Washington DC in January is quite cold! But, the good news is that, Washington DC in January is not crowded at all. If you don’t mind bundling up, then visiting Washington DC in January avoids crowds and high prices.
Here is everything you need to know about visiting DC in January.
Washington DC In January: Weather
Let’s first start with discussing the weather. While DC doesn’t get quite as much snow as New York and much less than Boston, a winter snow storm is definitely possible in the month of January. Be sure to prepare and pack accordingly for cold and wet weather.
Packing for cold weather sightseeing:
- January is the coldest month in DC.
- Average temperatures during the day are around 45°F, and lows average 25°F.
- It is likely to rain about 7 days of 31 in the month of January, and snow is likely as well.
- You absolutely must pack a heavy coat and winter accessories
- Don’t forget comfortable shoes or boots that are easy to walk around in and tolerate wet weather
- Cold temperatures in Washington DC in January are to be expected.
- Bring an umbrella as well
- Most DC restaurants, even the nicer ones, are not too strict about a dress code in the extremely cold months when business is slow. Focus on packing for the weather rather than for fashion.
Washington DC In January: 2024 Events
There are a few indoor events that you may enjoy in Washington DC in January
The Washington DC Auto Show
This car show runs from January 19-28 2024 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The popular event features the newest car technology, luxury vehicles, and various automotive-related exhibits. Its an indoor event so you can stay warm while exploring the cars.
Martin Luther King Day Holiday DC Parade
This event takes place on January 15, 2024. It begins around 9 AM and concludes by 2 PM. Register at: https://2024mlkholidaydc.eventbrite.com
Washington DC Winter Restaurant Week
Experience the culinary delights of Winter Restaurant Week from January 15 to 21, 2024. This event is organized by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. It has over 150 participating restaurants where you can enjoy great food at great prices.
Washington DC In January: Sightseeing
One of the best things about a winter visit to Washington DC in January is that it is fairly easy to go sightseeing. After the New Year, people are tired and less likely to be out and about. Many have just returned from traveling so you won’t have much competition when it comes to sightseeing. Museums and monuments are not crowded and it’s easy to see things efficiently because of this.
Although it may be cold outside, aside from visiting the monuments, the museums are all indoors. This means if you can manage to travel between the popular museums without getting too cold, there’s actually quite a lot you can do. And as a bonus so many of the museums, including the Smithsonian museums are free of charge to enter.
Washington DC In January: Monuments, Museums & Government Buildings
With the low temperatures in January, you will want to focus your sightseeing on indoor activities. You can also visit the monuments but this may be more in passing rather than spending a full day outside relaxing at the National Mall. The National Mall is a great place to picnic in the warmer months, when there are also many special events, but it’s not advisable in the colder months.
Washington Monument: In January its best to just view the Washington Monument from the outside. It will be too cold to really enjoy hanging out here. For a great view of the Washington Monument in a temperature controlled environment, grab a drink or dinner at the Washington Hotel rooftop. This restaurant, called The Vue, has fantastic unobstructed views of the Washington Monument which looks absolutely beautiful when lit up at night.
Lincoln Memorial: The Lincoln Memorial is another iconic monument when you think of United States history. This memorial can be visited in the afternoon when it is likely to be the warmest. Take a few pictures and admire the reflecting pool in front. Move on from this site quickly before you get too cold!
National Air & Space Museum: This is one of the most well known museums in the nation’s capital. You will need to make a reservation online for a timed entry, but given the time of the year it should not be too challenging to secure a reservation. Like many of the DC museums, this one is also has free admission.
National Museum Of Natural History: This is one of the most popular DC museums. Admission is free like many other DC museums. This museum is great for people of all ages so its fun to visit as both an adult and as a child.
National Gallery Of Art: From the National Museum Of Natural History, you can walk next door to the National Gallery Of Art and Sculpture Garden. If the day happens to be a bit warmer, you can walk around the outdoor sculpture garden.
