 27, features a delightful list of events, including Taste Mendocino, which showcases local wines; a Mushroom, Wine, & Whiskey Train excursion on the Skunk Train; and a Mushroom Walk at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. While some events are ticketed, others are free, and it’s also a great excuse to explore local farms and markets such as the Fort Bragg Farmers’ Market, Nye Ranch, and Philo Apple Farm.
All Month: Charles M. Schulz Museum Pop-Up Exhibit, Santa Rosa
Here’s another fun reason to stop by the California Welcome Center in Santa Rosa: Get a pic at the new pop-up exhibit from the Charles M. Schulz Museum, where you can grab a speech-balloon sign then pose while sitting in either Lucy's psychiatric-help booth or Snoopy's giant dog dish. Runs through Feb. 18. Check out these other fun perks you’ll find when visiting the 22 California Welcome Centers around the state.
November 2–4: Big Sur Food & Wine Festival, Big Sur
Feast on 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 the Pinot Walkabout at the Post Ranch Inn; the barbecue-themed Wine & Swine at the Henry Miller Library; and a Magical Mystery Tour to locations that most Big Sur visitors don’t usually get to see.
Nov. 2–5: Palm Springs Pride, Greater Palm Springs
While most cities hold their annual pride events in the summer, the Greater Palm Springs area celebrates in November, just as the desert’s high season begins. This year’s festivities include a parade, a street festival, and a 5K, as well as a Broadway in Drag competition and a concert by Idina Menzel.
Opens Nov. 3: Agua Caliente Cultural Center & Museum, Palm Springs
Explore the traditions of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians at this new museum in downtown Palm Springs, part of the 5.8-acre Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza. The contemporary museum, whose striking circular design was inspired by the tribe’s basketmaking tradition, features archaeological artifacts a collection of tribal artistry, and a vibrant, multimedia exhibit that takes visitors through different aspects of the tribe’s past and present.
Nov. 3–4: Anniversary Party at The Hive, Woodland
Sample honey and mead the way you would wine or olive oil at this Yolo County tasting room by the folks from Z Specialty Food. The longtime family business in Woodland makes its own honey but also distributes honey and mead from all over the nation. The party features live music, tours of the honey-making operation, holiday shopping opportunities, and lots of honey and mead tastings. You can hear from The Hive’s very own Queen Bee, Amina Harris, on the California Now Podcast.
Nov. 3–16: Eat Drink SF, San Francisco
Take advantage of prix fixe pricing, ticketed events, and special menus at restaurants all over San Francisco during this 10-day restaurant week. Keep tabs on the event site for the list of participating restaurants.
Nov. 3–19: California Festival, various cities
Experience the Golden State’s world-class classical and contemporary music scene at this wide-ranging event in dozens of towns around the state. Check out the events page for individual performances by symphonies, pianists, vocal ensembles, and more. You’ll also discover unique offerings such as an opera about the life of California native Sally Ride.
Nov. 4: Ventura County Farm Day, Camarillo
Explore the bounty of Ventura County through a variety of farm tours and other ag-themed activities in Oxnard,Camarillo, and other nearby towns. Take a tractor ride at Prancer’s Farm, check out strawberry harvesting at Driscoll’s, or hobnob with alpacas at Windy Hill. You can also take a self-guided walking tour of agricultural-themed murals in the Heritage Valley community of Santa Paula.
Nov. 4: Madera Pomegranate, Fruit, and Nut Festival, Madera
Winter’s pomegranates are ripening in farm-rich Madera County, and this annual festival near Yosemite National Park also highlights local almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Taste fruits and nuts, watch cooking demos, and check out the weekend’s other fair-style diversions—such as a muay Thai boxing competition and the cosplay-welcome Ohana Comic Con.
Nov. 4: Harvest on the Coast, San Luis Obispo
Sample wines from about two dozen San Luis Obispo County wineries that use grapes grown in the SLO Coast AVA, while enjoying the scenery at Chamisal Vineyards in Edna Valley. To take it up a notch, book a spot at the event’s VIP Rare & Reserve Tasting, featuring limited-release and small-production wines.
Nov. 4: Western Flyer Returns, Monterey
In 1940, John Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts took the 1937 fishing boat on an expedition to the Gulf of California, the basis for Steinbeck’s book The Log from the Sea of Cortez. In later years, the Western Flyer fell into disrepair but was bought in 2015 to be restored, and will now host researchers, classes, and occasional public events. Join the free welcome party at Monterey's Old Fisherman's Wharf for tours, live music, and science-and-art activities.
Nov. 4–5: PetroglyphFest, Ridgecrest
This Kern County high desert town of Ridgecrest 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 (formerly known as the Ridgecrest Petroglyph Festival) held during Native American Heritage Month. The celebration includes a street fair, live Native American music and dance, and tours of the Coso Petroglyphs, some of which date back 10,000 years.
