New Years Day in Washington, DC

What's Open? Find Things to Do on January 1

Looking for something to do on New Year's Day in Washington, DC? While many businesses are closed on January 1,  a surprising number of attractions are open and welcome visitors. There are a lot of great ways to spend your day in the nation's capital. Here are some suggestions.

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    Smithsonian Natural History Museum
    ••• An African bull elephant greets visitors in the rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History. James Di Loreto / Smithsonian

    Yes, the Smithsonian museums are open on New Year's Day. Explore the world class museums and you'll see a variety of exhibits ranging from art to space exploration. This is a great day to visit the most popular Washington, DC museums because many people sleep in after a big night of celebration. 

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    Jefferson Memorial
    ••• tpsdave / Pixabay

    New Years Day is a good time to see the monuments and memorials in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia. Parking should be easier than other days of the year and the crowds should be thin, especially if you get an early start. While you may want to get some exercise and take your own self-guided excursion, most of the guided tours do operate on January 1.  

  • 03 of 10
    Mount Vernon Estate
    ••• skeeze / Pixabay

    The estate of George Washington is open every day of the year! During the holiday season, visitors get a glimpse of an early-American Christmas. Exclusively during this time, the rarely-seen third floor is open to the public. An elaborately re-created dessert course is displayed in the large dining room with the Washingtons' famed "Great Cake" as the centerpiece of the feast. The property is a fun place to walk and explore. 

  • 04 of 10
    Smithsonian National Zoo
    ••• Pamela Jenkins / Smithsonian

    If you've got lots of energy, the National Zoo is open and makes a great excursion on New Years Day. Washington DC's 163-acre zoological park features more than 400 different species of animals. Be sure to dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Stay until dark and get one of the last glimpses of the Zoo Lights displays.

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  • 05 of 10
    U.S. Botanic Garden 'Season Greenings'
    ••• Architect of the Capitol

    The Botanic Garden is open every day of the year. This great holiday exhibit features unique model trains and incredible replicas of Washington, DC's most famous buildings and monuments. Get an early start in the day as this is a local favorite and may even be busy on New Year's Day. 

  • 06 of 10
    Arlington Cemetary
    ••• pyteston / Pixabay

    More than 250,000 American servicemen as well as many famous Americans are buried at the 612 acre national cemetery. Among the notable Americans buried here are Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Robert Kennedy. The cemetery is a peaceful place to walk and contemplate. 

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    National Building Museum
    ••• The Great Hall of the National Building Museum. Phil Roeder / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The museum is open on New Year’s Day from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visitors can explore the exhibition, House & Home which explores houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to live at home in America. PLAY WORK BUILD takes children and adults through an exploration of play with a hands-on display featuring molded foam blocks of all shapes and sizes and an original virtual block play experience.

  • 08 of 10

    Go to a Movie

    AFI Silver
    ••• The American Film Institute Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. Kate Mereand-Sinha / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Movie theaters are open and a selection of good movies usually come out in time for the holiday season. Here’s a guide to local cinemas:

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  • 09 of 10

    Take a Hike in a Local Park

    Prince William Forest Park
    ••• Prince William Forest Park is the largest protected natural area in the Washington, D.C. metro area. © Rachel Cooper

    If the weather is clear, this is a nice day to take a quiet stroll through a park. Please note that some parks may close their entrance gates, so you may want to call ahead to find out about accessibility. See a guide to the local parks:

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    Kennedy Center
    ••• Douglas Keister / Getty Images

    Washington's premier performance venue offers performances on New Year's Day each year. Check the official site for this year's schedule of events.