Events in California Event_Coachella_1280x642
Lucas Himovitz

Events in California

Everyone loves a party, and there’s nothing like the good-time atmosphere at California’s top events. Here, you’ll find festivals, fairs, competitions, and championships worth adding to your itinerary, or making destinations in themselves. Escape to food and wine extravaganzas in bucket-list destinations like Napa Valley and Yosemite.

Take part in rock-the-world music festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs or Outside Lands in San Francisco. 

Take part in rock-the-world music festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs or Outside Lands in San Francisco. See the stars walk by at film festivals and awards shows in Los Angeles, whoop it up with the kids at classic country fairs in the Central Valley, and watch ultimate athletes take on monster waves at Maverick’s or zoom across the state in Amgen Tour of California.

While many events have plenty of space for all, some, such as Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters, often sell out well in advance, so pre-planning is essential (check websites for details on tickets and dates). But some of California’s signature events, like the wacky Kinetic Grand Championship along the North Coast, are walk-on-up-it’s-free gatherings of locals and lucky travellers. So, come, join the party, California style.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Ahwahnee in winter by btwashburn/Flickr

Majestic Yosemite Winter Events

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Majestic Yosemite Winter Events
Spirited celebrations brighten the frosty months

Heading the bill each winter at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee) is the annual Bracebridge Dinners, a lavish 18th-century English Christmas celebration featuring more than 100 performers and a seven-course feast. The December show, a loose adaptation of an episode from Washington Irving's Sketch Book, has been held every year at the Majestic Yosemite since 1927. The four-hour program features music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance rituals, traditional yuletide decorations, and plentiful food, song and mirth. The event is held for less than a dozen nights in mid to late December, so tickets tend to sell out fast.

Other popular winter events at the Majestic Yosemite include the Grand Grape Celebration and Taste of Yosemite; for both events, the hotel’s Great Lounge is transformed into a culinary classroom. The Grand Grape Celebration—a toast to winemakers’ fall harvests with two-day sessions of wine tastings, seminars and a gala five-course dinner—is held in November and December. " At Taste of Yosemite in November, California's finest chefs strut their stuff during an hour-long skills demonstration; the master chefs then prepare a gala dinner for all. One of the perks for attendees is insider access to the Majestic Yosemite's kitchen. Beneath its 35-foot ceilings are culinary antiques like the original 1927 walk-in refrigerators, which were kept cool with 500-pound blocks of ice from nearby Mirror Lake.

March

Get into the chequered-flag spirit at this big and loud NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Cheer for your favourite drivers as they zoom for the front in this five-wide race event. The action kicks...

NASCAR's Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California
Courtesy of Auto Club Speedway
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March

So close you can see the fur fly on the tennis balls, the top-tier competition at this two-week-long event at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden gets you rivetingly close to the world’s best players...

BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing
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Courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival

Events in Monterey and Carmel

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Events in Monterey and Carmel
Food, jazz, and dancing year round

The region’s Mediterranean climate means any time is time for a party—or festival.  One of the biggest—and splashiest—is Pebble Beach Food & Wine, a smart multi-day affair showcasing celebrity chefs (Thomas Keller, Tyler Florence) and winemakers for a decadent weekend of feasting, toasting and learning. Beautiful cars, exclusive settings, luxurious atmosphere—sure it’s a splurge, but it’s worth it, at least once. Another premier event is September’s Monterey Jazz Festival, a 3-day party of sound. The world’s best jazz performers (think Herbie Hancock and Booker T. Jones) take part, bee-bopping, boogying, swinging and syncopating on eight local stages.

Other events round out the calendar. Two premier autumn festivals are the Carmel Mission Fiesta, celebrating the region’s Spanish and Mexican history, and Taste of Carmel, with local restaurants and food purveyors serving their culinary creations at a series of events, including a swanky soiree at the Carmel Mission. 

 

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste and enjoy all aspects of the leafy campus...

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Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
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April

Known as the ultimate “celebration of cycling,” this four-day event in the rolling coastal hills near Monterey brings more than 10,000 athletes and 65,000 fans together for an action-packed series...

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Richard Masoner/Flickr
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April

Get ready for the Central Coast’s ultimate gathering of the culinary world. Now in its ninth year, this luxurious event is one of those star- and spectacle-studded experiences you simply have to...

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Courtesy of Coastal Luxury Management
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May

Rock rolls into the wine country with this three-day event in Napa that features 2019 headliners Imagine Dragons, Neil Young, and Mumford & Sons. With more than 80 performers in the May 24–26...

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Jessica S./Flickr
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Tai Power Seeff

Events in Oakland

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Events in Oakland
Come see where art is paramount

Need something to do? Oakland’s event calendar is packed with a wide array of ways to learn and experience the character of this dynamic city, first hand. In summer, take part in Art + Soul Oakland, with live music and dance parties, barbecue face-offs, poetry slams and an eclectic, multicultural artisan marketplace. 

September’s Eat Real Festival feels like a state fair in the streets—an urban celebration that aims to help people understand where their food comes from, and who grew, raised or made it. It’s all about delicious, regionally sourced, sustainably grown foods and you’ll find plenty of ways to eat and learn about the ultra-fresh food showcased here. 

Oakland also offers cultural events throughout the year, including performances by the Oakland Ballet and Oakland East Bay Symphony, at the Paramount Theatre, an Art Deco masterpiece in downtown Oakland (guided tours, the first and third Saturdays of the month, are well worth it).

June

Here’s a film festival with an entertaining twist—it has music videos too. This long-running week-long event, presented at downtown’s Nokia Theatre/L.A. LIVE complex, includes a diverse mix of...

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Wireimage and Film Independant
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July

Get the Spanish spirit at this colourful event. Stroll the grounds of Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards with a glass of bubbly, and take in a whirl of passionate music, flamenco dancing and food....

