This list of the top things to do in January in DC (updated for 2023).
We list some of our favorite winter activities and some events unique to this time of year, including family and budget-friendly events
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.
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.
- Ricky Skaggs | January 6th, 7th
- Judy Collins | January 8th
- Vonda Shephard | January 11th (Annapolis)
- America | January 14th
- Chaka Khan | January 15th
- Kenny Lattimore | January 15th
- Ben Rector | January 24th, 25th
- Ne-Yo/NSO Pops | January 27th, January 28th
- Slenderbodies | January 26th
- Mandy Patinkin | January 28th (North Bethesda)
If you're looking for more evening activities, check out our full post.
3. See a Musical Production
Washington DC has no shortage of theatrical productions to attend.
This January sees both beloved classics and new favorites hit the stage.
Here are a few of the more notable musicals in DC this month:
- A Soldier's Play | January 6th - 8th
- Wicked | January 3rd - 22nd
- My Fair Lady | January 10th-15th (Baltimore)
- Cats | January 11th - 22nd
4. Take a Free Walking Tour
We offer a limited but still pretty fun-packed schedule of tours during the winter months.
You may also want to consider our Ghosts of Georgetown tour which covers some of the more haunted history of the area.
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.
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.
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 16th, 2023, 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 peace walk & parade begins at noon on January 16th at 2700 MLK Avenue and Howard Road 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. Go to Monster Jam
Fans of monster trucks will be happy to hear that the popular motorsports event Monster Jam will be coming to the Capital One Arena on January 28th and 29th, 2023.
This show features several popular monster trucks such as Grave Digger, Dragon, And Just Get-er-Done performing a variety of stunts and competing in contests to see which driver pulls of the most impressive feats.
Audiences even get to decide who wins some of the competitions!
8. Enjoy a Comedy Night
Who doesn't love to laugh? Several great comedians will be in the Washington DC area this January, so this is an excellent time to enjoy some stand-up comedy.
Here are some of the best stand-up comedy shows scheduled to take place in and around Washington DC this month:
- Kathleen Madigan | January 7th (Charles Town)
- Finesse Mitchell | January 12th, 13th, 14th
- Eddie Griffin | January 20th, 21st
- Paul Reiser | January 21st (Charles Town)
- Jim Gaffigan | January 21st, 22nd (Baltimore)
- Louis CK | January 24th, 25th (Baltimore and then Washington, DC)
- Tom Pappa | January 27th
- Noel Miller | January 28th
9. Visit the Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is "the nationals busiest performing arts center", with thousands of performances taking place there each year.
There are some well know musicals taking place Kennedy Center in January, including the popular musical Wicked.
There's also a new permanant and immersive exhibit in the JFK Gallery that you won't want to miss.
You can visit even if you're not attending a show, and might enjoy you our self guided tour of the Kennedy Center. The rooftop terrace view is one of our favorites!
10. 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.
Attractions you can see with these passes include:
- CitySights Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour
- International Spy Museum
- 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.
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.
Restaurant week from from January 16th-22nd, 2023.
Visit the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week page for more information.
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 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.
Or, take our uber-popular Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour.
We also offer family-friendly Ghosts of Georgetown and an adults-only White House at Night Scandals tour.
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.
In January and February of 2023 previews of plays written by BIPOC playwrights will be on offer.
Attending one of these plays could be a great way to celebrate MLK Day and honor Dr. King's memory.
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.
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.
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
Below 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 off season.
You'll get a chance to explore without the crowds and see some of the winter growth.
Attend a Performance at the Kennedy Center
As mentioned above, there's a lot to do at the Kennedy Center.
The Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center has free concerts every night at 6 pm. There is a list of show 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!
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.
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.