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Florida in January: Everything You Need to Know

Need some help planning for Florida in January? You’re especially in luck, as the Roundtript staff are all born-and-raised Florida locals!

January in Florida is a peaceful month in Florida with lower crowd volumes and much-deserved rest after the holiday season. Though tourists won’t be visiting in droves, this is peak time for snowbirds residing in the state for their extended stay, so roadways and bigger cities will still be bustling with people.

January is also a great time to experience Florida’s outdoor recreation and natural habitats with the uncommon cooler weather. It’s one of the only months that will be consistently cool and dry, so activities like touring the Everglades and playing a round of golf won’t leave you sweating profusely like you would in the summer.

We’ve created this comprehensive guide to cover everything from weather expectations to favorite destinations and everything in between.

This article is part of Roundtript’s series of expert Florida travel guides for every month of the year.


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For a summary of each Florida month & season all in one place, check out our big guide to the Best Times of the Year to Visit Florida.

January Weather in Florida

Florida Weather in January
Aerial shot of South Beach in Miami.

January weather in Florida will be cooler than most other parts of the year. While cold days are not always guaranteed for your January vacation, the overall temperatures will be much cooler and more tolerable than the hot humid days of the summer months.

Florida is the only place in the United States that maintains a subtropical to tropical climate all year round. But based on where you’ll be traveling, temperatures are likely to vary.

Northern Florida (Central Florida to the Panhandle) will see January highs of around 65°F (18.3°C) with lows of around 36°F (2.2°C). In southern Florida (Central Florida to the Keys), January highs will be closer to 72°F (22.2°C).

January is considered the dry season in Florida. You’ll almost never see snow, even in the Northern part of the state and rain is fairly scarce this month. Humidity levels will remain high in Florida year-round, but January typically has dryer air on average. When packing, it’s best to bring a variety of layers as the mornings will start cold before warming throughout the day.

January Affordability & Crowds in Florida

Affordability and Crowds in Florida in January
A walking path in Rainbow Springs State Park, Florida

January crowds in Florida will vary depending on which region you visit this month. However, January tends to be a little slower across the board since the holidays are over. Most parts of Florida will experience a lull, even on the beaches, as most families will not be traveling this month in general.

The places where you’ll experience the biggest influx of visitors will be in towns that are popular with “snowbirds” (Northern residents who stay in Florida for the Winter and Spring). The snowbirds usually arrive in October and stay through May. If you’re looking to avoid the snowbird rush, avoid traveling to places like St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Naples, Fort Myers and Hollywood, FL, as these will see some of the largest amounts of winter visitors.

Most travelers will be pleasantly surprised with the cheaper accommodations in Florida this time of year. Decent hotels in Orlando will range from $175 – $300 per night, hotels in Tampa will range from $150 – $250 per night, and the more populous city of Miami will see rates from $250 – $450 per night.

Top Attractions in Florida in January

Walt Disney World

Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World is the vacation capitol of the world, therefore it’s Florida’s biggest attraction. Walt Disney World is comprised of four different theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) and two water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon).

Disney is located outside of Orlando in Lake Buena Vista. In the month of January, the weather will be cool but dry and the parks will not be very crowded.

Epcot International Art Festival is going on from January through February, with special events and merchandise featured inside the park. Resort rates will be lower this month, along with ticket pricing and even food pricing (which fluctuates with tourist volumes). January is also when Disney’s Marathon Weekend takes place, hosting thousands of runners.

There is a lot to do at Disney, as you’ll see on this big list of Disney World “must-do’s”.

Universal Orlando

Diagon Alley Univeral Orlando
Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter Wizarding World at Universal Orlando.

Universal Orlando is Disney’s biggest rival, featuring two different theme parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) along with one water park (Volcano Bay). It’s a great theme park experience located on the outskirts of Orlando and has it’s own resort accommodations for guests to enjoy. The parks are known for movie-themed roller coasters, rides and attractions for all ages.

January weather will be cool and dry and the parks will not be very crowded. Universal’s biggest January event is Rock the Universe, which is a separately ticketed nighttime event. Guests can experience concerts on several sound stages around Universal Studios, featuring contemporary Christian bands.

