Carmel-by-the-Sea Events: Top Festivals and Other Activities Each Year

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: March 3, 2024

Each year, you will find a variety of fun and entertaining Carmel events. Top things to do include wine tasting parties, family-friendly activities, and art festivals.

The city of Carmel-by-the-Sea hosts the annual Big Sur International Marathon, the Bach music festival, and their city's Halloween-birthday celebration. Make sure to check out some of these great events during your visit!

Carmel Events

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Forks, Corks, and Action!

If you love the best wines, the finest dining, and meeting with winemakers and chefs of the area, then this is a must-attend event.

Even if you are a complete novice, or someone who has dined at the finest restaurants in the world, you will always learn something new at this event no matter how many times you attend it. As you have your four-course dinner, complete with specially paired wines, the winemakers and chefs will tell you about the culture, history, and how they produced these amazing wines and delicacies.

The Forks, Corks, and Action! dinner is only held during certain months of the year, so make sure to click the link below and check the schedule. It often sells out quickly, so try to plan as far ahead as possible and don't miss.

The dinners are located in the Pacific's Edge Wine Room at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. 120 Highland Drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea, starting at 6 pm. Reservations are required in advance as it is a limited person event.

>> Visit Eventbrite for an upcoming schedule of events

>> Find more events in February

Big Sur International Marathon (April)

The reason that the Big Sur International Marathon is nicknamed "Running on the Ragged Edge of the Western World" is because you are basically doing just that while enjoying some of the most beautiful views anywhere.

This run starts at Big Sur Station at 6:45 am and winds its way north on Highway 1 until you reach the town of Carmel. The race has numerous aid stations along the way and bus transportation to the start in Big Sur and from the finish line in Carmel depending on where you are staying. The course's elevation starts out at over 300 feet and finishes at a low of 10. The total elevation gain and loss is about 2,000 feet.

Some of the goodies you'll receive when you enter the race include a long-sleeve shirt, food and drinks at the beginning and end, a race program, and access to the expo and race clinics to learn from some of the best athletes out there.

Last but not least, this is a Boston Qualifier so expect some serious hardcore runners along with the fun-run folks. Awards will be given depending on time, age, and gender.

>> Visit their site for registration information

Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival (April)

The Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival is one of the top Carmel events each year. It is known worldwide as a can't-miss event for anyone who loves wine, food, and enjoying them both in one of the most gorgeous settings anywhere.

This four-day festival includes not only incredible wine and food, but also amazing events such as the Celebrity Chef and Winemaker golf tournament, special dinners with chefs from the local area and the world, amazing wine tasting classes with some of the top wine makers and wineries, and so much more.

You will be able to enjoy over 250 wineries' best. There will also be more than 100 celebrity chefs on hand to excite and delight your taste buds.

In case you are looking for more than wine, the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival also includes liquors such as whiskey, vodka, and other top flight options.

All four days are jam-packed with incredible classes, meals, tastings, and other events. Make sure to pick up your tickets early as they often sell out in advance.

>> Get dates and more events in April

Carmel Art Festival (May)

The Carmel Art Festival is one of the best Carmel events in May. This annual event includes over 60 juried artists. This means you'll be seeing some of the best local artists proudly exhibiting their best pieces from throughout the year.

This three-day event also includes silent auctions, a Kids Make Art day, live music, food, and the always fun Sculpture-in-the-Park. This free public showing is always the weekend after Mother's Day, so it is easy to plan for as you get ready for your trip to this gorgeous area of northern California.

This event is held in many different galleries, and also outdoors in Carmel, so you can stroll around town while enjoying art, meeting artists, and tasting delicious food and drinks.

>> Dates for this year's events and more things to do in May

Winemakers Celebration (June)

This is one of the most wonderful Carmel events since it is the only time that the whole city of Carmel-by-the-Sea shuts down and only allows people 21 and older into it.

This festival gives you a chance to taste the best wines from this up-and-coming region before it becomes even more famous and pricey to the public. In addition to drinking some of the best Carmel wines, you'll get to taste delicious bites specially whipped up and paired by local chefs.

Some of the wineries that will be in attendance include Wente, Chalone, J. Lohr, and many others. This area has over 80 vintners and the location is perfect for Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs specifically, but other varietals also.

