February may have the fewest days of the year, but California’s calendar is stocked full of cool ways to make the most of this winter month. While it’s high season for Hollywood star-watching, thanks to the Academy Awards on Feb. 24, it’s also prime time for fun at both the ski resorts and in the desert—plus, it’s the time of year to see a few colorful natural phenomena. While you’re in the cities, meanwhile, make time for the great museums, which are offering more freebies these days (in one case, based on your hair color). Here are 20 good reasons to plan a getaway in the Golden State this month.
All Month: San Diego Museum Month
The Southern California city has a treasure trove of museums, from the Fleet Science Center to the New Children’s Museum, Timken Museum of Art, and the floating Maritime Museum of San Diego. This month, use an easy-to-get pass (picked up at local libraries, or if you book a stay at a Hilton) to get half off entry at more than 40 museums.
Select dates: Lunar New Year Festivities
The Year of the Pig starts this month with parades and parties all over California. The state’s biggest festivities kick off on Feb 8–10 at the Tet Festival, the Vietnamese observance of the new year, in Costa Mesa. On Feb. 9, Los Angeles’ 120-year-old Golden Dragon Parade makes its way down North Broadway in Chinatown. Then, the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade—the biggest parade of its kind outside Asia—comes on Feb. 23, with its firecrackers, Miss Chinatown, and the 268-foot Golden Dragon carried by 180 people. During February, Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Sea World San Diego all have their own festivities too, featuring seasonal menus, strolling characters, and live performances.
Feb. 1–3: Surf City USA Marathon & Half Marathon, Huntington Beach
Choose from the marathon, half marathon, or the 5K on this popular run along the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County’s Huntington Beach. Keeping you motivated, the route is dotted with surf bands and a beachfront beer garden at the finish line. Check out the weekend festivities that lead up to the races, too.
Feb. 1–10: SF Beer Week
Beer nerds will delight in this long list of events at breweries around the Bay Area and beyond, from tastings to a trail run, a Tater Tot Fest, and the annual, highly anticipated Pliny the Younger release party at Russian River Brewing Co. in Sonoma.
Feb. 2: Sacramento Free Museum Day
Choose from more than 30 museums in the capital city—including the California State Railroad Museum, California Museum, and the California Automobile Museum—for free admission at this annual event. Wear your little museum pin to one of the nearby participating restaurants, too, for discounts and specials that day. The rest of the week brings special tours and events at museums all over the city, including the renowned Crocker Art Museum.
Feb. 4–10: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am
Watch as an all-star lineup of top golfers and A-list celebrities take to the manicured, ocean-hugging greens at this premier golf event, held at Spyglass Hill and other legendary links along the Central Coast’s Monterey Peninsula. This year’s roster of pros includes Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Cantlay, and Ernie Els, as well as celebs Andy Garcia, Darious Rucker, and The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison.
Starting Feb. 8: Fresno Blossom Trail
In mid-to-late February, the fruit and nuts trees in Fresno County—and there are a lot of fruit and nut orchards around there—pop with a blaze of pink and white blossoms. Festivities kick off on the 8th with the 31st Blossom Trail Opening Ceremonies in Selma (the Raisin Capital of the World), while other events include 4th Annual Blossom Trail Bus Tours in Sanger on Feb. 23 and 24. The blossoms are often on the ground by sometime in late March, but the Orange Cove Blossom Festival closes out the season on April 6.
Feb. 8–10: 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, Oakland
The East Bay hub hosts one of the world’s largest antiquarian book fairs, with nearly 200 booksellers offering up manuscripts, children's books, ephemera, and antiquarian books on dozens of topics, and even “incunabula” literature (meaning books printed before 1501). The weekend also includes panel discussions on how to collect books (and predict their value), and cool lectures such as “Cyclone on the Prairies: The Magic of the Land of Oz.”
Beginning Feb. 9: Diana: World-Premiere Musical, La Jolla
San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse has long been a launching pad for future Broadway hits, such as Come From Away, Jersey Boys, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. This month, a new highly anticipated musical about Princess Diana debuts, created by the Tony-award winning duo behind Memphis. There are still some tickets left for the run that lasts through April 7.