National Archives: The National Archives is across the street from the Natural History Museum so it’s easy to visit these 3 together (Natural History, National Archives, National Gallery Of Art) in the winter season.
Visit The White House: Another very famous indoor attraction is the White House. You will need to prepare ahead of time if you want to tour the White House. Public tours must be requested through your Member of Congress and their Congressional Tour Coordinator. If you are a foreign citizen, then you should contact you embassy in Washington, D.C., for assistance in submitting a tour request. Requests for touring the White House should be submitted a minimum of 21 days in advance and no more than 90 days in advance of the desired tour date. Tours are typically available from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, excluding Federal holidays. Tours are free of charge but are subject to change with little notice.
Visit The National Museum Of African American History: Visiting the National Museum of African American History in January is a great idea for several reasons. Firstly, January is often less crowded, allowing for a more intimate and contemplative experience of the exhibits. Secondly, it’s an educational opportunity to deeply engage with African American history and culture, particularly relevant during the lead-up to Black History Month in February. Finally, the museum’s indoor setting makes it a comfortable and enriching destination during the colder winter weather.
National Museum Of African American History
International Spy Museum: This is an interactive museum where visitors can participate in spy missions and solve puzzles, making it a dynamic and fun learning environment for all ages. The museum also has immersive exhibits that allow guests to experience the life of a spy, including assuming a cover identity. There are also detailed presentations on historical and contemporary espionage activities. It’s a great place for both adults as well as young audiences.
Washington DC In January: Art Galleries & Museums
If you are an art fanatic, then Washington DC has many indoor venues that celebrate beautiful and unique art. Here are some top places you can explore.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Visiting the Smithsonian American Art Museum in January offers a unique opportunity to explore the rich diversity of American art. The museum, located in the heart of Washington D.C., features an extensive collection that spans centuries and includes works from a variety of American artists. January visitors can also enjoy special exhibits and programs, often including those that align with Black History Month, adding an extra layer of cultural and historical context to the museum experience.
This art museum is renowned for its intimate setting and impressive collection of impressionist and modern American and European art. January visitors can enjoy the museum’s permanent collection, which includes works by Rothko, Renoir, and O’Keeffe, as well as special exhibitions that may be on display, offering a blend of historical depth and contemporary innovation in the art world
Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit
The Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit in Washington DC offers a unique, multi-sensory experience. This exhibition, which has been touring since 2017 and seen by over 5 million visitors, features a 20,000 sq. ft. space with two-story projections of Van Gogh’s most compelling works. It includes a Virtual Reality experience where visitors can walk alongside Van Gogh and explore the inspiration behind eight of his iconic works.
Additionally, visitors can create their own paintings and have them projected onto the walls, an activity enjoyed by both children and adults. The exhibit is located at the Rhode Island Center, about a 14-minute drive from central DC and a 6-minute walk from the main Metro station. It’s open on various days with time slots available every half-hour, and a typical visit lasts about 60 to 75 minutes. If it is very cold out, you may want to consider taking a taxi or a ride share since the walk in the cold can be difficult.
Walking distance from the Spy Museum is the modern art gallery Artechouse. This is a fun art installation for all ages. It is also indoors so a cold month is the perfect time to enjoy another indoor activity. If you are there in the evening, there is also a fun immersive bar experience that you can try. It is only for guests that are 21 and older.
Best Hotel Deals In January In Washington DC:
You can get some amazing hotel deals when traveling off season in January. Here are some hotels which tend to be deeply discounted in the colder months.
There are some 4 and 5 star hotels that you can get great deals on in the colder months.
Top Luxury Hotel Choice For Proximity To Sightseeing: The Riggs Hotel. – Top Hotel Choice In January given close distance to attractions. This historic Washington DC hotel is not only luxurious, it also has some great dining. The basement floor of this hotel has a swanky cocktail lounge.
