14 biggest summer events in San Diego

Jim Osborne rides his bike along the 2017 San Diego Pride parade route on University Avenue.
(Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Nothing beats summer in San Diego. Ocean breezes, 70-plus miles of (almost) pristine coastline and sunshine galore. It’s the perfect season to visit America’s prettiest city with outdoor concerts, street festivals and specialty fairs.

To help you get a jump-start on your summer planning, here are highlights of some favorite activities taking place in a neighborhood near you.

San Diego County Fair

June 1-July 4

“How Sweet It Is” is the theme for San Diego’s biggest annual event. It’s a candy land of adventure as guests discover with kid-in-a-candy-store wide-eyed wonder, the sweet summer splendors the fair has to offer, such as a cotton candy straw race, gum ball relays, marshmallow sling shot, sticky buns race, pie-baking contest, bubble gum blowing contest and a candy sculpting contest. There’s also wine, beer and spirits festivals, carnival rides, exhibits, concerts and more.

Details: The fair is closed June 4-5, 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26. Daily hours vary. Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Tickets are $12-$19; children 5 and younger are free; some concerts require a separate ticket. Parking is $15. Box office: (858) 792-4252; 24-hour recorded information: (858) 793-5555; fairgrounds phone number: (858) 755-1161.

Greek Festival

June 8-10

Authentic Greek marketplace with food, wine, beer, live Greek music and dancing, Kids’ Fun Zone and church tours.

Details: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church, 3655 Park Blvd., San Diego. Parking lot is behind the San Diego Unified School District offices near Park Boulevard and El Cajon Boulevard, with free shuttle service. Free admission 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $3 after 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Children 12 and under are free Saturday-Sunday. (619) 297-4165.

San Diego International Beer Festival

June 15-17

With nearly 200 breweries represented from around the world, beer drinkers will down hard-to-find specialty craft brews alongside local brewery favorites. Educational demonstrations to food pairings are all part of the party.

Details: Noon to 4 p.m. or 5 to 9 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. $60; $110 VIP. Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar.

OB Street Fair and Chili Cook-off Festival

June 23

The Ocean Beach community will be celebrating its 39th street and chili cook-off where more than 70,000 visitors attend the festivities every year. Festival-goers will find five stages of nonstop music, Artists Alley, beer garden, community mural and fun zone. Put your taste buds to the test and cast a vote along with the judges for the best chili from the more than two dozen tastings of original chili recipes. Entrants compete for the titles of Hottest Chili, Judges’ Award and People’s Choice Award.

Details: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., 4800 to 5000 block of Newport Avenue and surrounding streets. Free admission; small fee for chili tastings. (619) 224-4906.

San Diego Scottish Highland Games

June 23-24

The 45th annual celebration of Scottish heritage features competitions in bagpiping, drumming, highland dancing, athletics and sheep dog trials. Scottish music will fill the air with performances by Highland Way, Wicked Tinkers, The Ploughboys and Golden Bough. A Whiskey Tasting will take place at 11:30 a.m., 1, 2:30 and 4 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $15.

Details: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista. Presale tickets: adults $13, seniors and military $8, $5 ages 6-15. Gate tickets: $15 adults, $10 seniors (62 and older) and military, $5 ages 6-15.

Sun & Sea Festival

July 13-14

“Superheroes in the Sand” is this year’s theme for this family-oriented festival that features world-class sandcastle sculptors, an expanded farmers market, international food fair and a “kids only” zone.

Details: Friday noon to dusk, exhibition sand castle displays; Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., a pancake breakfast, parade, Kids ’n Kastles sand-building competition, master sand sculptors, and awards ceremony. Imperial Beach.

San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Festival

July 13-15

The 2018 edition of the San Diego LGBT Pride kicks off with the Spirit of Stonewall Rally on July 13, followed by the annual 1.1-mile Pride Parade July 14 and the two-day Music Festival July 14 and 15. The San Diego Pride Festival features multiple stages of entertainment — from musicians and bands to comedians and dance performers.

Details: Rally: 6 p.m. Friday at Marston Point, Balboa Drive and Eighth Drive; 5K Run/Walk: 9:30 a.m. with start and finish lines at University Avenue and Center Street; Pride Parade: 11 a.m. at the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street; music festival: noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Marston Point, Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street, Balboa Park. (619) 297-7683.

World Championship Over The Line Tournament

July 14-15; July 21-22

This softball-like competition with three-member teams has a dress code — as comfortable as you can get.

Details: OTL Tournament Fields, Fiesta Island, Mission Bay Park, San Diego. No ticket or entrance fee required to watch the games and tournament. 7:30 a.m. to dusk.

Del Mar horse racing

July 18-Sept. 3

Racing season gets under way at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Place your bets on the hottest race horses in the country. There’s also an Opening Day hat contest, Friday-night concerts, family days and more. No races on Mondays (except Labor Day) and Tuesdays.

Details: Gates open two hours before first post every day. Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. $6 or $10 ($15 or $30 on opening day). (858) 755-1141.

Comic-Con International San Diego

July 19-22 (Preview Night on July 18)

Put on your favorite costume and join the tens of thousands comic book and comic art lovers for Comic-Con International. The interactive event features meet and greets with highly acclaimed comic creators, autograph sessions, workshop panels and exclusive screenings. Along with movie star appearances, TV previews and toy shopping, you’ll find parties and event happenings throughout the Gaslamp Quarter.

Details: Badges for the event are sold out, but events happen throughout the Gaslamp.

Chula Vista Lemon Festival

Aug. 5

More than 45,000 spectators will attend the largest festival in the South Bay to celebrate Chula Vista’s heritage as the lemon capital of the world.

Details: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Third Avenue between E and G streets, downtown Chula Vista. Pucker-up for the sourest activities you can imagine with hundreds of vendor booths selling all things lemony, unique handmade goods, live entertainment, a Kids’ Zone, lemon-themed contests, craft beer garden and of course, lemons. Free. (619) 422-1982.

San Diego Spirits Festival

Aug. 25-26

Celebrating its 10th year, the San Diego Spirits Festival brings the best of cocktails to the Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier. The two-day event boasts more than 70 alcohol brands, chef demonstrations, bartender competitions, live music and more. Gourmet food trucks will be on-site.

Details: 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday; 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. $55 to $65; $40-$50 early-bird pricing. Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier, 1000 N. Harbor Drive, downtown.

Sea Chantey Fest

Aug. 26

Visitors will join in sea chanteys and traditional folk music performed by local and national artists such as The Jackstraws, The Bilge Pump band, Gilman Carver and more. The Star of India crew will demonstrate shipboard skills accompanied by sea chanteys and visitors will help raise the sails of the historic ship.

Details: 11:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Maritime Museum of San Diego, 1492 N. Harbor Drive. $18 adults; $13 seniors, active military and students 13-17; $8 children 3-12; free for children 2 and under. (619) 234-9153.

U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Exposition

Aug. 31-Sept. 3

One of the top 20 “Must See” seaside festivals in the world according to American Express and USA Today’s 10 Best, this Labor Day weekend tradition features 12 world master sculptors from the United States and around the world compete for $60,000 in appearance, prize money and national bragging rights.

Details: 5 to 9 p.m. Aug. 31; 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 1-2; 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 3. 1000 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego. Admission: $5-$100 through July 9; $6-$119 July 10-Aug. 12; $7-$129 Aug. 13-Sept. 3; $8-$39 day of the event. Active military and first responders are free at the gate with ID, guests pay regular admission price.