Annual events & festivals in Southern California

Looking for something some family fun? California is full of annual events, local festivals and fairs that are a joy for families of all ages. Here’s a guide to a few of the the biggest family-friendly events in Southern California.

Tall ships

January or February: San Diego Lunar New Year Tet Festival

Tet is the Vietnamese New Year, and is one of the most celebrated holidays for people in Vietnam. For the past five years in San Diego, the Vietnamese American Youth Alliance has been putting on a Tet Festival that offers music, dancing, cultural events and amazing food for the whole family. The Cultural Village features a traditional wedding march, a children’s art contest, a watermelon eating contest, and many more activities.

Traditional Vietnamese performers will entertain on two stages. Don’t miss the traditional lion dance, where skilled performers wear brightly colored costumes and entertain the crowds. The festival also offers many carnival games and rides for children of all ages. Jump on a Ferris wheel or try your hand at the water balloon race.

Location: Balboa Park, at the corner of Park Blvd. and President’s Way, San Diego, CA

Website: San Diego Lunar New Year Tet Festival

May: Annual Sicilian Festival, San Diego

Come out in late May, while the weather is mild but warm, and experience the culture, music, dance and food of Sicily. The streets of San Diego’s Little Italy are transformed into a fun and cultural affair. There are four stages that spotlight Sicilian and Italian entertainment. While there are beer and wine gardens for adults, there are also plenty of children’s activities and, in fact, that Festival is promoted as a family event. All children’s activities are free and include puppet theater shows, a large inflatable slide, song and dance productions, face painting, and more.

Location: India Street, between Cedar and Date Streets, in the center of Little Italy

Website: Annual Sicilian Festival

May: KidsFest San Diego

Created specifically for children, KidsFest San Diego aims to create a memorable day where families with kids of all ages can explore, create and play together. Your children can play in the Mess Zone “for kids who like to get dirty,” the crafts creation station, the green thumb zone, the build it construction zone, the dance party, the costume dress up bar and many other areas that will excite their imaginations and entertain them. You’re welcome to either purchase lunch at KidsFest or pack your own.

KidsFest also features a large stage where local performers will entertain the crowds. Moms, don’t miss the Mom Lounge, where each pack of diapers you donate will earn you a ticket for great raffle prizes.

Location: 2960 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA92106

Website: KidsFest San Diego

September: Orange International Street Fair, Downtown Orange

Held annually on Labor Day Weekend, the Orange International Street Fair is the place to be if you’re interested in a multitude of cultural food, music, dance and education. All of the proceeds from the Street Fair go to local non-profit charities that serve the community.

Millions of people have attended the Street Fair over the years, and it has been held annually for more than 35 years.

Location: Four square block area radiating from the center of Orange Plaza in Orange, CA

Website: Orange International Street Fair

September: Tall Ship Festival, Dana Point

The Ocean Institute hosts an annual Tall Ship Festival where you can explore the sights, smells and sounds of functioning tall ships. This is more than an opportunity to observe; you will experience interactive living history encampments with blacksmiths, scrimshaw artists and Port Royal Privateers. Admission is required for the above deck tours and Brig Pilgrim activities. However, families can enjoy grass park activities, a concert, an art and craft show, living history encampments and a vendor area free of charge.

Fortunately, the Ocean Institute did not forget about its littlest ship fans. There are many activities for children, such as storytelling, pirate games, gold panning, knot tying races, face painting, climbing and sail furling and “Friendly Pirate School,” where kids can learn to walk, talk and act like a pirate.

Location: 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, CA 92629

Website: Tall Ship Festival

More fun in Southern California

Free family activities in Southern California

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium near Los Angeles, California

A nostalgic stay on the Queen Mary