Top Affordable Hotel Choice: The Kimpton Hotel Monaco
Top Hotel For Large Rooms For Families In January: The Conrad. The Conrad is a 5 star hotel located in the trendy City Center part of time. It is walking distance from many attractions and has large rooms for accommodating couples as well as families.
Washington DC In January: Dining, Activities & Things To Do
It’s no surprise that you will want to pick activities and things to do in January that are indoors. You can still have a great time indoors in DC. Aside from exploring the many historical sites and monuments, there are plenty of other things to do in January in Washington DC.
Ice Skating In DC In January
If you enjoy winter activities, then DC has a couple great places where you can ice skate.
There is a large skating rink at the DC Wharf that is open from November through February. You can enjoy skating here with amazing views of the water and monuments. Another place is in Georgetown. The Washington Harbour Ice Rink opens in mid-November and closes in late February (weather permitting). This Georgetown ice skating rink is one of the best activities in Georgetown.
Explore The DC Wharf
While the DC Wharf will be quite cold in January (because of the breeze coming off the Potomac River), all of the restaurants and shops in this area are very close to one another. This makes it easy to hop from one place to the next.
The DC Wharf
If you are looking to dine in an igloo, the restaurant La Vie at the Wharf has igloo dining experiences that give you views of the Potomac River as you eat your brunch or dinner.
Stroll Down 14th Street DC
Another very busy and popular street in Washington DC. There are tons of great happy hours as well as amazing restaurants on 14th street in DC. You can warm up here by bouncing from one happy hour to the next and then finally ending your evening with some delicious food.
Shop In Georgetown
The Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC is not only historic but it is a lot of fun. During the summer months, this historic neighborhood can be incredibly crowded with tourists but during the colder months, it’s actually a lot of fun to stroll the streets.
The most famous street in Georgetown is M street. All the stores here are close together making it easy to pop in and out of them without getting too cold. You can also check out more stores and shops on Wisconsin avenue. Stop for a coffee break in the middle of your shopping spree at one of the many cute Georgetown coffee shops.
After you have gotten tired of shopping, head to a cocktail bar in Georgetown or one of the many great restaurants here.
Have A Drink In Dupont
Dupont Circle is another iconic area of Washington DC. Luckily this area is easily accessible by metro so you don’t have to walk here in the cold weather. The Dupont Circle Hotel is a particular swanky spot to grab a drink or a cocktail. This area is also quite famous for its nightlife including both bars and clubs.
Dine At Amazing Restaurants!
The best part about visiting in January is not having to worry too much about getting a great restaurant reservation. Even the most hard to get reservations are easier during the colder months.
Try your luck getting a table at Rose’s Luxury (one of the best restaurants in DC), Chloe, or Le Diplomate (one of the the most popular 14th street restaurants). If you are craving Indian food, Rania has a Michelin star and serves up delicious Indian cuisine. For delicious Italian check out Masseria or Red Hen. There is no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Washington DC.
See A Show At National Theatre Or Warner Theatre
There are many live performance venues in Washington DC, including both National Theatre and Warner Theatre. Stay warm, catch a show and then grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants near Warner Theatre or National Theatre.
Kennedy Center For Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center is an amazing place. It is a large indoor venue that has tons of shows and exhibits for you to enjoy. Visiting the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in January is an excellent idea for various reasons.
Firstly, January often features a diverse lineup of performances, including theater, ballet, and orchestral concerts, providing a culturally enriching experience. Secondly, the winter season at the Kennedy Center typically showcases unique shows and special events, making it a prime time to experience world-class entertainment. Lastly, its indoor venues offer a cozy and comfortable escape from the chilly winter weather, allowing visitors to enjoy performances in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Igloos At The Watergate Hotel
The Watergate Hotel is famous for many reasons. Not only is it one of the most historic hotels in the DC area, it is also a popular place to grab a drink during the colder months. It is one of the best spots to enjoy a winter wonderland experience.
Located on The Next Whisky Bar’s terrace, each inviting igloo takes you to a glamorous, snow-themed setting. These private spaces fit up to six people each, perfect for hosting a unique dining event at DC’s renowned hotel.
