Sometimes, one of the most enjoyable aspects of travel is mixing with the locals at festivals and other events. These are some of Orange County's best annual events that may be of interest to visitors.
Festival de las Golondrinas
San Juan Capistrano
A romantic legend says that the swallows return to Mission San Juan Capistrano from Goya, Argentina, every year on March 19, and it's a good reason to celebrate. Festivities include a celebration at the mission, a parade, a street fair, and a market.
Glory of Easter
12141 Lewis St, Garden Grove
Similar to their Christmas extravaganza the Glory of Christmas (described later), this Crystal Cathedral show features an Easter theme.
For a fun, fishy good time, head for the Orange County beaches when the grunion run. Spring and summer nights, a few nights after the full and new moons, thousands of six-inch-long, female grunion fish come ashore at high tide to lay their eggs and the males aren't far behind. The resulting spectacle is a unique California beach sight. You can even go fishing with your bare hands (and without a license), although it may be hard to figure out what to do with the little critters once you've got them. Bolsa Chica State Beach and Doheny State Beach are two of the best places to watch. You can find out when the grunion runs are expected at www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd/gruschd.html.
Orange County Fair
88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Held annually in July and August, the Orange County Fair is one of the area's most popular events. Originally a showcase for farm products and livestock, today's fair retains a small-town feel but also includes concerts by headliner groups such as Paul Simon, Hootie and the Blowfish, and LeAnn Rimes, along with the expected product showcases, rides, and foods.
The fairgrounds are also home to many other events and attractions, including Centennial Farm, a four-acre working farm, and annual markets, expositions, and festivals.
Orange County Performing Arts Center
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
With a new facility that opened in mid-2006, designed by award-winning architect Cesar Pelli, the home of the South Coast Repertory Theater and Orange County Philharmonic also mounts touring productions and art exhibits.
Pageant of the Masters
650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
A most unusual artistic pageant and an Orange County fixture for more than seventy years, the Pageant of the Masters features “living pictures,” recreations of famous paintings with real people posed in the scenes. Clever tricks of lighting, makeup, and design conspire to fool the eye, making three-dimensional humans appear as flat as the paintings they mimic. The associated juried art show, called the Festival of Arts, features some of the finest works you'll find anywhere.
The festival is held every July and August, and tickets to this popular event sell out long before it starts.
Sawdust Art Festival
935 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
Started as a revolt against the local art “establishment,” the Sawdust Festival has become one of the country's best art festivals, with more than 200 local artists participating, giving demonstrations, and offering their works for sale. Intentionally different from other art shows and spurning their stuffy air, the Sawdust Festival includes handmade artists' booths as creative as their artwork.
The summer festival runs from July through September, and the Winter Fantasy Festival happens in late November and early December.
Toshiba Tall Ships Festival
Held in September, the largest tall ship gathering on the West Coast features living-history demonstrations, Polynesian dancers, tall ship cruises, sea chantey concerts, a pirate's encampment, and dramatic sunset cannon battles. General admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children over three years old, and there's an extra charge for special cruises and activities.
U.S. Open of Surfing
Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach
Since Jack Haley won the inaugural U.S./West Coast Surfing Championships at Huntington Beach in 1959, Surf City USA has hosted annual surfing competitions, including this six-star event held in July, which attracts more than 600 of the world's top surfers.