While many people observe Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial beginning of summer, one could argue that California spends the whole month of May gearing up. Food, wine, and beer festivals are slated for nearly every weekend, while the Amgen Tour of California connects gorgeous settings across the state with good excuses to sample each host cities’ local flavor. And the force is strong over in Anaheim as fans get ready of the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort. Use one of these 23 events as an excuse to kick off your summer now.
Starting May 2: Reserve your spot for Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Resort
Savvy Jedi fans will celebrate May the 4th a little early this year. The much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will start accepting reservations at 10 a.m. PT on May 2 for its May 31 debut. You’ll need to secure a spot, along with your regular admission, to explore the new theme park area from its opening date through late June. Note: You’ll also need to set up a Disney account, if you don’t have one already, to make a reservation.
Starting May 3: Concerts in the Park, Downtown Sacramento
Usher in the summer with this annual concert series held in the state capital’s Cesar Chavez Plaza, with acts such as Oakland-based Souls of Mischief and electro-pop group SHAED. The weekly evenings include live art, theme nights, local food trucks, and boutique vendors.
May 3–5: SoCal Beach Life Festival, Redondo Beach
The L.A. County beach town is debuting a weekend music and culinary festival that embraces the sand-and-surf mindset, by way of headliners such as Bob Weir & Wolf Bros, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson with Al Jardine & Blondie Chaplin, and Willie Nelson & Family—along with a mix of crowd-pleasers such as Violent Femmes, Ziggy Marley, Everclear, Sugar Ray, and Blues Traveler. Check out the festival’s Side Stage, a 50-seat, sit-down, pop-up restaurant offering band-inspired menus created by chefs such as David LeFevre.
May 4: Flavors of SLO, San Luis Obispo
Sample this Central Coast city’s renowned farm-to-table culinary scene (including plenty of beer and wine) while also soaking up its historic mission ambience. Your $30 admission ($10 for kids ages 6–20) grants you tastes from a wide variety of local vendors in the Mission Plaza San Luis Obispo, including Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse, Two Broads Cider Works, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., and Tablas Creek Vineyard.
May 4: 8th Annual Rhythm & Brews Festival, Vista
One of the hot zones of San Diego’s thriving craft beer scene is the North County town of Vista—a perfect spot for this festival with tastings from 50 breweries, including local beermakers Prohibition Brewing and Wavelength Brewing Co. The festival incudes live music and barbecue from When Pigs Fly, which started in a local Chevron station.
May 4: Long Beach Seafood Festival
Held in the shadow of the lighthouse in Long Beach, this event celebrates the area’s excellent fresh seafood. Taste the work of culinary notables, including Master Chef winner Shaun O'Neale, and enjoy both the beer garden and views of both the ocean and the Queen Mary.
May 4–5: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Chico
Hosted by the renowned craft brewery in Chico, this two-day “day camp” features grown-up versions of summer-camp-style games, such as a ropes course, human foosball, hungry human hippos, an obstacle course, and keg bowling, as well as an arts-and-crafts station and hammock lounge. All this goes with beer of course—canned Sierra Nevada beers like Pale Ale, Summerfest, Tropical Torpedo IPA, and Old Chico Crystal Wheat, paired with on-site food truck cuisine. <<fun>>
May 9–12 Conejo Valley Days, Thousand Oaks
This annual event in L.A. County’s Thousand Oaks started in the 1940s as a “community circus,” and has grown over the years to include carnival rides, games, live music, and lots of classic fair food.
May 11–12: 5K Minion Run, Universal Studios Hollywood
A few months ago, the L.A. theme park announced an upcoming fun run for ages five and older, held at 6 a.m. before the park opens on Saturday, May 11. Interest has been so high that they’ve now added a second day: 6 a.m. on Sunday, May 12. The 3.1-mile course winds through the theme park and parts of Universal Studios’ historic backlot, with characters cheering along the sidelines. Registration packages can include park admission, and there’s even a virtual admission option that lets you run anywhere but still earn race swag.
May 12–18 Amgen Tour of California
Watch Olympic medalists, Tour de France competitors and world champions pedal through some of California’s most beautiful scenery on challenging routes. This year, the men’s race begins in Sacramento and the women’s race begins in Ventura, and both end in Pasadena. In between, host cities include South Lake Tahoe, Stockton, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, and Santa Clarita.
May 16–19: Calaveras County Fair and Frog Jump Jubilee, Angels Camp
Inspired by the Mark Twain story “The Celebrated Frog of Calaveras County,” this Gold Country festival dates back to 1893. Come for classic fair rides, a rodeo, and livestock exhibits, but the showstopper of course is the namesake competition of jumping amphibians.
