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Top Festivals & Events in the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond

Top Festivals & Events
in the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond

Looking for that once in a year experience? We got you covered!

Here is our mini-bucket list of some of the top events and festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond! So let the good times roll and find your next BIG experience from our list of selected events from the most popular travel destinations in California and Nevada.

To refine your search and focus exclusively on a specific travel destination, e.g., Monterey or Yosemite, please select the desired vacation location from our Destination Explorer and search away!
   

  

January

10th Annual Mendocino Crab and Wine Days – January 22-31, 2016 

Mendocino, California – Recently listed as one of the Top 10 Seafood & Wine Festivals in Coastal Living Magazine, this fun FUNdraiser features two of Mendocino County's most highly prized commodities: Dungeness Crab and Premier Wines!  

Zinfandel Experience – February 25 -27, 2016 

San Francisco, California – Zinfandel Experience is a three-day wine and culinary extravaganza attracting wine lovers from around the world. Experience the classic character of Zinfandel at five extraordinary events featuring a diverse selection of wines and styles.   
  
  

February

San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade – Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 5:15 pm. San Francisco, CA

Over 100 units will participate in the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade. A San Francisco tradition since just after the Gold Rush, the parade continues to delight and entertain the many hundreds of thousands of people that come to watch it on the street or tune in to watch it on television.  More >>

Santa Cruz Clam Chowder Cook Off and Festival – February ??, 2016  Santa Cruz, California

Teams of chowder chefs come from all over the West Coast to compete for the prestigious award of “Best Clam Chowder.” Whip up your favorite recipe for red or white chowder or just come and sample the delicious variety of chowder and fun at the Boardwalk. Admission free. Tasting kits $8.00.

4th Annual International Alsace Varietals Festival – February 13-14, 2016  Boonville, California

Come join us in beautiful Anderson Valley for a weekend in celebration of your favorite aromatic white wines! This 4th annual event highlights Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat, made by the world’s finest producers of Alsace-style wines. It’s the only event like it in the entire country, so make sure not to miss it!
  
  

March

San Francisco's 165th Annual St. Patrick's Day Festival – Saturday, March 12th, 2016 | 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM | Civic Center Plaza ~ San Francisco 

San Francisco, California – The 165th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in San Francisco is a well established event with historic ties to the city. The parade itself is a huge draw for attendees from all different demographics and ethnicity.  A festival follows the parade.
  
  

April

49th  Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival – Saturday and Sunday April 9-10 and April 16-17, 2016

Japantown, San Francisco, California – Each year, over 200,000 people attend this dazzling display showcasing the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American Community.

Festival: Saturday and Sunday April 9-10 and April 16-17, 2016 | Queen Program: Saturday, April ??, 2016 | Grand Parade: Sunday, April 17, beginning at City Hall and concluding in Japantown.

33rd Annual International Beer Festival – Saturday, May 21st, 2016

San Francisco, California – Sample over 300 incredible beers from some of the best craft brewers in the world. Taste a delicious variety of offerings from some of San Francisco’s best restaurants.

35th Annual Petaluma Butter & Egg Day – Saturday, April 23, 2016

Petaluma, California – Petaluma’s Butter & Eggs Parade and Celebration, and has become a tradition in Downtown Petaluma, celebrating the region’s rich agricultural history as one of the premier dairy regions in the country.
  
  

May

13th Annual Reno River Festival – Saturday, May ? and Sunday, May ?, 2016

Reno, Nevada – Known for attracting top professional kayakers and amateur athletes from around the world, the weekend also includes live music each day, yoga in the park, an industry expo featuring the hottest outdoor products on the market, food and beer gardens, and plenty of nighttime activities to keep guests entertained.

San Carlos Hometown Days – May ??, ?? and ??, 2016

San Carlos, CA – A family favorite festival in San Carlos.   

Artichoke  Festival – May ??-??, 2016 | Castroville, CA

Castroville, California – This event features food, music, parade, and car show. 

