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California in January: 10 Things You'll Be Delighted to Do
How can you tell it's January in California? After the New Year's holiday, it's a quiet time. In Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California, the coral trees bloom, topping their muscular-looking trunks and bare branches with clusters of red-orange flowers. In wine country, the tasting rooms are as empty as the shelves at Walmart at the end of Black Friday. At Disneyland, the decorations come down and the crowds all but evaporate. And it might just rain on you in San Francisco.
Top Picks for January in California
You'll still find annual events that are well worth your time, though. Below is a selected list of things that have been tested and reviewed by TripSavvy writers.
Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena: It's held on January 1 (except when 1/1 is a Sunday, then it's 1/2) and it's an over-the-top parade that you won't soon forget. With events and activities before it starts and a float viewing afterward, use this guide to plan your Rose Parade... experience.
A Taste of Yosemite: The chefs don't go on holiday in January. Instead, they give foodies a fun-filled holiday from their everyday life. Some big names have shown up at this event in the past, and the grand finale dinner is well worth planning ahead for. Get details and make reservations.
Chinese New Year Parade, San Francisco: Chinese New Year is a lunar holiday that occurs in late January thru February. San Francisco holds the most extravagant celebration of it in the state, maybe in the entire U.S. No matter what the actual date for the first day fo the new year, the big parade—which is one of the lighted night parades in the country—is always on the weekend and occasionally doesn't happen until early March. Find out how to see it and more.
Edwardian Ball, San Francisco: The Edwardian Ball is a two-evening event with an Edward Gorey theme, and some say it's far more fun than those rowdy parties at the end of October. In fact, it's worth going just to see all the great costumes everyone else comes up with. Find out more about it and how to get tickets.
Mavericks Invitational: It attracts the world's top surfers, and it can happen at any time, between November and March, as soon as the waves are big enough. This guide has all the details and information about how to find out when it's happening.
Mother Nature in January
January is one of the best times of the year to see California wildlife doing things you wouldn't have imagined possible. Or to kick back and watch a meteor shower in a place with dark skies.
Monarch Butterflies: The orange-and-black butterflies spend their winters in the trees around Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz, sleeping in big clumps to keep warm. When they wake up and start flying, it's a sight you might think happens only in the movies. Use this guide to find all the places you can see them.
Elephant Seals: In January, male elephant seals fight for dominance while the newborn seal pups grow at an astounding rate, making for an unforgettable spectacle on a couple of California beaches. You can see them at Ano Nuevo north of Santa Cruz and take a docent-led tour. If you're in the southern part of the state, get an even closer look at Piedras Blancas near Hearst Castle.
Whale Watching in January: January is the month to see gray whales and fin whales along the California coast.
Quadrantid Meteor Showers: This burst of astronomical fireworks happens in early January. The best places to see them are far away from city lights and where there are few trees: Joshua Tree or Lake Shasta are excellent choices.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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Things to Do in California in January That You Must Plan Ahead For
Grandstand tickets for next year's Rose Parade go on sale in January at Sharp Seating, and the best seats will go fast. If you want to park your RV near the parade route, you'd better get busy making reservations in January before they're all filled up, too.
You may be able to get grandstand seats for the Rose Parade in Pasadena through November.
Rose Bowl Game football game tickets also go on sale January 1 for the following year. If you want to go, you'll need to be ready that day and no later. All the ins and out and strategies are in the Rose Bowl game guide
As soon as restaurants are announced for Los Angeles Restaurant Week, start choosing your them and making reservations. Use the guide to Los Angeles Restaurant Week to get oriented.
If you want to go camping at a California state park in January, make your reservations six months ahead of time in July. Use this guide to find out how to make those reservations before they are gone.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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More About California in January
It Might Rain in January... It might put a damper on your travel plans, but we can't control what Mother Nature does. Just in case your vacation plans are sinking faster than the Titanic, here are some ideas for things to do on a rainy day in California:
- Things to do on a rainy day in LA
- Things to do on a rainy day in San Diego
- Things to do on a rainy day in San Francisco
Or It Might Snow... Tioga Pass between Yosemite and the Eastern Sierras has been closed for a while now and it won't re-open until well after the spring thaw.
If you plan to travel anywhere above sea level, you should know the requirements for snow chains. They apply to personal and rented vehicles—and we have some ideas if you need them for your rental.
More California by Month
If you're just starting to plan your California trip and want to know what it's like year round, you can get a look at every month of the year using these guides:
Spring gets going in March and April, and clear skies will continue at the coast into May. Get an overview of things to do in California in the spring and try some of these California spring getaway ideas.
Summer holiday season starts in June and continues through July and August. It's the busiest tourist season and some parts of the state get almost unbearably hot, but it's a great time for mountain hiking. Start exploring Things to do in the summer and get busy planning your summer California getaway.
Fall is my favorite time of year in California. You'll see why in this guide to California in the fall. Weather is beautiful in September and October. By November, winter rains may have set in—or not. Start thinking about your California fall getaway now.