Summertime memories are best made casually—the late-night walks, the impromptu skinny-dipping sessions, the boozy kisses and the houses full of friends. But planning your summer is key also, if only to make sure you don't miss the best that the North Bay has to offer. Here's our selective list of ways to spend the hottest season of the year, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Larkspur Flower & Food Fest Bloom with pride as local gardeners bring their best flora to show off at this 23rd annual celebration. The daylong event features a schedule of flower-themed events and gourmet food exhibitions. May 27 on Magnolia Avenue, downtown Larkspur. 11am–6pm. Free. 415.383.3470.
Auction Napa Valley Having raised more than $97 million for local nonprofits since its inception in 1981, Auction Napa Valley is a crazy big way for wine lovers and deep pockets to enjoy a party. The event, May 31–June 3, features all the many different kinds of auctions, winery events, dinners, dress-up opportunities and fun that regular attendees count on. The main auction is scheduled for June 2 at Meadowood. 707.259.0123. www.napavintners.com.
KRSH Backyard Concerts KRSH Backyard Concerts usually feature a healthy mix of dancing, good music and guys in fedoras. This year's lineup promises not to disappoint, with a lineup including the Revelations (May 31), the Brothers Comatose (June 7), Blind Pilot (July 5) and an Americana Showcase featuring Michael O'Neill, Ian Moore and others (July 19). 3565 Standish Ave., Santa Rosa, 707.588.0707.
Huichica Festival The Papercuts, Poor Moon, Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, Cotton Jones and others play at scenic Gundlach Bundschu Winery for its third annual celebration. The event includes a wine city, gourmet food trucks, film screenings, a kids arena, three performance areas and a "good times" vibe. Join attendees, performers and organizers the night before the main event for a first-class, three-course wine dinner. June 1-2. Gundlach Bundschu Winery, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma. Farm to Table to Amplifier dinner, 6–10pm; 18 and over (June 1; $120). Music Festival, noon–10pm; all ages (June 2; $75). 707.938.5277.
Healdsburg Jazz Festival Triumphantly returning for its 14th year, this not-to-be-missed, 10-day music festival delivers a straight-ahead jazz lineup of vibrant talent including Roy Haynes and his "Roy-Al Family," along with Kenny Burrell, Vijay Iyer, Sheila Jordan, the Calvin Keys Organ Quartet, the Michele Rosewoman Trio and many others. Various locations in and around Healdsburg. June 1–10. Prices vary per event. 707.433.4633. www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org.
Friday Night Live The best little concert series in the best little north Sonoma County town of Cloverdale, with highlights Melvin Seals & the JGB (July 13), New Monsoon (July 27) and Dave Berry (Aug. 3). June 1–Aug. 31 in the Town Square, Main Street, Cloverdale. Free. www.cloverdaleartsalliance.org.
Beerfest: The Good One! Eat, drink and be merry to support an excellent cause when the 21st annual Beerfest to benefit the Face to Face—Sonoma County Aids Network floods the outdoor areas of the Wells Fargo Center. Tickets include all food and beer tastings and a souvenir glass. With more than 40 microbreweries, this event is a who's who of Northern California artisans. June 2, 1–5pm. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Twenty-one and over (alcohol till 4:30pm). $45. 707.546.3600. www.f2f.org.
Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival Some 400 vintage vehicles prepare to race at the second annual Sonoma Historic, including legendary marquees like Ferrari, Porsche, Lotus, McLaren and Corvette. The race will take place at Infineon followed by a festival at the Wine Country Pavilion replete with wine and food tastings. June 2–3. $20–$60. www.infineonraceway.com.
Marin Home & Garden Expo Exhibitors, lectures and demos showcase all things for house and yard in Marin County at this second annual expo event. Put on by the Marin Builders Association, all proceeds benefit the association's scholarship fund. June 2–3. Marin Center Fairgrounds and Exhibit Hall, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 10am–6pm. $10. Free for kids under 13. 415.507.1537.
Art at the Source More than 150 artists in 96 studios throughout western Sonoma County are open to the public during two weekends, June 2–3 and 9–10. Celebrating its 18th anniversary, Art at the Source provides an opportunity to look behind the scenes, meet the artists and snap up some great deals. Maps can be found at www.artatthesource.org or at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 6780 Depot St., Sebastopol. Free. 707.829.4797.
