Editor’s Note: Updated June 16, 2020. The dates featured in this article may change; check the attraction and event websites for up-to-date information.
If your New Year’s resolution is to travel more, now's the time to get started. California has countless reasons to visit in 2020, and there’s no need to wait: Some of the best events and attractions start in January. Here are 20 compelling reasons—including exciting theme park openings, sporting events, historic anniversaries, and more—to make good on that resolution soon.
Experience Cool New Theme Park Thrills
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens, Jan. 17
The second, much-anticipated ride within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Park (scheduled to re-open July 17). Next door, Disneyland Resort’s California Adventure Park will introduce the superhero-sized Avengers Campus in 2020 (date TBD), with new rides and other attractions.
Gilroy Gardens celebrates 20 years
The small Central Coast theme park—home of the funky Circus Trees and rides such as the Artichoke Dip—celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2020 when the park re-opens (date TBD). Look for a new light show and other events highlighting the park's whimsical, horticultural history.
The Buena Park theme park that started out as a boysenberry stand will commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2020, when it re-opens (date TBD). The party includes “Knott’s Family Reunion” festivities and a new 4-D interactive ride, “Knott’s Bear-y Tales,” which is a throwback to the park’s first ride.
The studio-lot-meets-theme-park destination plans to introduce the new Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash attraction in 2020, where guests will take on the roles of the film’s critter characters in an immersive experience. (The theme park may re-open in July.)
New Great Wolf Lodge opens, Sept. 1
The family magnet will be opening a new hotel and indoor-outdoor waterpark in Manteca, near Stockton in California’s Central Valley. The new one-stop destination will cover 29 acres and feature 500 rooms.
Watch Top Sporting Events
U.S. Freestyle Moguls Championships, March 19–22
Come see the country’s top mogul skiers combine speed and style at the U.S. Freestyle Moguls Championships at Squaw Valley. Then buy a lift ticket and try some spring skiing yourself at the ski resort that stayed open through July 4th in 2019. (Cancelled due to COVID-19.)
2020 PGA Championship, August 3–9
The 91st Major League Baseball All-Star Game was originally set for July 14 at Dodger Stadium. While that date will not happen, there is talk that an All-Star Game (and the associated Home Run Derby) may still be part of a shortened baseball season. Stay tuned and keep your eye out for possible games for California’s five MLB teams in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim, and San Diego.
L.A’s $5 billion SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park complex was set to debut in July but should still open this year, with the college-football LA Bowl on the calendar for December. The 70,000-seat arena in Inglewood will then be the home turf for the NFL’s Rams and Chargers, as well as the host venue for Super Bowl LVI in 2022 and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Celebrate Historic Anniversaries
Hearst Castle turns 100, all year
The opulent Central Coast mansion of William Randolph Hearst hits the century mark this year. Take one of the many tours operated by California State Parks that covers different parts of the 68,000-square-foot, 38-bedroom home and its surrounding buildings. (Re-opening date TBD.)
Point Reyes Lighthouse 150th Anniversary, all year
The 19th-century lighthouse perched on a scenic rocky point recently reopened after a 15-month renovation to celebrate its 150th birthday. The Point Reyes National Seashore also includes hiking trails and ranger-led tours of the lighthouse and seaside. (Some parts of the park are now open.)
50th Annual San Francisco Pride Celebration, June 29–30
One of the world’s largest gay pride events marks 50 years of celebrating LGBT culture and rights. The party will be virtual this year, with more than 13 hours of streaming programming.
Monterey’s 250th Anniversary, all year
The seaside city will celebrate its quarter-millennial anniversary of its founding in 2020. The planned series of events is on hold, but in the meantime the web site has been sharing quirky stories from the town's history.
Eat, Hike, Explore, and More
California Restaurant Month, January
During January, 40 cities, towns, and regions host dining weeks (or months) and serious deals at top restaurants. But don’t feel limited to January: In 2019, the Michelin Guide expanded to cover the entire state, which resulted in 90 Michelin-starred restaurants across California that beckon year round. Or plan a trip around one of the Golden State's foodie events, like Sacramento’s Farm to Fork Festival in September or the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival in November.
Go wine tasting in an award-winning region
Wine Enthusiast recently named Sonoma County the Wine Region of the Year, due to its fine vintages, focus on sustainability, and variety among its 425 wineries. October means harvest festivals and events, but Sonoma in winter also offers some great deals and a more mellow vibe.
Hike through National Park Week
Take a spring hike in one of California’s many state and national parks during April’s annual celebration, which typically includes a free admission day (cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19). Pay it forward other times of year and sign up for a “Volunteer Vacation” with Nature Corps to help restore trails in Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings National Parks, Big Sur, and more.
Follow the music
California hosts a lot of famed music festivals each year, including April’s Coachella and Stagecoach Festival (both cancelled for 2020) and the Monterey Jazz Fest (rescheduled for September 2021). Some festivals are still hoping to go on this year, such as Outside Lands (August), KAABOO San Diego (September) and October's Dirtybird Campout, near Modesto, which offers a unique pairing of electronic music with classic summer camp vibes.
California’s 840 miles of coastline provide an aquatic playground—along with lots of annual surfing events, such as August’s Supergirl Surf Pro in Oceanside. Surfing season lasts year round, but you can celebrate the state sport on California Surfing Day on September 20.
Take an epic road trip
California has some of the country’s best road trips, including the “Mother Lode Highway" from Sonora to Auburn in Gold Country that is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Discover under-the-radar trip ideas—like the Shasta Cascade region’s Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway—and more than 50 itineraries on the California Road Trip Republic hub.