Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal

Get out there and celebrate the start of the new year—and decade—with these 20 happenings in Southern California. Read on for details about all of PBS SoCal’s event picks.

Jan. 1


All eyes are on Pasadena and Southern California on New Year’s Day for The Tournament of Roses Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. The parade starts at 8:00 a.m. and travels 5.5 miles down Colorado Boulevard. Watch company- or city-sponsored floats, equestrian units, marching bands, and official tournament entries. The parade is free to watch along the route, but VIP packages with reserved seating are available. Oregon and Wisconsin face off after the parade in the granddaddy of bowl games, with kickoff at 1:00 p.m. Tickets for the game start at $160 each.

Jan. 1


Though SoCal polar plunges—a dip in the ocean to start the new year—aren’t as crazy as the swims in New England, they’re still pretty challenging. If you want to jump-start 2020 in the Pacific, then join like-minded friends at several SoCal events on Jan. 1. There’s the free event at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro; the Huntington Beach Surf City Splash ($20 donation) that includes breakfast and a commemorative certificate; and the 59th annual Penguin Swim in Venice Beach ($5-$10).

Jan. 2-13


The film festival opens with the Film Awards Gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Jan. 2. Screenings begin on Jan. 3, with the opening night screening of the Italian film, An Almost Ordinary Summer, directed by Simone Godano. It closes on Jan. 12 with Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan. Best of the Fest screenings taking place Jan. 13. Tickets to regular festival screenings start at $13.

Jan. 5


The Japanese American Museum in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood ushers in the Year of the Rat, with a family festival. Guests are invited to partake in crafts, food, cultural activities and watch performances throughout the day, including drumming by the Taiko Project. And the museum asks that—despite the celebration of the Year of the Rat—visitors leave their pet rats and mice at home. Service animals only. The festival is free with RSVP.

Jan. 5


Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
Still from The Farewell. Courtesy A24

Hollywood’s awards season begins in earnest the first weekend of the new year. On Jan. 4—the day before the Golden Globes ceremony in Beverly Hills—the Hollywood Foreign Press Association holds its annual symposium and panel discussion at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood at 1:00 p.m., with the directors of the nominated foreign-language films. Panelists/nominees participating in the symposium are: Pedro Almodóvar, director of Pain and Glory (Spain); Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell (USA); Ladj Ly, director of Les Misérables (France); Céline Sciamma, director of Portrait of a Lady On Fire (France) and Bong Joon Ho, who directed Parasite (South Korea). A reception follows in the Egyptian courtyard. The symposium is free with RSVP.

Jan. 6-31


Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
dine L.A. is one of the many restaurant weeks happening this month in January. Image: Courtesy of dine L.A.

If you haven’t broken those new year’s resolutions yet, there are several SoCal restaurant weeks that can help. The 2020 Winter dineL.A. runs Jan. 14 to 31 and features more than 400 participating restaurants offering prix fixe lunch and dinner options. Santa Monica Restaurant Week takes place Jan. 6 to 12, featuring local restaurants and their chefs who’ll craft healthy custom dishes centered around this year’s special restaurant week ingredient: the kumquat. Newport Beach’s Restaurant Week takes place Jan. 13-26, with restaurants offering special prix-fixe lunch, dinner and weekend brunch menus.

Photo: dine L.A. is one of the many restaurant weeks happening this month in January. Image: Courtesy of dine L.A.

Jan. 11-12


Bricks LA is an all-ages LEGO fan convention that takes over the Pasadena Convention Center (Conference Center Lower Level) on Jan. 11 and 12. Vendors will be on-site selling new and old LEGO sets, parts, figures, accessories, jewelry, art, and other collectibles. Admission is $5, and kids 5 and younger get in free. Adult Fans of LEGO can attend an extra day as VIBs—Very Important Builders—who create the brick built models that are displayed all weekend at Bricks LA. Admission is $70 for VIBs.

Jan. 11-12


The city of Monterey Park holds two-day celebration of the Lunar New Year (Year of the Rat), featuring five blocks of Asian cuisine, carnival rides, art, lion dances and cultural activities. Free

Jan. 12, 18-19


The Long Beach Opera presents a new production of King Arthur, a collaboration between the Chicano theater troupe Culture Clash and the Baroque orchestra Musica Angelica at Long Beach’s Beverly O’Neill Theatre. This isn’t the traditional version of the Henry Purcell work, first performed in 1691, but instead is a reimagining in which Arthur returns as a superhero who “fights a mysterious, strange and unnatural force that is attacking Earth and threatening life as we know it. Will he be able to save humanity? How will he stand up against a race of alien shapeshifters who desire to conquer the galaxy?” Tickets: $49 to $150

