10 Things to Do in Washington DC in January

Washington D.C. is a white esplanade in January due to the snow, so if you like the cold, this is the best month to visit the capital of the United States.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Washington DC in January

Washington DC | ©Jorge Alcala

If you took advantage of your winter vacation weeks to escape to America's grand and imposing capital, I've got good news and bad news: the good news is the snow; the bad news...the snow. January is the coldest month of the year in the District of Columbia, but rest assured, Washington D.C. still has the best things to see and do all year long.

There's no such thing as a bad time to travel, all the time is a good time to take that trip you've been wanting to take. There is plenty to do in Washington D.C. in the winter. Just set your mind to travel.

1. Attends a Wizards or Capitals game

At a Wizards game| ©Tony
At a Wizards game| ©Tony

The city's official basketball and ice hockey teams welcome you to their regular season opener in their respective leagues. The Wizards in the NBA and the Capitals in the NHL.

Both teams have their preseason in November and December, when they prepare physically and mentally to welcome their rivals in the world's best leagues in their disciplines.

Watching the Wizards and Capitalscompete and win is a great option as you enjoy the passion of the fans at Capital One Arena while indulging in hot dogs.

And if you don't know anything about field hockey, take advantage and go toe-to-toe with the daredevil Capitals, one of the best teams in the NHL. You'll end up celebrating every goal with the stranger next to you.

Both teams play at the Capital One Arena, so I suggest you go support the local teams, celebrate with the fans and get to know the facilities of one of the most important stadiums in the country, with a capacity of approximately 18 thousand spectators.

January is the month with the most games and with the cold weather on the street, you can leave one to enter another. The closest subway station to the Capital One Arena is Union Station, so you can come and go safely by public transportation.

Book your tickets for the best sporting events in Washington

2. Go ice skating downtown

National Mall Skating Rink,| ©Erman Akdogan
National Mall Skating Rink,| ©Erman Akdogan

One of the most popular things to do in Washington is to enjoy its natural skating rinks. The most popular are on the National Mall, located right between the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art.

You can also add to your list of rinks those found in the Georgetown, Wharf and Navy Yard neighborhoods, which are great places to stroll when the sun goes down, to the point that it is one of the best things to do in Washington at night.

Take the opportunity to visit the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where they are constantly changing exhibitions, but in January there is the added bonus of having a fountain that doubles as an ice rink.

Visit its modern art galleries and finish enjoying a chocolate in one of the best museums in the city.

If you want a more romantic option, the National Gallery of Art, in its beautiful garden, prepares a scenery of lights and scenic art to make your experience more cozy.

It is one of the smallest ice rinks in the city and the prices to enjoy it range from 4 to 10 euros, but every penny is worth it, because it is intimate and the music creates a warm atmosphere among so many works of art.

The gallery is located a few subway stations away, so you can get off at Archives, Navy Memorial or Penn Quarter.

3. Take part in the city's largest snowball fight

Snowball fight| ©Brett Weinstein
Snowball fight| ©Brett Weinstein

I'm sure you've always wanted to experience a real snowball fight. Since 2009, the city has been organizing a snowball fight, which is becoming more and more popular as the winters go by.

The snowball fight starts with the first snowfall of winter, which is usually in January. People get ready for the big war and many even take out their skis. The city is not paralyzed in the face of adversity: bad weather is a good thing. It is a tradition that you can enjoy with your loved ones.

For this war, there is no fixed site: it is rotating. You have to keep an eye on the networks and ask your guides, but they always take place in the most emblematic places of the city, such as the monuments of the National Mall or the Dupont Circle fountain.

4. Celebrate Martin Luther King Day

Dr. King Memorial on the National Mall| ©Daniel Lobo
Dr. King Memorial on the National Mall| ©Daniel Lobo

Martin Luther Jr. Day is one of the two most important holidays in the month of January throughout the United States. It commemorates the birth of one of the most important social activists and civil rights fighters in history: Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on January 15.

You can commemorate the day by taking a special guided tour of the Dr. King Memorial on the National Mall which is one of the best monuments in the city for its sculptural detail work.

To go there, no entrance fee is required and it is open at any time, but that day is special because of the activities held here.

In addition, the African-American History Museum in Washington DC offers special exhibits on that day and unique activities to commemorate Martin Luther Jr.

