FESTIVALS

1. Mardi Gras

prac_info Gaslamp Quarter • Feb/Mar

Be quick to grab the strings of beads thrown off the floats at the Masquerade Parade. The parade begins in the afternoon at Fifth Avenue, and the music and revelry carry on until the early morning. The food booths serve up New Orleans-style Cajun food.

2. St. Patrick’s Day Parade

prac_info Mar

A grand parade of marching bands, bagpipes, community organizations, horses, and school groups begins at Sixth and Juniper. Afterward, an Irish festival takes place at Balboa Park with Irish dancers, lots to eat, green beer, and fun for the entire family.

TopTen

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

3. Cinco de Mayo

prac_info May

North of the Mexican border, commemorating the French defeat by Mexican troops is a serious business. Restaurants overflow, the Old Town State Historic Park sponsors folkloric ballet performances and mariachi bands, and the historic Gaslamp Quarter hosts a musical street fair.

TopTen

Dancer at Cinco de Mayo celebrations

4. Fourth of July Fireworks and Parades

prac_info Jul

Nearly every San Diego community has its own July 4th festivities, such as fireworks, surfing contests, parades, and street festivals. Since the ban of home fireworks, commercial firework shows are the way to go. The biggest show in the county is held over San Diego Harbor.

TopTen

Fireworks marking the Fourth of July

5. Comic-Con International

prac_info Convention Center • Late Jul

Comic-Con draws more than 150,000 devotees over several days and literally bursts out of the huge San Diego Convention Center. Tickets sell out super-fast for this wildly popular all-things-comic-and-then-some gathering. Celebrity guests, panels, retailers, games, anime, film screenings, and fringe events line the program.

6. Lesbian and Gay Parade and Festival

prac_info End Jul

San Diego’s gay community hits the streets in celebration of diversity. The iconic parade begins at Fifth Avenue and Laurel in Hillcrest and moves to Balboa Park, where live bands, food booths, and a party atmosphere prevail. Outrageous costumes are the rule of the day.

7. Halloween Festivals & Haunted Houses

prac_info Gaslamp Quarter & Balboa Park • Oct • Adm

Your worst nightmares may come true at the historic 1889 Haunted Hotel, which features ghouls, a clown asylum, and a haunted subway station. The Chamber and Haunted Trails of Balboa Park will terrify you.

8. Mother Goose Parade

prac_info El Cajon • Sun before Thanksgiving

Floats, equestrian units, and marching bands make up part of the 200 entries in the largest single-day event in San Diego County, attended by about 400,000 people. A tradition since 1947, the parade revolves around a celebration of children.

TopTen

Mother Goose Parade

9. Christmas on the Prado

prac_info Balboa Pk • First Fri & Sat of Dec

Balboa Park launches the Christmas season by opening its doors to the community. Museums are free after 5pm, carolers sing, and food booths are set up. The park is closed to traffic, but shuttles reach the outer parking lots. Dress warmly.

10. Boat Parades of Lights

prac_info Dec

Yachts and sailboats vie for the title of best decorated in Mission Bay and the San Diego Harbor. The best viewing areas for the Mission Bay parade are at Crown Point and Fiesta Island; for the San Diego Harbor Parade, head to the Embarcadero.

TOP 10 FAIRS AND GATHERINGS

1. Ocean Beach Kite Festival

prac_info Ocean Beach • Mar

A kite competition with prizes and demonstrations on the beach.

2. Avocado Festival

prac_info Fallbrook • Apr

Special tours, 50 food booths, and awards for best dishes draw big crowds.

3. Mainly Mozart Festival

prac_info Apr–Jun • Adm

Concerts at San Diego and Tijuana feature works by the wunderkind and his contemporaries.

4. San Diego County Fair

prac_info Del Mar • Jun • Adm

Animals, rides, food, and music.

TopTen

San Diego County Fair performers

5. A Taste of Gaslamp

prac_info Gaslamp Quarter • Jun • Adm

A self-guided tour passes restaurants displaying their kitchen samplings.

6. US Open Sand Castle Competition

prac_info Imperial Beach • Aug

Competitors build the most complex and imaginative sand castles.

7. Summerfest

prac_info Aug

Classical music and modern compositions in La Jolla, with artists and ensembles from around the world.

8. Julian Fall Apple Harvest

prac_info Mid-Sep–mid-Oct

Music, apple cider, and apple pies in a charming mountain town.

9. Cabrillo Festival

prac_info Cabrillo National Monument • End Sep • Adm

Soldiers re-enact the Cabrillo landing, and performers showcase Native American, Aztec, and Mayan dances.

10. Fleet Week

prac_info Sep/Oct

Navy ship tours and air and sea parades honor the military.

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