When First Night celebrations are over and done, and New England wakes to greet January 1, the region must brace for what is typically the coldest month of the year. Lakes will freeze. Snow will fall. And kids will flush ice cubes down the toilet and wear their pajamas inside out and backwards in hopes that accumulations will lead to school cancellations.
If you think January is hibernation time, you're mistaken! Even the animals at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, remain active—and on view—in the wintertime. If you don't ski, you can embrace outdoor winter activities like snow tubing, snowmobiling or even dog sledding. You can even swim outdoors in New England all winter long. And if you truly hate the cold, that's still no excuse to hunker down at home. Head to New England with someone you love, and hole up at one of these inns with a fireplace in every room, dine at New England's best restaurants with fireplaces, or visit New England attractions where you'll forget it's January entirely (like the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in Massachusetts, where it's always 80 degrees!). Make reservations early for Valentine's Day getaways in February, too.
New England Weather in January
Average January Temperatures (Low / High):
Hartford, CT: 18º / 36º Fahrenheit (-8º / 2º Celsius)
Providence, RI: 21º / 37º Fahrenheit (-6º / 3º Celsius)
Boston, MA: 22º / 36º Fahrenheit (-6º / 2º Celsius)
Killington, VT: 5º / 26º Fahrenheit (-15º / -3º Celsius)
North Conway, NH: 8º / 28º Fahrenheit (-13º / -2º Celsius)
Portland, ME: 13º / 31º Fahrenheit (-11º / -1º Celsius)
Brace yourself for frigid temperatures and long, dark nights if you're visiting New England in January. Think of it this way: Every moment spent braving the cold makes coming indoors feel all the more cozy and sipping hot chocolate infinitely sweeter. How much snow New England will see is anyone's guess, and snow totals can vary widely in the region. In Boston, the average total snowfall in January is 13 inches.
What to Pack
Winter clothing is essential in January, so fill your suitcase with sweaters, fleecewear, warm socks, and flannel PJs. You'll also want a well-insulated winter coat or jacket, waterproof boots, and snow pants, too, if you plan to play in the white stuff. Hand and toe warmers can make the difference between enjoying outdoor activities and calling it quits early.
Top 10 January 2020 Events in New England
One-of-a-kind events in January help New Englanders and visitors avoid cabin fever.
January 16-20: New England International Auto Show in Boston, Massachusetts
January 23-26: Stowe Winter Carnival in Stowe, Vermont
January 24-26: Northeast RV & Camping Show in Hartford, Connecticut
January 24-26: Snow Sculpting Competition at Black Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire
January 24-26: Taste of Chocolate Festival in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts
January 25: Rhode Island Brew Fest in Providence, Rhode Island
January Holidays in New England
January 1: New Year's Day (many businesses and services are closed)
Third Monday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 20 in 2020)
Unofficial Holidays Worth Celebrating in New England
January 20: Penguin Awareness Day
Book a Penguin Encounter at Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium.
January 23: National Pie Day
Participate in the Historic Inns of Rockland's annual Pies on Parade inn-to-inn pie tour in Rockland, Maine, on Sunday, January 26.
Best Destinations for January in New England
So, now you're convinced you should visit New England in January? That's wicked cool! And if you're still on the fence, remember, as the Scandinavians say, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing." There are many perfect destinations for your January getaway. Here are some of your best bets:
- If you are a serious skier, head to Maine's Sunday River, Jay Peak in Vermont, Jiminy Peak Ski Resort in Massachusetts, the resurrected Powder Ridge in Connecticut, or the Camden Snow Bowl in Maine: the only New England ski area with an ocean view!
- For the most magical and complete wintertime in New England experience, plan a January vacation in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
- If you're a foodie, make January the month you visit Providence for Restaurant Weeks dining deals. Rhode Island's capital city is especially known for its Italian restaurants, where you'll find the perfect winter comfort food.
- If you're looking for a steal of a winter getaway deal, Cape Cod is quiet and always on sale in January. The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce is a good source for hot deals.
More January in New England Travel Advice
- Winter storms—including potent Nor'easters—can crop up at any time during the month of January. If you're renting a car, splurge for an SUV. If you're traveling in New England in your own car, be sure to equip your vehicle with a snow scraper, shovel, rock salt or ice melt, and blankets. Don't let your gas tank get below half full.
- Check cancellation policies before you book accommodations. Many inns and hotels that do not appear to have liberal cancellation policies may still be willing to work with you if a blizzard delays your trip or if you're unable to leave on your intended checkout date. It's worth making a phone call in advance, particularly if the forecast is threatening.
- Download the free Ski & Snow Report app from OnTheSnow for access to the latest New England ski condition reports on your iPhone or Android smartphone.