California is a real-life cornucopia and one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. The Golden State, for instance, is the country’s top grower of avocados and strawberries, and provides a whopping 99 percent of the nation’s table grapes and pistachios. Shipping overseas, California produces almost 50 percent of the world’s tomato products, too.
Unofficially, the state is also the national leader in food festivals. On pretty much any weekend of the year, you can find an event that celebrates some sort of specialty—anything from Dungeness crab to tamales to dates. And—of course—plenty of California wine and craft beer. These annual food and beverage festivals are worth their own trip.
Indulge in crab feeds, cioppino, and crab cakes—all paired with local wine and beer—at this classic festival that culminates with a popular Crab Cake Cook-off & Wine Competition. Also known as the Winter Feast, the North Coast festival is a great excuse to soak up Mendocino County’s romantic, windswept ambience.
Winter is high season for this sticky-sweet fruit that thrives in the Greater Palm Springs area. Taste dates in a variety of treats (don’t miss the shakes), enjoy classic fair rides, and watch the always-unpredictable camel and ostrich races.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day—or just your love of wine and chocolate—at this annual event that pairs sweets with Lodi’s big, bold Zinfandels. The weekend often includes a winemaker dinner or brunch, and a full day of self-guided wine-plus-chocolate tastings at local wineries.
SF Beer Week, San Francisco
Take your time exploring the Bay Area’s thriving craft beer scene during this deep lineup of events at breweries around San Francisco and beyond. Choose from options such as release parties, trivia nights, bacon-and-beer pairings, and yoga-plus-beer happenings.
Winter White Wine Festival, Anderson Valley
“Winter whites” take on new meaning at this slate of open houses, vineyard tours, and tastings all saluting the wines that put the North Coast’s Anderson Valley on the map: Alsace-style varietals such as Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. The main event is a grand tasting inspired by European winter markets.
California Craft Beer Summit, Sacramento
Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the craft beer industry and sip the best new brews at this annual get-together for both beer pros and fans. The multi-day event in Sacramento typically includes beermaking seminars, the Brewer’s Dinner featuring local chefs, and an awards ceremony for the California Craft Brewer’s Cup.
Enjoy tastings between rides and shows at this annual, separate-ticket festival at Anaheim’s California-themed park. Check out culinary demonstrations, junior-chef cooking experiences, and lots of California ingredients at crowd-pleasing kiosks like Avocado Time, Cluck-A-Doodle-Moo, and Nuts About Cheese. There are VIP-level experiences too, like wine, beer, and mixology seminars.
Knott’s Boysenberry Festival, Buena Park
Each spring, the Buena Park theme park Knott’s Berry Farm salutes its origins as a Depression-era fruit stand/restaurant by adding its signature berry to dozens of recipes. Your festival admission grants you small plates of sweet and savory dishes—from barbecue to desserts or even wine—at tasting stations scattered around the park.
Passport to Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Use the festival map to plot a tasting tour around Sonoma County during this weekend of vineyard tours and wine tastings with food pairings at about two dozen wineries. Then, stock up on wines that will be hard or impossible to find in stores back at home.
The Ventura County town of Oxnard is one of the biggest strawberry producers in the state, which inspires this weekend of cook-offs, pie-eating contests, and lots of berry treats. Think strawberry shortcake and ice cream, yes, but don’t miss the strawberry beer, popcorn, or even pizza. Ed. note: This event will return in 2023.
Paso Wine Fest, Paso Robles
Toast the acclaimed wine scene in Paso Robles at this long-weekend event with live music, winemaker’s dinners, seminars, and lots of tastings—all highlighting the region’s 100+ wineries. In the weeks before the event, shop the festival’s Virtual Auction for rare wines, vertical collections, and large-format bottles.
Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience, Sonoma County
Combine great cuisine, wine, and stunning settings at this weekend of tastings, dinners, and concerts, located at wineries and resorts around Sonoma County. Events feature local growers, winemakers, and renowned chefs (which, around here, often means Michelin-star experiences).
McCloud Mushroom Festival, Siskiyou County
May is mushroom-foraging season in Northern California’s Siskiyou County. This annual festival in McCloud features cooking demos, wine pairings, and booths manned with foraging experts. The weekend often includes a mushroom dinner finale on Sunday evening featuring dishes like black truffle fritters.
Gazing at colorful hot air balloons floating above Temecula Valley is undeniably a big part of the charm in this annual event—but so is the chance to taste the local wines. The festival features local beer and cuisine, too, as well as the chance to take early-morning balloon rides.
