Open studios: South County Oct. 6–7, North County Oct. 13–14, Encore Weekend Oct. 20–21.

Open studios: South County Oct. 6–7, North County Oct. 13–14, Encore Weekend Oct. 20–21.

The end of summer is bittersweet. That is unless, of course, you live in Santa Cruz. Any local knows the only things that set alongside the summer sun are the crowds and the vague sense of guilt for choosing to stay inside on a nice day. In order to celebrate the best time of year in our neck of the (red)woods, we’ve compiled a list of 35 can’t–miss fall arts and culture events. Whether you prefer settling into the couch with Jonathan Franzen’s page-turner, waving at a flower-covered boat cruising down Soquel Creek, or dancing to a hip-hop show at The Catalyst, we’ve got you covered. Santa Cruz’s “secret summer” starts now. Read on.

Capitola Begonia Festival
Flowers die. But as with many things, the fleetingness of their time is what makes them so beautiful. Hot gluing them to boats and parading them down Soquel Creek is one way to handle this existential conundrum. Other highlights of this weekend-long festival include a sand sculpture contest on Saturday and lots of people in silly, flower-covered hats. Aug. 31–Sept. 3 at the Capitola Esplanade. Free.

Cabrillo Gallery: A Bridge Beyond Borders
Sometimes, just enjoying a burrito isn’t enough. This powerful exhibit focuses on using art to unite individuals from different cultures.  The mixed media and print work of artists from both Mexico and California will hang simultaneously in the Cabrillo Gallery and the Monterey Peninsula College Art Gallery.  Thru Sep. 28. Free.

John Cage Festival
The avant-garde composer is famous for 4’33”, the silent composition often derided as gimmickry, but he made plenty of music you can hear, too. On the centenary of Cage’s birthday, New Music Works marshals a bevy of regional and local talents to play the master’s music at points around town using such Cagist instruments as harp, toy piano and radio. Sep. 5 at San Lorenzo Park and around downtown Santa Cruz. Free.

Santa Cruz in Song and Image
“Poet of the guitar” Brian Gore and acclaimed illustrator Bill Russell team up to create a multi-media celebration of the one-and-only Cruz.  Bathe your senses in the watercolor paintings projected overhead and the guitar strums, which seem to wind from the mountains all the way to the Pacific Coast. Sep. 6 at Kuumbwa Jazz. $18–21.

‘Mary Stuart’ at Jewel Theatre
How much suspense can actors drum up about a meeting between two queens when the audience knows from Wikipedia (We mean “history books”) that the protagonist, the Catholic queen of Scotland, was beheaded by her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth I? A lot, actually—if 5 of the 12 cast members are Equity actors. Sep. 6–Sep. 23 at Center Stage. $24-29.

Pheonix & Arabeth
Depending on one’s perspective, the mythical painted creations of Phoenix & Arabeth may evoke a sense of the human form as a sacred symbol transcending the boundaries of time, life and space. Alternative interpretation? A beautiful, rainbow-drenched apocalypse. Fair enough. Sep. 7–Oct. 3 at Leeds Gallery. Free.

Capitola Art and Wine Festival
After strolling through the booths with work by local artists and sipping buzz-worthy samples from local wineries, sidle up to a friendly patch of sand and let an off-canvas ocean view remind you that you are in one of the most beautiful locales in the country. Say it with us: “Life is good.” Sept. 8 & 9 at Capitola Esplanade Park. Free admission; $1 per wine tasking token.{pagebreak}

Ceram-A-Rama at Mountain Art Center
If three days of squishing your hands through potter’s clay sounds like heaven, this is the weekend event for you. Hands-on workshops, including with master potter Arthur Gonzales, will make everyone’s ashtrays, bowls and coffee mugs really, really good. Bonus: Your December self will thank you dodging last-minute holiday gift freak-outs. Sep. 14–16 at Mountain Art Center. $40 general/$30 students.

Former Grateful Dead lyricist and recovering hippie John Perry Barlow is as interesting and intellectual as they come. The “cyber-libertarian,” who founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will be speaking at the second annual TEDx Santa Cruz alongside the likes of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Martha Mendoza and rope artist Allie Cooper. Sep. 15 at Cabrillo College. $75-$100.

Inglourious Basterds
Weekly midnight movies are raucous good fun, provided you drink enough Red Bull to keep up with the energetic crowds that roar into the wee hours of morning. (Once overheard during aBig Lebowski showing: a glass bong shattering, followed by gasps, followed by uncontrollable giggling.) One not to be missed is Quentin Tarrinto’s spin on WW2 movies, Inglorious Basterds. A final scene takes place in an old cinema that pairs perfectly with the 76-year old gem that is Pacific Avenue’s one and only Del Mar Theater. Sep. 14–15 at the Del Mar. $6.50.

