Southern California is bustling with activities in January, even in the midst of winter. You’ll find a variety of things to do in Southern California in January to explore all the must-see destinations.
We’ve put together a list of fun California vacation ideas to explore the southern part of the state in January: surfing, whale watching hiking, snow sports, theme parks, and more!
If you’re planning a trip to Southern California in January, expect to see daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit. But don’t be fooled by those warm days – evening temperatures can dip into the 40s, so you’ll want to pack a light jacket or a cozy sweater.
And here’s a bonus: January is one of the least crowded times to visit Southern California so you can enjoy all the beauty with a bit more peace and quiet.
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Southern California January Weather
January in Southern California varies depending on the location you’re visiting in the region. You’ll experience some of that famous California sunshine, but keep in mind that January can be one of the rainier months (by California standards, anyway).
January is prime snow season at the higher elevations new Big Bear, with average daytime temperatures hovering around the mid-30s to low 40s Fahrenheit. You’ll definitely want to pack your warmest winter gear and a good pair of insulated boots, as snowfall averages about 24 inches in January.
Be sure to check the weather forecast before you head up the mountain – while the snow is a delight for winter sports enthusiasts, it can make driving conditions a bit tricky.
Along the Southern California coast, the climate is milder but still cool with daytime temperatures in the mid-60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit. We recommend layers for your January trip: fleece jacket, winter hat, and winter gloves for the colder mornings and evenings.
We recommend you check the weather for the place you’ll be visiting so you’re prepared with the right clothing and gear for the activities you will do.
Here’s a list ideas for things to do when planning your January vacation to Southern California! Check out our list of things to do in Northern California in January if your vacation plans include visiting this part of the state as well!
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in January: Quadrantid Meteor Shower
Every January the Quadrantid Meteor Shower is visible in the Northern Hemisphere. Since this particular meteor shower only lasts a few hours, be sure to check each year for the date and time it can be seen.
For the optimal viewing experience of the Quadrantid meteor shower, locate the darkest spot available and relax. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the perfect location for viewing this annual event!
You won’t need specialized equipment like telescopes or binoculars. The key is to allow approximately thirty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then simply sit back, take in as much sky as possible, and enjoy the show!
Borrego Springs Lodging & Tours
Big Bear Lake in January: Snow Sports
Planning a January trip to Big Bear Lake is the perfect destination for winter sports enthusiasts to strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
If you’re not into downhill thrills, take a scenic snowshoeing or cross-country skiing trail and discover the stunning winter landscape of this quaint mountain town.
Or try out the thrilling Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain where you can zip down a snow-covered hill on a toboggan.
And don’t forget, you can always enjoy a cup of hot cocoa by the fireplace in one of Big Bear’s cozy cabins. So pack your warm clothes and get ready for some winter fun at Big Bear Lake!
Where to Stay in Big Bear Lake
Dana Point in January: Whale Watching
If you’re planning a visit to Dana Point in January, you’re in for a treat! This is the perfect time to see gray whales as they migrate south for the winter. Just remember to bring your binoculars and a warm jacket because it can get a tad chilly out there on the water.
And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a Dana Point whale watching tour on a paddleboard or kayak? You’ll get an up-close and personal view of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Plus, it’s a great workout! Don’t worry, safety is always a top priority for tour operators so you can enjoy your adventure with peace of mind.
But January isn’t just about whale watching. It’s also the perfect time to explore Dana Point’s beautiful beaches and hiking trails. The weather is mild, the crowds are smaller, and you’ll have a chance to spot some local wildlife like dolphins, sea lions, and various bird species.
Where to Stay in Dana Point
Death Valley National Park in January: Landscape Photography
Winter at Death Valley National Park is the best! The January temperatures will be pleasantly cool (for Death Valley standards) ranging between 67°F during the day and dropping to around 40°F at night. There’s also very little rainfall.
The moderate weather makes it one of the best California National Parks to visit in the winter to enjoy scenic drives, walks, and some hardcore photography with fewer people around.
Landscape photographers love how the low winter sun creates long shadows, adding depth to your shots and bringing the rugged terrain to life. And let’s not forget the night skies. Away from city lights, the stars really put on a show, providing an awe-inspiring backdrop for night photography.
So, pack your travel photography gear and prepare to capture some epic shots! Remember that even though it’s winter, the desert sun can still be intense. Be sure to also pack your sunblock, sun hats, and water bottles!