My recommendation is to end your day by attending the Let Freedom Ring concert held every year on this day at the John F. Kennedy Center For Performing Arts.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has its closest subway station in the Federal Triangle on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines and I suggest you use the Red line of the Metrorail which will be leaving you a thirteen minute walk from the John F. Kennedy Center For Performing Arts at its Farragut North station. From there you can also take a bus that will drop you off closer.

Traveller Tip

The other holiday is New Year's Day. If you are in the capital on January 1st, museums, restaurants and other tourist sites are open for those who wish to visit them on the first day of the year, but check the schedules beforehand.

5. Don't miss the Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown

Chinatown| ©Dcist
Chinatown| ©Dcist

Washington D.C. is immensely rich in cultural diversity and the celebration of the Chinese New Year is proof of that.

You have to visit during the last weekend of the month the city's Chinatown, better known as Chinatown, where a huge parade of floats, accompanied by incredible attractions and activities, is celebrated to the sound of firecrackers.

Not only people get organized in the streets: I also suggest you visit the Freer Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian Institution, which at this time organizes an exhibition of its Asian art catalog and invites you to participate in its musical events.

At the same time, the American Art Museum organizes arts and crafts events, invites groups of acrobats and holds a treasure hunt for the little ones in the house. This is one of the many activities for children in Washington.

Join the Chinese community as they look forward to the Lunar New Year and the luck that accompanies the zodiacal animal that will lead them to good fortune throughout the year. Of course, food will never be lacking in this celebration.

Chinatown awaits you at the nearest subway stations which are Mt Vernon Sq/7th St-Convention Center and Metro Center Station.

6. Have fun while doing a charitable deed at the Washington Winter Show

At the Washington Antiques Show| ©John Brighenti
At the Washington Antiques Show| ©John Brighenti

The Washington Winter Show, also known as the Washington Antiques Show, is an annual show held the first or second week of January and its purpose, since 1955, is to raise funds for local charities that help at-risk children and families.

To this end, a cultural event dedicated to antiques; history and the arts is organized so that you have the opportunity to raise awareness and sponsor a foundation while learning and having fun.

The event offers you talks with antiques and history specialists. If you go, you will be able to see unpublished historical and artistic pieces that many museums keep in their vaults and exhibit them on special occasions like this one.

I suggest you clean your shoes well, lest you run into a celebrity or a renowned political actor at the jazz concerts offered by the event.

In short, it is an event that will warm your heart because of the warm welcome of those who seek to benefit the neediest of the country, in addition to warming your stomach and palate with the food they offer.

It is not only one of the best activities to participate in January, but it is one of the best activities of the entire winter in DC because of the good effects it generates.

What's special about the event is its ability to offer you inexpensive donation packages. The more you donate, the more you get privileged access to exclusive rooms and events.

The closest metro station is Tenleytown-AU on the Red line. The event provides you with a free shuttle service to the American University campus. Just ask the driver to stop at the Katzen Arts Center.

Practical Info

  • Location: Katzen Arts Center at American University. 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20016
  • When: the event generally begins on January 6 and concludes on January 9, but these dates are adjusted so that the dates fall on weekends.
  • Price: each event that offers the show has its own cost, but general admission is about $25.
  • Hours: Friday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm,Saturday: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

7. Dine at the best restaurants without making your wallet cry

Dinner at a Restaurant| ©Creative Vix
Dinner at a Restaurant| ©Creative Vix

Restaurant Week is one of the events made for the most exquisite palates and your trip cannot be complete without visiting the best restaurants in the world and eating your favorite dishes at reasonable prices.

The event was created by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington to encourage consumption in January, a month when money is traditionally tight.

During this week you can go to the most prestigious restaurants in the city and order a three-course lunch with a price ranging from 20 euros, while three-course dinners are around 30 euros.

You can take advantage of this week to take the most outstanding gastronomic tours of the city in January. Restaurant Week is a great idea as you are in one of the capitals of the world and you will be able to experience the diversity of cultures from the gastronomy in an economical way.

Traveller Tip

January is the month of less customer demand for restaurants, so you will have more chances to book at your favorite restaurants. But be careful, I suggest you plan your reservations in advance because Restaurant Week activates all the palates of the city.

