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
June; Del Mar Theatre and Tannery Arts Center; Santa Cruz
Each year for one week, movie theaters and unique venues all over town are host to 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
June; Santa Cruz 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
August; Sky Park; 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
August; Santa Cruz 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.
Open Studios Art Tour
October; 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
September; 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
September; 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
September; Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds; 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 & Wine Festival
September; Capitola Village
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 & Food Festival
September; 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.
Holiday Lights Train
December; 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. Don't forget your binoculars!
January; Louden Nelson Community Center; 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
September; 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.
Church Street Fair
August; Church St.; Santa Cruz
Every August the street in front of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium explodes with a diverse array of musical and dance performances. This vibrant street fair is created in collaboration with the Cabrillo Music Festival, and in addition to great lives shows, you can cruise through arts and crafts booths, sip local wine and beer, and enjoy fun activities with the kiddos.
April; San Lorenzo Park; Santa Cruz
This environmentally-minded gathering in San Lorenzo Park celebrates Mother Nature's gifts in the height of springtime with dancing, music, arts and crafts and cultural performances. Earth Day's goal is to educate, motivate and activate the community, raise environmental awareness, address concerns, showcase solutions and present balanced modes of living.
Santa Cruz Music Festival
October; Various locations; Santa Cruz
SCMF is more of a music marathon than a festival. An impressive lineup of over 100 internationally known acts and the best of local talent descend on downtown Santa Cruz for 13 hours of non-stop sound at more than a dozen local venues.
Santa Cruz American Music Festival
May; Aptos Village Park; Aptos
Get ready for some house rockin’ Blues, Americana, and Country Music as the Santa Cruz American Music Festival kicks the summer into high gear on Memorial Day weekend. For more than 23 years, this festival has honored the diverse nature of Traditional American Music by bringing world-class artists together for two fun-filled days of live music in this exceptionally beautiful park.
Hop N Barley Festival
June; Sky Park; Scotts Valley
Cheers! Sip suds in the sun at this local beer festival, which brings over fifty craft breweries and cidermakers, two stages of live music, food, beer games, and a fun, family & dog friendly atmosphere to Sky Park in Scotts Valley on a Saturday in June. The following day, local homebrewers compete to be the crowd favorite in the Beer Masters Cup.
Redwood Mountain Faire
June; Roaring Camp; Felton
Dance the day away to live music with your friends and family while enjoying tasty locally made food, microbrews, and wine in an open field surrounded by redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This weekend-long music festival and arts & crafts fair benefits local service organizations and celebrates community and is hootin' and hollerin' good time.
The Garden Faire
June; Sky Park; Scotts Valley
This gathering of green thumbs is a free-admission, educational event focusing on the benefits of organic gardening and sustainable, healthy living. Browse a huge inventory of plants and the latest gardening gadgets in the beautiful, sunny Sky Park, plus many knowledgeable speakers, interactive presentations, food and beverage, live music and plenty of activities for everyone.