There’s a magic to summer that makes it the best time of year for outdoor celebrations of all stripes. From county fairs to food fests and plenty of prime opportunities to enjoy all manner of libations, we’ve picked some of the tastiest and most entertaining offerings to be found in Southern California.
The season kicks off with the return of the summer-long event series Eat See Hear, which combines the Los Angeles area’s top food trucks, a concert by a hot rising band, and a giant screen showing of beloved hit movies for a full evening packed with three times the fun of most outings. Its prime Pasadena location is Centennial Square at Pasadena City Hall, where they’ll screen “Mean Girls” (May 6), “La La Land” (June 17), “Singin’ in the Rain” (July 8), “Airplane!” (Aug. 5), and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Sept. 9). But the biggest night of their entire summer is sure to be a screening of the iconic concert film “Depeche Mode: 101” inside the Rose Bowl, where it was shot, on Aug. 25. Visit eatseehear.com.
The luxury food and beverage festival Masters of Taste returns for its second annual edition May 7 on the field of the Rose Bowl. Featuring more than 40 master chefs and restaurants, handcrafted cocktails from master mixologists, and tastings from more than two dozen spirit bars, wineries and local craft breweries, Masters also raises money for a great cause, donating all proceeds to Union Station Homeless Services. Visit mastersoftastela.com.
Health fanatics looking to indulge in drinks while maintaining an ultra-healthy diet will find the perfect combination at Eat Drink Vegan on May 27 at the Rose Bowl. Nearly 200 craft breweries, wineries, and purveyors of nonalcoholic komubucha, cold brews and teas, and craft sodas will offer unlimited pours, teaming up with 100 vegan restaurants and food trucks to offer a full day of ethical enjoyment. Visit eatdrinkvegan.com.
Those who prefer drinking local craft beers and whiskeys while surrounded by exciting horse racing action can head over to Arcadia’s Santa Anita Park on May 27 for the California Gold Rush Beer & Sour Festival. Ten three-ounce beer tastings and four three-ounce sour tastings are included with a souvenir pint glass and racing program for the $35 admission fee. Visit santaanita.com.
The biggest foodie event of the summer is the LA Food Fest, which returns for its eighth year on the LA Coliseum field on June 10. Each $65 ticket includes the chance to enjoy samples from more than 100 restaurants and celebrity chefs, plus beer gardens, craft cocktail bars, an iced coffee lounge and even an ice cream social featuring some of the top sweet frozen treats in the city. Visit lafoodfest.com.
The world’s largest street painting festival returns to the Paseo June 17-18, as the Pasadena Chalk Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary with more than 600 artists using over 100,000 sticks of chalk to create elaborate sidewalk paintings observed by more than 100,000 attendees. It’s not only a great way to see innovative art as it’s created, but also a fundraiser for its co-producer, the Light Bringer Project, as it works to spread arts education in schools. Visit pasadenachalkfestival.com.
The 9th Annual L.A. Beer Week offers dozens of events across Los Angeles for alcohol aficionados to enjoy from June 17-25. More than 75 craft breweries and 150 brands of beer will take part in its Kickoff Festival alone on June 17 at the Los Angeles Center Studios, but the rest of the brew-packed fun will be scheduled and posted in the coming weeks at labeerweek.org.
If you’re craving a wide array of Asian cuisine, Arcadia should be your destination, as the city hosts the 626 Night Market on June 30-July 2, July 21-23, Aug. 11-13 and Sept. 1-3. The 626 is the largest Asian night market in the US, with more than 150 local restaurants, food vendors, artists, musicians and nonprofits on the grounds of Santa Anita Park’s Paddock Gardens. Visit 626nightmarket.com.
The Orange County Fair offers a full month of food, classic rock, pop and country music concerts and California’s biggest wine competition, all from July 14-Aug. 13 at the county fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. Among the highlights are the B-52s backed by the Pacific Symphony and a stop on what Kenny Rogers says will be his final world tour. Visit ocfair.com.
The Nisei Week Japanese Festival returns for its 77th year Aug. 19-27 in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo, offering plenty to entertain people beyond the offbeat allure of the World Gyoza Eating Championships. An Asian fashion show, taiko drummers, martial-arts displays and showcases of Japanese pop culture all come together for a distinctive week celebrating one of the city’s most vibrant communities.
Finally, summer goes out with a bang with the LA County Fair from Sept. 1-24 in Pomona. Countless carnival rides, tasty food stands and near-nightly concerts by favorites in every genre of popular music all provide the perfect way to close out memory-packed season in the sun. Details on concerts and other events are still to come, but visit lacountyfair.com for all the updates.