January in California offers endless new beginnings, whether you want to extend your holiday season or perhaps just recover from it. Play in the snow, check out the whales along the coast, or perhaps see some stars on the red carpet as awards season begins in Los Angeles.
All over the Golden State, the first month of the year is also an excellent time to get excellent deals on local cuisine, head to golf tournaments, or start celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. Below are more than 20 ways to start making great memories in 2023.
All Month: Restaurant Weeks
Many California cities and towns are hosting their own Restaurant Weeks this month—an ideal opportunity to enjoy prix fixe deals for lunch and dinner. In Gold Country, you can enjoy farm-to-fork specials during Sacramento’s Dine Downtown (Jan. 13–22) and Elk Grove Restaurant Week (Jan. 13–22). In the Bay Area, choose from Napa Valley Restaurant Week (Jan. 20–29), Vacaville Restaurant Week (Jan. 20–29), and the irresistible (and extended, in 2023) Concord Comfort Food Month. Head down to the Central Coast for the full SLO CAL Restaurant Month in San Luis Obispo County.
All Month: Whale Watching
It’s prime time to see California gray whales make their annual migration to Baja. See them along the North Coast at Mendocino Headlands State Park and Point Arena Lighthouse, or book a spot on a whale-watching charter in Mendocino County. Near San Francisco, look for the leviathans at the tip of Point Reyes National Seashore. Visit Oxnard for a whale-watching tour near Channel Islands National Park or head south to Dana Point, where you can watch the mammals from an underwater viewing pod. In Orange County, you’ll see why Dana Point has been named both the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World® as well as the first Whale Heritage Site in the Americas.
Select nights from Jan. 1–28: Ride Under the Stars, Big Bear
Make the most of the shortest days of the year at Big Bear Mountain. Snow Summit hosts 14 different night sessions until 8:30 p.m. during January, more than any other time of the season. Choose from a wide variety of runs and enjoy Westridge Park’s full evening groom. You can add the night session on to your daily lift ticket.
Jan. 2: Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Pasadena has been throwing this epic New Year’s Day party since 1890—and since Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday this year, the main festivities will take place Jan. 2. Come watch the famed parade (whether you camp out or get grandstand tickets) or the Rose Bowl game, which this year pits Utah against Penn State. Come to town a few days early for the lead-up festivities, such as the Equestfest and Bandfest, or stick around afterward to see the parade masterpieces up close at Floatfest (Jan. 2–3).
Jan. 5–16: Palm Springs International Film Festival, Greater Palm Springs
One way to celebrate Hollywood's high season is to attend this star-studded festival in Palm Springs and Cathedral City, showcasing upward of 200 films from around the globe. This year’s opening and closing films are 80 for Brady (with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field) and The Lost King, directed by Stephen Frears. Awards will go to A-listers such as Michelle Yeoh, Viola Davis, and Baz Luhrmann. Screening tickets start at just $13 or you can buy six-packs of tickets for $69.
Jan. 7–8: Alpenglow Demo Day, Palisades Tahoe
If you enjoy backcountry snow sports such as alpine touring, telemarking, or splitboarding, head to this well-known demo day that also includes avalanche education, guided tours, and a huge raffle. Admission is free for anyone who has a lift ticket for that weekend at the North Lake Tahoe resort.
Begins Jan. 8: Sunday Polo Games at Eldorado Polo Club, Indio
During spring, this field in Indio is famous for hosting big-name artists at the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals. During the winter months, though, it’s a legit polo field. Bring your own food for a picnic or tailgating, or sit at the clubhouse and order food while watching polo matches. Admission is $20 per person. Runs through March 26.
Jan. 13–20: Napa Truffle Festival, Napa
January falls in the middle of Cabernet season in Napa Valley, with events and dinners that celebrate the iconic red wine. A Cabernet Sauvignon really goes well with truffles, too, which get the spotlight during this festival that features orchard tours and a special dinner at La Toque. Be sure to check out the Festival Marketplace (with more truffles and cooking demos) at Oxbow Public Market.
Jan. 14-15: Winter Wineland, Sonoma County
Taste limited-production wines, new releases, and library wines at this annual event along Northern Sonoma County’s Wine Road. Buy a one-day pass or stay for the whole weekend and choose from one-hour tasting experiences at 70 participating wineries, including Baldassari Wines, Colagrossi Wines, and Viszlay Vineyards.