SeaWorld Orlando

Manta Rollercoaster at SeaWorld Florida
Manta Rollercoaster at SeaWorld in Orlando. VIAVAL TOURS/Shutterstock

SeaWorld is most popular for it’s aquatic animals, shows and coasters. It’s very close to Universal Orlando and makes a great full day of entertainment. Sea World has recently added big roller coasters like Manta and Mako to up their thrill game for older audiences.

There is plenty for people of all ages to enjoy inside this ocean-themed park. In January, the weather is cool and dry and the park will have fewer visitors. Aside from the whale and dolphin shows, there’s not much chance of getting wet inside Sea World, so there’s no fear of soaking your clothes on a cold day.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens is the biggest theme park in the Tampa Bay area, located in North Tampa. It’s a great option for a full day to add into your weeklong vacation in Tampa, St. Petersburg or Clearwater, about 15 miles from the Tampa International Airport. In January, Christmas Town will be finishing up right after New Year’s Day and the weather will be cool and dry. January is a slower month for Busch Gardens as far as crowd volumes are concerned.

Legoland

Legoland is one of Florida’s newest theme parks located in Winter Haven, right in the middle of Central Florida, a quick drive from Orlando. As you can imagine, Legoland is entirely themed after these popular little toy blocks which have inspired movies, roller coasters and water rides. There’s event a Lego resort where you can stay on vacation.

January is a great time to visit Legoland with dry, cool weather and fewer visitors than in the full swing of the holidays. Leftover Christmas festivities will continue to take place through the month of January, following their New Year’s celebration.

Gatorland

Gatorland is a lesser known amusement park when compared to the likes of Walt Disney World and Universal, but a popular attraction nonetheless. Visitors love to learn more about Florida’s swamp creatures and natural habitat in this fun experience. Gatorland is south of Orlando and offers ziplining fun, off-road adventures and petting areas. January will be a slower month for the park, with cool and dry weather for your trip.

Best Florida Beaches in January

Florida has a multitude of great beaches to visit all year. Below we’ve listed the best beaches in each area and what the experience will be like in the month of January.

Gold Coast: Best All-Around

Sunrise at Fort Lauderdale Beach and promenade, Florida
Sunrise at Fort Lauderdale Beach and promenade.

The Gold Coast is located in the southwest side of Florida, mainly encompassing the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area on the Atlantic side. Miami has the highest temperatures in Florida all year round, making it the top destination for January visitors who are looking to avoid the cold. The beaches in this area are very popular with tourists, so expect them to be fairly crowded, with water temps at 72°F (22.2°C).

Our top recommendations for Gold Coast beaches include Las Olas Beach, Miami Beach and South Beach. The best part about visiting this area is cruising down Ocean Drive, choosing from a wide variety of dining and hotel options and enjoying the night life in the city.

The Florida Keys: Best Weather

A seaplane at the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys.

The Keys are an extremely popular destination all year round, and January is no exception. January offers a winter reprieve for snowbirds and tourists alike, so the Keys will also be packed with visitors this time of year. The water averages 71°F (21.6°C). Our favorite spots include beaches on Key West, Key Largo and Marathon, as well as Bahia Honda State Park and the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Some fun and unique things to do in this area include exploring historical places like the Hemingway House, the old civil war base at Fort Zachary Taylor and getting a picture at the Southernmost Point. We highly recommend flying in for those looking to do an extended weekend in the Keys, but driving from Miami will give you some of the most scenic ocean views you’ve ever witnessed.

Treasure Coast: Refined Warmth

Boca Raton Beach in Sunny South Florida
Boca Raton Beach in Sunny South Florida

The Treasure Coast is located just above Miami’s beaches and has some of the warmer temperatures – about 74°F (23.3°C) – you can experience in Florida in January. The cities that make up this area include West Palm and Palm Beach, popular beach towns known for glamorous residences on pristine white sands. There are many things to do in this area, making it a nice place to vacation.

Our top beach recommendations in this area are West Palm, Delray, Pompano, Palm Beach, and Boca Raton. All feature slightly different styles. Delray Beach not only has excellent beaches, but has a booming arts district. Pompano Beach has multiple diving sights to explore coral reefs and shipwrecks. Boca Raton is great for recreational activities like golf and shopping.

Cultural Coast

Huts on the beach on Anna Maria Island
Huts on the beach on Anna Maria Island.

The Roundtript staff is most partial to the Cultural Coast as it’s been the favorite summer destination for our families since before we were born. In January, the water and weather will be slightly cooler than you’d experience farther South since the Cultural Coast is closer to the center of the state on the Gulf side. The beaches are beautiful here, but the water will average 63°F (17.2°C).

