If you didn’t manage to bag yourself a Glastonbury ticket this year, fear not! California has plenty of options for festival-lovers, from garlic fans to Bigfoot followers, so trade in that rain coat and tent for sunshine, and head to the Golden State to experience some quirky festivals you can’t find anywhere else.
Pageant of the Masters (Laguna Beach, Orange County) 7 July–31 August
Arguably one of the most unique events in the world, this eye-popping pageant presents tableaux vivants, also known as “living pictures.” This Laguna Beach festival is designed to recreate classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original artwork. Watch art come to life right before your eyes in a star-lit amphitheatre. This sell-out event is an unforgettable outdoor experience with a nice nod to the artistic roots of this affluent coastal region. For art fanatics, Laguna Beach is a year-round hub for art festivals, exhibitions and public art displays.
Gilroy Garlic Festival (Gilroy, Central Coast) 26–28 July
The Gilroy Garlic Festival is a three-day celebration of all things garlic–you’ll actually smell the festival before you can see it! Enjoy watching pyro chefs work their magic, while hundreds of volunteers prepare garlicky gourmet dishes, including even garlic ice cream! The festival also showcases live music from jazz, blues, reggae and swing bands, as well as the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant competition. Can’t make the festival? Don’t worry—the “Garlic Capital of the World” never forgets its favourite bulb. You can shop for garlic products, presses and souvenirs at shops around town year round.
Celebrate Chula Vista's title of “Lemon Capital of the World” by partaking in one of the festival's juicy contests: pie eating, sour tasting or lemon peeling. Adults can kick-back in the beer garden and sample many local craft brews, while kids can enjoy the Festival Fun Zone, with bungee rides and a rock-climbing wall. Celebrate this juicy jubilee with the local Chula Vista community by sporting your brightest yellow outfit—the best sour style will win a prize.
The 59th Annual Bigfoot Daze celebration takes place in beautiful Humboldt County. Not only is the region known for its exceptional fishing, rafting and wineries, this popular festival has become an exceptional fund-raising opportunity for local non-profits. This year’s parade theme is “Bigfoot goes to Hollywood,” so dress as your favourite movie character and take to the red carpet. Keep a lookout for Bigfoot himself!
Avocado & Margarita Street Festival (Morro Bay, Central Coast) 7 September
The Avocado & Margarita Street Festival is a celebration featuring the California Central Coast’s love for wonderful flavours and tasty culinary dishes. Shining a spotlight on SLO CAL's amazing fresh-off-the-tree variety of the delicious California Avocado, this family festival also offers a chance for guests to win a year supply of avocados! Sample refreshing margaritas and enjoying street entertainment, live music and chefs’ demonstrations.
Coyote Fest (Northern Mariposa Yosemite County) 27–28 September
Based in Coulterville Park, Coyote Fest is another annual festival that brings the community together with great craft beers, music and local food. Step back in time and discover winding roads and little towns full of the Gold Rush-era history. The northern side of Mariposa County retains a rugged Old Western charm that shouldn't be missed if you like to find yourself off the beaten path. A not-to-be-missed part of the festival is the Coyote Howl Contest, with categories for little pups right up to adult wolf packs.
Pine Cone Festival (San Bernardino Mountains, Inland Empire( 10 October
The Pine Cone Festival, in the San Bernardino Mountains, welcomes visitors to learn more about the forest, local natural features and the mountains they call home. The festival provides interactive activities for families of all ages, and opportunities to buy local crafts at the market. Ditch the car at Snow Valley and take advantage of the free shuttle service up to Pali Mountain and enjoy the views, games and delicious California food—and don't forget to enter your pine coe in the World's Largest Pine Cone Contest.