Disneyland in January
The Disneyland Resort a very popular destination during the Holiday season and these crowds tend to hangover into January as well. The beginning of January is a great time to still experience the holiday decorations at Disneyland.
Late January tends to have low crowd levels, except for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Weekend. But around mid-January Haunted Mansion Holiday and Small World Holiday will close so they can transform from holiday decor back to their regular look.
In January expect highs around the upper 60s to low 70s. But don’t underestimate the chill factor – the lows can dip down to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to add layers and a rain poncho to your Disney packing list since January is a rainy month! As your trip gets closer, remember to swing back here for the most current weather updates.
Anaheim Lodging & Tours
Joshua Tree National Park in January: Hiking
Winter in Joshua Tree National Park brings a unique experience compared to other times of the year. The crisp air and clear skies make for ideal conditions for exploring and enjoying nature.
Due to it’s close proximity to the Los Angeles area, Joshua Tree is a popular National Park in California. In January there are fewer visitors so you can truly immerse yourself in the stunning desert landscape without any distractions.
Hiking is the best activity to do at Joshua Tree in January – not too hot, not too cold, just the right amount of chill in the air. There are cool rock features throughout the park like Arch Rock, Heart Rock, and the iconic Skull Rock.
And of course you can’t forget about the Joshua Trees! Be sure to explore the Cholla Cactus Garden to see clusters of cacti across the desert floor.
Joshua Tree National Park Lodging & Tours
- Hotels Near Joshua Tree National Park
- Vacation Rentals Near Joshua Tree National Park
- Joshua Tree NP Tours
La Canada Flintridge in January: Enchanted Forest of Light
Descanso Gardens sits on 150 acres of cultivated and wild land north of Los Angeles. For the first week of January you can enjoy the Descanso’s Enchanted Forest of Light that’s a one-mile walk through the garden to enjoy an interactive, nighttime experience.
Plan to spend an hour and a half to see all the unique lighting experiences showcased throughout Descanso Gardens. The route is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress warmly since the outdoor evenings here can get chilly!
Where to Stay in La Canada
Palm Springs in January: International Film Festival
Enjoy amazing January weather when you attend the Palm Spring International Film Festival. It celebrates some of the best international films for the year.
The mission of the PSIFF is to cultivate and promote the art and science of film through education and cross-cultural awareness. The annual star-studded Film Awards honors the best and brightest performances of the year.
Because the weather is so amazing in the winter, there are quite a few tournaments, festivals, and outdoor things to do in January in Palm Springs. Be sure to add the Palm Springs aerial tramway to your list to see mountain views!
Palm Springs Lodging & Tours
Pasadena in January: Rose Bowl Parade
The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena is held every year on January 1 (except when January 1 is a Sunday, then it’s on January 2). This famous parade features beautifully decorated floats decked out entirely in flowers and natural materials, like leaves, seeds, or bark. Each float takes months to create and requires thousands of volunteers to bring it all together.
Aside from the floats, another highlight of the Rose Bowl Parade are the marching bands. These talented musicians come from all over the world to perform in front of millions of viewers both in person and on television. It’s not just about playing music – it’s about representing their schools and communities on an international stage.
Where to Stay in Pasadena
Solvang in January: Julefest
You can still enjoy the festivities at the Solvang Julefest through the first week of January. There are two Danish-style holiday events still happening in January.
The Light & Music Show brings Solvang Park to lift with a 10-minute light and music display. The Nisser Adventure features a city-wide hunt for the mischievous Solvang Nisser (Danish for “gnome”). This is a fun family activity where you get clues from the Visitor Center to find the hiding spots around town! After finding each Nisser, you receive a Solvang keepsake!
Toward the end of the first week of January they hold the Solvang Christmas Tree Burn. It’s a safety demonstration put on by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Where to Stay in Solvang
Universal Studios Hollywood in January
If you’re after the shortest queues of the year, the last half of January is a pretty awesome time to hit up Universal. We recommend you avoid the week before and after New Year’s Day and the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend.
Universal Studios Hollywood really starts to empty with school back in session and everyone heading to work! Keep in mind that January is often the month Universal uses to refurbish a handful of attractions with things slowing down after the holidays. They usually only refurbish 1-2 attractions at a time, but it could very well be one of the more popular rides at the park that might end up missing out on.
January at Universal is a welcome break from the winter blues, with temperatures usually hanging around a comfortable 60 to 70°F during the day, though it can get a bit nippy at night.
Where to Stay in Hollywood