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Discover the Magic of Dana Point Festival of Whales

a whale on a lake next to a body of water

Are you looking for a unique and unforgettable experience? Look no further than the Dana Point Festival of Whales. This annual event celebrates the migration of the majestic California Gray Whale and offers a variety of activities for all ages.

In this article, we’ll dive into the history of the festival, the exciting events and activities it offers, and why you should mark your calendars for the Dana Point Festival of Whales.

History of the Festival

The Dana Point Festival of Whales began in 1971 as a way to celebrate the migration of the California Gray Whale. This annual event has grown in popularity over the years and has become a beloved tradition for locals and visitors alike.

Don Hansen was the creator of the Dana Point Festival of Whales. As a visionary and passionate individual, he recognized the importance of raising awareness about the majestic whales that grace our coastal waters. With his deep love for marine life and commitment to conservation, Don took the initiative to establish the Festival of Whales, which has now become a cherished tradition in our community. Don’s vision for the festival was to create an event that not only celebrated the beauty of whales but also educated the public about their significance and the need for their protection. He believed that by bringing together people from all walks of life, the festival could serve as a platform to inspire and foster a sense of stewardship for our oceans and their inhabitants. Through his dedication and tireless efforts, Don worked closely with local organizations, businesses, and community members to bring the Festival of Whales to life. He helped organize educational programs, whale-watching excursions, art exhibits, and various activities that showcased the wonders of marine life. His leadership and passion laid the foundation for what has now become a beloved and internationally recognized event and the longest-running Festival of Whales in the world. Don’s legacy in creating the Festival of Whales is one of inspiration and environmental consciousness. His vision continues to shape the festival through his daughter, Donna Kalez, who now leads the Festival of Whale.

The Whales of Dana Point

Dana Point is known as the “Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World” and for good reason. The waters off the coast of Dana Point are home to a variety of marine life, including dolphins, sea lions, and, of course, whales.

The California Gray Whale is the star of the show during the festival. These magnificent creatures migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Baja California, Mexico, where they give birth and raise their young. The migration takes place from December to April, with peak sightings in February and March.

Events and Activities

The Dana Point Festival of Whales offers a wide range of events and activities for all ages. From educational experiences to live music and delicious food, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Whale Watching Excursions

One of the most popular activities during the festival is whale watching. Dana Wharf Whale Watching, the official whale watching company of the festival, offers daily excursions during the festival weekends. These excursions give you the opportunity to see the majestic California Gray Whales up close and in their natural habitat.

Street Fair and Art in the Park

The festival also features a street fair and art in the park, where you can browse and purchase unique items from local vendors. The street fair takes place in the Dana Point Harbor and features over 100 vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry to clothing and home decor.

Art in the Park is held at La Plaza Park and showcases the work of local artists. You can find a variety of art pieces, including paintings, sculptures, and photography.Things We Loved About Dana Point's Festival of Whales - Shaffer Plumbing -Shaffer Plumbing

Whale of a Concert and BBQ

The Whale of a Concert and BBQ is a must-attend event during the festival. This outdoor concert features live music from local bands and delicious BBQ food from local restaurants. It’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon with family and friends.

Educational Experiences

The festival also offers educational experiences for those looking to learn more about the California Gray Whale and other marine life. The Ocean Institute, located in the Dana Point Harbor, hosts a variety of activities and exhibits, including a touch tank and a whale-themed art exhibit.

Why You Should Attend the Festival

The Dana Point Festival of Whales is a one-of-a-kind event that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, art enthusiast, or simply looking for a fun weekend activity, this festival has it all.

Not only is the festival a great way to learn about and appreciate the California Gray Whale, but it also supports the local community. The festival is organized by the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization that works to promote and support local businesses.

Plus, with the beautiful backdrop of the Dana Point Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, the festival offers a stunning setting for all of its events and activities.

Plan Your Visit

Where to Stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in Dana Point, from luxury resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts. For a truly unique experience, consider staying at the Dana Point Harbor Inn, which offers stunning views of the harbor and is within walking distance of all festival events.

How to Get There

Dana Point is located in Orange County, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles and an hour north of San Diego. The closest airport is John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, which is about a 30-minute drive from Dana Point.

If you’re driving, take the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and enjoy the scenic views along the way. Parking is available at the Dana Point Harbor, but it can get crowded during the festival, so plan accordingly.


The Dana Point Festival of Whales is a unique and magical event that celebrates the beauty and wonder of the California Gray Whale. With a variety of events and activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy.