By Joe Kukura
The “holidays” continue year-round in Northern California, with plenty of sunshine and people who know how to have a great time. The work-hard, play-hard tech and tourism hotspot of San Mateo County/Silicon Valley has an endless parade of festivals, fairs and celebrations on its calendar. It doesn’t matter when you visit San Mateo County/Silicon Valley, there’s always a big event underway celebrating with music, food, wine and the entertaining, fun side of machinery and technology. Some of these big events are worth making a trip to San Mateo County/Silicon Valley just for the celebration itself. As festival season approaches, let’s take a look at the best fests San Mateo County/Silicon Valley has lined up on its schedule of fun, sun, good food and great times.
46th Ol’ Fashioned 4th of July Parade, July 4, Half Moon Bay
The small-town American parade gets a big tribute every year at Half Moon Bay’s annual Ol’ Fashioned 4th of July Parade. This homespun Americana experience has all the trappings of the traditional Independence Day parade, like floats, marching bands and classic cars. But Half Moon Bay’s parade also has a “Pooches on Parade” contingent for dogs, legions of horse participants with prizes awarded to horses in several categories, and the legendary local Sitting Marching Band playing patriotic tunes throughout the parade.
Menlo Summerfest, July 16-17, Menlo Park
You might know Menlo Park as home to Facebook’s headquarters, but this little Silicon Valley city also shares its status with a gigantic street fair called Menlo Summerfest. With countless live musical acts, food trucks galore, chef's demos, Maker Faire attractions and a high-tech kids’ zone, Menlo Summerfest is a signature event on the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley summer calendar.
PAL Blues & Art Festival, July 23, Redwood City
Between June and August, Downtown Redwood City’s Courthouse Square periodically transforms into an art lover’s paradise. Throughout the summer months, the square features original painting, photography, jewelry, glass ceramics and more as part of the ART on the Square series. And on July 23rd, the Friday evening ART on the Square will join forces with PAL Blues & Art Festival for a can’t-miss afternoon of art, music and so much more. The festival features musicians from the Bay Area and beyond, and proceeds directly benefit the Redwood City Police Activities League.
Burlingame On the Avenue August 20-21, Burlingame
Burlingame On the Avenue, Burlingame’s annual festival, is one of the area’s most anticipated summer festivals. Lively musical performances, local artists and an array of gourmet food offerings (including lots of BBQ!) fill the air with a memorable combination of sounds, sights and smells. And with a Children’s Playland for the youngsters, there’s plenty of summer fun for the whole family.
Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, August 27-28, Palo Alto
Hundreds of artists’ display booths will line Downtown Palo Alto’s University Avenue for two days in August for the 34th Palo Alto Festival of the Arts. The Italian Street Painting Expo, which features more than 60 chalk artists from across the state creating works of art along Tasso Street, is always a highlight of the event, but it’s far from the only draw. In the past the festival has attracted upwards of 150,000 people with its collection of music, fine wines and microbrews, as well as the incredible diversity of arts and crafts.
Millbrae Art & Wine Festival, Sept. 3-4, Millbrae
The summer ends in style with the Millbrae Art & Wine Festival, the Bay Area’s biggest Labor Day weekend event. It’s a two-day Mardi Gras of music, margaritas, microbrews and, of course, the work of hundreds of artists and tastings of dozens of premium local wines. This one’s great for the kids, too, with amusement park rides, zip lines and a giant climbing wall.
Bacon and Brew Festival, Oct. 1-2, San Mateo
Few things get people’s attention like bacon and beer, and San Mateo’s Bacon and Brew Festival is like Oktoberfest with a thousand sides of bacon. Dozens of food trucks will be on hand at this outdoor San Mateo festival, but with one strict rule—each vendor must incorporate bacon. Plenty of local microbrews will be represented in a German-style beer garden, but the kids aren’t left out as there will be bounce houses, face painting and even bacon ice cream.
Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, Oct. 10, Half Moon Bay
Long known as the “Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs”, the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off offers a $30,000 prize to any pumpkin grower who can beat the world record. The pumpkin growers are serious about this contest, and the winner gets paid by the pound. Fame is also on the line, because the top five biggest pumpkins get a starring role in that weekend’s big event…
Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, Oct. 15-16, Half Moon Bay
As pumpkins spice up your autumn, the “World Pumpkin Capital” of Half Moon Bay celebrates its famous export with the annual pumpkin-themed festival that draws gourd enthusiasts from around the world. Now in its 45th year, the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival displays the winners of the weigh-off plus mind-blowing professional pumpkin carving, a parade, four stages of live entertainment and the world’s largest mosaic pumpkin sculpture featuring more than a thousand pumpkins. But this is one event where the drive there rivals the festival, as there is no sight quite as scenic as Half Moon Bay during pumpkin season.
San Mateo County/Silicon Valley is scenic all year long, and the festivals add plenty of flair to the scenery. Check the events calendar to see what’s being celebrated when you next visit San Mateo County/Silicon Valley, or book a trip just for the celebration itself, because Northern California’s tech capital spells fun with a capital F.