The 15 Best Summer Festivals
Avila Beach Tequila Festival
Avila Beach, CA
Say “Salud” to the start of Memorial Day weekend with a little bit of lime and salt. The 5th annual festival, held at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, features 20-plus top tequila brands, tequila cocktails, as well as Mexican beers and cuisine. The ticket price includes six 5-ounce tastings, a shot glass, and a new pair of shades.
The largest free maritime event in the country kicks off with a parade of tall ships, character vessels, antique wood boats, military vessels and more. Check out the impressive seafaring lineup while learning about the maritime history of the Chesapeake Bay, then enjoy entertainment on dry land, including live music on three stages, a “Build-a-Boat” challenge, and a fireworks show.
Summer Solstice Celebration
Del Mar, CA
Ring in the official first day of summer with front-row sunset views and balmy Pacific ocean breezes. The town of Del Mar hosts this waterfront shindig annually, with live music, culinary creations from some of the city’s best restaurants, and California-produced wine and beer.
Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest
Cannon Beach, OR
The oldest competition of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, this sand sculpting contest bring dozens of teams together to create works of art along the rocky Oregon shore. While Saturday afternoon will be the best time to view the completed sandcastles, the entire weekend will be filled with family-friendly fun, including a parade, a concert, a beach bonfire, and a 5k fun run.
4th of July Festival
This small maritime town has a long history with 4th of July celebrations, dating back more than 200 years when the day was commemorated with the firing of cannons from ships anchored in the harbor. Today, it attracts 40,000 people, with events that include a patriotic parade, arts and crafts display, a car show, freedom run, dance contest, and, of course, fireworks.
Opening Ceremony June 25, with events through July 4
California Wine Festival
Santa Barbara, CA
We can’t think of a better place to imbibe than the beautiful mountain-framed beaches of Santa Barbara. Taste hundreds of different wines, including some rare blends from California’s finest wineries, during this three-day event, which kicks off with two intimate evening tastings on Thursday and Friday, and culminates with a Saturday afternoon bash featuring live music and gourmet food samples.
Admission: Event tickets from $50
Key West, FL
Celebrate the famed Key West author at this six-day event, which features readings and book signings, a literary contest, a museum exhibit of Hemingway memorabilia, and a marlin fishing tournament commemorating the author’s love of the sport. Perhaps the most famous attraction is the Hemingway lookalike contest, where more than 100 stocky, white-bearded men battle over whose mug most closely resembles “Papa” Hemingway.
Newport Folk Festival
This laid-back music festival has been a mainstay in the waterfront town for 56 years, helping to catapult the careers of folk stars Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Today, the three-day party, held at the historic, waterfront Fort Adams State Park, features four different stages, local food and craft beer, and a spot where attendees can strum their own tunes on the guitar or banjo.
Admission: Starting at $93.75
Water Mill, NY
If you’re spending your summer in the Hamptons, don’t miss out on the shopping event of the season. Super Saturday is a one-day couture discount tag sale featuring more than 200 designers including Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Swarovski and more. More than 2,000 people attend the star-studded event. The best part about it? You don’t have to feel bad about overspending: All proceeds go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
Admission: Starting at $450
Maine Lobster Festival
Don’t miss the chance to dig your claws into a piece of the 20,000 pounds of fresh lobster that will be served up at this year’s festival. Aside from chowing down on tasty, butter-soaked crustaceans, you can also catch a parade, a pageant crowning a Maine “Sea Goddess,” cooking contests, a craft show, a carnival, and loads of live music.
Admission: Starting at $5
Salt Spring Island Garlic Festival
Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
A hop, skip, and a ferry ride away from Seattle, this Canadian island is known for its home-grown produce, celebrated in this two-day event honoring all things garlicky and good. Sample food and drink from local vendors and farmers, from garlic fries to garlic popsicles, while listening to a lineup of diverse live music from rock to blues.
Admission: $40 for one day
Dog Days of Summer Canine Festival
This year marks the 10th anniversary for this pet-centric celebration, the largest Fido-friendly festival in San Diego county, with over 10,000 attendees. In addition to pup-geared events like the Cutest Puppy and Best Kisser contests, there are also more than 200 booths where you can browse adoptable pets, gourmet pet treats and toys. For the human counterparts, there’s also plenty of live music, food, and drink.
Paddle at the Porch
Grab a board and try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding on the crystal clear Gulf waters. This SUP event features 1-, 3-, and 6-mile race options, with a cash prize awarded to winners. Bonus: The contest takes place on the beach directly in front of Destin’s beloved Back Porch restaurant, where you can chill post-race with a plate of ice-cold oysters and beer.
Admission: Entry fees start at $25
Fools’ Rules Regatta
It’s not your average regatta—which makes it all the more entertaining. Watch as teams construct their own vessels from non-marine materials (which, in the past, have included umbrellas, milk crates and balloons), then compete in a 500-yard race—while trying not to sink—off the coast of Jamestown. In addition to the first place prize, awards are given in categories such as “Most Ingenious Design” and “Worst Example of Naval Architecture.”
Digital Graffiti Festival
Alys Beach, FL
The iconic white-walled buildings of quaint Alys Beach, along Florida’s 30A, become a spectacle of swirling lights and colors at this annual projection art festival, the first of its kind in the world. Digital artists, photographers, filmmakers and designers from around the world compete by projecting their moving works on the walls around Alys Beach.
Admission: Starting at $50