Nov. 4–5: Spartan Race, San Luis Obispo
Challenge yourself to a Spartan Race—which boasts of being the world's largest obstacle course race—at this event at Santa Margarita Ranch in San Luis Obispo. Choose from different lengths (up to a 60K) and a number of obstacles—they all involve plenty of grapevine scenery and up 3,000 ft. in elevation gain. Since this event is a Trifecta Weekend, you have the chance to complete three races (a Sprint 5K, Super 10K & Beast 21K) and qualify for the 2023 Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece.
Nov. 5: De Portola Wine Trail Harvest Festival, Temecula Valley
Experience Temecula Valley’s wine region by tasting your way along the five-mile De Portola Wine Trail. Your ticket to this one-day festival grants you tastings paired with winery cuisine at three wineries: Choose your three among a selection that includes Robert Renzoni Winery, Somerset Vineyard & Winery, and Leoness Cellars.
Nov. 6–12: San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, San Diego
The annual food festival set on the San Diego waterfront offers plenty of local flavor, such as home-grown chefs (including Claudia Sandoval and Maya Madsen), regional ingredients, and a Grand Tasting with more than 200 domestic and international wines. The weekend’s standalone events include a Convoy District tasting tour and an East-Meets-West Wagyu Dinner.
Starts Nov. 10: Holiday season at the theme parks
California theme parks start decking their halls, fa-la-la’ing, and putting out the holiday treats this month. Go to the Anaheim area for the much-anticipated candy canes and holiday cheer at Disneyland Resort (Nov. 10–Jan. 7) and the evening snowfalls at Knott's Merry Farm (Nov. 17–Jan. 7) in Buena Park.
In Los Angeles County, Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates both Grinchmas and Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Nov. 24–Jan. 1), while Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita holds its Six Flags Holiday in the Park (Nov. 23–Dec. 31). In the Bay Area, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo has its own Holiday in the Park event (Nov. 24–Dec. 31), while California’s Great America in Santa Clara does WinterFest (Nov. 24–Jan. 6).
The three theme parks in San Diego County throw their own parties: SeaWorld Christmas Celebration (Nov. 17–Jan. 7), A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place San Diego (Nov. 10–Jan. 7), and Holidays at LEGOLAND California (select days Nov. 18–Jan. 7).
Nov. 10–11: Goat Hill Fair, Watsonville
Kick off your holiday shopping at this unique fair in Santa Cruz County featuring more than 100 juried vendors offering 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 artfully repurposed pieces.
Starts Nov. 11: Opening days at California ski resorts
Many of the Golden State’s ski resorts open this month, often accompanied by first-day live music and other festivities. Mammoth Mountain opens on Nov. 10, followed by Heavenly Lake Tahoe (Nov. 17), Northstar (Nov. 17), Palisades Tahoe (Nov. 22), and Kirkwood (Dec. 1). Big Bear Mountain Resort’s opening day was TBD as of presstime.
Nov. 11–12: Palm Desert Choreography Festival, Palm Desert
First held in 1998, this annual dance festival in Palm Desert offers compelling performances and, for competitors, prize money up to $10,000. Watch original dances and see Helgi Tomasson, longtime artistic director and principal choreographer for the San Francisco Ballet, receive the lifetime achievement award.
Begins Nov. 16: Sparkle DTLA, Los Angeles
The holiday season kicks off at shopping complex The Bloc in Downtown Los Angeles. Sparkle DTLA features a giant holiday display the illuminates every hour in the evening with 18 million hues of light and synchronize to holiday music. The free Grand Debut party on Nov. 16 includes a special-guest performance, an ugly sweater contest, and hot cocoa and goodies. Start your shopping to at Bloc stores such as Macys and gift shop Bring Something to The Party. The holiday light shows will continue through Dec. 31.
Begins Nov. 17: Sawdust Festival Winter Fantasy, Laguna Beach
When this Laguna Beach arts festival started in the 1960s, organizers scattered sawdust at its location along the Pacific Coast Highway to keep dust from kicking up on the art. Today, the twice-yearly festival has moved off the PCH but the name and plucky spirit remains. The winter session is a great time to pick up cool holiday pieces, see marionette shows, take free art and pottery classes, and greet Santa. Runs through Dec. 17.
Begins Nov. 17: Lightscape, Encinitas
Take an evening walk through Encinitas’ 37-acre San Diego Botanic Garden, adorned with more than one million lights for the holiday season. The one-mile path winds through different twinkling gardens—including illuminated versions of California poppies—tunnels of light, and lantern trees, with stops to roast marshmallows and drink hot cocoa. Runs through Jan. 1.
Begins Nov. 17: Redding Garden of Lights, Redding
At Redding’s famed Turtle Bay Exploration Park, 10 acres of the McConnell Botanical Gardens are lined with illuminated pathways and dotted with wildlife- and nature-themed displays. Stop along the route for the hot cocoa stands and firepits for s’mores. Open select days, typically Wednesdays through Sundays, through Jan. 7.