Top Things to Do in January in DC (2019)

This list of the top things to do in January in DC contains some of our favorite winter activities and some events unique to this time of year, including family and budget-friendly events. Be sure to read our master things to do in DC post.

 

 


TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

This section covers our top ten list for January. When possible, we’ve noted activities that are free or kid-friendly. For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

For January 2019, things might look a little different. We know the partial government shutdown will last until at least January 3 meaning some attractions are closed. Find out more about what to do in DC during the shutdown here.

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

 

 


1. Sporting Events

D.C. is a major sports town, with sporting events taking place throughout the year. In January, both the Washington Wizards, our basketball team, and the Washington Capitals, our hockey team, are in season.

 

Capitals Hockey Game in Washington DC

Wizards 

The Wizards play at Capital One Arena in the Gallery Place/Chinatown neighborhood, with plenty of bars and restaurants nearby for enjoying before or after the game. There are eight home games in January. Get ticket info here.

Capitals 

The Capitals share the Capital One Area with the Wizards! There are several home games this January. Get ticket info here.


2. Ice Skating Rinks

January is the perfect month to bundle up, lace up your skates, and head to one of the D.C. area’s popular winter ice skating rinks. All the venues listed in the link are open every day in January (with the exception of our rooftop option), so take advantage of a crisp winter day with a skating adventure!

 

 

Find out more about Ice Skating Rinks in DC on our blog post.


3. See a Show!

DC has an incredible theatre scene – from Shakespeare to Musicals. You can find out more about what we are looking forward to the most below in the Things To Do at Night section, but here’s a brief list:

Local Theatre:

As Far As My Fingertips Take Me | Woolley Mammoth Theatre | January 16 – February 3, 2019  – A special presentation and unique theatre for one experience performed by Basel Zaraa.

Local Music:

Women Who Paved the Way | Levine Presents | January 26, 2019 -In the 60’s and 70’s, groundbreaking groups like The Staple Singers and The Supremes, and powerful vocalists such as Betty Wright, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin paved the way for women in popular music.

Happy Birthday, Elvis | Pearl Street Warehouse | January 8, 2019 – A celebration of the King to benefit the Love Hope and Strength Foundation.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THESE PERFORMANCES BELOW

Tours:

Check out any number of concerts at one of our favorite concert venues, the 930 Club. In January 2019, there will be performances by Guster, The Wood Brothers, Jay Pharaoh and more.

The big concert for January at the Capital One Arena is Justin Timberlake on January 4, 2019.


4. Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center is our national cultural center and a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, entertaining the public since 1971. There are performances 7 days a week, 365 days a year and they cover a vast array of the arts, including opera, ballet, musical theatre, comedy, music, and more!

 

 

Use our Kennedy Center Visitor Guide to plan your visit.

The full calendar of events with ticket information can be found at http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/ but some highlights for January include:

  • Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures: Cinderella | Tuesday, January 15, 2019 – Sunday, January 20, 2019
  • National Symphony Orchestra: Renée Fleming sings Schubert | Friday, January 18, 2019 – Sunday, January 20, 2019
  • NSO Pops: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (film with live orchestra) | Tuesday, January 22, 2019 – Thursday, January 24, 2019

One of the best features of the Kennedy Center is the Millennium Stage. Every night of the year, there is a free performance at 6 pm. The schedule runs the gamut from jazz and soul to opera and comedy. Seating is first-come, first-seated but it’s always free!

We recommend checking the schedule and planning around your artistic tastes. 

Please note that during the partial government shutdown, the Kennedy Center will have reduced touring hours but performances run as usual!


5. Martin Luther King Jr Weekend 

January 19-21, 2019

Monday, January 21st is a day when we honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The day has become a national day of community service in the United States, with opportunities to volunteer and give back available throughout the D.C. area. 

 

 

A few suggestions for honoring MLK during MLK weekend:

Visit the memorial to Martin Luther King Jr 

This memorial is free and open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, along the edge of the Tidal Basin. This memorial is included in our All-in-One Tour and Tidal Basin Tours.

Washington National Cathedral 

This is the church where King, who had a doctorate in theology, preached his last Sunday sermon before his assassination in 1968. Use our guide for a self-guided tour and more information about the National Cathedral.

Let Freedom Ring! 

A free concert featuring features Tony®, Oscar®, and Grammy®–winning artist Audra McDonald and Tony®-winning artist Brian Stokes Mitchell on Jan 21, 2019, at 6 pm. Free tickets will be distributed at 4:30pm (two per person) and the concert begins at 6 pm. More information can be found at Let Freedom Ring 2019

MLK Holiday DC Parade and Festival 

This annual parade begins at noon on January 21st at 2700 MLK Avenue SE and continues to Anacostia Park for the free festival. Before the parade, there is a peace walk that is coordinated by the Coalition for Peace, to promote peace and positivity in D.C.’s youth. More information can be found at http://mlkholidaydc.org/.


6. Washington DC Restaurant Week

January 14 – 20, 2019

DC is slowly becoming known as a “foodie” town and this January you have a chance to try some of the best restaurants in the city at affordable prices. You’ll find fixed price menus for brunch, lunch and dinner for under $40 at over 200 restaurants.

