California is known for many things, including gorgeous weather, breathtaking landscapes and my personal favorite, the year-round festivals. I recently went on a quest to uncover the top festivals in California and while it was a tough job, someone had to do it! California obviously likes to party and they are known to commemorate everything under the sun from garlic and art to scarecrows and wine. The art and culture festivals are top-notch and the food and wine festivals are both palate pleasing and world renowned.
While it was difficult to narrow down the top festivals, I've chosen my top picks, which include the new and lesser known festivals, as well as the tried and true must-do celebrations:
Sunset Savor the Central Coast - September 26-29, 2013
In its fourth year, this four-day food, wine and lifestyle festival has made a name for itself as the place to see and be seen. Festival goers will be delighted to rub elbows with celebrity chefs, such as Chef Michael Voltaggio, Chef Nathan Lyon and Chef Marcela Valladolid while watching live demonstrations and experiencing culinary adventures for the memory books. Over the four day event, the entire county of San Luis Obispo comes together to offer adventure tours, which are designed to showcase the ruggedly beautiful and idyllic regions of this majestic coastline destination. In addition, attendees will discover the latest trends in food, wine, gardening and travel from the experts at Sunset Magazine.
43rd Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival- October 19-20, 2013
With fall right around the corner, what better place to be than the World's Pumpkin Capital? Half Moon Bay celebrates its bountiful fall harvest with a fantastic lineup of rustic pumpkin patches, harvest-inspired crafts, home-style foods, expert pumpkin carvers, the Great Pumpkin Parade, a bone-chilling haunted house and a titanic weigh-off of champion pumpkins with the 2012 winner coming in at over 1,700 pounds! The entire town of Half Moon Bay is celebrating with pumpkin-inspired fun, such as pumpkin spa treatments, pumpkin brew and pumpkin-inspired menus that will leave you begging for more! Pumpkin lovers unite and head to Half Moon Bay!
8th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival - March 21-23, 2014
Every March, Petaluma becomes a Mecca for cheese as it kicks off the Artisan Cheese
Festival. Now in its seventh year, the three-day event begins with visits to local farms and creameries and seminars, and then moves onto chef's dinners pairing artisan-inspired cheese dishes with locally produced wine and beer. The pinnacle of the weekend is the Sunday Marketplace, when festival goers have the opportunity to taste more than 20 artisan cheeses, enjoy cooking demonstrations and learn about each cheese directly from the cheese-maker. There is something about the word "cheese" that makes me want to smile!
32nd Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival- May 16-18, 2014
The folks in Paso Robles are serious about winemaking and year after year, they are moving up the ladder and taking the spotlight away from big brother, Napa Valley. During the Wine Festival, over 60 wineries come together in the picturesque Downtown Square to showcase the fruit of their labor. Travel beyond the Square to enjoy the lively festivities that take place at over 130 local wineries. For wine connoisseurs or those who simply like to have a good time, Paso Robles is the place to celebrate the taste, traditions and triumphs of the fine art of wine making. Along with fine wines, festival goers will delight in the finest food west of the Mississippi and unforgettable seminars at this three-day extravaganza. They had me at Paso Robles wine!
2nd Annual Bacon & Barrels Festival - July 18-20, 2014
A first year sell-out, this event celebrates locally produced bacon, chefs and mixologists. Bacon & Barrels is sure to deliver a fun-filled weekend featuring creative bacon dishes and sampling from barrels of the best in wine, bourbon, and craft beer. This event brings together chefs from the most iconic Central Coast restaurants who will be preparing and serving small plates showcasing bacon in its most inventive forms, from pork belly and prosciutto, to cupcakes and ice cream. Over 40 mixologists, brewers, distilleries and wineries will feature bacon-based and bacon-inspired cocktails, wines and beers. Festival goers will embark on culinary and libatious adventures, interactive demonstrations and music. Get ready to go hog wild in Santa Ynez Valley!