Welcome to summer in California, when the options for fun are endless. Whether you’re planning a sunny road trip up the coast or a family vacation to a theme park, the hours are longer and new attractions are debuting up and down the state. It’s also a prime time for festivals, ranging from craft beer to artichokes to jazz. Here are 15 epic ways to kick off your summer in the Golden State.
All Month: National Camping Month
It’s the perfect time to camp all over California—from beach campgrounds to national parks to the incredible terrain at Alabama Hills Recreation Area, near Lone Pine. Camp California and Reserve America can help you find still-open summer reservations for either your tent or RV (National RV Day is June 7), but it’s also a good time to plan ahead. The reservation window for early fall camping in Yosemite is open now (and likely closing soon). California state park reservations, meanwhile, are now available up to 6 months in advance.
All Month: Pride Parades
California’s pride festivities kick off on June 2 in Fresno, when the Central Valley city celebrates with its parade and festival in the city’s Tower District. The following weekend (June 9-10) heralds the beginning of LA Pride in West Hollywood Park, while Sacramento holds its parade on June 10 along the Capitol Mall. The biggest pride event in the nation, San Francisco Pride, closes out the month on June 23–24, with many festivities around the Civic Center and the parade spanning Market from Beale to 8th Street.
All month: Season of Wine and Lavender
Matanzas Creek Winery, Santa Rosa
Come to this Sonoma County winery any time of year to sample the Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay or Merlot. June, however, is high season for the estate’s other main crop: lavender. Events at this scenic winery include taste-and-paint sessions, harvest outings, photography safaris, and lavender honey bee labs. Happily, the Season of Wine and Lavender lasts through July, too.
June 1–3: Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival
First launched in 1983, this three-day festival in the Inland Empire offers the magical experience of watching 40 or 50 hot air balloons lift off at once—as well as the chance to enjoy the quaint Old Town Temecula and sample Temecula Valley’s impressive wine scene.
June 2–3: Castroville Artichoke Festival
In 1948 a pretty young woman named Norma Jean Mortenson was crowned the first festival queen (and later became Marilyn Monroe). Today, the Monterey County festival offers chef demos, field tours, kids activities, and myriad ways to taste the local edible thistle flower—grilled, fried, and even in cupcakes—all readily paired with local wine or craft beer.
June 5–17: San Francisco Jazz Fest
This 11-day festival, now in its 36th year, appropriately features creative spins on the genre, from a tribute to classic country crooner Patsy Cline to an evening with Orange is the New Black’s Lea Delaria performing both comedy and David Bowie covers. The festival kicks off with an evening of music and food trucks at the Proxy, a block-party-style space in the Hayes Valley neighborhood.
June 15: Mariposa Grove Reopens
Yosemite National Park
Five hundred mature giant sequoias stand in this Yosemite grove, which was first protected by Congress in 1864. The recent restoration project launched in 2015 with a goal of protecting both wildlife and trees from ongoing human impact—and by creating a new parking area farther from the trees and turning some old roads into new hiking trails.
June 15–17: San Diego International Beer Festival
This craft brew festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is the biggest of its kind on the West Coast. Sample your way through beers, meads, and ciders from nearly 200 breweries—including San Diego stars like Ballast Point and Stone Brewing. In between tastings, learn about brewing methods from experts and pick up beer-themed merchandise (even dog treats). While you’re there, take in the rides, turkey races, and fried delights at the San Diego County Fair.
June 15–17: Santa Rosa Country Summer
First launched in 2014, this country music festival at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds has a chicken-fried spirit, with headliners Little Big Town, Florida Georgia Line, and Toby Keith. Even better: the Santa Rosa location provides an easy springboard for some laidback wine tasting.
June 16: International Surfing Day
Every day can be a good surfing day along the California Coast, but June 16 will feel especially festive in Orange County’s Huntington Beach, home of the International Surfing Museum (and a number of epic breaks). Go to the Huntington Beach Pier at 6th St. where the local Surfrider Foundation clubs will host paddle-outs, surf lessons, SUP demonstrations, and music.
June 17: Century Ride
Take a cycling trip around Lake Almanor in the scenic Shasta Cascade region at this combination event with varying levels. The toughest challenge is the “century ride,” whose route spans 108 miles, going around the lake and through Indian Valley, with a 3,200 foot elevation gain. Or take the metric century ride (56 miles and 1,200 feet of elevation gain) or the more leisurely 33-mile ride, which stays by the lovely lake and has just 600 feet of elevation gain.
June 22–24: Summer Solstice Parade & Festival
The Central Coast enjoys its own version of the midnight sun at this quirky, long-running festival with a Mardi Gras vibe. The festival with food, wine, live music, and kids’ activities runs in Alameda Park from June 22-24, and a colorful parade runs down State Street on June 23.
June 23: Pixar Pier Opens
After being closed for months, the area of Disney California Adventure Park once known as Paradise Pier will reopen with a distinctly Pixar theme—featuring characters from Toy Story, Inside Out, and more. The biggest new ride is the IncrediCoaster (formerly California Screamin’), starring the Pixar superhero family just in time for their summer sequel, The Incredibles 2. Meanwhile, Pixar Fest—with themed parades, evening shows, and special treats—will run throughout all of Disneyland Resort until September 3.
June 23–24: Arroyo Seco Weekend
Now in its second year, the weekend festival has big headliners: Neil Young, Kings of Leon, Jack White, and Robert Plant—as well as shows by Violent Femmes, The Pretenders, and even Jeff Goldblum with his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The Rose Bowl setting also offers a lot of refreshments from Pasadena and L.A. establishments, such as Koreatown’s Beer Belly and the “cult chicken shack” Fritzi Coop.
Nothing says summer more than some Shakespeare in the park. This free annual festival kicks off on June 30 at the Old Zoo in Los Angeles’ huge city park. The first half of the summer will feature a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Titus Adronicus picks up on July 28 and runs through September 2.