California Festivals


Sand Castle Festivals and Contests California

Billions of grains of sand make up our California Beaches. Nearly every day of the year on some beach in California people are making sandcastles. Nature's perfect sculpting material requires a few simple tools -- even your hands will do! A bit of water to moisten the sand and a creative mind can make the time pass, spark the imagination into new ideas, theories and possibilities, and create a concrete object that you and others can look at and enjoy. Limited only by your mind, California beaches provide a playground for humans as the participate in sandcastle building.

POINT REYES: Sand Sculpture Contest August 26, 2023, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Drakes Beach
Ken Patrick Visitor Center
Point Reyes National Seashore, CA
Annual Sand Sculpture Contest at Drakes Beach is a family event

ALAMEDA: 55th Annual Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture Contest June 10, 2023, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Robert Crown Memorial State Beach
Westline and Otis Drive
Alameda, CA
Registration 9-11 a.m. Judging begins at 12 p.m. Awards Ceremony at 1 p.m. Start your creative juices flowing and get ready to bring your shovel and buckets to the beach to create a unique piece of art at the Sand Castle Contest. This FREE event is a fabulous family fun activity to either participate in or just come down to watch all of the action. The Contest is co-sponsored by the Bayview Women's Club, East Bay Regional Park District, Alameda Youth Committee, and ARPD.

MANHATTAN BEACH: Surf Festival August 2-6, 2023
Sand Castle Design Contest August 6, 2023
Registration begins at 7 a.m.,
Annual Sand Castle Design Contest
Manhattan Beach Pier
South Side 100 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Free 1st place for Best Castle in the Open Division
Prize Categories Best Dribble | Best Castle | Best Sculpture
All contestants MUST be registered. Contestants can use tools such as buckets, cans or small shovels to construct their sculpture and environmentally safe objects such as beads, shells, feathers, play cars or pebbles to decorate the castles. No bottles, glass or large shovels are allowed. No water may be hosed from outlets at the Pier. You may not use supports for your sculpture, it must be self standing.

PACIFICA: Fog Fest Sand Sculpture Contest September 23-24, 2023
Rockaway Beach
Palmetto at Highway 1
Pacifica, CA
Annual Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture Contest is a chance for your business, family, group or organization to use your creativity, have fun, enjoy the sun and build the sand castle of your dreams during the Pacific Coast Fog Fest. No experience is necessary and amateur teams are welcome. Family and friend teams, community organizations and school groups can enter the contest for a $ donation. Business entries and sponsorships  go to cover event expenses. The number of Entries will be restricted. Entries will be considered on a first come basis once your entry form has been received and if you are a business once your fee is received. The contest starts at 11 am on Saturday and the structures must be finished by 5 p.m. that day. Winners are announced Sunday at 12pm Noon. The public can view the entries as they are being built and until the Fog Fest ends at 6 p.m. on Sunday when children are encouraged to take down the castles!

IMPERIAL BEACH: Sun & Sea Festival NO EVENT 2023, BACK IN 2024
Portwood Pier Plaza
Imperial Beach, CA
Free admission,
This family-friendly, no-alcohol, free event is open to the public.

 Sandcastle Competition at  Oceanside Pier. Sponsored by Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and the Oceanside Harbor District.

CORONA DEL MAR Sandcastle Contest October 1, 2023, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. 
It's a Zoo Out There is 2023 theme
Big Corona - Corona del Mar State Beach
3100 Ocean Blvd.
Corona del Mar, CA
Free to attend,

Sandcastle Contest involves sandcastle building taken to a new level at the annual Corona del Mar Sandcastle Contest, where "seashore sculptors" have turned grains of wet sand into elaborate works of art for over 50 years. Thousands of sightseers descend on Corona del Mar State Beach to watch participants - ranging from novice to expert - construct more than 30 entries. View these creations for free as a spectator, or consider making your own for a minimal entrance fee. Join thousands of spectators as the Commodores Club of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Sandcastle Contest on the beach. Participants' skill levels range in a wide variety--from children to professional architects. Talented groups will compete for the winning title. Register online...

