January in Florida: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Lightner Museum and Town Square (Alcazar Square) in St Augustine illuminated at dusk

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Winter is a popular time for people across the northern United States to travel south to Florida for a chance to escape the cold, and in January, visitors to the Sunshine State can leave their winter coats at home and enjoy the sun on one of the state's many beaches or attend some one-of-a-kind events.

New Year's Day through the first week of January will usually see average crowds at Central Florida's theme parks—attendance at Disney World is typically the least crowded from the second week of January through the first week in February, and the same holds for most other theme parks and attractions.

Whether you're going to Universal Orlando or Disney World in January, it's important to know what to expect. Generally, Florida's daytime temperatures are easily tolerated by most visitors, but if you are visiting north Florida, you may need warmer clothing during the day and something more substantial than a sweater at night.

Read on for more information about traveling to Florida in January, including the weather, what to pack, and can't-miss events.

Florida Weather in January

Florida's mild climate extends into the winter months, but there is a chance for cold temperatures and even frost during the month in North and Central Florida.

One plus for a January visit is that hurricane season doesn't begin until June 1 and frequent cold fronts that roll through the state seldom produces violent weather. The water temperature for the Gulf of Mexico (West Coast) ranges from the high 50s to high 60s. The Atlantic Ocean's (East Coast) waters average mid-to-high 50s from Central Florida north. The beaches to the south—West Palm Beach, Miami, and The Keys—are always several degrees warmer than those in North Florida.

Average High and Low Temperatures in January

What to Pack

You may want to opt for long sleeves, pants, and a light to heavy jacket for evenings, but otherwise, resort casual wear or beachwear is appropriate, which includes shorts if you tolerate cool to cold temperatures well. If you're visiting a theme park, don't forget comfortable shoes for the many miles you'll be walking.

Additionally, sunscreen is a year-round necessity in Florida. Even in the dead of Florida's "winter," the sun can be intense enough to burn. Plus, even if the water is too cold to go for a swim, it's usually still warm enough to sunbathe.

January Events in Florida

  • If you're visiting northeast Florida in the early part of the month and still in the holiday spirit, consider heading over to the oldest city in America, St. Augustine, where millions of holiday lights illuminate the entire downtown area. The Nights of Lights festival runs from late November through February and features over two million lights that illuminate the colonial buildings, downtown parks, and historic bayfront as well as a series of special events that will keep visitors busy well into the new year.
  • On the other hand, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous and heading to Tampa in Central Florida at the end of the month, consider checking out the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. The Gasparilla Pirate Festival has, for a century, sailed into downtown Tampa. Hundreds of colorfully costumed pirates will "invade" the city aboard the Jose Gasparilla with canons and pistols blazing, accompanied by a flotilla of hundreds of boats. Later, Jose Gaspar and the Mystic Krewe captures (with little resistance) the city and shares their wealth of trinkets and doubloons with the enthusiastic crowd along the Parade route, making for a fun-filled day that might make you think you're in one of Disney's "Pirates of the Carribean" films.
  • Visit the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach in January for the county's annual fair. The event includes more than 200 rides, livestock shows, traditional fair food, and more.
  • The 30A Songwriters Festival is held each year in mid-January and consists of more than 175 different artists and over 200 performances. Performers across all genres—folk, country, blues, Americana, and more—attend.
  • Each year, Miami Beach celebrates its abundant Art Deco architecture as part of the city's Art Deco Weekend. Events include parades, street food, live music, and more.

    January Travel Tips

    • Florida's mild climate continues throughout the winter months. However, there is a chance for cold temperatures—even frost—during January in both northern and central Florida. So, if you plan on enjoying the famous white sand beaches, you may want to plan your trip later in the month.
    • January is a great time visit Disney World or the state's other theme parks. Attendance is typically lower as most kids are back in school after the holiday season.