By Charly SHELTON
Most years seem to fly by with the New Year ball dropping in behind us like the boulder from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But 2020 was the year spent inside as the days slowly dragged on … and on … with seemingly little good news interspersed.
But now that we’re (hopefully) approaching the end of the pandemic, we can look back with a sigh at what good did come this year, from celebrated reopenings to big screen movies coming home as streaming titles to inventive new ways to get out and have some fun without violating health orders.
Let’s take a look back at some of the best ofs, month-by-month throughout 2020.
Pasadena Showcase House of Design 2020 – Empty House Party
The Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts (PSHA) held its annual Empty House Party marking the debut of the 56th Annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
On the same day, “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance,” the second and final attraction in the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land at Disneyland, finally opened. Guests started lining up at midnight the night before the opening and stood in the rain to be among the first in the park on the ride. “Rise” is, without a doubt, the most impressive, immersive, complex attraction ever created for any theme park, though the complexity did lead to long breakdowns throughout its two months of operation limiting the number of riders daily.
Year of the Rat at Universal Studios Hollywood
Each year Universal Studios Hollywood puts on a big festival celebrating the Lunar New Year, and it seems like each year’s celebration gets bigger. This year’s was the best festival yet with more live entertainment, an expanded menu of Asian food and more.
Knott’s Peanuts Weekend
Peanuts Celebration Weekends at Knott’s Berry Farm were held weekends through March 1 and featured the very best of the Peanuts gang. From stage shows celebrating the happiness friends bring to rare character sightings like Snoopy’s brother Spike to a ride on the Grand Sierra Railroad heading to the Beagle Bonanza to welcome Snoopy’s relations, there was plenty to do and see.
A Visit to Disneyland … Just 10 Days Before the Shutdown
The precautionary shuttering of public places and events to limit the spread of the virus had begun in earnest in America. But in early March, many public places were remaining open – places like Disneyland. Although I was wary about visiting at first, I soon realized that new cleanliness protocols for stopping COVID-19 were just resetting society back to where it should have been all along.
The Shutdown Begins March 13
All major theme parks in America were closed. This included all Disney parks, Universal Studios parks, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens parks, Cedar Fair parks (like Knott’s Berry Farm), Merlin Entertainments parks (LEGOLAND) and Six Flags parks, among others. Most have stated that their shutdown would last only until the end of the month or sometime into the first week of April. Others left the opening date as unannounced.
Socially Distant Activities Outdoors
During the pandemic, many people were getting in their cars to take day trips. These included heading into the Angeles National Forest, the beach (even though beaches were closed) and even the poppy fields in the Antelope Valley, where the poppies were in bloom.
Staying Active and Sane in the Safer at Home World
Amid the shutdown, which had just been extended, CV Weekly published several articles on how to stay occupied at home, how to stay positive and a call for everyone to document this time …more than memes, more than the occasional snapshot. Write a journal or shoot real pictures and videos of what life was currently like to save for future generations.
Shanghai Disneyland Reopens
While America slowly reopened beaches, stores and restaurants in select communities amid a growing number of deaths and reported COVID-19 cases, China slid down the backside of the curve and reopened Shanghai Disneyland. This served as somewhat of a blueprint for what to expect when the American parks were finally given the thumbs up to reopen.
Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk Orlando Reopen in Florida
The shopping centers at the two major Florida theme parks partially reopened. Both CityWalk at Universal Studios Orlando and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World reopened to some limited traffic.
Universal CityWalk Hollywood and the First Florida Theme Parks Reopen
Some theme parks in Florida reopened to the public including Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. In California, theme parks didn’t have any scheduled reopening date and, with the tide of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, it might be a while before any park reopening is realized. But one venture that was allowed to remain open was open-air shopping centers like Universal CityWalk Hollywood, which reopened to limited shopping and dining operations.
Drive-In Theaters Make a Comeback Amid Pandemic Restrictions
The “Tribeca Drive-In” launched in early July at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. This limited-engagement drive-in series provided families with a safe, comfortable entertainment experience that is appropriate for audiences of all ages as the nation took steps to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns.
Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Reopens
Walt Disney World opened the last of its closed parks on July 15. On the opposite coast, Disneyland remained closed with no hope of reopening. But following in the footsteps of Universal CityWalk, Downtown Disney reopened its shopping and dining district to limited traffic. And after four months of no Disney parks, guests flocked to the chance to visit such a shopping center in Anaheim.
Knott’s Taste of Calico Food Festival
Once outdoor-only dining was approved for the state, Knott’s Berry Farm joined in a big way by offering Taste of Calico, a food festival that took place in the Ghost Town section of the theme park. It was the perfect way to take off the no-theme-parks edge without having a full theme park visit during the pandemic, and it set the standard for what can be done in this new world. Food festivals like this one are expected back at Knott’s several times throughout the year, and even SeaWorld will follow the Knott’s format to bring ticketholders a food and beer festival.
Hometown Favorite Restaurant Reviews – Casa Cordoba and Alissa’s Ocean View Bar and Grill
CV Weekly decided to begin a series of restaurant reviews on coronavirus dining conditions to showcase how local hometown favorite restaurants were adapting to the COVID-19 world and the new dining restrictions. We began with the original al fresco dining location in Montrose, Casa Cordoba, and then on to Alissa’s Ocean View Bar and Grill. We continued this series bi-weekly as long as the restaurants remained open for dining.
Taste of Knott’s Food Festival
Due to the overwhelming response to the first Knott’s Berry Farm food festival (ticket sales were exhausted just as fast as dates could be added) a second food festival was launched. The Taste of Knott’s festival opened in August as an improvement on what was an already great model.
LA Zoo Reopens
After more than five months behind closed gates, the Los Angeles Zoo finally reopened to the public. With temperature screening, mandatory face coverings, social distancing and the closure of high-touch activities and indoor facilities, guests were welcomed back to see the animals.
Hometown Favorite Restaurant Reviews – Hill Street Café & Bar
CVW continued its series spotlighting hometown favorite restaurants adapting to the new normal of COVID-19 life. We headed east to La Cañada, to Hill Street Café & Bar, a staple in the Crescenta Valley since 1991.
Pasadena Showcase House of Design Tour
CV Weekly was invited to tour the Pasadena Showcase House of Design and see all the incredible installations prepared for the touring public. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the tours were not allowed and the program transitioned online for virtual tours through “Ultimate Viewpoints:56,” which was delayed from September to December, and is now finally live.
Taste of Fall-O-Ween Food Festival
During Knott’s most “spooktacular” time of the year, its food festival returned, bigger than ever with Taste of Fall-o-Ween held for six weekends through Nov 1. And as much fun as were the first two fests, Knott’s really hit its stride with this one.
The Good, the Bad, and the COVID at Tombstone’s Helldorado Days
CV Weekly was on hand in Tombstone this year to see the gunfights, the town and the raucous crowds spilling out of the saloons just like it was in the 1880s at Tombstone’s annual Helldorado Days festival. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tombstone was “the town too tough to die.” But, just like the Wyatt Earps and Doc Hollidays of the West, heroes who stand up to villains, are themselves still murderers, there are two sides to this year’s Helldorado Days. We endeavored to showcase the good and the bad of this festival, and many like it going forward in the pandemic world.
Fun and Frights in the Foothills
CV Weekly adapted to the times and found a way to bring some spooky fun to the community in a safe, socially distant way. With that in mind, a call for entries was made of the spookiest Halloween yard displays and a list of homes was rounded up to create a self-driven tour of festive fun called “Fun & Frights in the Foothills.”
Hometown Favorite Restaurant Reviews — Berolina Bakery and Pastry Shop
CVW continued its series spotlighting hometown favorite restaurants adapting to the new normal of COVID-19 life, popping into Berolina Bakery and Pastry Shop to see how a bakery that never shut down was getting along.
Disneyland Reopens Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure
The successful opening of Downtown Disney for shopping and dining resulted in Disney California Adventure opening its gates as a shopping and dining location.
Merry & Bright Holiday Tour
Hot off the success of the “Fun & Frights in the Foothills” CV Weekly began organizing a holiday event of the same ilk featuring a self-driven tour of some of the best holiday yard displays and house lights in the Crescenta Valley.