Summer is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that summer fun has to end! Have some family fun over Labor Day weekend at the 59th annual Capitola Begonia Festival, five miles south of Santa Cruz and about 35 miles from San Jose. The highlight of this annual festival is the Begonia float parade on Sunday, but the festival is packed full of activities for all ages from September 2-5.
Friday, September 2
This year’s theme is Let’s Dance so it makes sense that the festival kicks off with dance reviews performed by locals.
Saturday, September 3
Saturday starts early with a sand sculpture contest at 8 a.m. at Capitola Beach. If you’re feeling particularly creative, register your family to build your own sand sculpture (be sure to pack some spray bottles of water to keep the sand moist and some tools for modeling your design). If you’re just planning to admire, but not create, get there by 10 a.m. to watch the sculptures “emerge” from the sand or by noon for the judging. Other fun activities include a student art show, a concert by Extra Large, watching float construction along Soquel Creek, and an outdoor movie at dusk on the beach.
Sunday, September 4
Sunday starts with horseshoes on the sand. Beginning at 8 a.m., you can sign up to play or just watch people play. This is followed by Chalk Art on the Sea Wall, where children of all ages can make chalk masterpieces, somewhat reminiscent of the park scene in Mary Poppins. The 59th Annual Nautical Float parade starts at 1 p.m. so grab a spot early in the day along the Stockton Bridge, Cliff Avenue, or Wharf Road to watch the nautical parade of floats covered in Begonias on Soquel Creek. Finish off the day with a picnic on the beach, while listening to an outdoor concert by Mike Hadley and the Groove.
Monday, September 5
The festival concludes on Monday with a fishing derby, art activity, and rowboat races. Then, it’s back home and most likely back to school on Tuesday.
The Capitola Begonia Festival got its start back in 1952 when approximately 90% of the world’s Begonias came from the Brown Bulb Ranch in Capitola, now the site of the Capitola Mall. Since Begonias are grown for their tubers or roots which are dug up and sent to market, the flowers often went to waste. Then, in 1952, local resident Peggy Matthews got permission to pick flowers and use them in a local swimming show. Today, the Begonia fields are located in Marina, where 43 acres, over 3 million blooms, are dedicated to Begonias.
Since traffic from San Jose to Capitola can be challenging, especially over Labor Day weekend, consider a mini-vacation by staying in or near Capitola. Favorite lodgings in Capitola are the Best Western Capitola-by-the-Sea, Capitola Hotel, and Capitola Venetian Hotel. A few miles away, Seascape Beach Resort (Aptos) and Dream Inn (Santa Cruz) offer deluxe guest rooms and suites as well as swimming pools, onsite dining, and free parking.