Begins Jan. 14: Lunar New Year Festivities
The Year of the Rabbit officially begins on Jan. 22, but parties and parades will start early and keep rolling all over California. Disneyland Resort (Jan. 20–Feb. 15) and Universal Studios Hollywood (dates still TBD) both host celebrations with seasonal menus, strolling characters, and live performances. San Francisco’s huge Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Festival & Parade won’t happen until Feb. 4, but Chinatown festivities begin with the Flower Market Fair (Jan. 14–15) where you can buy fruit, flowers, and candies for the new year. Costa Mesa, meanwhile, holds its Vietnamese Tet Festival on Jan. 27–29, but take note that Vietnam will celebrate this year as the Year of the Cat. On Jan. 28, Santa Monica Place will celebrate with traditional Chinese lion dance performances, balloon and dough artists, cherry blossom Wishing Trees, and special deals found in red envelopes around Center Plaza.
Jan. 14–16: SeaWorld Inside Look, San Diego
Get an up-close look at conservation efforts at the San Diego theme park and zoological institution. Check out special exhibits to learn about the daily work of the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team and their colleagues who care for the park’s orcas, dolphins, sharks, and more; included with park admission. Starting Jan. 21, celebrate the park’s Mardi Graswith live music, costumed performers, and special Creole and Cajun menu items (runs through Feb. 26).
Jan. 19–22: Fog Fair, San Francisco
Contemporary art goes beyond framed works and sculpture at this festival based at Fort Mason. Check out the furniture, visual art, and other design pieces affiliated with 45 art galleries and SFMOMA. The whole month of January is a good time for seeing cutting-edge art in San Francisco: Catch 2023’s first installment of The Fresh Festival (Jan. 21–28), which features experimental dance and music in the Mission District (the second half will happen in March).
Jan. 21: Big Sur Foragers Festival, Big Sur
Whether you love mushrooms or the sweeping views along Highway One, this weekend on the Central Coast is gratifying. This year’s event includes a morning foraging walk followed by a lunch with beer and wine at the Big Sur River Inn. There’s also a robust virtual option, in which tasting kits of mushrooms, cheeses, and wine are shipped to you for sampling or preparing a meal online, with guidance from Gavin Schmidt, chef at The Morris in San Francisco.
Begins Jan. 21: Napa Lighted Art Festival
Missing those holiday lights? Come to this free, open-air, illuminated art walk created by local and international artists in Downtown Napa. This year’s installations include a sculpture of colorful jellyfish and projected artwork on the sides of three downtown buildings. Runs through Feb. 19.
Jan. 25–28: Farmers Insurance Open, San Diego
Experience this historic PGA tour tournament held at the coastal Torrey Pines Golf Course, known for its amazing views and feathery-needled pine trees. Consider getting an up-close view by staying at the neighboring Lodge at Torrey Pines.
Jan. 26–29: Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway, Chico
During winter, Butte County becomes a serious magnet for snowbirds—waterfowl, raptors, and tens of thousands of snow geese. This four-day festival in Chico offers more than 50 different bird-watching field trips, as well as opportunities to hike the Sutter Buttes and visit local vineyards.
Jan. 27–Feb. 5: Seafood & Sips, Mendocino
Winter is high season for fresh crabs in Mendocino County. This 10-day crab foodfest includes a Crabcake Cook-off and a cioppino dinner (the fish stew beloved by 19th-century San Francisco fishermen), as well as crab feeds, wine pairings, and a Grand Tasting.
Begins Jan. 27: Disney100 Celebration, Anaheim
A century ago, up-and-coming cartoonist Walt Disney formed a company to manage his artistic endeavors. Throughout 2023, the Disneyland Resort will celebrate that centennial with platinum-infused decor, special food and drink, merchandise, and even new “looks” for Mickey, Minnie, and their cohorts. Both parks at the Anaheim resort will debut special nighttime shows, too: A World of Color One at Disney California Adventure Park and Wondrous Journeys at Disneyland Park, which will both make nods to the company’s greatest hits over the past 100 years.
Begins Jan. 28: Knott’s Peanuts Celebration, Buena Park
The Buena Park theme park salutes the Peanuts gang on winter weekends: See Snoopy and his friends in live shows, then take part in activities like cartoon-sketching classes, a silent disco, and lots of character meet-and-greets. Runs weekends through Feb. 26.
Jan. 30–Feb. 5: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Pebble Beach
Watch as an all-star lineup of top golfers and A-list celebrities take to the manicured, ocean-hugging greens of Spyglass Hill and other classic courses along the Central Coast’s Monterey Peninsula. This year’s roster of celebrities includes Jason Bateman, Darius Rucker, and chef Thomas Keller.