So long, Year of the Ox. The Year of the Tiger begins Feb. 1, and the Golden State is ready to roar.
You can enjoy some classic celebrations—like the Vietnamese Tet Festival in Costa Mesa (Feb. 5–6) and San Francisco’s Alaska Airlines Chinese New Year Parade (Feb. 19), which boasts of being the biggest Lunar New Year Parade outside Asia. Some theme parks host parties, featuring parades and special menus at Disneyland Resort (Jan. 21–Feb. 13) and strolling characters at Universal Studios Hollywood. And of course you can go see actual tigers, including those along the San Diego Zoo’s Tiger Trail (which has its own tiger cam).
But if you want to change your stripes, as it were, here are nine more ways to embrace the Year of the Tiger in the Golden State:
Visit with rescued tigers, Alpine
An accredited exotic animal sanctuary, Lions Tigers & Bears in east San Diego County has 60 animals rescued from private captivity—including a few tigers that used to live on the property featured in Tiger King. You can safely see the big cats, watch feedings, or even stay over in a two-bedroom suite that comes with a fireplace, kitchen, and a deck overlooking the sanctuary.
Feast on the ultimate tiger prawns, San Francisco
Tiger prawns are wild, saltwater shrimp that are related to lobsters but are marked by catlike “whiskers.” To taste some of the best, head to Crustacean, helmed by Chef Helene An, or its San Jose offshoot AnQi Shaken & Stirred. Get the Colossal Royal Tiger Prawns—butterflied, charbroiled, and served with An’s famous garlic noodles. (The restaurant’s other signature dish: a whole-roasted Dungeness crab.)
Get splashed by a tiger, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Since lunar new years follow the cycle of the five elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—this Year of the Tiger is actually the year of the Water Tiger. As luck would have it, three tigers at the Vallejo theme park—one Bengal and two Siberians—love water. These three are known to dive into a pool and paddle at Odin’s Temple of the Tiger, especially when food is involved. Just be warned: If you sit too close to the pool, you may get doused.
Behold a California tiger lily, Berkeley
Also known as leopard lilies, these striped-and-spotted flowers tend to bloom from May through July at the University of California Botanic Garden. Year round, you can also see a cactus known as “tiger’s jaws,” with “toothy” leaves and bright yellow flowers.
Get face to face with a sand tiger shark, Long Beach
He’s about eight feet long, weighs 172 pounds, and has an unnerving number of sharp teeth. And yet, the Aquarium of the Pacific sand tiger shark known as Big Guy has a reputation for being pretty chill. Come watch afternoon shark feedings at the Long Beach aquarium and you might notice that he swims at a slow and steady pace to get his meal.
Grab a coffee and a selfie at The Sleeping Tiger, Carlsbad
Pose by the rainbow-colored tiger mural outside coffee roaster Sleeping Tiger Coffees, not far from the beach in Carlsbad Village. Inside, try one of the single-origin fair-trade coffees accented with house-made syrups, like one made from Madagascar vanilla.
Sip a Tiger Lily wine, Placerville
Sierra Vista Winery has developed a line of wines that salutes the long winemaking history of El Dorado County. The original Tiger Lily Winery—named after a field of lilies in nearby Pleasant Valley—was founded in 1855 by European settlers who had come to California for the Gold Rush, and was one of the top winemakers of the region until Prohibition. Conduct your own tastings of the Tiger Lily Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, or a red blend called The Outlaw.
Wave at a saber-toothed tiger, Borrego Springs
Sculptor Ricardo Breceda created a giant prehistoric cat out of scrap metal as part of the Sky Art collection, which now dots the desert landscape surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Drive down Borrego Springs Road and you can see about 130 other pieces, including a wooly mammoth, a sea serpent, and a bighorn sheep. For even more saber-toothed cats, check out the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum in Los Angeles. Visitors can get an idea of just how imposing Smilodon fatalis were in real life by staring down the tar pit–preserved skeleton of one hapless kitty that ended up in the pit.
Combine Your Lunar New Year party with retail therapy
Plenty of national brands are offering special Lunar New Year items—like Coach’s “Gifts That Roar,” available at Santa Monica Place, or the tiger-themed Salvatore Ferragamo pieces created by Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, available at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles or Fashion Valley in San Diego. Several California shopping hubs are throwing their own mall-wide parties, too:
- San Francisco Premium Outlets: On Feb. 5, Max Mara, Philipp Plein, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Tory Burch will offer special deals, plus a gift bag of Läderach chocolates, when you spend at least $350.
- Stanford Shopping Center: Browse the stores at the Palo Alto hub for tiger-themed treasures, such as limited-time pieces at Tory Burch and tiger bath bombs at Lush (through Feb. 6).
- The Americana at Brand: Check out the wide range of discounts and special items at the Glendale mall, ranging from Amass to Sur La Table and See’s Candies (through Feb. 6).
- Citadel Outlets: Stop by the customer service center at the fabulous Los Angeles outlet mall to pick up a red envelope with gifts and center promotions (through Feb. 13).
- Fashion Island: Check out the holiday promotions at stores such as Neiman Marcus and Lilly Pulitzer, as well as “interactive augmented reality experiences” and special Lunar New Year characters around the Newport Beach shopping center (Feb. 1–15).
- South Coast Plaza: Don’t miss the Costa Mesa mall’s Year of the Tiger display in the Jewel Court, or the cultural exhibit sponsored by Liuli Crystal Art. Then browse special merch, like the tiger-striped bags at Kate Spade (through Feb. 20).