Bay Area Kid Fest –  Saturday & Sunday, May 28-29 at 10am-6pm; on Memorial Day Monday, May 30 at 10am-5pm

Concord, CA – A fun and educational event for children and their families. KidFest is held annually in Todos Santos Plaza on Memorial Day Weekend.   
  
  

June

40th Annual Monterey Wine Festival – June ?, ? and ?, 2016

Monterey, California – Drawn by world class wines, gourmet foods and The West Coast Chowder Competition, wine and food lovers will savor and find the best in white wines, chowders and more. 

July

Independence Day Celebration –  July 4 | Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square is center stage to San Francisco’s July 4 celebration. The city sets off fireworks from the end of the Municipal Pier and from barges north of Pier 39. 

38th Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival – July ??, ?? and ??, 2016 

Gilroy, California – Three days of incredible food, arts and crafts, live entertainment, and cooking demonstrations.  
  
  

August

 

Hot August Nights – August 2 – 7, 2016

Virginia City, Nevada – Shine your Chevy, detail your Deuce Coupe and hustle your hot rod over to Reno and Sparks' Hot August Nights for a celebration of America's love affair with cars and rock & roll.      

San Mateo County Fair – June 11-19, 2016 

San Mateo, California – Whether you enjoy carnival rides, competitive exhibits or enjoy big name entertainment, the fair has something for everyone!   More >>

21st Annual Bluesapalooza & Festival of Beers – August 4 – August 7, 2016

Mammoth Lakes, California – Great lineup of blues talent, food and microbrews.    
  
  

September

 

Wings Over Watsonville Free Fly-in – September 4th & 5th, 2015 | Watsonville, CA 

Watsonville, CA – The Fly-in fun starts Friday, September 4th at 5:00 p.m. with aircraft arrivals and a kids movie night featuring Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue” on the terminal lawn at 7:00 p.m.. Saturday, September 5th, the Fly-in begins with a pancake breakfast, arrivals of antique and historic aircraft and the roll out of Watsonville’s “working aircraft”

Pittsburg Seafood Festival – September 12 & 13, 2015 

Pittsburg, California – Nothing says late summer like Pittsburg’s own Seafood & Music Festival, the two-day, outdoor extravaganza that draws thousands of visitors to Pittsburg every year.   

13th Annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival – September 12 & 13, 2015 | Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco 

San Francisco, California – Ghirardelli Chocolate Company hosts the annual event.

Monterey Jazz Festival  – September 18 – 20, 2015

Monterey, CA – Voted “World's Best Jazz Festival” by the readers of JazzTimes Magazine in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2013,

The 5th Annual Bay Area Blues Festival –  Saturday & Sunday, September 26 & 27, 2015  10:00 AM – 6:00 PM 

Martinez , California – This is the merger of two great Festivals, the Downtown Martinez Italian Street Painting Festival and San Francisco’s Polk Street Blues Festival.
  
The California International Airshow –  Saturday & Sunday, September 26 & 27

Salinas, CA – The skies over Salinas will come alive with the sounds of the USAF F-22 Raptor, the Patriots Jet Team, Canadian Forces CF-18 and much more!

October

 

Big Trees Scottish Gathering and Highland Games – Saturday, October 3, 2015 

Felton, CA – This year’s gathering and games will feature all the wonderful activities you have come to know and love, the details of which you will find on our website.

Cooking for Solutions – Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, 2015 

Monterey Bay Aquarium, California – Great chefs, gourmet cuisine and fine wines make this the culinary event of the year—an elegant way to discover how your healthy choices protect the health of the soil, water and ocean wildlife. 

Monte Foundation Fireworks Extravaganza – Sunday, October 11, 2015, 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Capitola, CA – A spectacular fireworks display set just off the Capitola Wharf. More info at www.monte-foundation.com

O'Neill Coldwater Classic – October 14 – 18, 2015

Santa Cruz, CA – The surf contest at Steamer Lane is the longest running North American contest.  

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival – October 17 & 18, 2015

Half Moon Bay, California – Half Moon Bay heralds in All Hallows Eve with rustic pumpkin patches, harvest-inspired arts and crafts, entertainment, contests, food, wine and beer, and activities. It all creates a wonderful atmosphere of fun, fun and more fun.  Admission is free.
  
