10 Best Summer Festivals in Northern California
Summer is the season for festivals. And northern California has some of the best in the U.S. Whether you’re looking for music, carnival rides, parades, food, or drink, there is a festival in this list that will work for you. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Summer Festivals in Northern California.
The Eureka Street Art Festival is a week-long event started in 2018 with the goal of introducing new public art each year to a different part of the city. The event is held at the end of July in downtown Eureka and features a festival kick-off party, daily art walks, a giant block party with beer gardens, live music, local food, a kids’ zone, and live art being created.
The Redwood Coast Music Festival has a relatively long history, starting back in 1991. The four-day festival in Eureka, CA used to be known as the “Redwood Coast Dixieland Jazz Festival” because this was the predominant style of jazz then. Today, the festival features all types of jazz along with other varieties of music including blues, soul, western, zydeco, funk, rockabilly, and more. The event starts off with “A Taste of Main Street” featuring local restaurants and food producers. There’s a kickoff dance, dance contests, grand finale, and festival after parties. The event is held in the middle of May each year.
If you’ve been to a state fair in your life, you probably think you know what the California State Fair is like. And you’d be right—mostly. Ranked 9th best state fair by Hopper.com, this July event in Sacramento combines the standard plethora of food stalls, amusement rides, and musical entertainment with an annual home and craft brewing competition called Brewfest. It features over 30 breweries and over 1000 entries. Other events include thoroughbred horseracing, a youth mariachi competition, and a wiener dog race.
If you love country music and live in the Bay Area, the Country Summer Festival has to be on your to-go-to list. The event takes place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California in late June and features a line-up of whose who in country music. We’re talking Kelsea Ballerini, Eric Church, Chris Young, Russell Dickerson, Scotty McCreery, Rodney Atkins, Locash, Ryan Hurd, Muscadine Bloodline, Raelynn, Tenille Arts, Adam Doleac, and others. More than 30,000 fans from 34 states come to this shindig, which features the aforementioned musical acts, plus western-themed attractions, food, drink, and merriment.
Since Gilroy is home to Christopher Ranch, the largest shipper of garlic in the world, it makes sense that the town puts on a party worthy of that achievement. That’s what how the Gilroy Garlic Festival came to be back in 1979 and every year since. Billed as the world’s greatest summer food festival (self-appointed), this gastronomical three-day event features delectable food, drink, and live entertainment. The festival features Gourmet Alley, where hundreds of volunteers prepare foods infused with nature’s spice of life. We’re talking shrimp scampi, garlic bread, calamari, and more. The festival also includes cocktail booth locations, chef demonstrations, children’s play area, shopping, and of course the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant. The event is usually held the last week in July in Gilroy, CA.
Not to be outdone, the Castroville, California bills itself as the “Artichoke Center of the World.” And to celebrate that, in 1959, they began a festival to promote the virtues of the artichoke. The Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival has been going strong ever since. Annually, the event brings in 20,000 people and features a parade, live music, an agro-art competition, farmers market, wine, beer & spirits garden, cooking demos, 5k beach run, a canasta (basket) race, quilt challenge, and a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like contest of all things.
Voted as one of the 10 Best Music Festivals in North America by USA Today, the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco features over 60 musical acts over three days in August. The festival stared in 2008 and has expanded to include incredible food and drink including “Taste of the Bay Area”, “Wine Lands”, “Beer Lands”, “Cocktail Magic” and more. The festival also has comedy performances, talks, “Grass Lands” (a curated cannabis experience), mural painters creating live art, “West Coast Craft” (a shopping area with dozens of vendors), and other activities. Hey, are going to be one of the 60,000 that attends this year’s party?
The Northern Nights Music Festival takes place in Cook’s Valley about 3.5 hours north of San Francisco and is an event with incredible natural beauty surrounding it. Picture deep swimming holes, a giant redwood forest surrounding your tent, and almost 30 musical acts to keep you rocking through the July weekend. Due to its remote nature, festival goers will want to plan on camping at the Cook’s Valley Campground or staying at the one hotel nearby – the Benbow Historic Inn. You can also go the glamping rout and rent a bell tent to the tune of over $1,000 for a one queen bed tent. There are 6 music stages so finding something you like shouldn’t be a problem. In addition, there are food vendors, art and fashion vendors, live art, a hammock lounge, specialty bars, a yoga area, and more.
For something more sedate yet thoroughly enjoyable, head on over to the Menlo SummerFest in Menlo Park, California. Every July, this two-day festival kicks into high gear and features a little bit of everything including live music offering thirteen bands, DJs, and music mixologists on two stages. There is also “Artsplash”, a collection of 200 artists’ booths featuring all manner of paintings, wood carvings, mixed media, and more. Food and drink include a mobile food truck area, artisan specialty food tents, and a Hopsland Craft Beer tent.
If you want more of a traditional summer festival, then you can’t miss the Fremont Festival of the Arts. This August, two-day event is free and essential takes over several blocks of Fremont, California. Anything you want in a festival is here. We’re talking shopping at over 500 booths featuring jewelry, clothing, art, furnishings, and one-of-a-kind pieces. Then there’s the food. Countless food booths and food trucks can be found to take care of any gastronomic desires you have. Moving on to drinks, a number of vineyards are on site serving up great wines by the glass. Plus, regional breweries are featured with a number of terrific beers on tap. And what would a festival be without music. There are two stages going on throughout both days. And to make it kid friendly, they’ve included “Kid City” featuring an amusement area with carnival rides, arts & crafts, performances and demonstrations, and more.
This is by no means the complete list of summer festivals in northern California. But hopefully you found one that looks like it’s worth the trip!
If you are coming through Northern California this summer and need a place to stash your stuff, consider a short term storage unit rental at one of our California storage facilities. It’s a really cheap way to keep your stuff safe and available when you need it!
About the Author: Derek Hines
Internet Marketing Specialist
Derek is originally from the great state of Wisconsin (go Badgers), but is slowly becoming a Pacific Northwesterner. As part of the Internet Marketing team, he writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Everett, Washington.