5 Seriously Quirky Summer Festivals in Northern California
Ever wanted to jump a frog? Thank Mark Twain for Calaveras County's annual Jumping Frog Jubilee. (Courtesy of Pixabay/Zdenek Chalupsky/CC)

5 Seriously Quirky Summer Festivals in Northern California


In Northern California, summer festivals come in multiple forms.

There are the ones you know—BottleRock, Outside Lands, and the like—and there are ones you don’t, events that are as unique as the theme they are celebrating.

From festivals dedicated to artichokes and accordions to an all-you-can-eat live fire cooking extravaganza, here are five quirky can’t-miss festivals going off this summer.

Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee, Angels Camp

(Courtesy of @sandwichgirl)

Mark Twain is something of a hero in the Sierra Foothills and nowhere has he left more of a mark than in Angels Camp. Each year, they celebrate one of the writer’s most beloved stories, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” with four days of—you guessed it—frog jumping competitions. As the frogs vie for the title in the International Frog Jump finals, a slew of other classic Americana events go on around them, including a livestock rodeo, carnival rides, silly competitions, and something that’s ominously just called the Destruction Derby. // May 16-19, 2465 Gunclub Rd. (Angels Camp), gocalaveras.com

Artichoke Festival, Monterey

(Courtesy of @artichokefestival)

The Artichoke Festival doesn’t just celebrate the unusual, multi-layered thistle that thrives in Monterey County—the veggies are really just an excuse to throw a party. The event kicks off Friday night with the Thistle Be Funny standup comedy show featuring Darren Carter, Justin Rivera, and K-Von, then continues through the weekend with chef demos and live entertainment, wine tasting, and a farmer’s market. Through it all there will be artichokes prepared every which way—including in ice cream form. // June 7-9, Monterey County Fair & Event Center, 2004 Fairground Rd. (Monterey), artichokefestival.org

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The Crawdad Festival, Sacramento

(Courtesy of @thecrawdadfestival)

Northern California’s no stranger to seafood fests. Both Mendocino’s purple sea urchins and the oysters of Humboldt’s Arcata Bay inspire parties each June. But there’s always room for more crustaceans, even those that aren’t native to California.

On Father’s Day weekend, for the second year in a row, Sacramento is celebrating the Louisiana crawfish at the Crawdad Festival. During the two-day event, they’ll cook up the critters by the thousands and dish them out to the Southern-inspired beat of more than 20 live bands playing zydeco, cajun, blues, R&B, and funk on two stages. But wait, there’s more: a classic car show, a Miss Crawdad pageant, a showcase for local fashion designers, carnival rides, and a variety of other vendors. Peak revelry comes with the Second Line Parade, an immersive New Orleans–style street procession honoring heritage, community, and culture. // June 15-16, 2024, Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Rd. (Sacramento), thecrawdadfestival.com

The Accordion Festival, Cotati

(Courtesy of @cotatiaccordionfestival)

For more than 30 years, Sonoma’s been celebrating one of music’s most maligned instruments: the accordion. This summer’s Cotati Accordion Festival will feature dozens of bands and solo-performers from a diverse range of musical traditions, each one squeeze-boxing their hearts out across two days and multiple stages. Ticket proceeds go to support local school music programs. // August 17-18, La Plaza Park (Cotati), cotatifest.com

Heritage Fire, St. Helena

(Courtesy of @heritagefiretour)

The Heritage Fire Festival isn’t technically homegrown—it will stop in several cities on an eight-month tour around the U.S.—but, as far as food festivals go, it’s one of the year’s most unique. The event partners with local chefs and family farms to prepare a feast focused on heritage breed livestock, heirloom produce, and live-fire cooking. Though there’s no word yet on which Northern California chefs will be participating, Heritage Fire’s lovely location at Charles Krug combined with free-flowing wine and spirits, all-inclusive eats, and on-deck entertainment pretty much guarantees it’ll be a blast. // August 18, Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main St. (St. Helena), heritagefiretour.com

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