Pride Comedy Night Sonoma County's most popular pride event, the LGBT celebration features the riotous humor of comedian and actress Margaret Cho on June 2. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $45–$65. 707.546.3600.
Sonoma Community Center Annual Ox Roast Chow down with the locals on a premium cut of ox meat roasted on the barbecue pits at Sonoma's downtown. A tradition for decades, the event includes plates full of food, live music, dancing, art and a "sauce your ox" competition. Voted on by the ox eaters, the chef who cooks up the most prized batch of barbecue sauce wins the 2012 Ox Sauce trophy with his or her name engraved on it. 276 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 11am–5pm. June 3. Free. 707.938.4626.
Planetary Dance International dance icon Anna Halprin leads participants in a communal movement ceremony filled with poetry, songs and percussion. The annual dance, in which movers can run, walk or stand in a series of concentric circles, will be centered on the theme "peace" on June 3, beginning at 11am at Santos Meadow in Mt. Tamalpais State Park. For registration details, see PlanetaryDance.org.
Peggy Sue's All-American Cruise Four days of classic-car mania sweep up downtown Santa Rosa for the 10th annual cruise-till-you-snooze celebration. The event showcases a wide array of activities and locations, and opens with a cruise-in and performance by the Poyntlyss Sistars (June 7) at A Place to Play Park, 2375 W. Third St., Santa Rosa. Other festivities include lots of live music, cruises across Sonoma County, chili and pasta cook-offs, pancake breakfasts, contests and award shows. June 7–10 at various locations in Sonoma County. $6–$80.
DjangoFest Mill Valley The great French-Belgian-Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt gets a four-day blowout of fans and players presenting concerts, workshops and, yes, "djam" sessions to honor his spirit and inimitable sound. June 7–10 at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre. 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. $35–$85. 415.383.9600.
Film Night in the Park Celebrating its 21st anniversary, the APPLE FamilyWorks presents another year of blockbusters and award-winning films free to audiences throughout Marin County's community parks. Fun for adults and children, films scheduled this summer include The Hunger Games, The Artist, Hugo, The Help, and classics such as Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Bring blankets, pillows, backrests and low-seated chairs. June 8–Oct. 6. Various locations. Donations appreciated. 415.272.2756. www.filmnight.org.
Forestville Youth Park The only privately owned public park in the country celebrates with plenty of barbecue, community spirit, a parade, a carnival and live music, including evening performances by Lave (Saturday) and Wonderbread 5 (Sunday). June 9–10. Parade, Saturday at 10am; festival, Saturday–Sunday. 7045 Mirabel Road, Forestville. Free. www.forestvilleyouthpark.org.
Higher Vision Festival This new event features Burning Spear, Tinariwen, the Motet and many others on June 9 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. If the consciousness-altering tunes get your head a-spinning, there will be plenty of organic grub to bring you back down to earth. 415.256.8499 or InTicketing.com.
Techno-Tribal Dance The decade-plus crown jewel of the Harmony Festival goes smaller but doesn't disappear at the Hopmonk on June 9. Two stages of pulsing electro music feature Love & Light, Russ Liquid, Seraphim and many others. With limited capacity, this is a first-come, first serve event. See www.techno-tribal.com.
Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music Two-day live music fest features area crafters, good things to eat and drink, including a wine garden, and live music on two stages. Musical highlights include Chuck Prophet (June 9), Lydia Pense (June 9), Jaime Kyle (June 10) and Bonnie Hayes (June 10). Children's area complete with petting zoo, art tent and a chance to climb aboard a fire engine. Saturday–Sunday, June 9–10. Old Town Novato, on Grant between Redwood Avenue and Seventh Street. Free. 415.472.1553.
Cotati Jazz Festival The "biggest little jazz festival" celebrates its 32nd anniversary with food, beer, music and fun. This free, all-day event encompasses every musical and nonmusical venue in downtown Cotati with the main acts slated for La Plaza Park. Performers in the park include Jason Bodlovich, One World Latin Band, Bautista, and the Burleigh Bunch. Check individual venues for bookings. June 16. Noon–7pm. www.cotatijazz.com.
Marin Art Festival This "lawn party for the arts" features over 250 artists by the Lagoon in the Marin Civic Center in a two-day outdoor party that includes international food, live music, fine wine and brews, and more. In addition to paintings, jewelry and sculptures, patrons can enjoy a wide variety of Cajun, Greek and French fare. June 16–17, Lagoon Park, at the Marin Center, Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. $10; kids and parking, free. 415.388.0151. www.marinartfestival.com.
