2021 January Events in Northern Virginia – Festivals and Fun Near DC

2021 January events in Northern Virginia include in-person and virtual celebrations and activities to start the new year. Enjoy First Day hikes, the end of 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.

First Night and New Year’s Day 2021 in Northern Virginia

Say farewell to 2020 at a drive-in or virtual family-friendly concert from Visit Alexandria. Then, kick-off 2021 and work off those holiday treats with a First Day Hike and the chance to win prizes at Virginia State Parks and 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 will host a special New Year’s Eve celebration to welcome in 2021. A Night of Nostalgia features a drive-in concert experience where your family can sing, dance, watch a big screen fireworks show, and welcome the new year in style. If you’d rather celebrate at home, purchase a ticket for the virtual concert featuring the same music as the drive-in. Tickets are $60/$75 regular admission/VIP for the drive-in with two shows available. Online concert tickets are $20. Follow the link for ticket purchase and details.

Watch Night, Falls Church, Canceled

Watch Night Falls Church is canceled this New Year’s Eve. In prior years, the celebration spanned a four-block area of downtown Falls Church that is closed to traffic and open to fun.

First Day Hikes, Virginia State Parks and Fairfax County Parks, Jan 1-3

On January 1st, America’s State Parks encourages everyone to start the new year with a healthy, family-friendly hike. Start your January 2021 with a Virginia First Day Hike and enjoy free entry to all Virginia State Parks, special programs, and two competitions with some nice prizes.

To win prizes, register before midnight December 31st, hike on January 1st, then record your hike online. You can also enter a photo contest to win gift certificates that can be used for camping and cabin reservations or to purchase annual passes.

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 January 1 to 3. 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.

Winter hike at Burke Lake Park in Northern Virginia
Winter hike at Burke Lake Park in Northern Virginia

Final Holiday Light Shows in Northern Virginia

The holiday light show season winds down in early 2021 with a final week of sparkly fun. Events are listed below in order of the end date.

Garden Lights at Meadowlark
Garden Lights at Meadowlark

Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights, Vienna, Nov 11 – Jan 20

UPDATE: The Winter Walk of Lights has extended their season to January 20th!

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 $9 – $18 depending on age, time, and advance purchase. Open nightly, including holidays, 5:30 – 10:00; last admission at 9:30.

Bull Run Festival of Lights, Bull Run Regional Park, Nov 6 – Jan 20

UPDATE: The Festival of Lights has extended their season to January 20th!

A dazzling 2.5-mile drive-through display of holiday and fairytale vignettes. Weekday/weekend admission is $20 – $30 per car. 5:30 – 9:30 weekdays, 5:30 – 10:00 weekends. Follow the link for tips and details.


  The lights will sparkle until Jan 3, but the ice rink remains open through February.

GardenFest of Lights, Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden, Richmond, Nov 22 – Jan 10

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 purchase in advance $5 – $18 depending on date and whether you are a member. 5:00 – 10:00 nightly except Thanksgiving, Dec 24 + 25.

Extend your holiday fun with a Weekend Getaway to Richmond Virginia.

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. Note that some indoor venues, like the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, are currently closed while others are open with restrictions.

Winter Wonderland, Village at Leesburg, Jan Weekends

Head to the Village at Leesburg every weekend in January to see beautiful ice sculptures displayed throughout the village. Pick up a beverage to go to keep you warm while you wander and visit the shops and restaurants when you want to warm up. The ice sculpture theme changes every week. Sculptures are on display from Friday 6:00 PM to Sunday 6:00 PM. Free.

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

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. Burke Lake Park hosts a guided Waterfowl hike on Jan 5 and 19 plus other dates this winter.

2021 MLK Celebration, Reston, Jan 18 – 20

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 and 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

Free Entrance to National Parks, Jan 18

The US National Park Service is hosting 6 fee-free days in 2021, 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 is beautiful after a winter snowstorm
Great Falls Park in winter

Martin Luther King Jr Celebration, Leesburg, Jan 18

Leesburg’s 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr celebration will be virtual. Follow the link to see the speaker schedule and register for this free online event.

MLK Day of Service, Arlington, Jan 20

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.

Alexandria Winter Restaurant Week, Jan 22 – Feb 7

More than 70 Alexandria restaurants offer a $49 takeout dinner for two during the expanded Alexandria Winter Restaurant Week. Support local restaurants and pick up a delicious meal to go for two weeks in 2021. More than half of the restaurants will also offer a $25 take out dinner for one. Follow the link for participating restaurant details.

Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, Jan 25 – Feb 7

Due to closures in DC, the start of RWDMV was postponed one week.

Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week expands to two-weeks of dining deals in 2021. 250 restaurants, including many in Northern Virginia, offer 3-course brunches and lunches for $22, and 3-course dinners for $35 (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.

McLean Chocolate Festival, McLean, Jan 30 – 31

The 10th Annual McLean Chocolate Festival is going virtual. Visit the website to order chocolates online and support this fundraiser for the McLean Rotary Club. Pick up your order Feb 6 or 7.

Chocolate Lovers Festival, Fairfax, Canceled

The annual Chocolate Lovers Festival in Fairfax is canceled for 2021. We look forward to the return of this fun festival next year.

More January 2021 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.

Great Falls snowy path
Great Falls Park snowy path

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?

Reston Town Center is just one of the fun ice skating rinks in Northern Virginia for a date night and family-friendly night out.
Skating at Reston Town Center Ice Skating Rink

Support Local Businesses at These 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.

Waterford is one of the historic Virginia small towns near DC
Waterford, historic Virginia small towns

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 6 scenic drives in Northern Virginia where you can explore small towns and history while enjoying country roads.

Horses in Middleburg VA
Scenic Drive in Middleburg VA

Find a Warm Winter Outing Close to Home

Sometimes the cold weather curtails our desire for outdoor adventures, but cabin fever pushes us to get out of the house. Whether you have kids along or not, we’ve rounded up warm winter outings that offer a change of scene close to home. Note that closures and reduced capacity may affect indoor venues this year, so check the latest hours before you head out.

Aspen Dale Winery fireplace
Aspen Dale Winery fireplace

Sip Wine with a Sensational View

Winter cold puts a dent in our outdoor activities, but we still crave a beautiful view and a chance to commune with nature. One of our favorite options for a winter outing is to visit one of the many excellent Virginia wineries and soak up nature with a glass in hand.

Fox Meadow Winery view
Fox Meadow Winery view

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.

The Inn at Sugar Hollow is one romantic option for a weekend getaway in Northern Virginia
Inn at Sugar Hollow Wildflower Room

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!

Winter Getaways from Northern Virginia sunset

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 2021!

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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.

This article is updated annually.

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