Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California

Hello, 2019! We found a number of notable happenings in January to help plan your social calendar. Read on for all our event picks and details.

Jan. 1

POLAR PLUNGES (Swim)
Some people think that a dip in the ocean is a great way to start off the new year. If you’re one of them, then join fellow polar bears and penguins and jump in with several events in Southern California. There’s the free event at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro at 11:30 a.m.; the Huntington Beach Surf City Splash ($25) that includes breakfast and a commemorative T-shirt; and the 59th annual Penguin Swim in Venice Beach ($5-$10).

Jan. 1

TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE AND GAME (Family fun)

Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California
Image: Panda Float at the Rose Parade. Image credit: Lara Farhadi via Flickr Creative Commons

The beginning of the New Year is always ushered in by a Southern California tradition: The Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. The parade starts at 8:00 a.m. and travels 5.5 miles down Colorado Boulevard. Watch different types of parade entries including floral-decorated floats by participating companies, nonprofit organizations or towns; equestrian units; and marching bands. The Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Washington Huskies after the parade in the 105th Rose Bowl Game, with kickoff at 1:00 p.m.

Jan. 1-13

DEAR EVAN HANSEN (Theater)
The touring company of Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen stops at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts this month. The bittersweet story of a high school kid with severe social anxiety will make you laugh, then cry and laugh again. After the death of a classmate, Evan Hansen tells a lie that inadvertently brings him closer to the classmate’s family and gives a sense of purpose and meaning to his lonely world. The show features a book by Steven Levenson, score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and direction by Michael Greif. Tickets start at $35.75.

Jan. 3-14

PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (Film)

Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California
Production still from All is True. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics

The 30th annual edition of the film festival opens with the Film Awards Gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Jan. 3. Screenings begin in earnest on Jan. 4 all day with the official opening night screening of All is True taking place that evening at Richards Center for the Arts with a party to follow. Kenneth Branagh directs himself as Shakespeare in his final days. The festival closes with Ladies in Black, the Bruce Beresford comedy-drama about a group of department store employees in 1959 Sydney.

Jan. 5-6

RETRO CITY VIDEO GAMES FESTIVAL (Gaming)
This annual event celebrates the history of video games and gaming. Held Jan. 5 and 6 at the Fairplex in Pomona, Retro City showcases California’s largest display of playable old-school games including some of our favorites: Asteroids, Q-Bert, 2x Galaga, BurgerTime, Donkey Kong, the whole Pac Man family of games and lots of pinball action. Tickets run: $20-$35

Jan. 5

GOLDEN GLOBE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE SYMPOSIUM (Film talk)

Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California
Image: Golden Globes logo, credit: Hollywood Foreign Press Association

At 1:00 p.m. on Jan. 5—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, with the directors of the nominated foreign-language films. Panelists/nominees are: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Lukas Dhont (Girl), Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Never Look Away), Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) and Nadine Labaki (Capernaum). A reception follows in the Egyptian courtyard. The event is free, but RSVPs requested before Jan. 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Jan. 6-11

CHEESEBURGER WEEK (Food)
Pasadena restaurants honor Lionel Sternberger’s invention of the cheeseburger—which was created by accident at The Rite Spot in Pasadena in 1924—with the annual Cheeseburger Week. Nearly 40 local eateries are offering specials, signature cheeseburgers special deals and events throughout the week. New participants including the 1919 Cafe at the Huntington Library and Trejo’s Tacos join returning favs like Pie’n’Burger and The Stand. Diners can vote for their favorite burger throughout the week.

Jan. 8

OSHOGATSU FAMILY FESTIVAL (Fest)
For the Japanese, 2019 marks the “Year of the Boar.” To celebrate the new year, the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Downtown LA holds its annual Oshogatsu Family Festival on Sunday, Jan. 6 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The day features a sampling of Japanese new year foods, bowls of lucky zaru soba for kids and a mochitsuki (rice pounding) demonstration to make mochi. There’s also an artist talk and activities with Kaiju vs Heroes artist Mark Nagata. Admission to JANM’s exhibitions and festival are free.

Jan. 10-13

ADAMS & GLASS (Music)
The LA Phil continues its centennial celebration with three nights of Adams & Glass. Conductor John Adams leads a world premiere by fellow composer Philip Glass. The program includes Gabriella Smith’s Tumblebird Contrails; Adams’ Grand Pianola Music; and the world premiere of Glass’ Symphony No. 12, Lodger, from the music of David Bowie and Brian Eno. Tickets: $25-$174.

Jan. 10-13

ANIME LOS ANGELES (Convention)
Fans of Japanese anime, manga, and related media need to trek to the Ontario Convention Center for Anime Los Angeles, happening from Jan. 10-13. In addition to vendors, exhibitors and fan tables, the weekend’s activities include battle of the bands, fashion shows, cosplay and dance battles. Single-day passes run from $25-$45.