Rodney Strong Concert Series The 22nd annual KJZY Summer Concert Series in the sunny grasslands behind the Rodney Strong winery kicks off its season with Tower of Power and Craig Chaquico (June 16), Dave Koz and BeBe Winans (July 28), Al Jarreau and the George Duke Trio (Aug. 11) and Huey Lewis and the News (Sept. 1). Rodney Strong Vineyards, 11455 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg. $50–$115. 707.869.1595.
Sonoma-Marin Fair The world's ugliest dogs appear and a hundred tons of metal collide in the destruction derby, with carnival rides, fair food and more. The musical lineup includes War (June 20), Night Ranger (June 21), Lonestar (June 22) and 38 Special (June 23). The Fiesta Latina buttons it up on June 26. Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma Fairgrounds, two blocks west of East Washington Exit, Petaluma. June 20–24. Noon to midnight. $15, adults; $10, kids and seniors; under three, free. Tickets include rides. www.sonoma-marinfair.org.
Sierra Nevada World Music Fest Slightly outside the North Bay but of avid interest to locals is this three-day roots reggae and world music festival at Booneville's Mendocino County Fairgrounds, running this year June 22–24. Acts include Jimmy Cliff, LoCura, Luciano, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Third World and many others, plus late-night dancehall. All three days, $160; one day, $60–$70; limited camping available. 916.777.5550. www.snwmf.com.
San Anselmo Art & Wine Festival Over 60,000 folks converge on downtown San Anselmo each year—hungry, thirsty, craft-starved folks. As usual, a section of the fest will include over 200 artists and their various works. There will also be food booths, wine, a merchant marketplace, an emphasis on live music and a kids area. June 23–24. San Anselmo Avenue between Bolinas and Tamalpais streets. 10am–6pm. 415.454.2510.
Napa Valley Art & Music Festival Nearly a hundred artists showcase their work joined by live music, wine and gourmet food at this night of pleasures. June 23–24 at Trinchero Family Estate, 100 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena. $10–$15; children under 12 free. 707.225.1282. www.nvamf.org.
Mill Valley Wine & Gourmet Food Tasting Now in its 30th year, this event was founded by Jim Canepa, the late owner of the Mill Valley Market, and has evolved over the years into a fest noted for its large selection of boutique wines and new food trends. Live music, too! June 24 at Depot Plaza, downtown Mill Valley. 1–4pm. 415.388.9700. www.millvalley.org.
Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival A fantastic lineup hails this festival's 17th year honoring the work of late singer-songwriter Kate Wolf. Artist highlights include by k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Lucinda Williams, Justin Townes Earle, Leftover Salmon and the Texas Tornados. Plan to camp. June 29–July 1. Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville. Full festival pass, including three nights camping, is $80–$210. Daily tickets available, $40–$90. Under six, free. www.cumuluspresents.com.
Marin County Fair "200th Anniversary of the Modern Agricultural Fair" is the theme of the 67th annual Marin County Fair, and, as always, the music and fine art are stellar, with fireworks ending every night. Things kick off with carnival gypster-funk stars MarchFourth Marching Band and music legend Dickey Betts and the Great Southern (June 30). East L.A. group Los Lobos rock and roll (July 1), Joan Jett and the Blackhearts take the stage (July 2) and Steel Pulse brings reggae and good vibes (July 3). Preservation Hall Band plays an appropriate date (July 4), followed by Motown giants the Temptations (July 4). June 30–July 4. Marin County Fairgrounds, adjacent to the Marin Center, Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. $13–$15; under four, free. June 30, 12 and under, free. 415.499.6400. www.marinfair.org.
Health Fair Sampler Visit the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Rosa on June 30 from 10am-4pm, and purchase samples and tinctures from Sonoma County's many health and wellness practitioners. Guests pay $20 for four samples, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to local nonprofits. For more information, visit HealthFairSampler.com.
Mondavi Winery Summer Music Fest The 43rd edition of this festival includes a fresh lineup with rock 'n' rollers O.A.R. (June 30), Grammy nominated Plain White T's (July 6), British singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield (July 7) and piano-rock band Five for Fighting (July 14). More dates to be announced. Highway 29, Oakville. Dinner available. $60–$195. 888.RMWJAZZ. www.robertmondaviwinery.com.