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California’s Best Festivals

Renowned for its vibrant festival scene, California caters for every genre. Whether you’re a music lover, food enthusiast, or art aficionado, there’s something for everyone in the Golden State. Here’s our guide to some of the best festivals happening this summer.

Wine Lovers Rejoice

Taking place on 18 -21 May 2023, the annual Paso Wine Fest is the marquee event of the year for the renowned Paso Robles wine region in SLO CAL. The weekend is a celebration of over 115 winemakers from the Paso Robles region, combining wine with live music, entertainment, artisanal foods and distilled spirits for a weekend of appreciation for the vast array of exceptional producers from San Luis Obispo county. The festival kicks off with a Winemakers Dinner, followed by sparkling wine pairing event at Sparkling Paso, leading into the climax of the weekend with a Grand Tasting on Saturday 20 May. The region’s ideal growing conditions and passionate producers join forces to create its distinguished wines, and its appeal extends beyond the glass with events such as the Paso Wine Fest.

California's Best Festivals

Beer and Taco Festival

San Luis Obispo County’s annual beer and taco festival, Viva La Cerveza takes place on 27 May 2023 will see a culmination of food trucks, music performances, beers and games bring together visitors to SLO CAL for a truly enjoyable celebration for the county’s biggest beer weekend. Throughout the day there will be taco-eating contests, a competition to find the best tacos, giant beer pong, live music and so much more to enjoy across a fun-filled festival which epitomises the jovial and laid-back attitude of SLO CAL’s people.

Celebrate with Fireworks at The Port of San Diego Big Bay Boom

The 4th July Fireworks Show is back this year promising another spectacular display over San Diego Bay. Fireworks will be discharged simultaneously from barges placed strategically around the Bay off Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero North, Marina District and Coronado Ferry Landing. The impeccably choreographed display will last approximately 18 minutes, starting at 9 p.m.

Dance Yourself Clean at Bleached Festival, San Diego’s Newest Waterfront Festival

A collaboration between San Diego’s newest alternative and indie-pop curator Tight Knit and established dance team FNGRS CRSSD, is coming to San Diego’s Waterfront Park on 5-6 August. The two-day event will connect indie-pop and new-wave R&B for fans with a diverse line-up that is topped by Neo-soul singer-songwriter Leon Bridges and Japanese icon and R&B artist Joji. Other performers include Omar Apollo, PinkPantheress, Lizzy McAlpine, Stephen Sanchez, Ethel Cain, BADBADNOTGOOD and more.

Party with Movie Legends at Monterey Jazz Festival

The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest continuously-running jazz festival in the world. It started in 1958 and has been held ever since at the 20-acre Monterey County Fairgrounds. Each year the three-day festival that runs 22-24 September, showcases world-class talent that’s included the likes of Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong all the way to Ravi Coltrane and Jamie Cullum. Listen to the very best in classic jazz while witnessing its evolution in today’s music scene with a line-up of emerging talent. You might even spot Clint Eastwood strolling around, he’s been a festival supporter for years and filmed scenes for his movie Play Misty for Me here in the 70s. The festival is also a non-profit organisation and has donated its proceeds to musical education ever since it began.

Big Sur Food & Wine Festival

Best known for being the crowning jewel of the iconic Highway 1 drive, Big Sur turns its gaze from the ocean to the land for the annual Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. From 2-4 November, local and visiting restauranteurs and wineries team up for a series of pop-up dinners, events and tastings at unique locations along the coastline. It’s an à la carte festival so each event is ticketed separately be it a wine walkabout in the redwoods, a chefs table at one of the area’s prestigious restaurants or a pop up somewhere spectacular.

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (20 August 2023)

Said to be the world’s premier celebration of the automobile, the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance has been going since 1950. Participating is a dream for worldwide car collectors as the event is a competition, not of speed but of elegance. Running this year on 20th August, the action takes place on the famed 18th hole of the Pebble Beach Golf Links and cars are judged for their style and technical merit, as well as their history and the accuracy of their restoration or preservation. In 2022 the Best of Show winner was a 1932 Duesenberg J Figoni Sports Torpedo whose chassis and coachwork had finally been reunited by the owner after decades apart.

Sonoma County Pride

This year’s 38th annual Sonoma County Pride Celebration spans three days of events and activities from its base in downtown Santa Rosa. Exploring the theme ‘Community’, the event is all about being together in the spirit of diversity and belonging. The festivities kick off on 3rd June in Courthouse Square with a PRIDE happy hour and are followed by a variety of events including PRIDE Parade, ‘Gaydar’s Reunion’ dance party, Wigs and Waffles Drag Brunch, and an Aqua Boogie Pool Party.

Bodega Seafood Art & Wine Festival

Held 26-27 August, on a rural ranch, a mile inland from the Sonoma County coast, the Seafood, Art & Wine Festival is hosted in Bodega Bay, the village made famous as the filming location for the classic thriller, The Birds. If you love seafood, this one is for you with everything from calamari to crab Louie, oysters to ahi and more than 30 seafood dishes offered up by a dozen different vendors. The food is complemented by wine, microbrew and cider tasting with more than 40 companies pouring everything from well-known brands to small-batch products. There’s also a collection of artisans and three entertainment stages.

The Landscape Lovers Festival

Running from May through October 2022, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in San Francisco invites visitors to experience a fascinating landscape of performances from different cultures, ethnicities and artistic genres. With over 100 free outdoor concerts as well as theatre, circus shows, dance, poetry and kids’ programs, there is certainly something for all to enjoy! Amongst its most popular performances last year, the gardens hosted the world premiere of the Marcus Shelby New Orchestra’s Blues in the City.

Opera in the Park

The San Francisco Opera returns for its opening weekend on 10 September, offering free, al fresco performances on the Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park. With performances beginning at 1:30 pm, opera enthusiasts are invited to enjoy a delightful afternoon of arias and melodic duets, conducted by renowned music Director, Eun Sun Kim.