Things to Do in DC in January

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.

 

 


TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN JANUARY

This section covers our top ten list for January. 

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our other posts:

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


1. Go to a Sporting Event

D.C. is a major sports town, with sporting events taking place throughout the year. You can find all the matches and games here.

 

 

Basketball

Hockey

Find tickets to all the games in DC here.


2. See a Concert

The Washington DC area brings in some big artists and bands throughout the year. January is no different! Seeing a concert is the perfect indoor activity for the cold winter nights.

 

 

Find all the January concerts here.

If you’re looking for more evening activities, check out our full post.


3. See a Show

Washington DC has no shortage of theatrical productions to attend. This January sees both beloved classics and new favorites hit the stage.

 

 

Come From Away

This new musical tells the story of passengers whose flights were diverted away from New York on 9/11 and the different ways in which the tragic attack changed so many lives.

It has quickly become a favorite for Broadway enthusiasts and casual musical-attenders alike.

Find tickets here.

My Fair Lady

This classic story sees Eliza Doolittle transform into a fashionable woman of society when a professor decides to coach her. It runs all month.

Find tickets here.

Cats

Another long-running and well-loved musical is running from January 21 – 26, 2020.

Find tickets here.

Find all the theatre performances in January here.


4. Save Money with a Tourist Discount Pass

Tourist attraction discount passes bundle together popular area attractions and tours into one discounted price – they can also save you up to 50%.

They also can save you time with skip-the-ticket-line access to select activities.
 

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Attractions you can see with these passes include:

  • CitySights Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
  • International Spy Museum
  • Madame Tussauds
  • The Capital Ferris Wheel
  • George Washington’s Home

We detail how these passes work and help you decide which, if any, is best for you.


5. 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.

Most rinks are open every day in January, so take advantage of a crisp winter day with a skating adventure!

 

 

Admission ranges from $8 to $20 and skate rentals generally start at $4.

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

If you’re looking for more family-friendly things to do, take a look at our full post.


6. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend 

Monday, January 20, 2020, 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:

The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

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.

MLK Holiday DC Parade and Festival 

This annual parade begins at noon on January 20th 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.


7. Washington DC Restaurant Week

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 the Restaurant Association you can earn rewards.


8. Indoor Activities

When the days get cold or windy, you may want to head inside. 

 

 

While all of our walking tours take place outside, the Capitol Hill 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.

Seeing the National Archives is another great attraction that allows you to view our founding documents.

You’ll also 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.


9. Enjoy a Comedy Night

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Two great comedians will be in the Washington DC area this January.

Jeff Dunham

This famous puppeteer and comedian Jeff Dunham will be performing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD. He’s well-known for his comedy specials and TV appearances.

 

 

Maz Jobrani

Maz is an Iranian-American comedian who makes humorous observations about the world around him through a unique cultural lens.

He will be performing at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in DC.

Find all the comedy shows in the area this January here.


10. Take the Kids to Paw Patrol Live

If you have little ones who love the dog heroes of Paw Patrol, you can take them to see the gang live on January 31, 2020.

This colorful and high-energy performance is also interactive, giving the audience a chance to respond to questions and whatever is happening on stage.

 

 

This is a great opportunity to get the kids involved in theatre with a familiar show they love.

To find more family-friendly activities, check out our full post.

 


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NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES IN JANUARY

There are a number of things to do in DC at night. 

 

 

Some of the most popular evening activities include:

  • Visiting the Memorials at Night
  • Attend a Professional Sporting Event
  • See a Free Concert at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

For additional details and more ideas on how to spend your evening, make sure to check out our master things to do at night in DC post.


Take a Night Tour

Our 6 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!


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.

A Christmas Carol’s last performance for this winter will play on January 1, 2020. 

Silent Sky, a drama about women astronomers, runs January 24 – February 23 2020.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

There are plenty of attractions and activities kids will find fun:

  • Kid-Focused Sections of the Smithsonian Museums
  • Exploring Mount Vernon
  • The Smithsonian’s National Zoo
  • Family-Friendly Ghost Tours

For more details about the above list and even more activity ideas, read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.


Light Yards

The fourth year of this interactive art exhibit is a great evening activity for families at The Yards complex through the first week of January.

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.


Indulge with a meal during Restaurant Week

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 out more about Restaurant Week here.


Visit the National Zoo

While the zoo is mostly outdoors, there are some indoor exhibits to warm up as you 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!

For more activity ideas, read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.

 


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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!

 

 

There are plenty of free activities and attractions in DC:

  • Go to the Free Museums
  • Take a Public Building Tour
  • Admire the Cathedrals and Franciscan Monastery 

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.


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 offseason.

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.


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.

For our comprehensive list of activities and attractions, visit our free things to do in DC post.

 


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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with three published books about the city. She has traveled extensively and lived in London, UK where she attended University College London for a Masters in History and in Seoul, South Korea where she taught English. While her family is now based in DC, she still explores the world. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts. She has been a part of the Free Tours by Foot team since 2011.