    

November

Big Sur Half Marathon – November 8, 2015

Monterey, CA – Great weather and awesome views make this a run to remember.

TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational – November 17-22, 2015

Pebble Beach, CA – This Pro-Am tournament is held on Del Monte Golf Course, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train – November 27, 2015 – December 23, 2015

Felton, CA – Vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, roll through the streets of Santa Cruz as passengers lend their voices to holiday carols, sip hot spiced cider and listen to musical entertainment while Santa visits the little ones, or the young at heart! 

Surfin' Santa – November 28, 2015, 12 – 3pm

Capitola, CA – Santa surfs to Capitola City Beach. Not a huge event, but different!

  
  

 

December

Lighted Boat Parade –  December 05, 2015

Santa Cruz, CA – The Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor host this annual lighted boat parade.

Lighted Boat Parade – December 11, 2015

San Francisco, CA – The Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District and the St. Francis Yacht Club will join once again to present the oldest and largest lighted holiday boat parade on San Francisco Bay.

Parol Lantern Parade – December 12, 2015

San Francisco, CA – Each year, the SoMa community showcases the parol lantern – the quintessential Filipino symbol of hope, blessings, luck, peace, and light during the holiday season – and brightens the Jessie Square, Yerba Buena Lane and Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Street. .

Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli Square – November 27, 2015

San Francisco, CA – Ghirardelli Square

Union Square Tree Lighting – November 27. 2015

San Francisco, CA – Macy's 26th Annual Tree Lighting will take place in Union Square Park between Sutter and Post and Geary and Stockton Streets, right across from the front of Macy's.

San Francisco Ballet – December 16-31, 2015

San Francisco, CA – San Francisco Ballet’s sparkling production of Nutcracker, set here in our own “City by the Bay,” has introduced audiences of all ages to the magnificent world of ballet.

Oakland Ballet – December 19-20   

Oakland, CA – Celebrate the season with Oakland Ballet at one of our special Nutcracker season events.
  
  

  
  
  
  
Are we missing an event that should be featured in this section?  Please let us know and we may add it!  Send a name/description to us by clicking here >>

 

What's on Tap

Events

Winter Festivals & Events:

10th Annual Mendocino Crab and Wine DaysJanuary 22 – 31, 2016 

Mendocino, California – Recently listed as one of the Top 10 Seafood & Wine Festivals in Coastal Living Magazine.

SOS Seafood Festival – January 30, 2016

Half Moon Bay Harbor – This is a fun and educational festival featuring Chefs Pavilion with celebrity chefs' demos. 

Santa Cruz Bridal Expo – January 31, 2016   11:00 am to 4:00 pm

Santa Cruz, CA  – Check out Santa Cruz' best wedding vendors! 

Zinfandel Experience February 25 -27, 2016 

San Francisco, CA – A three-day wine and culinary extravaganza attracting wine lovers from around the world.

For more "top" events, click on our Festivals & Events page or select a specific travel destination from our Destination Explorer.

Attractions

Top Winter Attractions:

Snow Skiing in the Sierras

Lake Tahoe is home to 15 snow ski resorts and some of the best alpine and cross county snow skiing in the world. You're sure to find a ski resort and hotel that will meet your expectations.

Whale Watching – Dec. through May  

Elephant Seal Watching – December is breeding season. Año Nuevo State Reserve has a large colony of northern elephant seals that assemble there each winter.

 

Advisories

The Region's Fall Advisories:
Yes, it's still water, water, water! California is undergoing an extreme drought. If you are planning a lake vacation be sure to check about water levels. That rafting trip, fishing, or skiing can be impacted.

EXTREME fire danger. The drought has created a very dangerous combination of dry vegetation and no moisture in the air to help contain any fire. Please use extreme caution during your trip.  
  
Traffic Conditions. Traffic through major cities and extremely popular travel destinations can be challenging. Plan ahead to drive before and after commute hours. Go to www.caltrans.com to learn about road conditions. As a special note, Highway 92 in to and out of Half Moon Bay can be very difficult during the pumpkin season. Plan ahead and arrive early and leave late!