Santa Cruz is home to numerous festivals, fairs and events that celebrate arts and culture and, of course, food and drink. The season peaks in the fall with numerous events taking advantage of the most sunny part of the year, but there’s an option almost every month of the year.
Santa Cruz Film Festival
Spring; Various locations, Santa Cruz
Each year for one week in May, movie theaters all over town are host to more than 100 exciting and often locally produced films. While the movies are the main event, the Festival also ushers in a wave of parties, special panel discussions, and independent movie-lovers from all over the county, state and world.
Woodies on the Wharf
Summer; 21 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz
Every year in late June, classic woodies cruise to the Santa Cruz Wharf, buffed, polished and ready to show off their woody wonderfulness. Over 200 woodies are featured each year, along with woody apparel, tasty food and plenty of photo ops with these retro autos.
Scotts Valley Art & Wine Festival
Summer; 361 Kings Village Rd., Scotts Valley
In early August, revelers from across Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties head to Scotts Valley to soak in the sun at the Scotts Valley Art & Wine Festival in local SkyPark. The two-day festival features a juried selection of fine art by local artists, food, wine from acclaimed Santa Cruz Mountains wineries and award-winning local craft beer. Live music, activities for kids and performances by Scotts Valley Performing Arts complete the roster of outdoor summertime fun.
Aloha Outrigger Races & Polynesian Festival
Summer; 21 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz
This mid-August celebration brings a taste of the islands to Santa Cruz with hula dancing, slack key guitar and rare Hawaiian treats like laulau and poi. Newbies can climb into long, sleek outrigger canoes with expert paddlers for the Aloha races.
Pacific Rim Film Festival
Fall; Various Locations, Santa Cruz
Founded in 1988 to promote the understanding of different cultures living along the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Rim Film Festival features free American debut showings of films from countries such as Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Japan, China, Mexico, the Philippines and New Zealand. Begins second weekend in October at the Del Mar Theatre and Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.
Open Studios Art Tour
Fall; Various locations, Santa Cruz
Artists working in almost every imaginable medium open their studios to the public. Santa Cruz Open Studio is held the first three weekends in October at various art studios and venues throughout the city. Local artists are happy to show off their works to art loving patrons who come from all over the Monterey Peninsula and Bay Area for this fun Santa Cruz festival.
Monterey Bay Birding Festival
Fall; Various locations, Elkhorn Slough
The Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Reserve is a Globally Important Bird Area and a prime location for sighting rare birds like the endangered snowy plover and the rebounding peregrine falcon. Late September sees the convergence of hundreds of birders in the Watsonville-Elkhorn area.
Mission Adobe Day
Fall; 144 School St., Santa Cruz
With crafts, outdoor cooking, equipment demonstrations and living history activities, Mission Adobe Day takes place on the fourth Saturday in September. The free celebration of Mission Adobe in Santa Cruz offers wholesome fun for families around the Monterey Peninsula area.
Santa Cruz County Fair
Fall; 2601 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville
Featuring games, rides, displays and livestock, The Santa Cruz County Fair is a great event for the whole family. The Santa Cruz County Fair is held each year beginning the third week of September.
Capitola Art and Wine Festival
Fall; Various locations, Capitola
As everyone in Santa Cruz knows, our real summer starts in September, when the days turn golden and mild and the water is actually warm enough to swim in. Every Labor Day weekend the Capitola Art and Wine Festival inaugurates this happy season with two full days of browsing and sipping in the sun. Once you’ve found parking, you’re home free.
Greek Culture and Food Festival
Fall; 223 Church St., Santa Cruz
The Greek Orthodox Christians know how to get a dance line started, and the food is superb. It’s dolmas, kabobs, baklava and rowdy folk dancing the first weekend after Labor Day.
Late Summer; Various locations, Capitola
This annual celebration over Labor Day weekend, isn’t just about the bright, spunky flowers brought to Capitola in the 1930s, it’s also about getting the community together to bid farewell to the official summer tourist season.
Holiday Lights Train
Winter; 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz
On weekend nights throughout December, the Roaring Camp Railroad takes holiday revelers on a magically lit tour of town complete with hot cider and carolers.
O'Neill Coldwater Classic
Winter; West Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz, CA
Four days of competitive surfing in California's true surf city. Cold Water Classic takes place the fourth week in October, with finals on Sunday. Even those not planning on taking a plunge into the cold October water should bundle up—Santa Cruz is pretty chilly this time of year.
Winter; 301 Center St., Santa Cruz
Every January, after the rains have sent chanterelles and witch's butter popping up, mycophiliacs from all over Central California converge on Santa Cruz for the Fungus Federation's Fungus Faire, a celebration of all things mushroom. Features identification workshops, cooking demonstrations and more.
Mole & Mariachi Festival
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park
The Mole & Mariachi Festival is a benefit for nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in support of Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park. Proceeds go to help fund educational programs, visitor services, capital improvements and increased hours the park is open to the public. Event features mole contest, live music and dance performances, and family-friendly activities.