January Events in Northern Virginia and Fun Near DC

2023 January events in Northern Virginia include fun celebrations and activities to start the new year. Annual January events include First Day hikes, holiday light shows, special MLK Day events, restaurant deals, and plenty of winter fun.

Events are listed below in order of start date, with multi-day events listed first. As Virginians know, winter storms can interfere with weekend plans. Be sure to check ahead for inclement weather closures before you head out.

And use these helpful tools for tracking Northern Virginia storms for the latest updates and warnings.

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First Night and New Year's Day 2023 in Northern Virginia

Say farewell to 2022 at First Night celebrations in Alexandria and Falls Church with live entertainment and fireworks. Then, kick off 2023 and work off those holiday treats with a First Day Hike and the chance to win prizes at Fairfax County Parks.

New Year’s Eve at First Night Alexandria, Alexandria, Dec 31 – Jan 1

First Night, one of 12 holiday favorites from Northern Virginia experts that honor the season with festive parades, unique celebrations, light displays, and visits with Santa. Photo: J Clifford for Visit Alexandria
First Night, photo: J Clifford for Visit Alexandria

First Night Alexandria is a spectacular New Year's Eve celebration to welcome the new year. Enjoy special performances and fun throughout Old Town Alexandria then head to the waterfront for the fireworks show.

Purchase an all-access or day-only pass to enjoy the festivities. Ticket prices vary by age and VIP passes are available. Follow the link for ticket purchase and performance schedule. Noon – midnight.

Watch Night, Falls Church, Dec 31

The fun is back in 2022 as Watch Night Falls Church returns. The free event features live bands and musicians, interactive amusements and activities, inflatables for all ages, caricaturists, balloon artists, puppet shows, and more. Ring in the New Year with the lowering of the Historic Star (the City’s first holiday decoration from 1948) at midnight. Free; 7:00 – midnight.

First Day Hikes, Virginia State Parks and Fairfax County Parks, Jan 1-2

On January 1st, America’s State Parks encourages everyone to start the new year with a healthy, family-friendly hike. Start your January 2023 with a Virginia First Day Hike and enjoy free entry and parking at all Virginia State Parks.

All Virginia state parks also host special First Day programs. For example, Sky Meadows State Park will open their gates at 5:30 AM so you can hike to the Piedmont Overlook and watch the first sunrise of 2023.

The Fairfax County Park Authority is hosting its own First Hike Fairfax fun to get you outside and on the trail. Take a hike at a Fairfax County park from December 31 to January 1. Take a picture during your hike and enter to win prizes that will help you stay active after the hike.

Our First Day Hikes article has all the details and links to participate.

Snowy trail at Burke Lake Park
Snowy trail at Burke Lake Park

Final Holiday Light Shows in Northern Virginia

The annual holiday light show season winds down in early 2023 with a few more days of sparkly fun. Fortunately, new light shows that opened in 2022 will extend later in the month, giving us more fun festivals to enjoy in January.

Events are listed below in order of the end date.

DC Winter Lantern Festival Northern Virginia
DC Winter Lantern Festival Northern Virginia


 Catch the last day of the Winter Village on January 1st, then return when the ice skating rink reopens Jan 7 through February.

Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights, Vienna, Nov 11 – Jan 8

Over 500,000 lights and displays sparkle along a .6-mile outdoor walking trail. Plus, enjoy hot chocolate by the fire and visit the holiday Snowflake Shoppe. Tickets are $18 and must be purchased online for peak weeks (Dec 9 – Jan 8). Open nightly, including holidays, 5:30 – 10:00; last admission at 9:30.

Bull Run Festival of Lights, Bull Run Regional Park, Nov 11 – Jan 8

Don't miss this beautiful 2.5-mile drive-through display of holiday and fairytale vignettes. Admission is $30 online per car, $40 at the door. Follow the link info, tips, and a $5 weekday discount code. 5:30 – 9:30 weekdays, 5:30 – 10:00 weekends.

Winter Wander, Charlottesville, Nov 18 – Jan 7

The University of Virginia presents a beautiful walk-through display of holiday lights when Winter Wander opens at the Boars Head Resort in Charlottesville. Stroll a one-half-mile lakeside trail behind the resort where a 35-foot Christmas tree sparkles and lights fill the fields and trees. The trail ends at a market where you can enjoy food and drink and shop for gifts.

Timed-entry tickets are $20/$15 for adults/youth 4-12 most days and $15/$10 on non-peak days. Follow the link for opening days and to purchase tickets.