Artichoke Festival, Monterey County
Enjoy one of California’s signature crops—edible, oversized thistles—which get fried, pickled, grilled, and prepared in myriad ways at this famed celebration in Monterey County. Between meals, watch chef demonstrations, peruse artichoke-themed art, and cheer for the annual Artichoke Queen.
L.A. WineFest, Long Beach
Los Angeles County has an unsung wine scene, and this annual event showcases some great Southern California wines—from Los Angeles to Temecula and Irvine—alongside bottles from the rest of California and the globe. Pair wines with food truck cuisine, as well as regional beers and ciders, while strolling Long Beach’s scenic waterfront, home to the Queen Mary and Aquarium of the Pacific.
Whether you define salsa as a sauce or a musical style, this Ventura County festival offers generous servings of both. Visit the Salsa Tasting Tent, pick up tamales or empanadas from the vendors, and then watch (or take part) in the salsa dancing.
Motherlode Beer & Music Festival, El Dorado County
This weekend at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds celebrates Gold Country breweries, wineries, meaderies, and cideries, all with a live soundtrack from local bands. Enjoy some throwback fun, too, like strolling characters or beers inspired by pioneer-era brews.
Gravenstein Apple Fair, Sebastopol
In Sonoma County’s Sebastopol, harvest season begins during summer for the local specialty, sweet Gravenstein apples. This pre-fall festival also features live music, watermelon-seed spitting contests, and lots of chances to taste apple-fueled craft cider and food pairings.
Autumn’s harvest season brings grape stomps, special tastings, and winemaker dinners in every wine region of the Golden State. Plan a trip during any week of the month or a wine tasting getaway around certain regions—you’ll easily have dozens of spectacular options.
Feast your way through Capitol Mall to see why Sacramento has earned its nickname as the Farm-to-Fork Capital. This weekend festival shines a spotlight on both the rich farmland surrounding the state capital and the great chefs, winemakers, and brewers who make the most of the local bounty.
This cheeky (and free) festival in Santa Barbara County embraces the fact that California is the avocado-growing superstar of the U.S. Come to see the world’s largest vat of guac, or compete in a strong-arm competition involving bags of avocados. Festivities typically include live music on a few different stages.
Come to this San Luis Obispo County festival ready to eat some world-class chowder. The annual weekend also includes a clam dig, a wine-and-beer garden, concerts, and the annual Clam Festival Parade.
Celebrity-chef cooking demos, master sommelier tasting panels, and VIP dinners play a leading role at this annual festival. The posh weekend event at Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula Park is known for featuring stars from the Food Network and executive chefs from high-caliber restaurants around Southern California.
Springville Apple Festival, Springville
Explore this classic fall harvest festival in Tulare County, about 90 minutes northeast of Bakersfield, which often ties in an apple-themed fun run and treats ranging from apple cobblers to apple burritos and apple tamales. It’s also a great way to support local farms during October’s California Farmer & Farm Worker Month.
This annual food festival along the San Diego waterfront offers plenty of flavor, featuring home-grown chefs, local crops, and a grand tasting with more than 200 domestic and international wines. Expect special dinners and tastings like the Sustainably Sexy Seafood Dinner or Taco TKO competition.
The winter season is prime time for foodies in Yosemite, when the grand dame hotel The Ahwahnee hosts a series of events. The Vintners' Holidays in November and December celebrate winemaking through two-day sessions of tastings, seminars, and a gala five-course dinner. Come back in January for Chef’s Holidays, when Golden State chefs offer demonstrations in The Ahwahnee’s kitchen and then prepare a feast for attendees.
Mountain Mandarin Festival, Placer County
Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving Placer County salutes the provider of its favorite local crop: a wealth of Satsuma Mountain mandarin trees. Stock up on vitamin C with bags of the little oranges, and sample culinary interpretations of the fruit, like mandarin-glazed wings, doughnuts, or pulled pork. While you’re in California’s Gold Country region, pick up jams, infused olive oils, balsamic vinegar, and barbecue sauces.
Madera Pomegranate, Fruit & Nut Festival, Madera County
Kick off winter’s pomegranate season in farm-rich Madera County, near Yosemite National Park, which also shows love to local almonds, pistachios, and walnuts. Taste the local crops, watch cooking demos, and check out the weekend’s other fair-style diversions.
A holiday season staple, the tamale gets its own celebration in this desert town south of Palm Springs. After you check out the recipe competition and tamale-eating contest, enjoy live mariachi bands and a car show.