Find out which restaurants will be participating and be sure to make reservations as seats fill up fast! If you sign up with Restaurant Association you can earn rewards.


7. Indoor Activities

Let’s be honest – sometimes in can be cold in D.C. in January! The average temperature can range anywhere from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to below freezing! When the days get cold or windy, you may want to head inside!

 

 

Capitol Hill Tour: While all of our walking tours take place outside, this tour is only partially outside – once you head inside to visit the Library of Congress, you are indoors for the remainder of the tour! For guests worried about being in the cold for too long, this is the best tour to minimize outdoor exposure.

National Archives: in addition to viewing our founding documents, you’ll want to check out the remarkable Remembering Vietnam exhibition, which takes a look at twelve critical moments during the Vietnam War in an attempt to refresh our collective memory of this period in American history.

Please note that during the partial government shutdown, Capitol Building Tours will be running as usual but the National Archives will be closed.


8. Visit A New Exhibit

Even if you’ve been to DC before, there is always something new to experience. There are a number of new exhibits opening in January 2019.

EXHIBIT OPENINGS

Ella’s Books | at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Starting January 01 throughout 2019 you’ll be able to see the personal library of Ella Fitzgerald for a glimpse into the mind and soul of the legendary jazz singer.

Peacock Room Revealed at the Freer Sackler Galleries

Starting January 19, 2019 you’ll have the unique opportunity to visit the Peacock Room as artist Whistler saw it – as a work of art itself. The shelves will be empty s you can focus on the room itself.

Peacock Room at the Freer Sackler Galleries

Photo Credit: Smithsonian Freer | Sackler


9. Or take one LAST CHANCE to visit an exhibit closing soon!

John Lennon’s Stamp Collection at the National Postal Museum

January 2019 is the last full month that Beatles’ John Lennon’s boyhood stamp collection is on display. Over 500 stamps help commemorate Lennon to coincide with the Post Office’s release of the John Lennon Forever stamp. The exhibit closes on February 3, 2019.

Echoes of the Great War | American during WWI at the Library of Congress

Closing January 21, 2019 this exhibit focuses on the impact of WWI at home and abroad. You’ll find newly digitized footage and audio from the front lines and the home front. You can also visit the Library of Congress on our Capitol Hill & Library of Congress Walking Tour. While you want have much time to explore the exhibits, the guide will highlight the building and end nearby for you to return and spend more time on the items you found most interesting.

No Spectators | Art of Burning Man at the Renwick Gallery

For one week every year, people gather in Nevada desert to build their own community. This alternative city features incredible artwork, usually only seen at Burning Man itself but this exhibit, which closes on January 21, 2019 brings some of the smaller artwork to you.


10. Explore U Street Jazz History

January 5- 20, 2019

From U Street to the Cotton Club musical at the Source Theatre on 14th Street NW will also include a companion tour by local historian Tim Wright on the Jazz History on nearby U Street. You’ll learn about Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, and Chuck Brown’s DC roots before enjoy the music at the Source Theatre.

For more information on the performance/tour. You can also learn more about U Street on our self-guided tour.


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NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES IN JANUARY

There are a number of things to do in DC at night. For additional ideas on how to spend your evening, make sure to check out our master Things to do at Night in DC post.

 

 


Take a tour!

Our 5:30 pm Memorials and Moonlight tour lets you explore the National Mall after the sun sets. With the memorials lit at night, there is an extra level of beauty and at some of the veteran’s memorials, an added sense of reverence.

We also offer family-friendly Ghosts of Georgetown and an Adults Only White House at Night Scandals tour.

Reserve a spot now!


Enjoy the local arts

There are a number of special events in January 2019. Here are some of what we are going to see!

Local Theatre:

As Far As My Fingertips Take Me | Woolley Mammoth Theatre | January 16 – February 3, 2019  – A special presentation and unique theatre for one experience performed by Basel Zaraa. This will be a 15 minute interactive experience where you put your arm through a curtain to be painted on while listening to the music performed by Basel Zaraa, a refugee born in Syria. You can choose whether to keep or wash away the art you take with you, but the experience will remain. Find out more about this performance.

Local Music:

Women Who Paved the Way | Levine Presents | January 26, 2019 – In the 60’s and 70’s, groundbreaking groups like The Staple Singers and The Supremes, and powerful vocalists such as Betty Wright, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin paved the way for women in popular music. Levine Music is a local institution and their annual Presents series focuses on a different theme. The 2018-2019 season is all about the powerful role women have played in music. Find out more about this concert.

Happy Birthday, Elvis | Pearl Street Warehouse | January 8, 2019 – A celebration of the King to benefit the Love Hope and Strength Foundation. Pearl Street Warehouse is one of our favorite new venues at the Wharf and this birthday bash featured an impressive collection of both well known and local musicians. Find out more about this concert.

Tours:

Check out any number of concerts at one of our favorite concert venues, the 930 Club. In January 2019, there will be performances by Guster, The Wood Brothers, Jay Pharaoh and more.

