The enchanting season of California’s diverse fall festivals is where the magic of autumn comes to life. From wine harvest celebrations in Napa Valley to lively music events, pumpkin festivals, and Halloween fun, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Immerse yourself in the vibrant autumnal colours, flavours, and festive atmosphere at these delightful gatherings.
California Wine Month, 1-30 September Golden State wine regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles are world-famous for the bottles they produce. But that is just the beginning: Winemaking operations stretch across the state, from Siskiyou County in the far north to the Cucamonga Valley in Southern California. In fact, 49 of California’s 58 counties grow grapes, and the most celebrated California winemaking event, is California Wine Month, held every September since 2004. California Wine Month is a state-wide affair that coincides with grape harvest time and is packed with special tastings, festivals, concerts, tours, and wine-paired meals with top chefs and vintners, including everything from grape treading to formal balls. The Golden State produces an average of 85 per cent of all US wine, and during this month-long celebration, visitors are invited to experience all that California’s diverse wine regions have to offer.
Solvang Danish Days, 15-17 September Founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants seeking to create a small slice of Denmark in the Golden State, Solvang is one of California’s most distinctive communities. Located in picturesque Santa Barbara County’s wine country, Solvang offers all the fairy tale charm of a small European town and celebrates its heritage with the three-day Danish Days festival in mid-September. First staged in 1936, Danish Days features parades, folk dancing, Scandinavian arts and crafts, live music, storytelling (highlighting the work of Hans Christian Andersen), historical re-enactments of Viking culture, and local wine and craft beer. Get a taste of Denmark firsthand in the city of Solvang, where Danish Days brings to life the culture and history of Danish immigrants to California.
The Monterey Jazz Festival, 22-24 September The Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest-running jazz festival in the world, as well as one of the most acclaimed. From its beginning in 1958, the event has showcased the titans of the jazz world, from Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday to Herbie Hancock and Esperanza Spalding. In a tradition that began in the 1960s when bands such as Jefferson Airplane and Sly and the Family Stone performed, the Monterey Jazz Festival continues to cast a wide net, booking artists like The Roots and Los Lobos. Held the third weekend of September at the 20-acre Monterey County Fairgrounds, the festival presents some 50 concerts on eight stages featuring hundreds of musicians. Additionally, there are panel discussions with the artists, workshops, clinics, and exhibitions. The non-profit Monterey Jazz Festival donates hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds to musical education and scholarships for students. From the legends of the jazz world to up-and-coming performers, this festival is a celebration of talented musicians and one of the most popular events worldwide for music lovers.
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, 31 October The biggest Halloween party on the planet takes place every 31 October in West Hollywood, bringing together several hundred thousand vampires, zombies and Marilyns. The West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval stretches for more than a mile along Santa Monica Boulevard/Historic Route 66, leaving plenty of room for revelers to get their kicks — and making this one of the state’s largest events of any kind. Since this fright-fest is held in a place nicknamed ‘The Creative City’ — not to mention being in the heart of LGBT Los Angeles — you would better believe that people pull out all the stops when it comes to their costumes. The free, adult-oriented Halloween party features live entertainment, DJs, and food vans, as well as additional spirited events at the numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs in the neighborhood. A true bucket-list event, the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval is an unforgettable annual party that enables participants to show off their creativity and individuality.
FEAST Mendocino, November More than 3,000 types of mushrooms grow in Mendocino County, so it is only appropriate that the region would celebrate some of its famous fungi like porcini, chanterelle, and morel — not to mention the Candy Cap, a species that only grows here and makes surprisingly tasty ice cream. Mendocino is also blessed with more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms, as well as a thriving beer scene that includes pioneers of the California craft beer movement. Every November, the 10-day Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine & Beer Fest ties it all together with wine- and beer-paired tasting menus at numerous restaurants, cooking classes, workshops and presentations, guided mushroom-foraging hikes, concerts, theatre productions and art shows throughout the county. With its stunning coastline and primaeval redwood forests, there are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures, such as sea kayaking and horse riding, with a bonus of discounted rates at a number of lodgings. Paired with Mendocino County’s rugged coastal beauty, this multi-day festival offers visitors the chance to enjoy both the myriad mushrooms that grow on California’s North Coast along with the surrounding bounty.