May 17–20: Paso Robles Wine Festival
What better way to explore this Central Coast wine hub than this festival featuring more than 100 wineries. Come for winemaker dinners at area restaurants, the Friday evening tasting, or the Saturday-morning winemaker seminar; it’s capped off with Sunday’s Grand Tasting in Paso Robles’ Downtown City Park—with 70 wineries, local food vendors, and live music.
May 18: Surf ’n’ Suds Beer Festival, Ventura
This one-day festival at San Buenaventura State Beach features food trucks, music, and more than 60 craft breweries, ciders and wineries. The beer lineup includes a lot of California beermakers, such as San Diego’s Green Flash, Solvang Brewing Co., and Santa Monica Brew Works. Can’t make this date? Another incarnation will happen on August 10 in Carpinteria.
May 18–19: 36th Annual California Strawberry Festival, Oxnard
See (and taste) why the Ventura County town of Oxnard is one of the top strawberry producers in the country. Sample your way through the treats from 50 vendors, ranging from strawberry shortcake and strawberry margaritas to strawberry nachos, deep-fried strawberries, and strawberry beer. In between, listen to live music and take part in activities such as strawberry relays, strawberry tart tosses, and cooking demos. Want more? Head to San Diego County the next weekend for the Vista Strawberry Festival on May 26.
May 18–19: Downtown Burbank Arts Festival, Burbank
The Burbank may be best known as the place to see tapings of live TV shows, but this weekend offers an open-air take on the entertainment capital—a street fair of handmade art, live entertainment, and storytimes hosted by big-studio animators reading from their own children’s books.
May 18–20: Zinfest, Lodi
See why the Central Valley’s Lodi wine country is known for big-red Zinfindels. Friday brings an evening of local cuisine and pairings at Lodi Lake Park, while Saturday offers festival-style tastings and Sunday features winery open houses, along with opportunities to cycle or kayak around wine country.
May 19: Bay to Breakers, San Francisco
This 12K race first started in 1912, and still follows a hilly path from the Embarcadero (the Bay) to Ocean Beach (the Breakers). But the challenges are balanced with the fun distractions of costumed participants—often linked up with bungee cords as “centipedes”—and lots of live music at stops along the way.
May 23–27: Strawberry Music Festival, Grass Valley
There are usually two Strawberry Music Festivals each year—including a Labor Day Weekend version in Tuolumne—but this month’s celebration in Nevada County will be it for 2019. The focus is more on music than berries, with this year’s headliners Richard Thompson and Marty Stuart. Many fans come and car camp (a dry camping site is included in admission) and bring their own musical instruments for all-are-welcome camp jams.
May 24–26: Bottlerock Napa Valley, Napa
This festival that blends wine, local cuisine, and rock ‘n’ roll has become Wine County’s summer kickoff; this year’s headliners are Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons. General admission passes for either one day or three days are still available.
May 25–26: McCloud Mushroom Festival, McCloud
It’s mushroom-foraging season in this Shasta Cascade town near Lassen Volcanic National Park. This annual festival features cooking demos, wine pairings, and booths manned with foraging experts. Don’t miss the Mushroom Dinner finale on Sunday evening, featuring dishes like black truffle fritters, Mount Shasta mushroom risotto, or a Beef Wellington with morel demi-glace.
May 25–27: Eureka Kinetic Grand Championship
This legendary 50-mile race features utterly unique contenders: handmade, people-powered vehicles that are works of art as much as they are feats of engineering. Each day starts in a different locale—Arcata, Eureka, and Ferndale—and crosses over land, water, sand, and mud around the scenic North Coast region. Year round, check out past champs at the Kinetic Museum Eureka, open on weekends.
May 31–June 2: Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival
This three-day festival in the Inland Empire offers the magical experience of watching about 50 hot air balloons lift off at once—as well as the chance to explore Old Town Temecula and sample the Temecula Valley wine scene. The weekend culminates in the ethereal, nighttime Balloon Glow Experience.
May 31–June 9: 21st Healdsburg Jazz Festival
Who says Sonoma County’s Healdsburg is just about food and wine? Now in its third decade, this jazz fest will be headlined by acts such as Joey DeFrancesco Trio, the Regina Carter Quintet, and Harold López-Nussa Quartet with Mayquel González. Performances are held around town, but this year also includes a at Healdsburg’s West Plaza Park, with live performances and CD signings.