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Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
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July

Yoga meets alpine wow at this om-filled, 4-day event. Daytimes are filled with workshops and workouts lead by eminent yoga instructors, all taking place in indoor and outdoor settings that...

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Christen Vidanoviv/ Wanderlust Festival
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July

Back in 1854, the first California State Fair was held in San Francisco, with the cows standing on display in Mission Dolores. The fair moved to Sacramento for good a few years later, but the...

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Lucas Himovitz
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Courtesy of Legoland California

Festive Events at LEGOLAND

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Festive Events at LEGOLAND
Giant legos, real snow, & sweet treats

LEGOLAND California makes things extra-lively for events and holidays throughout the year—whether it’s annual celebrations or special occasions, like a week highlighting a new Star Wars display in Miniland, or perhaps celebrating the enigmatic LEGO Batman. The Carlsbad theme park shows its national pride in July for its patriotic Red, White & Boom celebration, with games, dance contests, and early-evening fireworks for July 4. For Halloween, the goal is to entertain—not frighten—the smaller set. There’s a “Brick-Or-Treat” party every Saturday night (and some Fridays) in October, with special entertainment, costume contests, giant LEGO Halloween models, fireworks, and of course plenty of sweet treats.

At Christmastime, the park brings snow—yes, real snow—to Southern California, using it to dress up various sites around the park, including the world’s largest all-LEGO Christmas tree (a cool fact, but how much competition does it have?). Build a snowman using LEGO bricks, sing carols with the Jingle Jammers, and stock up on LEGO brick gifts too. Come right after Christmas and you can take part in a family-friendly version of New Year’s Eve, with live music and a bedtime-friendly “brick drop” at 6 p.m. On special nights in December, add festive fireworks and light shows to the mix.

Eat Drink SF

Revel in the flavours of the ultimate foodie city as San Francisco’s premier chefs—many of them movers and shakers in the sustainability movement—strut their stuff at the ...

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Gamma Nine/ Eat DrinkSF
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July/August

With a nickname like ‘Surf City, USA’, Huntington Beach is the obvious place for this 9-day, sun-and-wave extravaganza, the world’s largest surf event. Top pros including Kelly Slater and Rob...

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William Fovall/Flickr
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September

Televisions biggest stars get dressed up and put on their game-face smiles to see who wins one of these annual awards, which recognise outstanding work in dramas, comedies, documentaries,...

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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr
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November

Local and international talent gathers at the gustatory tribute to all that’s good about wine & food (and there’s beer too); the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is San Diego’s largest...

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival attendees toasting with beers
San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival by Kevin Hulett
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November

Honour the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, north-west of Sacramento, has one of the world...

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It's a Small World at Disneyland
Lucas Himovitz

Seasonal events

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Seasonal events
Experience Christmas in the Happiest Place on Earth

Southern California is known for its sunshine and beaches, even in December. But you can still experience a winter wonderland when 'the happiest place on Earth' transforms into 'the merriest place on Earth' for the season.

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort is a special time, with magic around every corner. In Disneyland Park, there’s an 18-metre-tall Christmas tree in Town Square, complete with 70,000 lights and 2,000 custom-made ornaments. Wander down Main Street, USA with the smell of candy canes and gingerbread hanging in the air and decorations adorning the buildings.

Classic attractions take on a completely different feeling. Sleeping Beauty Castle sparkles with snow-capped towers, countless lights and a giant wreath. It’s a Small World Holiday dazzles with a spectacular light show and a seasonal version of the classic song. The Haunted Mansion gets a seasonal makeover too, courtesy of Jack Skellington and friends, for the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Fan favourites including A Christmas Fantasy Parade and Believe...in Holiday Magic make this time of year extra special.

Over in Disney California Adventure Park, a 15-metre tree sits on Buena Vista Street, and the spirit of the season is in full swing with the Festival of Holidays, featuring delicious foods and entertainment from many diverse cultures. And of course, Santa and his elves turn up at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail for some seasonal fun and games.

There are seasonal treats throughout the resort as well, from themed doughnuts and gingerbread men to decorated toffee apples and the ever-popular candy canes. Only a limited number of candy canes are made, so make sure you queue up at park opening time at the Candy Palace in Disneyland or Trolley Treats in California Adventure for a chance to try this tasty treat. You can find out more by calling the Disneyland Candy Hotline on +1 (714) 781 0112.

Insider tip: while the parks’ Christmas trees are first lit for the year in early-to-mid-November, both Disneyland and California Adventure have tree-lighting ceremonies every day during the season at 5 pm. Carollers roam the parks singing Christmas favourites while the giant trees come to life.

 

December

Combine top performers, top skiing and snowboarding , plus New Year’s Eve and you know you are in for a one-of-a-kind happening. This South Lake Tahoe outdoor blow out is an annual three-day...

Snowglobe Music Festival
Courtesy of Snowglobe Music Festival
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January

Often seen as a precursor to who’ll receive an Oscar, this annual event hands out awards to actors, directors, and other artists in all kinds of entertainment—film, television, domestic, and...

A red carpet scene at the Golden Globes
Jenn Deering Davis/Flickr
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JANUARY

Whether you rock around the clock, groove out to classic jazz, or crank up the rap in your car, this is your night to tune in to music’s premiere celebration. Downtown Los Angeles is the...

Adam Levine performs at the Grammys
Karina3094/Flickr
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February/March

Every February (or early March), the red carpet rolls out for one of the world’s most star-studded affairs, the annual Academy Awards.

This exclusive red-carpet event may be reserved for...

Oscar statuettes
Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr
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February

Home to one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country, the Palm Springs region is a natural setting for this citywide event. Join thousands of design...

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Photo by David A. Lee
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