SAN FRANCISCO Ocean Beach LEAP Sandcastle Contest October 28, 2023, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 
Theme: Halloween Haunts

Ocean Beach
San Francisco, CA |

LEAP Annual Sandcastle Contest involves teams of architects, engineers, contractors, designers, corporations and local elementary school students who work together to build giant sand sculptures. The funds raised by teams and sponsors make it possible for Leap to continue to provide arts programs to Bay Area schoolchildren. Thousands of people attend Leap's annual Sandcastle Contest, which is free to the community. Celebrity judges evaluate the works of art. More than 20 schools and 300 sponsors and advertisers participate. LEAP was created in response to severe budget cuts in arts programs in California schools. Programs place professional teaching artists in classrooms to work with grades K-8. Every year, these educational programs--in music, dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, and architecture serve thousands of students in elementary and middle schools throughout the Bay Area.

CARMEL: 60th Annual Sandcastle Contest September 16, 2023, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Time Travel Into the Future is 2023 theme.
Carmel Beach between 10th & 12th Streets
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California 
Free and open to the public. Registration (free) is the day of the contest on the beach. Carmel Beach Great Sandcastle Contest on the sand between 10th and 12th avenues. Registration begins at 10 a.m. with judging commencing at noon, but participants are encouraged to arrive early to get started. Competitors create a sand sculpture  from any era they choose from Carmel Beach's past. Awards include the Golden Shovel (Best of Show), the Sour Grapes Award, and Best Theme Award.  There will be a Best Kids Award and a participant plaque for every youngster who helps with an entry. Anyone interested in building a castle can enter the contest. And because bribery (non-monetary) is encouraged, it's not unusual to see platters of food, bottles of wine, chair massages and other indulgences being offered to those in charge.

SAN CLEMENTE: Ocean Festival  - no event in 2023
Sand Sculpting Competition usually held on Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
San Clemente Pier
Avenida del Mar
San Clemente, CA
Teams of up to 10 people each (20 spaces available) can compete in the following categories: Castles and Things, Creatures, Family or Open on Sunday. Grab your friends, family, co-workers & club members and come to the beach on Sunday. Let us see what you can do!

SAN DIEGO: US Sand Sculpting Challenge and 3D Art Exposition Discontinued!

 Labor Day Weekend 

B Street Cruise Ship Terminal Pier
1140 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101
Time: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Hundreds of thousands have come each year to see master-class sculptors build beautiful 3-dimensional works of art. Now many of the world's finest artists will come to create the most amazing sculptures ever. Sand Sculptures Competition between 10 professional world masters carving sculptures are the highlight, plus other competitions - art and architecture - middle, high school and college levels 3-dimensional Art for the Home Leading California metal, stone and wood sculptors Designer clothing and jewelry 3D wall art Art for kids, handmade educational toys and much more Entertainment All Weekend Long Musicians Singers Dancers Storytellers Pirates Magicians The best of the buskers Kids activities Sand sculpture classes Sandbox Box-in-Box Hat-making and more

Open to the public --Annual Sandcastle contest held on Carmel Beach, Scenic south of 10th. For over 50 years the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects ( have collaborated on The Great Sand Castle Contest. Everyone who would like to build a castle can enter the contest, and judges present awards for multiple categories, from the coveted Golden Shovel, to the tongue-in-cheek Sour Grapes. And because bribery (non-monetary) is encouraged, it's not unusual to see platters of food, bottles of wine, chair massages and other indulgences being offered to the people in charge.

HERMOSA BEACH: Sand Snowman Contest  December   Location: North of the Pier Hermosa Beach, California 90254  Hermosa Beach Community Resources Department at 310.318.0280 or email

SAN PEDRO Family Sandcastle Building Day takes place usually in July

3720 Stephen M. White Drive
San Pedro, CA
(310) 548-7562

Family Sandcastle Building Day 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Pile some sand, add some water, do a little shaping and presto! Your very own sandcastle. Bring your little shovel, a bucket and come on down for some sand fun. This is a free event open to everyone. Just bring a bucket, a shovel and your imagination. Water is provide. All castle styles are welcome: moats, draw bridges, spires, windows, turrets; let your imagination run wild, but most importantly, have a great time at the beach with family and loved ones. Don't forget to bring your camera to capture Kodak moments and your sandcastle handiwork. If you don't have beach building tools on hand, stop by the Aquarium Gift Shop for supplies. While you're there visit the Aquarium exhibit hall, which features 37 tanks containing the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world and a touch tank that provides up-close encounters with local marine life.