Joe’s Garage on KZSC
This quintessential college radio show hosted by the station’s student rock director is the place to hear this fall’s newest rock music first. With tunes sent directly from promoters and record labels, listening to this show will guarantee you’re at the top of your “Name That Tune” game. Plus, you can seamlessly blend in when crashing undergraduate keg parties this fall. Mondays, 8:30-10:30pm on 88.1 FM.

D.T. Max
Max will give a reading of this first-ever biography of the late great writer David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. The tale charts Wallace’s journey towards becoming a one of our generation’s most acclaimed novelists while struggling with the depression and addiction that ultimately consumed him. Plus, you can seamlessly blend in when crashing undergraduate book club meetings this fall. Book available Aug. 30. Reading Sep. 21 at Capitola Book Café. Free.

Tribute Shows at Don Quixote’s
Don Quixote’s is hosting six tribute shows this fall, including ones paying homage to the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett and The Allman Brothers. Two bastions of 1970s nostalgia not to be missed will be the House of Floyd on Oct. 20 and Petty Theft on Sep. 22. While none of the members of the latter wannabe group bear any visual resemblance to the real buck-toothed, blond-haired rocker, they sure do nail the sound and put on a fun show. Sep. 21–Oct. 20. Ticket prices vary.

Monterey Jazz Festival
It’s been happening just down the street in Monterey every year since 1958, bringing some of jazz’s biggest stars to our humble coast. This year jazz lovers can see Tony Bennett, Esperanza Spalding, Bill Frisell and other luminaries in the Arena. Or get a cheaper Grounds pass and see up-and-coming innovators—and maybe Clint Eastwood too, since his kid’s playing. Sept. 21–23 at the Monterey Fairgrounds. $40–335.

Lewis Watts: New Orleans Suite
New Orleans: Despite suffering one of the most devastating natural disasters in our nation’s history, this is a town known for its relentless celebration of life. UCSC Art professor Watts boldly presents vibrant images of New Orleans life post–Katrina in stark black-and-white. Oct. 3 – Nov. 21 at the UCSC Sesnon Gallery. Free.{pagebreak}

Bright Spots
This new show will feature bursts of color, lots of energy and the work of artists like Roy G. Bivens. “I wanted to take action-painting to another level,” Bivens said in a press release. “Sometimes you see a painting and you’re like: ‘Where’s the action?  This guy probably never got laid in his life.’” Oct. 5–28 at Felix Kulpa Gallery. Free.

Aspiring novelists, take note: at Pitchapalooza, the best one-minute book pitch gets a meeting with an agent. Everybody else gets free advice, the excellent company of other writers and lots of love. Oct. 6 at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Free.

Open Studios Tours
The first three weekends in October the bright green signs sprout like mushrooms after a rain, inviting members of the public to come on in and meet the painter/jeweler/potter/photographer/sculptor who lives here. It’s an autumn rite to get the Cultural Council calendar and map, look at the thumbnail images and decide whose work you want to see—or just tool around, stopping in here and there as whim and green signs decree. South County Oct. 6–7, North County Oct. 13–14, Encore Weekend Oct. 20–21. Calendar $20.

Welcome Back Monarchs Day
For about half the year, the Eucalyptus grove of Natural Bridges State Beach turns into a Monarch Motel—beginning in mid-October and lasting through February—as majestic orange butterflies roost safely through the winter. Head to the wooded paths anytime this autumn for a serene stroll, or party down with the Friends of Santa Cruz for the day-long celebration featuring live music, crafts, butterfly garden demonstrations, and hand-cranked orange “monarch” (pumpkin) ice cream. Oct. 14 at Natural Bridges State Beach. Free.

Let the dreamy, ethereal vocals and snuggly soft instrumentals of this Canadian indie pop band lull you into a welcome period of autumn introspection. Bonus: A ticket to the concert also gets you a download of their new album. Oct. 19 at the Rio. $19.95

Pacific Rim Film Festival
This annual and much-loved film festival lasts six days and spans cultures around the Pacific Ocean, offering glimpses into communities thousands of miles away. This year’s theme is “When Strangers Meet.” Oct. 19-24 at the Del Mar and Rio Theaters. Ticket prices TBA.

Santa Cruz Collects
From objects as mundane as a child’s marbles to a veterinarian/amateur taxidermist’s medley of animal skulls, this exhibit showcases the citizens of Santa Cruz County and the beautifully odd things that they keep. Question: Why does Mayor Lane own thousands of decorated eggs? Another question: When is the citywide egg hunt? Thru Nov. 25 at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. $5.{pagebreak}

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Live
Remember your first Rocky Horror Picture Show? How you threw your toast and your rice and yelled “Virgin!” at Brad and “Bitch!” at Janet? And then later you yelled “Bitch!” at your cousin because she ripped the fishnets you let her borrow? (No? OK, maybe that one was just us.) Either way, Mountain Community Theater is taking the classic live this October in sweet, spooky little Park Hall with showings at 8pm and 11pm. Hope you don’t get a flat tire on the way up and have to take shelter from the rain…  Oct. 19–Nov. 3 at Park Hall in Ben Lomond. Ticket price TBA.