8. Explore the city with the incredible adventure of the scavenger hunt

Smithsonian Castle| ©kafka4prez
Smithsonian Castle| ©kafka4prez

Every second week of January at the monumental Smithsonian Castle, home of the incredible Smithsonian Institution and Museum, hosts one of the most dynamic and fun events in the city.

The National Mall becomes a board game and you, along with your companions, will have to find hidden treasure- what better way to warm up in the beautiful snow than with the warmth of adventure!

One of the best ways to get to know and enjoy a place is through play. Washington D.C., through digital technology, becomes a board game. The company Roaming runs the smartphone application that turns the capital into a huge map. Year after year the event gains followers and waits for you.

It is a dynamic in which you can learn about history, art and culture as you tour the most emblematic sites of the city, searching through the application for new challenges and riddles. The more clues you get, the more chances you have to find the treasure.

This is one of the best activities to do with kids in DC, as they explore the city in an unusual way.

The activity has offers, depending on the size of your team, ranging from 30-50 euros so you can enjoy one of the most alternative events in DC. I suggest you use the Metrorail to the Smithsonian station, because it leaves you a few blocks from the castle.

9. Meet the best cars at the Washington Auto Show

Washington Auto Show| ©Medill DC
Washington Auto Show| ©Medill DC

The United States is the most important car center in the world, so you can't miss an opportunity like this to attend one of the best car shows in the world: the Washington Auto Show.

It starts the last week of January and here you will find the latest in automotive technology and exhibits of the classic cars of the time.

Past, present and future collide to give you that dose of adrenaline and heat you deserve on your visit to D.C. with around 600 cars from at least forty factories around the world.

Even if you're not a fan of motoring, this festival of art and design is complemented by the historical narrative of each exhibit. The history of a nation told from behind the wheel: that's what you'll find at this event. It also features lectures, a leisure and food area and a live car paint show.

From the Metrorail you can get off at the Mt. Vernon Square/7th St. Convention Center station on the Yellow and Green lines, or at the Metro Center station on the Red, Orange and Blue lines. Another option is at the Gallery Place station on the Red, Green and Yellow lines.

Practical Info

  • Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW Washington, DC, 20001
  • When: Opens Friday, January 21 and runs through Sunday, January 31.
  • Price: for adults on weekdays, admission is around $10, but can go up to $15 on weekends. Children under 6 years old are free and those between 6 and 12 years old have a reduced admission of about 5 €.
  • Hours: The event starts at 10 am and runs until 10 pm.

10. Test your spy potential during Spy Fest at the International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum| ©John Goucher
International Spy Museum| ©John Goucher

Annually, the International Spy Museum celebrates Spy Fest on the third Tuesday of January. On that date you can visit the museum and interact with all the amazing activities it has to offer.

In addition to the usual tour of one of the most technologically advanced museums in the city, where you can see and learn with its catalog of 600 real spy objects, the festival gives you the opportunity to be a spy for at least one day.

But how?

You will be put to the test in their lie detectors while you solve various encrypted messages, while they teach you new self-defense tricks and you can become a real king of disguise. Get enthralled with the talks of expert spies who tell their anecdotes and testimonies of this interesting world during the day.

The price of the festival includes the tour of the museum which is around 30 euros. The best metro station I can recommend is L'Enfant Plaza.

Chances are you will spend several hours training like the next 007. My advice is to eat at the restaurants inside the museum.

Buy tickets to Washington's best museums

Temperatures in Washington D.C

A January day in Washington| ©Cynthia LaRue
A January day in Washington| ©Cynthia LaRue

In January, the temperature can vary between 10 or 7 °C during the day and may drop to -5 °C at night. The days are usually pleasant enough to walk around. In addition, you will find the snowiest month in the city making it a magnificent landscape for your photographs and memories.

Well, you know the temperature in Washington at this time of year. That's why you'll want to have a warm coat in your suitcase, along with a wool cap and gloves to match your style.

Are boots a must? Washington D.C. is a city made for walking or biking tours and boots will not help, but will make your trip more uncomfortable and uncomfortable if you are not used to wearing them.

If you are already used to wearing boots in winter and have no problem wearing them to walk long distances, then pack them in your suitcase.