Feb. 9: Velo Love Ride, Gridley
Explore the pretty scenery of the Shasta Cascade region’s Butte County on this annual bike ride: Choose from the 40-, 60-, or 100-mile adventures on a mostly flat route that includes the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, and which has views of the Sutter Buttes and the season’s blossoming orchards.
Feb. 9–10: Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend
Take your Valentine, or just treat yourself: this annual weekend includes both local handcrafted Lodi wines (which means lots of big Zinfandels) and plenty of chocolates. Your ticket covers your wine glass, chocolate treat, and admission to more than 50 participating wineries.
Starting mid-February: Yosemite Firefall
For about two weeks every February, the setting sun reflects off the waters of Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Falls, creating the twilight illusion of fire cascading down El Capitan. The incandescent Firefall is awesome to see—it draws thousands of visitors to the park each year—though access to the national park may be limited due to the government shutdown.
Feb. 14: Little Red-Haired Girl Day at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Santa Rosa
The Sonoma County museum devoted to the life and work of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz just debuted a new exhibit that explores the real-life back story behind Charlie Brown’s love, the Little Red-Haired Girl. In her honor, any red-haired museumgoer will get free admission on Valentine’s Day—a great excuse to check out the original drawings, TV specials, and recreated studio at the all-ages museum.
Feb. 14–24: Palm Springs Modernism Week
Come to the desert city to celebrate its classic mid-century modern architecture during this annual festival of tours, films, lectures, art exhibitions, and plenty of cool parties. This year’s lineup of events includes fireside dinners, bike rides, Rat Pack–themed tours, and even synchronized-swimming performances.
Feb. 15–24: Riverside County Fair and Date Festival, Indio
Fair food is accented with lots of local dates at this county fair that kicks off with a blessing of the beloved local crop. Entertainment also includes the midway rides, competitions (from monster trucks to camel races), and a nightly Arabian Nights-themed pageant. This year’s musical headliners are Randy Houser, Ramon Ayala, and Salt-N-Pepa.
Beginning Feb. 16: Wrigley’s Catalina: A Centennial Celebration, Catalina Island
Chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr. bought the Santa Catalina Island Company—basically, the whole island off the coast of Southern California—in 1919. The Catalina Island Museum is observing that milestone with this exhibition that runs through January 2020. Learn about the early development of the island, from hotel construction to the launch of a pro sports team, then explore the island itself, with its walkable village, water sports, and nature preserve.
Feb. 16–17: Queen Mary ScotsFestival & International Highland Games, Long Beach
This annual celebration, on the historic (and Scottish-made) ship docked off of L.A. County’s Long Beach, tips its tam o’shanter to the dozens of Scottish clans. Watch a bevy of performances and contests in piping, drumming, darts, Highland dancing, and the feats-of-strength-and-skill Highland Games.
Feb. 16–24: Kid-O-Rama, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows
Bring the kids to the Lake Tahoe region ski resort for President’s Week, when daily activities include street parties, kids’ concerts, and the Big Truck Event featuring fire trucks, snowplows, and grooming machines. It’s a great time to enjoy the resort’s other kid-magnet attractions, such as snow tubing, ice-skating, and the mini-snowmobiles at the resort’s SnoVentures Activity Zone.
Feb. 23–24: Riverside Dickens Festival
The Inland Empire town channels Jolly London with this annual lovefest for the British author: Pick up some Victorian cosplay and then feast on fish and chips, meat pies, scones, and plenty of tea. Strolling characters including Dickens, of course, along with Edgar Allen Poe and the Bronte sisters; there are readings, discussions, and even a ball (with dance lessons). Read up ahead of time: This year’s featured book is David Copperfield.
Feb. 23–24: White Wine Weekend, Anderson Valley
Taste the white wines that put this Mendocino County wine region on the map: Alsace-style varietals like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling, along with award-winning Chardonnay. The weekend includes plenty of winemaker dinners, pairing events, and winery open houses.