This April, California is booming with things to do, from the long-lasting ski season and wildflower super bloom to the first weeks of baseball season and the ever-hip Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival in Indio. It’s a great time to be outdoors, whether you’re looking at rare cars, flying kites, or tasting wine with a good soundtrack in the background. Here are 18 ways to make the most of this epic spring in the Golden State.
All Month: Napa Valley Arts in April
April in Napa Valley means pairing your wine with cultural nourishment: wineries, museums, and galleries across the county hold special events such as live music, pop-up art exhibits, storytelling, and theatrical performances. One special event this year is Sarafornia (April 4–7), which celebrates Calistoga’s bohemian roots.
April 6: Battle of the Brews Sonoma
The one-day festival at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa celebrates both global and California craft beers with a juried competition (The Craft Cup) as well as a Main Event, where regular-folk craft beer fans can vote on their favorites among 71 beers, paired with local bites.
April 11–14: Monterey Sea Otter Classic
This Central Coast cycling event is considered the kick-off of the North American cycling season, attracting more than 10,000 athletes—including pros and national, world, and Olympic champions. Watch athletes compete in mountain bike, cross country, dual slalom, road, and cyclocross events, and join in the fun during non-competitive recreational events for all ages.
April 11–14: Pebble Beach Food & Wine
Browse the offerings from 250 wineries and 100 celebrity chefs during this weekend of themed tastings, dinners, and cooking demos. This year’s culinary headliners include Dominique Ansel, Richard Blais, Kelsey Larson, and Peter Armellino.
April 11–28: Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle, Universal Studios Hollywood
Dabble in the dark arts during this limited run of an evening light show at the L.A. theme park‘s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It will feature lights, music, and special effects, all with an emphasis on He Who Shall Not Be Named (aka Voldemort). On April 11–12, special-admission evenings include a red-carpet photo op, a specially-catered dinner, and keepsake memorabilia. The light show will run through April 28.
April 12–14: Temecula Valley Bluegrass Festival
Downhome music and locally made wine harmonize nicely at this third year for this Inland Empire wine country festival. The home base is Tucalota Creek Ranch, where there will be two stages for music, a main stage jam, a Kids Zone, RV and tent camping, and plenty of wine tasting.
April 10–23: San Francisco International Film Festival
It may be the longest-running film festival in the U.S., but this annual film fest always keeps it fresh with a mix of international films and Hollywood crowd-pleasers. This year’s lineup includes a based-on-a true story thriller, Official Secrets, starring Keira Knightley, and Q Ball, a documentary about a prison basketball team, executive produced by Golden State Warrior Kevin Durant.
April 12–14: La Jolla Cours D’Elegance, San Diego
Ogle 150 rare and restored vehicles on display in La Jolla’s Cove area—grassy lawns with sweeping views of the ocean. Past “moving sculptures” have included horseless carriages, British Marques, and American classics. The weekend also includes themed events with music, dancing, and classic cocktails.
April 13–14: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Los Angeles
This two-day event on the University of Southern California campus features book sales, readings, signings, and musical performances. This year's festival will include appearances by A-list authors such as Erica Jong, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Dave Barry as well as talks on writing and even cooking demos.
Begins April 13: Michaelangelo’s The Sistine Chapel Exhibition, Garden Grove
Come see state-of-the art reproductions of the ceiling paintings from Italy’s Sistine Chapel, at this this traveling exhibit installed in Orange County’s Cathedral Cultural Center, near Anaheim. Reproduced at original size, the exhibit lets you learn about the history behind the famed project and see the iconic images relatively up close. Runs through Jan. 12, 2020.
April 13: Chico BrewFest
The Butte County town of Chico is famously the hometown of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a pioneer in the craft beer movement. But this festival goes beyond, offering tastes of more than 30 beers, wines, and bites—such as British Bulldog Brewery, also from Chico, along with Fifty Fifty Brewing from Truckee, Dust Bowl Brewing from Turlock, and Butte County winery Churn Creek Cellars. Proceeds benefit a wide range of local charities, including the Camp Fire Recovery.
April 13: Cider Summit SF, San Francisco
They may often take a back seat to local beers and wine, but artisanal ciders have been on a serious upswing for the past few years and take center stage at the 6th outing of this festival at the city’s Presidio. Taste from 50 exclusive cidermakers (most from the Bay Area). Your admission ticket gets you a souvenir tasting glass and 15 tasting tickets.
April 13: UC Davis Picnic Day
This annual event started as an open house for a new dairy barn in 1909, but now is a big party showcasing the esteemed state school with a thriving agricultural program. It’s great for prospective students or anyone nostalgic for their own college days, with its parade, picnicking, or quirky activities like the Doxie Derby and the Battle of the Marching Bands.
April 13–21: Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, San Francisco
This explosion of pink blossoms and a Grand Parade is said to be the second-largest festival of its kind outside of Washington, D.C. The two weekends feature food, music, bonsai exhibits, and the crowning of a Queen in San Francisco’s Japantown.
April 14: Santa Barbara Kite Festival
All of April is Kite Month, but the Central Coast city of Santa Barbara offers a particularly lovely setting for a one-day kite-flying festival, located on the west campus of Santa Barbara City College. Activities include a Children’s Tail Chase and contests for Most Unusual Kite, Funniest Kite, and Most Unflyable Kite. Food, drink, and, of course, kites can be purchased at the festival.
April 20–28: National Park Week
Celebrate Earth Day (April 22) by visiting one of the nine national parks that call California home. Admission fees are waived on April 20, and there are special events at parks throughout the week. Or, celebrate Earth Day early on April 13 at various California State Parks, which are hosting open houses and clean-up days.
April 26–28: Salt & Fog Fish Festival, Eureka
Soak up the North Coast’s maritime ambience at this three-day festival on Eureka’s historic waterfront by sailing on tall ships, paddle boarding, or kayaking. You’ll also want to sample the local cuisine at a crab feed, a chowder cook-off, and more.
April 26–28: Stagecoach Festival, Indio
After the rock fans have dispersed from Coachella, the grounds of the Empire Polo Club welcome the cowboy hats and honky-tonk lovers for this beloved weekend festival. Headliners include Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, and Jason Aldean, supported by genre-crossers such as Lynyrd Skynyrd , Rita Wilson, and Tom Jones.
April 27–28: Lancaster Poppy Festival
Make the most of this year’s super bloom by seeing the state flower in all its glory. This festival first launched to coincide with Earth Day, which is usually prime time to see the poppies at Lancaster’s Antelope Valley State Poppy Reserve. Activities—held not at the preserve, but at a nearby Lancaster park—include live music, dancers, a kids’ zone, arts and crafts, and a car show.