8 Popular Annual Events in California (You Gotta Check Out)

Published on:
August 25, 2023

California is a state that never disappoints when it comes to fun, sun, and adventure. From its scenic coastline to its vibrant cities, California is home to a wealth of exciting annual events that attract visitors from all over the world. Whether you're a music lover, a foodie, or just someone looking for a good time, California has something for you. Here are eight popular annual events in California that you gotta check out:

1. Coachella

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an iconic event for music fans all over the world. Every year since 1999, music lovers from around the world head to Indio, California to enjoy various musical performances from the biggest names in the industry.

But it's not just about the music; Coachella offers attendees plenty to explore over its three day run. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Art Installations: Immerse yourself into a whole new world of art with stunning installations created specifically for the festival by renowned artists.
  • Food Vendors: Enjoy delicious cuisine from food trucks and stands located throughout the grounds.
  • Camping: Many attendees choose to camp on-site, creating a unique community atmosphere and giving them access to exclusive events.
  • Scenic Views: The Coachella Valley offers stunning views that bring an extra layer of beauty to this already amazing experience.
  • Shopping: Get your hands on unique merch or souvenirs from one of numerous vendors located onsite.

2. San Diego Comic-Con International

San Diego Comic-Con International is the largest comic book and popular arts convention in the world. Held annually since 1970, this four-day event brings together fans of all kinds to experience various activities and programming related to movies, television, video games, toys, comics and so much more.

Attendees at SDCC have a ton of awesome experiences available:

  • Celebrity Appearances: Get up close and personal with some of your favorite actors as they make special appearances throughout the weekend.
  • Exhibitors: Look through collections of memorabilia and browse merchandise from every genre imaginable.
  • Panels & Programming: Learn about upcoming projects and listen to panels featuring industry professionals.
  • Special Events: Don't miss one-of-a-kind events like the Masquerade Ball or the Jedi Training Academy.

3. California State Fair

The California State Fair is an annual tradition for over 165 years. This celebration of agriculture and entertainment takes place at the Cal Expo in Sacramento, where visitors experience a wide range of activities.

Highlights from the fair include:

  • Carnival Rides: Thrill seekers will love this selection of rides, from the classic Ferris wheel to modern roller coasters.
  • Exhibits: Explore a variety of educational and interactive exhibits about California's rich agricultural history and culture.
  • Live Music: Enjoy music from some of today's hottest artists in one of the fair's dedicated music venues.
  • Competitions & Contests: Watch or participate in contests ranging from cooking to robotics.

4. Monterey Jazz Festival

Since 1958, the Monterey Jazz Festival has become a Bay Area tradition and an iconic event in the jazz world. Featuring performances from more than 500 world-class artists over its three day run, this festival is one of the longest running and most popular jazz festivals in the world.

No matter what type of jazz you prefer, there's something for everyone at Monterey Jazz Festival. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Outdoor Venues: Enjoy outdoor performances in a beautiful natural setting with stunning views.
  • Multiple Stages: Catch performances on multiple stages throughout the venues, including one specifically dedicated to emerging artists.
  • Food & Drink Vendors: Refuel from all that jazz with a variety of delicious food and drinks available throughout the festival.
  • Educational Workshops: Learn more about this genre through interactive workshops hosted by some of the world's greatest musicians.
  • Late-Night Concerts: Stay up late to catch special concerts featuring unique performers and styles.

5. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival

Held annually in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival is a multi-day music extravaganza featuring some of today's biggest musical stars. From folk to hip-hop, Outside Lands has something for every type of music fan.

This festival provides an unparalleled experience filled with:

  • Signature Experiences: Enjoy unique experiences within the festival, such as guided hikes and yoga classes.
  • Food & Drink Vendors: Savor delicious cuisine from a variety of local restaurants and food trucks, or quench your thirst with craft beer samples.
  • Art Installations: Check out interactive art installations scattered throughout the park.
  • Live Performances: Watch over 100 performances across five stages showcasing some of today's most popular acts.
  • Comedy & Talks: Laugh along with top comedians and listen to engaging talks from industry professionals.  

6.Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game

Held every year on New Year's Day, the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game are two of Pasadena's most iconic events. Since 1890, millions of spectators have been coming to experience this beautiful event filled with colorful floats and exciting college football games.

The Rose Parade is a world-famous parade featuring intricate floral floats created by some of the best float makers in the business. Spectators watch as these floats roll down Colorado Boulevard, waving to onlookers and throwing out flower petals.

The Rose Bowl Game is a college football game that takes place afterwards. The stadium fills up with fans dressed in their school's colors, cheering for their team and enjoying some classic football action.

Other attractions at the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game include:

  • Parade Route Parties: Enjoy special celebrations along the parade route with live music, food, drinks and more.
  • Tailgates & Picnics: Tailgate or have a picnic in one of the designated areas for fans to enjoy before and after the game.
  • Family Activities: Have fun with interactive activities in a dedicated kid’s zone or explore the festival marketplace for souvenirs and gifts.  

7. Palm Springs International Film Festival

Celebrating the best of international cinema, the Palm Springs International Film Festival is one of California's most popular film events. For two weeks every year, movie fans from around the world come to see hundreds of films and meet some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

The festival includes:

  • Movie Premieres & Screenings: Watch the world's best movies on the big screen, including premieres of some of this year's most anticipated films.
  • Q&A Sessions with Directors & Actors: Listen to engaging Q&A sessions and participate in lively discussions about film with some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
  • Film Panels & Workshops: Learn more about filmmaking through educational panels and workshops led by industry professionals.
  • Special Events & Parties: Attend exclusive events and parties where you can network with filmmakers, actors, and other film fans.
  • Awards Ceremony: Watch as some of the year's best films are honored during the annual awards ceremony.  

8. California Wine Month

Celebrate California's signature wines during the month of May with a variety of special events and wine tastings. From Sonoma Valley to San Diego, wineries throughout the state share their best bottles with visitors.

During California Wine Month, you can:

  • Visit Wineries & Vineyards: Take a tour of some of California's best wineries and taste their signature wines.
  • Attend Wine Festivals: Sample various wines at festivals hosted by wineries throughout the state.
  • Learn About Wine: Attend educational seminars and workshops to learn more about wine-making techniques and grape varieties.
  • Experience Special Events: Join in on special events, such as barrel tastings, vineyard dinners, and scavenger hunts.


From the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena to California Wine Month, there's something for everyone when it comes to experiencing all that California has to offer.

Whether you're a fan of live performances or are looking forward to learning more about wine-making techniques, you can find an array of events and activities throughout the state.

So make sure to take advantage of these unique experiences during your next visit! With so many amazing things happening here year round, it’s no wonder why people flock from near and far just for a taste of what this beautiful destination has in store.

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