California is well-known for its regional foods, cuisine, and world-class wines. As you might expect, Californians also like to celebrate food and wine with fun festivals. We've compiled a select group of events that are all worth making travel plans for.
Top Food and Wine Festivals
The Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival features top chefs and winemakers. It happens in April, with cooking demonstrations, special lunches and dinners, and a gala tented tasting event. It's all held at venues around Pebble Beach, which is between Monterey and Carmel.
In Sonoma County, Labor Day weekend brings the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, with winemaker dinners, Taste of Sonoma (the biggest event, featuring many chefs and winemakers) and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction.
Napa Valley is home to a number of food- and wine-oriented festivals during the year. Festival Napa Valley happens in July, with an emphasis on not only food and wine but also classical music. The Napa Truffle Festival is in January, featuring all things related to truffles, including a special truffle-themed dinner.
In Orange County, the California Wine Festival is held in April and is full of spectacular wine, food, music and of course fun at the beach.
Coastal Living magazine rates Mendocino Crab & Wine Days among the country's top seafood and wine festivals, scheduled in January to coincide with winter's Dungeness crab season. Events include all-you-can-eat crab feeds, winemaker dinners, crab cruises, cooking classes, family-style cioppino feeds, and a crab cake cook-off contest. There's even a special crab and sake dinner at the Little River Inn.
You might not think of going to a food festival at a theme park, but the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival is worth checking out if you're planning to visit in March or April. You can see a summary of what they offer and what else is going on in the guide to Disneyland in March.
Restaurant Weeks in California
All of California's biggest cities and many of its smaller ones host annual restaurant week celebrations, when many of the top dining spots offer special, fixed price menus that give diners a chance to sample their cuisine at prices lower than they might be at other times of the year.
LA Restaurant Week runs twice a year, in January and July. Also in LA, the annual LA Street Food Fest features the kind of fine dining you can only find on wheels: Los Angeles' legendary gourmet food trucks. Pay one flat fee and eat your heart out at this July event.
San Diego Restaurant Week happens in September and January.
San Francisco Restaurant Week happens twice a year, in January and June. The simply-named November event SF Chefs. Food. Wine. includes a series of "dinner party projects" featuring top-rated chefs, along with winemakers, sommeliers, brewers, and the city's hottest bartenders.
Elsewhere, January is California Restaurant Month and their website lists bunches of places that have dining programs during the month.
More California Food Festivals
Some people call California the land of fruits and nuts, and we don't think they mean that agriculturally. However, they may be right in a literal sense. There are dozens of festivals in California dedicated to fruits and vegetables and other foodstuffs from A to Z. Here are a few of California's many food-oriented festivals:
- Almond: Oakley, September
- Apple: Springville, October
- Apple Blossom: Sebastopol, April
- Artichoke: Castroville, May
- Asparagus: Stockton, April
- Avocado: Fallbrook, April
- Avocado: Carpinteria, October
- Blackberry: Covelo, August
- Cherry: Beaumont, June
- Date: Indio, February
- Eggplant: Loomis, September
- Garlic: Gilroy, July
- Grape: Lodi, September
- Lemon: Goleta, October
- Mushroom: Mendocino, November
- Olive: Paso Robles, August
- Peach: Marysville, July
- Pumpkin: Half Moon Bay, October
- Rare Fruits: Pomona, August
- Strawberry: Oxnard, May
- Tomato: Fairfield, July
- Zucchini: Hayward, August