Our best suggestions for visiting the Cultural Coast are Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, Siesta Key and Sanibel Island. Anna Maria Island is the perfect beach town with a very relaxed atmosphere that encourages walking and biking around the island. Longboat Key on the other hand puts on more of the ritz. Siesta Key has recreational accommodations for the whole family and Sanibel has a great natural habitat in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Preserve.

Paradise Coast

The Paradise Coast is opposite of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, featuring a more natural habitat and relaxing environment for winter visitors and older audiences. The area tends to be an idyllic setting for snowbirds, with lots of events and activities within a serene atmosphere. It’s also the closest coast to the Everglades, giving visitors a range of options and adventures for their Winter vacation.

The popular spots will be busy this time of year, but might not be hopping with people like you’d see in those previously mentioned. The waters are cool and clear, averaging 66.9°F (19.4°C). The top destinations on this coast are Marco Island, Naples, and Fort Myers. Marco Island is great for fishing, kayaking and paddleboarding, making it a fun beach trip for families and active seniors. While Naples and Fort Myers are most popular with older audiences.

Space Coast

The Space Coast is located slightly north of Orlando on the Atlantic side of the state. Known as the home of Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, this area has been a popular Spring Break destination for decades. While the beaches don’t rock as much as they did in the early 2000’s, tourists still enjoy what the Space Coast has to offer.

January will be cooler on the Space Coast, with the water temperatures averaging 70°F (21.1°C) which is cold to Floridians, but vacationers may not mind. The best beaches on the Space Coast are Melbourne, Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. All have a very similar structure and atmosphere, so choosing your location may be based on their proximity to Orlando – in which case Cocoa will be your best option.

Sun Coast

The Sun Coast is north of the Cultural Coast on the Gulf side of the state, with similar weather to the Cultural Coast with water temps at 63°F (17.2°C). The Sun Coast boasts Tampa Bay’s best beaches, including Dunedin, Clearwater and St. Pete Beach. While these beaches are heavily marketed and popular with tourists, the coasts mentioned above will have more pristine offerings and lodging.

Our best recommendations for this area are to visit Caladesi Island State Park or Honeymoon Island State Park. Both require ferry trips from the mainland in Dunedin. These well-preserved state parks have designated dog-friendly areas, picnic tables and walking paths to take in the natural island habitats. You’re guaranteed to see gopher tortoises, sea turtles and ocean birds with every visit to these islands.

First Coast

The First Coast is Florida’s coldest coast on the Atlantic side, featuring the historical cities and beaches of St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Sea Islands. The water temperatures in the month of January will be about 62°F (16.6°C). Visitors to this area will love the historical aspects of this region even more so than the beaches themselves this time of year.

St. Augustine is known as Florida’s oldest city and has many landmarks to explore, including the Castillo de San Marcos fort. Jacksonville is Florida’s most populous city with many parks, gardens and museums to experience. Amelia Island is the perfect escape for a luxury resort stay with upscale golf courses and shopping districts.

Emerald Coast

The Emerald Coast makes up Florida’s panhandle from Pensacola to Tallahassee. This coast will experience the coldest temperatures in Florida during the Winter, so expect January water temperatures to be around 60°F (15.5°C). Despite the colder weather, the Emerald Coast has a lot to offer in the month of January.

Our top beach recommendations in this area are Pensacola, South Walton Island, Destin and Panama City. Swimming may not be your top option this month, but beach walks and inland activities will make a great vacation. Pensacola has many museums to visit, while Panama City has several state parks to experience. South Walton has a great art scene and Destin has excellent golf courses and other recreational activities.

Best Things to Do in Florida in January

Scuba Diving in the Keys

Scuba Diving in the Florida Keys
Scuba Diving in the Florida Keys.

The Winter months are a great time to dive in the Florida Keys with great visibility and fair temperatures in and out of the water. Outfitters dot the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West, giving you plenty of options for a guided dive and rental equipment. Because the water temps are cooler, a wet suit is highly recommended for your trip.

The top dive sites you’ll find in the Keys are reefs filled with aquatic animals like sea turtles and reef sharks. Looe Key off of Big Pine Key is a great jumping off point for reef diving, along with Molasses Reef in Key Largo. You can also dive wrecks like the USS Spiegel Grove off Key Largo and the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the preferred diving spot in Key West. There’s even a sunken “Christ of the Abyss” you can find in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the most sought-after diving experience in the Keys.