BALBOA ISLAND Sand Castle Contest July 30, 2022

Ruby Beach
North Bay Front
Balboa Island, CA
Ruby Ave. & N. Bayfront
Cost: Free.
Held at Ruby Beach on Balboa Island, Newport Beach, this event is small (as are its beaches) but mighty in fun. Kids are constantly building sandcastles on Balboa Island beaches so this special event offers an opportunity to let them compete. Bringing the Island community together, this event invites spectators and participants to enjoy a festive morning.

DANA POINT: Festival of Whales March 5-6, 2022 and Sand Sculpting Competition (not appearing in abbreviated schedule for 2022)

SANTA MONICA: Sandcastle Competition   8:30-11:30 a.m.
Santa Monica Beach, 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Lifeguard Tower 1550 Santa Monica, CA 90401 or sign up, $100 student team entry approx.
Join Heal the Bay and the Boys & Girls Club to design something amazing in celebration of Earth Month. Teams compete to create the most creative sand structure fitting the ocean theme.  Over 1000 volunteers will be working to clean the beach while you are designing your creation.

BODEGA BAY: Castles & Kites Festival Canceled due to weather, COVID, etc.
Free Admission
Parking  $  
Doran Regional Park
201 Doran Beach Road
Bodega Bay, California 94923

SUBJECT TO CHANGE: Annual Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture Contest Registration is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. that morning at Robert Crown Beach. Viewing and judging of the masterpieces begin at 12 noon. Awards presented at 1 p.m. Categories for Sand Castle and Sand Sculpture include:
Ages 12 and Under
Ages 13 and Over

LONG BEACH: Great Sand Sculpture Contest  canceled due to concessionaire changes

Granada Beach
1 Granada Ave., 5100 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA
Great Sand Sculpture Contest on Saturday and Sunday! You can build your own sculp­ture or just see the ones built by pro­fes­sion­als as well as corporate and community teams. There will be arts and crafts vendors, live music, and food on both days!

NEWS: The Biggest Sandcastle Contest in U.S. calls it quits! In 2011 the U.S. Open of Sandcastles competition in Imperial Beach disbanded. Formed in 1980 as an all volunteer organization, it leaves a void in the sandcastle scene.1

The U.S. Open draws tourists and professional sandcastle builders from around the nation to create fabulous sculptures made out of nothing but sand. While this big event includes concerts, games, food vendors, crafts and booths and fun entertainment throughout, this is not the only sandcastle event in California.

Many sandcastle festivals we remember that have come and gone included a huge event in Seal Beach. During its operations, it was garnered national press and included massive sculptures made by pros. That event disbanded around 2004. Seal Beach was ideal as Sandcastle headquarters when a professional sand sculptor declared the sand in Seal Beach was the best in the nation for created sculptures.

Contests do come and go, so there are no real guarantees that any of the events listed with continue through time but as of this writing, Corona del Mar, San Clemente, Carmel by the Sea and Bodega Bay all have sandcastle contests.

Sandcastle building is a great activity for kids on vacation. Most beaches with concessions sell sandcastle building toys made out of brightly colored molded plastic. The kits usually include a small shovel and rake, and several molded shapes that look like castles. Other tools that builders use include a bucket of water, straws and fine carving knives.

Sandcastle Tips

Build a sandcastle near the water, but not too close. The waves will destroy your castle as the tides rise.

Dig a hole to the water where you'll find the sand is dark and moist.

Scoop wet sand onto the center of the area where you're building your castle. Work fast so the sand stays wet.

Build towers by forming and stacking sand patties about the size and shape of thick pancakes.

Place larger patties on the bottom, and gently shake the patties from side to side as you pile them so that the sand settles.

Seal your towers by gently pouring water over them or spraying with a spray bottle filled with water. Wet sand is easiest to work with.

City Event -Alameda Sand Castle & Sculpture Contest - June Carmel Great Sandcastle Contest - September Corona del Mar Annual Sand Castle Contest - October Long Beach Great Sand Sculpture Contest - August Redondo Beach Sand Sculpting Contest - June San Clemente Sand Sculpture Contest San Francisco Sandcastle Classic / Ocean Beach - October Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Sand Castle Festival - Sept. 

Events are not guaranteed. It is your responsibility to confirm before going.

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