The menu here is inpired by the Swiss Alps, offers a luxurious fondue and other heartwarming dishes. There’s also a wide variety of whiskies, special cocktails, and more to choose from. Keep in mind, there’s a rental fee and a minimum spend per person for food and drinks. These charges vary depending on when you book and the size of your group. For additional details, you should visit The Watergate Hotel’s website.
Enjoy A Spa Day
If you just feel like relaxing, you can enjoy one of Washington DC’s many spas. There are several gorgeous hotels with luxury spas in DC. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time as these get booked very quickly.
The most popular DC Spas include the Spa at the Four Seasons, The Spa at the Salamander Hotel (previously the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental), and the Spa at the Watergate Hotel.
Head To A Comedy Show
If you love comedy, then DC has a thriving comedy scene. It’s another great indoor activity to enjoy when it’s cold outside. There are many places you can see comics in DC.
The DC Improv is a hub for comedy in the city, showcasing a variety of shows, including stand-up showcases with outstanding local comics, duo comedy shows, and comedy school showcases. It’s a place where you can catch both established comedians and rising stars.
The Comedy Loft of DC: Offering a range of comedy shows featuring well-known comedians, The Comedy Loft of DC is another excellent venue for comedy enthusiasts. It hosts performers who have appeared on platforms like Comedy Central, NPR, and various TV shows, ensuring a high quality level of entertainment
Washington DC In January: Where To Stay
Because the average temperature in DC in January is in the low 40s during the day and in the 20s at night, you will want to aim to be centrally located. This will give you easy access to different sites whether you are walking or taking a taxi. Being next to a metro stop is also a great option as well, as this will allow you travel quickly without having to deal with traffic.
Though Washington DC in January is cold, its one of the best times to score a deal on hotels in this otherwise expensive city.
Near The Metro
If you are visiting in the cold and don’t want to take a taxi or ride share everywhere, then staying at a hotel that is near a metro station is a huge plus. There are many hotels near the metro in Washington DC and the surrounding areas which give you easy access to DC.
City Center is a luxury part of town that has good metro access, is walking distance from several sites, and has its own shopping and dining scene. The Conrad Hotel here is one of our favorite pics for a luxury experience. Especially if traveling with family, the Conrad hotel has spacious suites and rooms that are great for the whole family. It is also walking distance from the metro and top sites.
Penn Quarter is close to several attractions like the National Air & Space Museum and the Library of Congress. There are also many restaurants here where you can dine and it’s a great way to relax after a day of sightseeing.
Georgetown / West End
This neighborhood is further from sightseeing. However, if you want to focus more on dining and drinking then Georgetown is the place to be. From amazing cocktail bars, to cute coffee shops, Georgetown has it all. There is also world class dining, including famous Italian restaurants, and plenty of other things to do.
Some popular places include Cafe Milano (one of the most famous Italian restaurants in Georgetown), Nobu in West End, and the always bustling bar scene at the Four Seasons Hotel here.
Washington DC In January: Should You Bring A Car
Washington D.C. is a very walkable city and also has many public transportation options. If you are traveling with kids, then a car may be helpful, but generally taxis and ride shares will be readily available during this non busy time of year. Even the locals are not going out as much right after the holiday season and many people are out of town. Whether or not you bring a car will depend on where you decide to stay and how much you really need one.
Washington DC In January: Sample Itineraries
Washington DC In January: Summary
Washington DC in January is quite cold. In fact, it is the coldest month of the year. The upside is that it will be much less crowded, hotel prices are very reasonable, and dinner reservations are easy. Even in the winter months, you can still have the best time in DC.
There is really no bad time to visit DC because there is so much to do indoors. If you love museums and learning about history, culture, and art, then this is the perfect place for a cold weather getaway. From the many museums here to the live performance venues, there’s a ton of things to do indoors in DC. As the rush from the month of December dies down, January is a good time to explore DC on a budget.