GardenFest of Lights, Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden, Richmond, Nov 21 – Jan 8

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden sparkles with more than a million twinkling lights. See hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, Christmas trees, firepit with s’mores and hot chocolate (for purchase), and more.

Tickets must be purchased in advance $5 – $18 depending on the date and whether you are a member. 5:00 – 10:00 nightly except for Thanksgiving, Dec 24 + 25. Extend your holiday fun with a Weekend Getaway to Richmond Virginia.

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest, Leesburg, Oct 29 – Feb 11

New in 2022, immerse yourself in the world of Harry Potter when you enter the Forbidden Forest at Morven Park in Leesburg Virginia. Follow a walk-through trail through the forest and encounter fantastic beasts, haunting lights, and special effects.

15-minute sessions admit visitors from 5:45 to 9:45 pm. Tickets are $55 for children 5-15, $66 for adults 16 and up and group discounts are available.

DC Winter Lantern Festival, Tysons, Dec 16 – Feb 12

New in 2022, a DC Winter Lantern Festival will light up Lerner Square in Tysons with over 100 beautiful Chinese lanterns. The walk-through light show offers great photo opps plus interactive displays. Stay at Hyatt Tysons Corner and you can walk to the show.

The lantern festival is open 5:00 – 10:00 pm, Friday through Sunday plus daily during Christmas week. Tickets are $29.99/$17.99 for adult/youth 3 – 12.

More January Events in Northern Virginia

Too cold for an outdoor event? Check out our big guide to Indoor Activities in Northern Virginia to Escape Winter Cold or a Rainy Day.

National Bird Day, Jan 5

Celebrate National Bird Day and get outdoors with a hike at these wonderful parks and trails. January is a great time for birding in Northern Virginia because the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot our feathered friends.

Astronomy Festival, Turner Farm Park, Jan 14

Enjoy winter's early dark with guided stargazing through a telescope at Turner Farm Park in Great Falls. Listen to ancient stories about the constellations around a cozy campfire. There will be games and activities throughout the evening and hot chocolate and snacks available for purchase. $10; 5:30 – 7:30.

Chinese New Year Festival, Falls Church, Jan 14

The 14th annual Chinese New Year Festival features a day of live music, dragon and lion dances. Enjoy children's games and crafts, Asian cuisine, Chinese language workshops, the popular dragon parade, and many activities for children. Admission is $2/$5 for ages 6-12/adults; 10:00 – 6:00.

2023 MLK Celebration, Reston, Jan 14 – 16

Reston Community Center and local faith communities host multiple events celebrating and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the three-day weekend. This inspiring weekend celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. includes special online and in-person performances.

Join in Community Service Projects to help the Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Cornerstones, and The Closet. Follow the link for the event schedule and registration details.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington DC
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington DC

Martin Luther King Jr Celebration, Leesburg, Jan 16

Leesburg's annual Martin Luther King Jr March and Celebration will include in-person and virtual events. Join the march at 10:00 followed by speakers and entertainment. The program will be live-streamed on YouTube beginning at noon. Follow the link for the schedule and details.

MLK Day of Service, Arlington, Jan 16

Participate in “A Day On, Not a Day Off” with Volunteer Arlington. Join in a variety of volunteer training and service projects for all ages.

Free Entrance to National Parks, Jan 16

The US National Park Service is hosting 5 fee-free days in 2023, and Martin Luther King, Jr Day is the first National Park Free Entrance Day of the year. It’s the perfect time to visit Northern Virginia area parks like Shenandoah National Park and Great Falls Park.

Great Falls Park in the snow, one of the nest winter walks and hikes in Northern Virginia
Great Falls Park in Winter

Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, Jan 16 – 22

Eat your way through a week of dining deals during Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week. 250 restaurants, including many in Northern Virginia, offer 3-course brunches and lunches for $25 and dinners for $40 or $55 (per person, beverage, tax, and gratuity not included).

Enjoy your meal at outdoor patios, dine in (where available), or order to go and dine at home. Follow the link to search by cuisine and neighborhood or to check for your favorite dining spot.

Alexandria Winter Restaurant Week, Jan 20 – 29

More than 70 Alexandria restaurants offer $25, $35, and $45 prix fixe dinners during Alexandria Winter Restaurant Week. Support local restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal. Many of the restaurants offer outdoor heated dining or take-out. Follow the link for participating restaurant details.

Lunar New Year Celebrations, Fairfax Libraries, Jan 19 – 22

Welcome the Year of the Rabbit with special celebrations and activities at several Fairfax County Public Libraries. Follow the link for times and locations.

