The 10 best annual events in California include celebrations, fairs and parties. Some people use annual events as life markets, to let them know that another year has passed and to give them something to look forward to each year.
- Twilight Dance Series at the Santa Monica Pier. No need to go on "Dancing With the Stars," the pier music concerts encourage dancing under the stars every Thursday during the summer months of June, July and August. The musical entertainment is diverse and includes oldies, world, reggae, fusion jazz and other groups that are hard to classify. The annual event on the pier is loaded with all sorts of people, as diverse as the music offered.
- Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival. The southern Orange County beach has welcomed art lovers since the turn of the 19th century, but the Sawdust Festival was an outgrowth of the hippie movement in the 1970s and is now one of the best annual events in California. The festival showplace is in the Laguna Canyon on the main highway. You can't miss the wood shingled building flying furled flags. The art is more mainstream than the early festivals, but the booths organized on the sawdust grounds present plenty of local talent. Sculpture, oil, watercolor, jewelry, metal and ceramic work are represented. The official festival runs through the summer, but the venue is now open for special shows throughout the year.
- San Diego Bay Parade of Lights. If you love the ocean and appreciate a wildly-decorated boat, then the San Diego parade is for you. The December weekends change each year, but the parade of boats decorated for the Christmas holidays goes on every year. Sit on the public beach, in restaurants and bars along the route, or rent a beach house for the event. Other beach cities have holiday boat parades, but this one is one of the best annual events.
- Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Coachella is a relatively new annual event in California, but the multi-stage music festival has shot to the top of the event charts. Top music acts perform each March in the multi-day event. This is not your dad's or grandma's Woodstock Festival: The event is highly organized with an online ticketing system and a network of stages and booths inside the grounds.
- West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval. It's costumes and a parade, and it's also free. Put on your most outlandish Halloween garb and join the thousands of revelers each October as the parade snakes down Hollywood Boulevard. The Carnaval is California's answer to the southern Mardi Gras.
- The Academy Awards Ceremony in Hollywood. The February ceremony is Hollywood's best annual event. You can't go into the auditorium, unless you know someone in the film industry, but you can join the group of fans in the bleachers outside the venue.
- Long Beach Grand Prix. Even if you're not a fan of car racing, the annual GP every March meets the standards for best annual event. The Indycar event also incorporates a charity golf event and celebrity driving contest.
- Union Street Festival in San Francisco. The City of San Francisco invites visitors to the annual June Union Street Festival held in the Cow Hollow neighborhood between Gough and Steiner. The festival is one of the country's largest art festivals and best of all, it's free. Art displays vary each year, but local and regional artists are featured.
- Jazz on the River and the Russian River Blues Festival in Guerneville. Once separate music festivals, the two are now held jointly over two days in September in central California. Enjoy music while sitting under the Redwood trees while drinking wines from local vineyards. It's a best annual event of smooth jazz and blues.
- Mavericks Surf Contest in Half Moon Bay. Mavericks is one of the oddest contests, but certainly one of California's best annual events. Beginning in November, top surfers wait for the call to hit the beach and begin the contest. Observers need to watch the web site for the posting to come out to the venue and hope for big waves. Event organizers call it the Mount Everest of surfing.
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