Jan. 14-Feb. 16


Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
The cast in the Toronto production of “The Last Ship.” Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The Last Ship is a musical inspired by Sting’s 1991 album The Soul Cages and his childhood experiences. He stars as a shipyard foreman who watches over the community during the decline of the shipbuilding industry. The production is directed by Lorne Campbell, who also wrote the new book. It runs at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown L.A from Jan. 14-Feb. 16. Tickets: $35 – $199

Jan. 15-Feb. 12

Directors Close-up

Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
Official still from Honey Boy, courtesy of Amazon Studios

Film Independent’s Directors Close-Up discussion series returns to The Landmark in West LA featuring accomplished filmmakers who discuss their craft in detail over five events in five weeks. The featured directors include Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency), Alma Har’el (Honey Boy), Julius Onah (Luce), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers) and Lulu Wang (The Farewell). Each event wraps with a hosted reception. Series passes: $150

Jan. 20


The 35th annual Kingdom Day Parade honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in South Los Angeles with the theme, “Equality For All Humanity, Our Next Step.” The parade starts at Western and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at 10 a.m. and proceeds west on MLK to Crenshaw and south on Crenshaw to Vernon. Free

Jan. 24-26


Tết Nguyên Đán, better known as Tết, is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Celebrating the arrival of spring, the Tết Vietnamese Lunar New Year Festival returns to the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. Sample traditional food, watch performances and entertainment, and take in the cultural exhibitions in Làng Việt Nam, a replica of a traditional Vietnamese village. Admission: $6, children 2 and younger free

Jan. 25-26


The Montreal, Quebec-based troupe Cirque Éloize’s presents Hotel, a new show that’s inspired by the world’s fanciest hotels. Watch acrobatics, juggling and aerial feats, accompanied by the company’s musicians. Cirque Éloize has performed for 25 years in front of more than 3.5 million spectators. Tickets: $36-$65

Jan. 25-May 10


Craft Contemporary, formerly known as the Craft and Folk Art Museum on Museum Row, presents its second clay biennial, The Body, The Object, The Other. The group show features works by 21 artists whose practices “reflect the expanding notion of figuration within ceramics.” Each artist uses the human body as a starting point, but they often go beyond the boundaries of traditional forms. The opening reception for the exhibition takes place on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Museum admission: $9 for adults; $7 for students, teachers, and seniors; free every Sunday

Jan. 25


SoCal Museums presents the 15th Annual Museums Free-for-All day, offering free admission to more than 40 institutions. The offer is for general museum admission only and not specially ticketed exhibitions. Participating museums include Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, LACMA, California African American Museum California Science Center, Cayton Children’s Museum, Columbia Memorial Space Center and the Valley Relics Museum. The day also serves as a reminder than free visitor days are available year-round.

Jan. 26


Indie Brewing Company in downtown LA presents a celebration of donuts (and beer). At this carbo-forward event, guests can sample donuts, while enjoying coffee, beer and non-alcoholic beverage options. Donut samples range from 1/4 of a donut to full donuts from several vendors. Guests 21+ will receive a beer drink ticket. Tickets: $10 – $25

Jan. 30-Feb. 1


Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Photo Courtesy of The Ford

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents the LA-based dance company’s 40th-anniversary celebration. Lula Washington Dance Theatre has built its reputation over four decades by creatively mixing jazz, hip-hop, African movement, ballet, modern, tap and other dance styles in its repertoire. The anniversary program explores social and humanitarian issues and includes world premieres by Christopher Huggins and Tommie Waheed Evans; a west coast premiere by Esie Mensah; a favorite by hip-hop artist Rennie Harris; plus new premiere works by Associate Director Tamica Washington-Miller and Co-Founder/Artistic Director Lula Washington. Tickets: $29-$79

Jan. 30-Feb. 2

PHOTO LA (Photography)

Your Ultimate Guide to January 2020: 20 Awesome Things to Do in SoCal
: Anja Niemi, The Fictional Roadtrip, 2018 ©Anja Niemi, Courtesy of Galerie XII

Photo l.a.—LA’s longest-running art fair—returns to The Barker Hanger in Santa Monica from Jan. 30-Feb. 2, bringing photography collectors, artists and dealers together. The 2020 edition will feature dozens of exhibitors, including local and international galleries, dealers and museums, art schools, and individual artists. Programming also features lectures, discussions and installations. The opening night event on Jan. 30 doubles as a benefit for Venice Arts. Individual tickets: $15-$20, with passes available; opening night benefit tickets: $100

Jan. 31


Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus combines an eclectic mix of sound from around the world, “incorporating elements of R&B, funk, house, Caribbean and African music into her digitally altered—and socially conscious—dance music.” The duo (Garbus, with bassist Nate Brenner) performs for one night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Jan. 31. Vieux Farka Touré opens the evening. Tickets: $45 – $113

Looking for even MORE things to do? Check out the events section of our website.

Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based arts and culture writer who loves to tell people what to do (and where to go). Check out her events columns and other musings on, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.