Wreaths Out, Arlington National Cemetery, Jan 21

Join other volunteers in removing wreaths from headstones and niche covers in Arlington National Cemetery. Free; 8:00.

Ice Festival 2023, Village at Leesburg, Jan 28

Head to the Village at Leesburg to see beautiful ice sculptures displayed throughout the village. Ice skating, photo opps, interactive ice games, and special deals add to the fun. Free, noon – 4:00.

Make it a Leesburg Weekend Getaway with a stay at nearby Lansdowne Resort and Spa.

Lunar New Year Celebration, Tysons Corner Center, Jan 28

Celebrate the Lunar New Year and welcome the Year of the Rabbit with traditional music and dance performances plus giveaways and more. Free, 1:00 – 3:00.

McLean Chocolate Festival, McLean, Jan 29

The annual McLean Chocolate Festival is back to an in-person event in 2023! Enjoy a day of chocolate, live entertainment, and children's activities at the McLean Community Center to support this fundraiser for the McLean Rotary Club. $2 (3 and under free), 11:00 – 5:00.

Coming Up: Chocolate Lovers Festival, Fairfax, Feb 3 – 5

The annual Chocolate Lovers Festival returns to the City of Fairfax in February 2023.

More January 2023 Winter Fun

There are fewer January events and festivals this year, but you can create your own winter fun. Here are some ideas for winter outings that offer brisk adventures or cozy escapes, depending on your mood and the weather.

Take a Winter Hike, Various Locations

Unless we've had heavy snow or rain, winter is a great time to explore local trails. These winter hikes and strolls are enjoyable except when conditions are especially icy or water-logged. A little snow on the ground is not a problem with most of these destinations but wear good hiking boots. And always check ahead for inclement weather closures.

Take a Spin at a Local Ice Skating Rink

The return of chilly temps is perfect for a wintery outing to Northern Virginia ice skating rinks. We found healthy winter fun for every age, whether you prefer to skate indoors or out. Each ice skating destination offers smooth ice, happy music, and nearby fun. Why not try them all this winter?

Ice Skating at Reston Town Center, one of the Fun Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in Northern Virginia
Ice Skating Rink, Reston VA

Support Local Businesses at Quaint Small Towns Near DC

Plan a day trip or a weekend getaway with our list of 15 Fun Northern Virginia Small Towns to Visit. From tiny hamlets to historic Old Towns we've found quaint and interesting places to explore. Visit these towns and you can support local restaurants, shops, wineries, and breweries plus enjoy outdoor activities.

Festive wreaths and garlands decorating a store in Occoquan, one of the best Christmas towns near DC
Occoquan Christmas Decorations

Find a Warm Winter Outing Close to Home

Sometimes the cold weather stops our desire for outdoor adventures, but cabin fever pushes us to get out of the house. Whether you have kids with you or not, we've rounded up warm winter outings that offer a change of scene close to home. Note that weather-related closures may affect indoor venues, so check the linked sites before you head out.

Escape on a Weekend Getaway Near Northern VA

We've rounded up a big list of 21 Fantastic Weekend Getaways In and Near Northern Virginia that offer a fun break from the winter doldrums. From historic inns to comfy hotels, to a private mill house, we have options for every taste. Browse our list and plan your perfect winter escape.

Find a Perfect Winter Getaway

Looking for more than a night or two nearby? We've rounded up Favorite Winter Getaways from Northern Virginia by Plane, Train, and Auto to inspire your next trip. Whether you're craving time in the city or toes in the sand, we have tips for trips that are easy to reach from Northern VA. Happy travel!

Anna Maria Island Florida
Anna Maria Island Florida

Sip Wine with a Sensational View

Winter cold puts a dent in outdoor activities, but we still crave a beautiful view and a chance to commune with nature. One of the best winter outings? Visit one of the many excellent Virginia wineries and soak up nature with a glass in hand.

Fox Meadow Winery Winter View
Fox Meadow Winery Winter View

Take a Scenic Drive to Explore Northern VA

Chilly winter days are a perfect time to explore new roads and sites close to home. We've rounded up the best scenic drives in Northern Virginia where you can explore small towns and history while enjoying country roads.

Whatever January events are on your list, we hope you'll have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the Northern Virginia area. we wish you a happy, healthy, and fun-filled start to 2023!

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January events and things to do in Northern Virginia include New Year's celebrations, First Day hikes, final holiday season celebrations, and plenty of winter fun near DC.
January Events Northern Virginia

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