Bill Maher
For over a decade, Bill Maher has been the liberal cousin to Bill O’Reilly and the louder, angrier big brother to Jon Stewart. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 20 years since the stand-up comedian launched his first TV show, Politically Incorrect, which might as well be the controversial nighttime host’s middle name. Oct. 21 at the Civic Auditorium. $58-$79.

MAH: Digital Arts and New Media
DANM! Rather than a dyslexic, agro-outburst, this acronym refers to the one-night-only event that invites attendees to explore interactive digital art by UCSC students. See artwork from MAH’s collection reinterpreted with a drawing machine, balance on a surfboard that projects you into a swirl of colors, and share the song in your heart with a new form of social networking. Oct. 21. $5

Macklemore at the Catalyst
This Seattle-based rapper uses his sharp wit and sensitive heart to promote the good in the world—his newest single “Same Love” offers steadfast support for gay marriage and calls out the hip hop community for its homophobia. He has also rapped about overcoming drug addiction, beloved Mariners radio announcer Dave Niehaus, and has a satirical party anthem which promises a “really really really good time.” Oct. 24. $23

Legend of Sleepy Hallow Ghost Train
USA Today named a Santa Cruz County event one of the top ten Halloween events in the nation (and no, it isn’t stumbling drunkenly up Pacific Avenue at 1:30am). Costumed characters and epic narration take center stage in a reenactment of this beloved ghost story. Oct 26-27 at Roaring Camp Railroad. $20-$26.{pagebreak}

Read Farther Away
Jonathan Franzen is our most famous neighbor. Shouldn’t we know a little something about him? In this book of essays, the author of Freedom and The Corrections inveighs against Facebook and cell phone manners, urges people to be nice, writes about birds and habitat loss and laments the suicide of his friend, David Foster Wallace. Essays are short. Autumn evenings are long. It’s just a suggestion.

Burlesque Dance Class at Motion Pacific
Life is short. Why not learn how to spin a pair of boob tassles in opposite directions? At this Tuesday evening class, Sin Sisters alpha vixen Balla Fire instructs ladies in the art of bumping, grinding and shimmying (all technical terms, thank you) to the sounds of sexy strip-tease tunes. After the course, see how you stack up to the pros by heading to a Sin Sisters or Sirens show (see story, TK). Va-va-va-voom! Every Tuesday at 7:45pm at Motion Pacific Studio. $14.

Deb Perelman
Deb Perelman’s eclectic food blog Smitten Kitchen features everything from bacon corn hash and zucchini pancakes to pink lemonade bars and blackberry gin fiz. The newSmitten Kitchen Cookbook promises to be just as mouth-watering. Meet the woman herself at this free book signing.Nov. 4 at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Free.

First Friday
Artists, restaurants, and galleries from all over Santa Cruz team up to share the best of their creative collaborations with the art-loving public for an evening of beauty and inspiration on the first Friday of every month, rain or shine. The best part? It’s free. Various locations.

SSC: Honk!
Parenting tip: While your children don’t always listen to the lessons you impart, they will hypnotically heed to anything and everything a person in a giant animal costume says. This uplifting musical based on “The Ugly Duckling,” presented by Shakespeare Santa Cruz and the UCSC Theater Arts Department promises to help little ones appreciate what it means to be different. Nov. 16 –Dec. 9 at the UCSC Mainstage Theater. $18 to $37.

Downtown Holiday Parade & Lighted Boat Parade
Because floats are art too, and so is a marching band, and so especially are sailboats cruising in and out of the harbor on an early winter’s evening, with their masts and rigging lined in holiday lights so that when they sail back in all that’s visible are their twinkling outlines in the darkness. Saturday, Dec. 1. Free.

The Nutcracker
A worldwide holiday tradition, the Nutcracker has enchanted audiences for generations with its classic Tchaikovsky compositions and the timelessness of the dance.  Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre returns to put its annual spin on the sugarplum fantasy, accompanied by a live orchestra and SO MANY CUTE LITTLE KIDS IN ADORABLE COSTUMES. Dec. 14-16 at Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Ticket prices TBA.

First Saturday at The Tannery
We get it—Friday comes at the end of the workweek. Sometimes all you want to do is head home and eat a plate of nachos in bed, maybe get ambitious and create a Craigslist posting for your broken futon. If this sounds like you, fear not! The Tannery accommodates for First Friday slackers by continuing the party through until Saturday. With open studios, caricature drawing and kids activities, it’s culture without the crowds. First Saturday of each month. Free.

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