>> More details for this year's event on their site

4th of July Celebration

Spend your Fourth of July in Carmel-By-the-Sea. This annual event is free and includes loads of food, such as potato chips, ice cream, cookies, and watermelon. Don't forget the classic American treat, the hot dog. The best part of this celebration is that ALL food and drinks are free! Make sure to arrive as early as possible since there is a limited supply of food and beverages.

This free event is family friendly and open to anyone who wants to attend it. So make sure to get on down to Carmel-by-the-Sea to celebrate Independence Day.

This festival starts at 12 noon in the Carmel downtown area of Devendorf Park just across from the Carmel Plaza on Ocean Avenue. It will continue until 4 pm.

NOTE: Fireworks are not allowed in Carmel for safety reasons.

>> More things to do and other Fourth of July celebrations around Monterey

Carmel Bach Festival (July)

This annual three-week festival pulls in artists from around the world and features more than 40 concerts. This is one of the Carmel events that offers a diverse lineup, which makes it the perfect pick for almost anyone.

You can also take a tour of the garden, cottage, and cantatas during the festival. This tour usually features four to six homes refurbished to their original designs. It gives you a peek at what it would have been like to live in Carmel in the old days.

The festival is held at different locations including the Sunset Center Theater, the Carmel Mission Basilica (which is home to five different museums), the All Saint's Episcopal Church, and more. Checking out the different venues will allow you to learn and see more about Carmel during this wonderful experience.

If you are looking to experience the high life during your stay at the Carmel Bach Festival, you might want to buy a ticket to the Annual Gala which opens this event every year. You will love the food, drinks, and live music, and it is the perfect way to kick off this event as you can also bid on items during the auction.

>> More about this year's Bach Festival

Car Week (August)

Car enthusiasts will not want to miss Car Week in Carmel, which consists of 10 days of celebrations of the best automobiles from all around the area.

The city of Carmel-by-the-Sea in particular will host two large events. The first is Councours for a Cause, featuring classic cars converted to electric and much more. The second is the Prancing Ponies Car Show, featuring luxury sports cars all owned by women

The Pebble Beach Tour d'Elegance also passes through Carmel, where spectators watch more than 150 entrants parade down a scenic route of Highway 1 to compete in who is most roadworthy. 

Ferrari, Porsche, and other high-end brands also showcase their best.

>> More festivals and fun things to do in August

City Birthday Party & Halloween Parade (October)

For more than 100 years, this party has been celebrated by locals, and visitors, alike in the gorgeous waterfront town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Since it's always the weekend around Halloween, it is often one of the top Carmel events each October.

Some of the fun events include the city's classic, and much beloved by all, Halloween Parade through downtown. Everyone in it is wearing their best costumes and will be distributing candy to guests watching it. You will also get to see dancers, performers, dogs on parade and more!

After the parade, there will be a yummy hot-dog lunch with drinks and other food. This is where everyone can enjoy the day and have some munchies.

This fun party starts at 11 am and ends at 2 pm. It is located at Ocean Avenue & San Carlos Street.

>> More things to do in October

Annual Tree Lighting & Carmel Plaza Party (December)

If you happen to be visiting our little town during the month of December, the tree lighting and party is a fun and festive way to celebrate. This festival leads Carmel into the holiday season and includes lots of live performances by bands, dancers, and more.

Many of the city dignitaries will be in attendance, and since Christmas is getting closer, Santa Claus will be there so you can tell him what gifts you want this year.

The tree lighting starts around 6 pm and it is always a beautiful sight to see every year. After the tree is lit, there will be an open house on Carmel Plaza with food, drink, and entertainment for all to enjoy!

This party starts at 3 pm and ends at 7 pm and is located at Devendorf Park and also Ocean Avenue & Mission Street. The tree light event takes place during either rain or shine.

>> More events this December in the Monterey Bay Area

Carmel Events at the Sunset Cultural Center

The Sunset Cultural Center is one of the best places to see top Carmel events in the area. This is where the Monterey Symphony plays most of their concerts. You will also find dance performances, theater shows, and both local and internationally recognized singers.

These are just some of the top upcoming shows.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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