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January Events in California

Come to California hungry and curious in January—for great dining, film, and wildlife

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The new year kicks off in California with a big appetite—whether you want to explore the state-wide feast of California Restaurant Month, make the most of snow season, or keep a close eye on Hollywood’s awards shows. This January also brings unique food festivals, great whale watching, and a post-holidays version of lights displays. Here are 18 excellent ways to kick off your 2019 in California:

All month: California Restaurant Month

January is high season for foodies in California, when 40 cities, towns, and regions—from San Diego to Wine County, Tahoe, and beyond—host their own restaurant “weeks” (sometimes lasting 10 days or more). Restaurants offer special deals, affordable prix fixe menus, or sizably discounted meals. Check out all the offerings in Northern, Central and Southern California.


Through Jan. 6: King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Los Angeles

The Egyptian boy king is about to leave the California Science Center in Exposition Park after a several-month run, but you can still get one glimpse during the first days of 2019. The exhibit includes 150 artifacts—the biggest that has appeared outside Egypt—including some rare pieces and new scientific discoveries about Tutankhamun’s lineage. After this, the exhibit heads to a new permanent home near the Giza Pyramids.


Jan. 1: Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl, Pasadena

L.A. County’s Pasadena has been throwing a big New Year’s Day party for more than a century: This year is the 130th year for the famed parade (get grandstand tickets here) and the 105th year for the Rose Bowl game, which this year pits Ohio State against the University of Washington. Come to town a few days early for other lead-up festivities, such as the Equestfest and a behind-the-scenes look at floats.


Jan. 3–14: Palm Springs International Film Festival

One way to celebrate Hollywood's high season is to attend this star-studded festival in Palm Springs and Cathedral City, showcasing more than 200 films (including lots of independent films and documentaries) from 78 countries. To sample the films, buy a six-pack of vouchers than can be exchanged for tickets to screenings.

Begins Jan. 5: Rainforest Weekends, Santa Cruz

Head just a few miles from the beach and boardwalk of Santa Cruz and you can see huge gorgeous trees from the vintage cars of Roaring Camp Railroads. This seasonal route leaves from Felton and winds through the coastal redwood forest on Saturdays and Sundays through March 31.

Jan. 6: Golden Globes, Beverly Hills

Awards season kicks off this month in Hollywood, bringin with it increased chances to spot stars on a red carpet—first at the foreign-press-fueled Golden Globes at Beverly Hills’ Beverly Hilton, followed by the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 27, held at downtown L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium.

Begins Jan 9: Women of Winter Clinic, Squaw Alpine Meadows

Get terrain pointers from the ski resort’s female instructors in these all-women clinics, and enjoy ladies-first priority to lift lines. Choose from the one-day clinics on select Wednesdays and Sundays, or the three-day Women of Winter Camp from Jan. 27–29.

Jan. 12–20: Napa Lighted Art Festival

Missing holiday lights? Come to this free, open-air lighted art walk created by local and international artists at 16 locations in and around Downtown Napa. This year’s unique installations include light art, 3D video mapping projections, lighted sculptures, and six glowing murals (accented with live music) along the Napa Valley Vine Trail.

Jan. 17–20: Big Sur Foragers Festival

Whether you love mushrooms or the sweeping views along Highway 1, this weekend makes a fun foodie getaway on the Central Coast. The festival includes dinners, guided foraging walks, and even a Fungus Face-Off featuring culinary tastings paired with local wines and beers.

Jan. 17–20: Fog Fair, San Francisco

Contemporary art goes beyond framed works and sculpture at this festival located at Fort Mason. Check out the furniture and visual art and other design pieces affiliated with 40 art galleries and the SFMoma. The festival kicks off with a design-inspired breakfast called ArtBites.

Jan. 18–21: Napa Truffle Festival

January means the beginning of Cabernet Season in Napa Valley—events and dinners that celebrate the iconic red wine that pairs especially nicely with chilly winter days. It also goes well with truffles, which get the spotlight at this festival that offers lunches, truffle orchard tours (including truffle-sniffing dog training demos) at Robert Sinskey Vineyards, and a special dinner at La Toque. Buy tickets for events, or check out the Festival Marketplace at Oxbow Public Market, where you can pick up à la carte truffle dishes, watch cooking demos, and take home fresh truffles.

Jan. 18–27: Mendocino Winter Feast

California Restaurant Month coincides nicely with high season for fresh crabs along the North Coast. This 10-day crab foodfest (formerly known as the Crab, Beer & Wine Festival) includes family-style cioppino feasts (the fish stew beloved by 19th-century San Francisco fishermen), as well as crab boils, winemaker dinners, and a crab cake cookoff.

Jan. 19–20: 27th Annual Winter Wineland, Sonoma County

Taste Sonoma-grown limited production wines, new releases, or library wines along Northern Sonoma County’s Wine Road. Each participating winery will showcase a Vintage, Varietal, or Vertical tasting that weekend. The weekend kicks off with a breakfast (the one event without wine) with winemakers.

Jan. 23–27: 20th Annual Snow Goose Festival of the Pacific Flyway, Chico

Each winter Butte County becomes a magnet for literal snowbirds: the Northern Sacramento Valley attracts a large population of waterfowl and raptors, including tens of thousands of snow geese. This five-day festival in Chico welcomes them with art exhibits, field trips, workshops, and plenty of food and wine.


Jan. 24–27: Farmers Insurance Open, San Diego

This is the 51st year that this PGA tour tournament has been at the scenic, bluffside Torrey Pines Golf Course, known for its feathery-needled pine trees. Check out the lineup of players and consider getting a great view by staying at the neighboring Lodge at Torrey Pines.

Begins Jan. 26: Knott’s Peanuts Celebration, Buena Park

The Buena Park theme park has two great loves: the boysenberry (often rendered in pie) and the Peanuts gang, who appear in shows, rides, and the big Peanuts HQ gift shop. During winter weekends, Snoopy and his cohorts will appear in new live shows—including Woodstock’s Music Festival—and inspire cartoon-sketching classes and plenty of character meet-and-greets (now including the humble Pig Pen). Runs weekends through March 10.


Jan. 26–27: 9th Annual Whale Fest Monterey

Year round, the krill-and-anchovy-rich waters off Monterey Bay provide an ongoing buffet for whales, orcas, and dolphins, but ocean-mammal traffic sees a serious uptick during winter as migrating gray whales join the feast. This two-day festival around Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf features marine-life-themed talks, films, musical performances, and whale-watching tours.

Jan. 30–Feb. 9: Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Hollywood’s A-listers love to head up the Central Coast to Santa Barbara and this 11-day festival offers extra incentive, including more than 200 films and panels featuring directors, producers, and writers. This year’s films include the acclaimed Roma while honorees include Viggo Mortenson, Glenn Close, and Melissa McCarthy.

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