For many visitors, a trip to California marks a true milestone, whether it’s climbing El Capitan at Yosemite, skiing hard-core trails at Mammoth Lakes, taking a selfie with Mickey at Disneyland®, experiencing the magic of Hollywood at Universal Studios, hanging ten along the coast, or taking a gourmet road trip in the state’s iconic wine country.
As the Golden State gets ready to ring in the New Year, the tourism industry is announcing its own milestones and celebrations, making 2016 a great time to visit.
“No other place inspires big dreams and bucket lists like California,” said Caroline Beteta, president & CEO of Visit California. “Many of the state’s attractions were inspired by dreamers, from epic theme parks and luxurious resorts to celebrity restaurants and national parks. In 2016, visitors can celebrate many major openings and anniversaries as part of any California vacation.”
National Park Service Centennial, Statewide
The National Park Service (NPS) celebrates 100 years of stewardship in 2016, which has enabled millions to marvel at America’s natural wonders. California boasts 27 national parks and monuments — more than any other state — which are kicking the centennial festivities up a notch with special events and activities throughout the year.
The San Diego Zoo Celebrates 100 Years, San Diego County
The San Diego Zoo, founded in 1916 by Dr. Harry Wegeforth, will commemorate 100 years of trials and triumphs with a series of special events through summer 2016. Celebrations officially begin in January 2016, leading up to a spectacular centennial event on May 14 at Balboa Park. Join this world-famous family friendly destination as it remembers past successes, honors a century’s worth of amazing animal friends and continues in its wildlife preservation efforts.
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Centennial, Santa Barbara County
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, which specializes in California and North American West Coast natural history, celebrates its centennial in January 2016. The museum will feature special programs including: a Centennial Timeline exhibit (Jan. 7); a 100th Birthday Party (Jan. 24) with free museum admission; and special 100 Things to Do! exhibits and activities (January, April and August).
Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s 75th Anniversary, Santa Barbara County
Located in the heart of downtown, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) will celebrate its 75th anniversary in January 2016. SBMA, whose 28,000 works of art span more than 5,000 years of human creativity, will commemorate the achievement with free admission through April 15.
Jack London State Historic Park Centennial, Sonoma County
Jack London — the internationally renowned writer, thinker, adventurer, social activist, innovator and pioneering farmer — passed away at his beloved Beauty Ranch in Glen Ellen, California 100 years ago on Nov. 22, 1916. To commemorate his life, Jack London State Historic Park will host “Discover Your Call of the Wild,” a special year-long celebration. Each month throughout the year, the park will present key events and invite guests to walk the very trails where London once sought inspiration.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™” Opening at Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles County
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™,” the highly-anticipated and new immersive experience at Universal Studios Hollywood, will officially open April 7, 2016. More than five years in the making, and inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters that were brought to life in the Warner Bros films, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is being masterfully recreated with impeccable detail as a real-world interpretation at Universal Studios Hollywood. The land will be faithful to the visual landscape of the fiction and films, including Hogwarts castle which will serve as its iconic focal point.
LEGOLAND® California Resort’s New 4D Experiences, San Diego County
LEGOLAND® California Resort will debut its new LEGO® NINJAGO™ – The Ride in spring 2016, featuring technology guests have never experienced at any other theme park. Up to four riders per car can act like ninja warriors and collect points — blasting animated fireballs, lightning, shockwaves and ice as they travel through dojos to master their skills. In addition to animated effects, the interactive ride includes 4D effects such as heat, smoke and wind. Starting Feb. 6, park guests can experience the new film “The LEGO® Movie 4D A NEW Adventure,” featuring the popular characters from “The LEGO® Movie™.”
SFMOMA to Reopen in May 2016, San Francisco
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), founded in 1935 as the first museum on the West Coast dedicated to modern and contemporary art, will open in May 2016 after a three-year closure. SFMOMA has long been a showcase for California’s innovative artists and ideas, and the 10-story expansion will enable visitors to enjoy even more exhibitions and programs. Following the opening, SFMOMA will feature three new dining options and is expected to have more than one million visitors annually.
New MOXI Children’s Museum, Santa Barbara County
MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is slated to open in late 2016 as a fun, new and educational space for children to enjoy in downtown Santa Barbara. At MOXI, kids will discover 70-plus hands-on, multi-sensory experiences, dynamic spaces, a classroom laboratory, a media theater, and a rooftop sky garden. MOXI’s interactive exhibits will revolve around science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. Somewhat similar in concept to San Francisco’s Exploratorium, the highly anticipated three-story museum will be located next to the train station near the waterfront.