Like food? Like festivals? Well hey, we do too. Today, you can turn the corner in any major city and find some Insta-worthy food.
Sometimes, you stumble upon a cute bakery and find the best cookie ever, and others, you get overwhelmed by hundreds of vendors offering you free samples of deliciousness.
While every state and country have their own wacky food festivals, California boasts 11 that celebrate their seasonal produce items. Bringing together community and offering good (and different) ways to eat vegetables and fruits, these food festivals will leave you full and happy.
1. Avocado Festival: October 7-9, 2016 – Carpinteria
Cali is known for avocados. Drive along the highway and you’ll find avocados sold four for $1. So, it’s only logical that this fruit be celebrated and hailed with its own three-day festival. Did we mention it’s one of the biggest free (yes, I said free) festivals in California?
Previous years have attracted over 100,000 visitors, and this year, more attendees will flock to Carpinteria to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
If you’re one of the 100,000 people in attendance, be sure to check out the world’s largest vat of guacamole, some of the 75+ bands, the antique tractors and even avocado grafting demos.
To top it off, end your avocado fest experience by viewing in person, the largest avocado competition — last year’s winner came in at 4.32 pounds and was worth $450k. Forget a new house, buy yourself the world’s largest avocado.
2. Garlic Festival: July 29-31, 2016 – Gilroy
Scaring away vampires for its 38th year, the Gilroy Garlic festival offers everything from garlic bread to garlic ice cream.
This three-day event offers over 100 arts and crafts vendors, a cook-off competition to create the tastiest garlic dish, a “Miss Gilroy Garlic Queen” pageant and even a “flame-up” show by the most famous cooks at the grill.
This weekend event has more than just cooking competitions, too: the kid zone features a mechanical bull, zip-line, spin art and face paint. Considered one of the strangest food festivals in the U.S., how could you not want to experience it for yourself?
3. Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival: February 12-21, 2016 – Riverside
One of the more interesting festivals, the date festival is a week-long event. One week. Dedicated to dates. That’s one long date if you ask me.
To kick off the celebration, the festival opens with a blessing of dates ceremony. It is followed by ostrich and camel races — yes, you read that right.
The week-long festival also includes cooking with dates, bull riding, a livestock auction, comedy shows, a battle of the bands and a parade.
4. Strawberry Festival: May 21-22, 2016 – Oxnard
Let’s be honest, California is owning the strawberry game. In 2014 alone, it produced more than 2.3 billion pounds of strawberries. So why not celebrate this widely distributed and adored fruit?
With more than 50 food booths, 250 vendors and arts and crafts, this festival plenty to offer.
From hands-on activities like build-your-own strawberry shortcake tower to tasting wacky foods like strawberry nachos and strawberry pizza, you’ll experience some of the strangest strawberry concoctions in California. So leave space in your calendar for the third weekend of May so you can come out to experience this beloved berry.
5. Indio International Tamale Festival: December 3-4, 2016 – Indio
Although tamales began in Aztec cultures thousands of years ago, they’ve made their way to California (#blessed). Holding a spot in America’s Top 10 Food Festivals, the Indio International Tamale festival has been serving up authentic tamales to over 120,000 people since 1992.
The tamale festival will let you taste any kind of tamale imaginable. Did you know that there are over 200 tamales in Mexico alone?
When you’re done noshing on that delish tamale (or five), you can always head over to the massage stations, because why the heck not?
There’s seriously zero limitations at this festival — and get this: the festival holds an impressive record for largest tamale in the Guinness Book of World records at 1 foot (in diameter) and 40 feet long.
6. Banana Festival: August 8-9, 2016 – Sacramento
One of the younger festivals, this is the banana festival’s 7th year in celebration.
The weekend features a fashion show, banana dish tasting, live performances and a 5k run. Whether you’re an eater like us, or one of those crazy people who runs, you’ll need some fuel regardless.
This event includes unique dishes like banana nachos, banana chicken kebabs, and even a banana burger. Supposedly, the banana burger is made of oatmeal and doesn’t contain meat, but you may wanna check it out for yourself. Are you bananas about this event yet?
7. Zucchini Festival: August 20-21, 2016 – Hayward
Zucchini has become a big thing recently. You can noodle it, you can shred it, you can dice it, you can fry it. Now, you can even go to a zucchini festival. The options are endless. Starting off as a way to generate funds for non-profits, the zucchini festival has raised over $2 million dollars in the past 32 years.
The coolest thing about this festival though, is the competition to grow the zucchini with the most unusual shape, heaviest weight or variation in color. Who knew such a contest existed?
FYI, the 2011 winner weighed in at 37 pounds — say what? If you don’t believe us, go see this year’s winner for yourself.
8. Salsa Festival: July 30-31, 2016 – Oxnard
Ah, the tortilla chip’s best friend has a festival. Thank goodness. Whether you like salsa mild, medium, spicy, or anywhere in between, this festival will offer salsa that pairs perfectly with your bag of Tostitos.
For the past 23 years, the Oxnard Salsa Festival has spiced things up with local restaurants serving up salsa and the county’s best salsa dancers to this event.
Featuring Latin jazz bands, international food vendors, hand-crafted jewelry booths and even tortilla art, this event is full of attractions.
I mean c’mon, tortilla art?! That in itself is a bomb reason for going to this event (see ya, spin art). Now who’s ready to salsa?
9. Artichoke Festival: June 4-5, 2016 – Castroville
How do you like your artichokes? Fried? Pickled? Grilled? Sautéed? Any way you prefer them, this festival will serve them up.
Can you believe this one is made with all artichokes?
We can’t either, and so we’ll see you there at the contest to believe it ourselves.
10. California Wine Festival: July 14-16, 2016 – Santa Barbara
Yes, Californians love their grapes. Table grapes, wine grapes, they’re all grape — I mean, great.
The California Wine Festival, while on the pricier end, is worth it for those 21+ wine lovers. The festival is an exquisite wine tasting experience for those who truly appreciate a quality wine, especially wine from Cali.
Some of the wines served will come from the high Sierras and Santa Barbara coast, AKA some of the country’s best wine.
Additionally, the Friday night event’s rare wine testing will offer wine that is no longer made. Talk about exclusive.
In addition to the wine, gourmet chefs from the best Santa Barbara restaurants prepare appetizers, both warm and chilled, to accompany the drinks. Sign us up, because who doesn’t love wine? But even more so, who doesn’t love wine and food?
11. Pomegranate Festival: November 5, 2016 – Madera
Pomegranates are diva fruits. They’re tough as heck to open without a knife, in fact impossible, and then they dazzle inside.
Fortunately, this festival will take out the hard work of breaking open a pomegranate and will offer the fruit in many forms such as jellies, honey (who knew that was a thing?), juice and vinaigrette.
The 6th annual Pomegranate festival will also offer face painting and pomegranate art for the kiddos. (If you go to the festival, let us know how it compares to the tortilla art at the Salsa Festival.)
Also happening at this event, how to cook with pomegranates. If you like your dishes sweet and tart, come by to check it out.
Now that you’re done reading, mark your calendar, pack your things, and get eating.