Get us in your inbox

bioluminescent waves
Photograph: Shutterstock

12 things that happened in L.A. this year that you totally forgot about

Wait, there was a wildflower bloom? And a Gucci restaurant?

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

There’s so much about this year in Los Angeles that we’ll never be able to scrub from our memories: the death of Kobe Bryant, the Bobcat Fire, the shared pain following the death of George Floyd, and the still-mounting losses and suffering that’s led to our mostly-at-home existence in 2020. Of course, there were some unforgettable causes of celebration, too, mostly thanks to the Lakers, Dodgers and the election.

But somewhere in the middle, there are a whole bunch of things that we couldn’t recall unprompted but totally remembered after a quick refresher. Or, more specifically since 2020 has completely twisted our perception of time, things that made us think, wait, that was this year?!

So we scrolled back through our calendar to try to dig up some stories from the first half of the year that might have slipped your mind. Not included: Scenes from earlier in the year like empty freeways that may seem like ages ago but dominated our news feeds. We’ve also tried to steer clear of news of event cancellations or venue closures (whether Runyon Canyon cutting off access temporarily or some restaurants closing their doors permanently), with one foul exception below.

Metro changed its lines from colors to letters

At the very beginning of the year, Metro announced fresh names for its rail and bus lines. Previously a mishmash of colors and street names, the agency decided to flip to color-circled letters (so the Blue Line is now the A Line, the Red Line the B Line, etc.). Ironically, just as the changes started to spread more widely across the system, ridership plummeted—though obviously due to stay-at-home orders.

MOCA went free

Back in January when going to a museum was still a thing when did, Downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art made a massive change: Thanks to a $10 million gift, the museum dropped its admission fees at both its Grand Avenue and Little Tokyo locations.

The Zone
Photograph: Michael Juliano

A Britney Spears pop-up revived a bit of the TRL era

We were so tired of engineered-for-Instagram pop-ups, which made us pretty wary heading into the very expensive and very late to the game “The Zone,” a Britney Spears-sanctioned series of rooms inspired by her music videos. But it turned out to be an astonishingly amusing throwback—and of course we posed for a photo op with a fake snake in the “I’m a Slave 4 U” room.

A Gucci restaurant opened on Rodeo Drive

Yes, that Gucci. In February, the fashion brand opened Gucci Osteria, a high-end patio restaurant atop its equally high-end Beverly Hills store with a menu hatched by three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura. The rooftop was barely open for a month before restaurants were forced to shutter dine-in service, but that didn’t stop us from being able to savor Bottura’s recipes: The chef quickly started to offer free cooking classes over Instagram.

There was a wildflower bloom but nobody there to see it

After 2019’s poppy bonanza, 2020’s wildflower season seemed like a dud in comparison due to a remarkably dry January and February. But some late-winter rain blanketed the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in orange—just as stay-at-home orders began to hit and nobody was quite sure yet if they were really allowed to leave their house. When the reserve full-blown closed, our only peek inside was from an oddly soothing livestream near the entrance that showed the park completely devoid of people.

L.A. had some of the cleanest air in at least 40 years

It’s hard to remember now after what’s felt like an endless fire season and a summertime shortage of air purifiers, but back in March we experienced the longest run of clean air in recent history. Chalk that up to a mix of the freeway-clearing stay-at-home order in the spring, plunging port activity and air travel, and weeks upon weeks of rain at the time. On the other hand, the pollution after the Fourth of July this year was the worst in at least a decade, and literally off the charts in some spots.

Algae traffic
Screenshot courtesy Google Maps

Drivers clogged coastal roads in search of bioluminescent waves

It started with some footage of dolphins in Orange County jumping in electric-blue water. Within a few days, the magical phenomenon had spread up the coast: Bioluminescent algae were lighting waves up in blue light all across the L.A. coastline. The one problem? Beaches were still technically closed, which sent some Beach City police departments scrambling to kick people off the sand.

But the roads were very much still open. Seemingly every inch of ocean-facing road along PCH and other coastal routes was occupied by algae-seeking Angelenos, as evidenced by the Google Maps screenshots above we took at 10pm on a Saturday in May (because honestly and truly there was nothing more exciting to do at the time than look at live traffic maps).

We all had some opinions about a fighter jet flyover that we could barely end up seeing anyway

The United States Air Force’s famed Thunderbirds aerobatic team took a brief vacation to SoCal in mid-May to salute hospital workers. Plenty of Angelenos seemed to greet the news with social media indifference or shakily-argued complaints about costs. Ultimately, the jets ended up only looping around a small part of L.A. and it was over in a matter of minutes—unlike a “low and slow” Memorial Day weekend flyover of WWII planes.

L.A. actually kind of reopened—for a little bit, at least

It seems like a forgotten blip now, but L.A. was actually inching toward something sort of normal in June—you know, historical protests against racism and rolling curfews that month aside. Restaurants were permitted to open indoors, as were gyms and museums (though very few of the latter decided to reopen). But by July, well, you know the rest.

A waterfall trail closed because of too many people and too much poop

Alright, as we said at the top we’ve mostly avoided including closures in this list. But how could we not revisit this one? Paradise Falls, a popular waterfall hike in Thousand Oaks, closed indefinitely in late May because of unprecedented crowds and waste—including, erm, human waste. Seriously. In a release, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency noted that “there were problems with human waste and sanitation as many used areas along the creek both upstream and downstream as a toilet.” 

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Vahe Martirosyan

A comet sent Angelenos in search of dark skies

Only early risers had been able to spot the faint trail of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE—or Comet NEOWISE for short—in early July. But later on in the month, optimal viewing hours flipped from just before sunrise to right after sunset, which filled seemingly every turnout along Angeles Crest Highway with dark-sky-seeking Angelenos. It was small, fuzzy and barely viewable with the naked eye, but Comet NEOWISE brought some much-needed wonder to the summer.

Two words: moldy jam

Do an image search for Sqirl and you’ll find photos of perfectly-plated ricotta toast and pesto rice bowls, the familiar line along Virgil Avenue and, oh yeah, a bucket of jam topped with a film of mold. In mid-July, allegations hit social media that the Silver Like-adjacent spot was scraping mold off of the surface of buckets of jam and then continuing to serve the rest of it. From there, things spiraled into claims of recipe theft and gentrification.

Most popular on Time Out

What you need to know about California’s regional stay-at-home order
Meet Chifa, L.A.’s dreamy family-run restaurant from the cofounder of Opening Ceremony
Go Go Bird riffs on L.A. classic Pioneer Chicken, now with Asian flair
The Sundance Film Festival is hosting drive-in screenings in L.A. in 2021
Here’s what to eat from Citizen Public Market, Culver City’s new food hall

Latest news


    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!