The big concert for January at the Capital One Arena is Justin Timberlake on January 4, 2019.


Ford’s Theatre

Visitors to D.C. are often surprised to learn that the site of Lincoln’s Assassination is not just a historical site to visit but also a working theatre, which presents shows throughout the year. And from January 18 – February 17, 2019, Ford’s Theatre will have a production of Twelve Angry Men.

 

 

Ford’s Theatre offers a number of discounts for tickets, including discounted preview performances, group discounts, under 35, active military, D.C. teachers, and more at https://www.fords.org/performances/discounts/. They also partner with TodayTix to offer discounted tickets through the TodayTix app.

Take our Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour to learn more about this historic building and what led to the tragic events that night.

Please note that during the partial government shutdown, Ford’s Theatre National Park Site will be closed but performances and our Lincoln Assassination tour will run as usual!


Hip Hop Museum Launch Party

Jan 18, 2019

The Hip-Hop Museum, DC is located at 700 Delaware Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024.

 


 
Join The Hip-Hop Museum Launch Party, the World’s FIRST Hip-Hop Museum to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of “Rapper’s Delight”.

The ceremony includes The Sugarhill Gang, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz & Trouble Funk being individually inducted to the new Hip Hop Museum.


For more nighttime activities, visit our Things to do at Night in DC post.


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KID-FRIENDLY OPTIONS

DC offers a lot of family-friendly activities and attractions any day of the year. Here are a few more family-friendly ideas for January. For more read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.

 


Light Yards

Until Jan 4, 2019

The fourth year of this interactive art exhibit is a great evening activity for families. There are two immersive experiences. One has 106 pads where you can hop and jump to create patterns of light. Another features five giant neon wings and halos to pose with.

For more information and free tickets visit their page.


Indulge with a meal during Restaurant Week

January 14 – 20, 2019

Winter Restaurant Week features fixed price lunches and dinners at over 100 restaurants in the DC area. You can find three courses for $22-35 per person. Many of the participating restaurants might be a bit too fancy for younger kids but some family friendly options are:

  • Clyde’s of Gallery Place
  • Old Ebbit Grill
  • Millie’s
  • The Hamilton

Find our more about restaurant week


Smithsonian Associates’ The Story Behind Harry Potter

January 16, 2019

Delve into JK Rowling’s fantastical world and learn about the real world historical stories of alchemy, medieval descriptions of dragons, and herbariums. You’ll learn about the origins of your favorite magical incantation and more with curator of the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit at the British Library.

Find out more here.


Visit the National Zoo

The National Zoo in DCWhile the zoo is mostly outdoors, there are some indoor exhibits to warm up as your explore. Most importantly, you’ll have the animals to yourself. Avoid the crowds that flock to see the Pandas in the summer and learn more about those animals who thrive in winter.

Baby animals born last year are finally old enough to come out to public view, leaves have fallen off the trees so you can see animals with an unobstructed view, and you may even see tropical animals adapting to the snow!

Please note that during the partial government shutdown, the Smithsonian will close on January 2 until the government re-opens.


School of Rock at the National Theatre

January 16 – 27, 2019

Enroll in this hit musical comedy with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber this January being performed at the National Theatre, located in downtown DC.

Recommended for ages 8 & up!


Ice Skating

Ice Skating is fun for all ages. Read about the best places to go ice skating this winter in DC above in our Top Things to do!

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO 

With a little planning, there are a lot of free activities available to do in DC. Some of the events we’ve mentioned in this post like our walking tours are free of charge! Here are a few more ideas for free activities in January but for our comprehensive list, visiting our Free Things to Do in DC post.


Free Americana Night at Pearl Street Warehouse

Enjoy a free concert by Drew Gibson at the Wharf’s Pearl Street Warehouse. Featuring a full band and opening act the Nicole Belanus Trio, relish the country-blues feel of Gibson’s music as he weaves a stories much like the songwriters of Americana past.

Get free tickets here.


Pop! Georgetown

Walk through a pop-up shop of locally made winter goods at 1631 Wisconsin Ave NW in Georgetown. This temporary pop up shop runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until January 21, 2019.

While you’re in Georgetown, check out other things to do – we have 3 types of Georgetown tours in January!


Attend a Performance at the Kennedy Center

Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center has free concerts every night at 6 pm. You can find out more about which act is performing on their website

 

Arrive a little early so you can take our self-guided tour of the Kennedy Center and watch the sunset from the rooftop terrace!


Take a Tour

We offer a limited but still pretty fun-packed schedule of tours during the winter months. Our tours are name your own price, so you get to choose how much they are worth at the end. A tour for every budget! Find out more about our DC Tour schedule on our Tour Calendar page.

If we don’t offer a guided tour that fits your interest and schedule, check out our many self guided tours.


Visit the National Arboretum

This free living museum of flora from around the world might not come to your mind as a place to visit in winter, but it offers a unique setting in the off season. You’ll get a chance to explore without the crowds and see some of the winter growth.

Read their post on what the Arboretum is like in winter.

Please note that during the partial government shutdown, the National Arboretum is closed until the government re-opens.

View of the Capitol columns at the National Arboretum DC


 


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