Best Things to Do on the Central Coast This September

Featured Photo: Monterey County Fair

In this stretch of California, so-called Indian summers enjoy some of the best weather of the year. Its no coincidence that it also welcomes a number of the most magnetic events. Those include its most downhome (Monterey County Fair), and no fewer than three of its most adrenalized (Indy Car Grand Prix, California Rodeo Salinas and BANFF Film Festival). They even include the most frisky (Northern California Renaissance Faire), and famous (Monterey Jazz Festival). All of them include renewed gratitude for the chance to gather safely in person after at least a year going virtual or completely dark, though organizers everywhere are asking for vigilance in minding masking and distancing policies.

Here are our top picks for the month on the Central Coast, in chronological order.

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Photo: Courtesy of Monterey County Fair

Monterey County Fair

September 2-6

More than 25 live musical acts perform, the Stilt Circus raises its game, pigs race around, carnival rides proliferate, livestock gathers for photos and ribbons and every sort of fair food awaits behind a booth. Magician Frank Thomas ranks among the many stimuli, but the real magic is the sheer amount of things to enjoy, nostalgia included.

More info: montereycountyfair.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship

Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship

September 10-12

Daytona prototypes, Le Mans rides, GT Le Mans vehicles, and GT Daytona rigs take on the Corkscrew with massive amounts of vehicles packed into single races. Despite the crowd, theyll be doing absurd speeds for any streets, let alone a racetrack shaped like a pasta noodle thrown against the wall. 

More info: weathertechraceway.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Ken Weisengerger

Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

September 17-19

The Indy Car circuit wraps its season with the Firestone, so the speeds and the stakes will be high. The top three championship contenders at press time — Alex Palou, Pato OWard and Scott Dixon — each have at least one win and nine top 10s. You could say the open-wheel race is wide open.

More info: weathertechraceway.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Northern California Renaissance Faire

Northern California Renaissance Faire

Weekends September 18-October 24

To quote Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, Let’s get medieval on their a**.” To be fair, the expansive party at Casa de Fruta in Hollister is a lot more festive in its medieval machinations than a Quentin Tarantino movie, but both are dripping with characters, conversations, incredible costumes and memorable moments. Theme weekends like God Save the Queen” and Pirate Invasion” help summon the fun.

More info: norcalrenfaire.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Nic Coury

California Rodeo Salinas

September 23-26

Bring on the mutton busting and the chuck wagon racing, the bull riding, team roping and steer wrestling. The action rumbling through each year at one of the biggest and most competitive rodeos in the country — with the big winnersbuckles to match — proves as diverse as it does eye-catching. The people watching is five-star stuff too.  

More info: carodeo.com

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Photo: Courtesy of Jim Stone

Monterey Jazz Festival

September 24-26

Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington, Christian Sands, Ledisi, Kandace Springs and George Benson lead another transcendent lineup at the granddaddy of them all. With capacity at 50 percent, organizers expect a more intimate affair than normal (which reliably involves opportunities for up-close access). Tickets have sold out, though, and did so in a hurry.

More info: montereyjazzfestival.org

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Photo: Courtesy of Banff Mountain Film Festival

Banff Mountain Film Festival Radical Reels Tour

September 26

National Geographic and MSR Gear present what has to drip more adrenaline than any film gathering, and Santa Cruzs Rio Theatre provides a superb venue to soak it all up. And theres a lot to absorb: extreme mountain biking, absurd ski stunts, clever filmmaking, insane kayaking, high-elevation slack lining and other truly death-defying endeavors that multiply from there. For outdoor adventurers, its the #1 cinematic experience of the year.

More info: riotheatre.com

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