Jan. 11-25

DINE L.A. (Food)


If you need a fun reason to break those New Year’s diet resolutions, dineL.A. Restaurant Week returns for two weeks beginning on Friday, Jan. 11. More than 400 participating restaurants are offering prix-fixe menus for lunch, dinner or both. Prices range from $15-$35 for lunch and from $29-$59 and $99+ for dinner. Top restaurants are already onboard, including: 189 by Dominique Ansel in the Fairfax neighborhood, Michael’s on Naples Ristorante in Long Beach, and Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach.

Jan. 17

2019 SHORT SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL (Film)
Japan House Los Angeles and the Short Shorts Film Festival team up to bring the festival back to Hollywood, providing an interactive platform to share Japanese culture through film. The free, one-day festival takes place at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and includes the U.S. premiere of Daishi Matsunaga’s “Canaria,” and “Benjamin’s Last Day at Katong Swimming Complex” (2017) by Yee-Wei Chai; “The Human Face” (2017) by Aline Pimentel; and “Lies” (2015) by Naomi Kawase. Reserve free tickets through Japan House.

Jan. 19

BACK TO THE ‘80S (Music)

Get ready to don your legwarmers and friendship bracelets. Some of the best music artists from the ‘80s reunite for a tribute show at The Troubadour on Jan. 19 at 9:00 p.m. The lineup includes Missing Persons, Gene Love Jezebel, Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow and Trans X. Tickets: $28.50-$40. This is an all-ages show (so bring the kids to show how mom and dad used to rock).

Jan. 21

KINGDOM DAY PARADE (MLK Day)
The 34th annual Kingdom Day Parade honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in South Los Angeles with the theme, “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Democracy.” The parade starts at Western and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at 10:00 a.m. and proceeds west on MLK to Crenshaw and south on Crenshaw to Vernon.

Jan. 21

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY CELEBRATION (Family fun):
The California African American Museum celebrates MLK on Jan. 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a day of free art, culture and community for the entire family. Take part in art-making activities, a kids’ march and indulge in food truck fare. Hear a marathon of Dr. King’s lesser known speeches and sermons, dance to DJs spinning the tunes and visit CAAM’s galleries with the exhibits, Robert Pruitt: Devotion; Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush; and California Bound: Slavery on the New Frontier, 1848–1865. Free with RSVP.

Jan. 22-23, 25 and 30; Feb. 1-2

ELTON JOHN (Music)

Elton John plays LA’s Staples Center for four nights this month as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour and then on Feb. 1-2 at the Forum. After more than 50 years on the road and in the music business, Elton John has earned his place as an icon of music. The tickets are a hot commodity and start at $59.50-$71.

Jan. 23-27

LA ART SHOW
The largest contemporary art show on the West Coast takes over 200,000 square feet of the Los Angeles Convention Center from Jan. 23-27, featuring galleries and artists from around the world. This year, LA Art Show returns for its 24th edition with a focus on Latin America and the Pacific Rim. In addition to the art on view, there’s special programming that includes performances, an XR showcase and panel discussions. Single-day tickets start at $25-$30.

Jan. 25-27

LINK LINK CIRCUS (Theater)

Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California
Image: Link Link Circus. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

For three performances only, The Broad Stage presents actress and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini in Link Link Circus—a performance work that mixes science and humor to examine the links between humans and animals (via Darwin’s theory of evolution). Rossellini monologues on the animal kingdom are illustrated by her short comic films, home movies and animation. Rossellini transforms into Aristotle, Descartes, a medieval theologian, B.F. Skinner, Charles Darwin and philosophers, while her dog Pan plays various animal roles in the show. Tickets: $99, $89 and $69.

Jan. 30

POP-UP MAGAZINE: WINTER ISSUE 2019 (Multimedia storytelling)

Your Ultimate Guide To January: 20 Cool Events Happening in Southern California
Image credit: Jon Snyder

Pop-Up Magazine returns to LA for a night at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, Jan. 30 at 7:30 pm. The program is a “live magazine” that happens onstage and is not recorded. You just have to be there. The Winter Issue features a mix of true stories, film, photography, art, radio and music. Contributors/presenters include Will Butler of Arcade Fire; writers and journalists Jason Concepcion, Josie Duffy Rice, Ed Yong, Laurel Braitman and Francesca Mari; filmmakers Sam Green, Jason Hanasik, Sophia Nahli Allison; and audio producer James T. Green. Tickets start at $39.

Jan. 31-Feb. 3

PHOTO LA (Photography)
Photo la—LA’s longest running art fair—sets up at The Barker Hanger in Santa Monica from Jan. 31-Feb. 3. The 2019 edition features photographic art from around the world with more than 50 exhibitors, including local and international galleries, dealers and museums, art schools, and individual artists. Programming also features lectures, discussions and installations. Ticket information and the full programming schedule are coming soon.

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 PopRadarLA.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.