If you’re into spear fishing, the Keys is one of the world’s best locations for the sport. In January, you’ll be searching for some of the Keys finest catches, including Hogfish, Lionfish and Grouper. If you prefer fishing above the water, January is a great month to take a charter offshore in search of Sailfish. There are even a few Sailfish Tournaments held throughout the month.

Go Golfing

Florida Golf in January

Golfing is a popular pastime all across the state of Florida and there are many resorts and cities with great courses. Some of the best you’ll find in January are down in South Florida where the weather remains temperate through the Winter, though there are some excellent courses in Central and North Florida that are hard to pass up.

One of the best recommendations is Streamsong Resort & Spa in Central Florida. It’s a little out of the way located on old phosphate property, so prepare to make this a vacation in and of itself. Streamsong is the perfect golf retreat featuring several high-class courses, with the Red course being it’s most popular and favorable. The resort is built for ultimate relaxation whether you play golf or prefer the spa treatments.

Another great choice is the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach toward the Northwestern part of Florida. It’s a 400-acre property beloved by some of golf’s most well-known pros who use it for the Tournament Players Championship each year. It’s self-described as the world headquarters of professional golf, which makes it an excellent place for a golf trip.

Tour Everglades National Park

Airboat tour in Everglades National Park, Florida
Airboat tour in Florida’s Everglades National Park.

January is a great time to see Everglades National Park since there are fewer visitors this time of year and the weather is favorable for outdoor exploring in these typically hot and muggy wetlands. This national park makes up 1.5 million acres in Florida’s southwest corner on the opposite side of Miami, filled with mangroves and hundreds of wildlife species.

It’s touted as the United States’ Largest Subtropical Wilderness and guests can experience the habitat in many different ways. Guides host daily tours via tram, rented bicycles, and airboats. You even have the opportunity to take a fishing tour, eco tour or go kayaking and camping in the Everglades.

Kids will love the Everglades “Every Kid Outdoors” program. This special pass is applicable to multiple national parks around the U.S. and allows kids to experience the fullness of national parks while learning with expert guides along the way. In the Everglades, children and parents will get to see everything from alligators and manatees to birds and turtles.

Visit Mount Dora

Downtown Mount Dora, Florida
Downtown Mount Dora.

Mount Dora is a small town in Central Florida, about 45 minutes north of Orlando. The town is a popular antique shop destination for Florida residents and makes a great stay for a quiet vacation away from the hustle and bustle of city life. In January, the crowds will be minimal and lodging rates will be fairly low.

The main event happening this month will be Renninger’s Antique Extravaganza featuring over 800 dealers from around the country. In addition to the extravaganza, they also host the Scottish Highland Games where athletes compete in tournaments to win prizes.

Downtown Mount Dora is dotted with antique shops, restaurants and hometown goods. Those visiting will enjoy the quiet comforts of walking the main drag, upscale dining at a local cafe or touring one of many historical buildings. The residents and business owners are extremely friendly and welcoming to all guests who enter their doors.

Go Hog Hunting

As feral hogs are an invasive species that do massive damage to the ecosystem, hog hunting is not restricted to one season. However, January is one of the best times to go since the hogs are competing with Florida deer for vital food sources over the Winter and are likely to be seen roaming longer distances in order to find it. There are several guides around the state that will take you to the best locations, as well as specific territories that allow you to hunt at your own pace.

Outfitters in the central parts of the state (inland instead of on the coast) will provide the best experiences. They’ll take you on hunting preserves on private properties in regions like Polk County and near Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida, and all over North Florida. Feral hogs are in season year-round since the state is overrun with pigs, but generally they’ll allow you to kill and carry two boars per day per person.

January Events in Florida

Florida hosts thousands of events each year appealing to a variety of audiences. We’ve listed the best events in January that most everyone would enjoy that take place over the course of several days or long weekends.

Gasparilla Pirate Festival

Gasparilla in Tampa, Florida
January pirate raid at Gasparilla in Tampa, Florida. Yes I Shoot models/Shutterstock

Gasparilla is Tampa’s most notorious event, held each year at the end of January. Just after Christmas, Tampa residents will toss their holiday decorations and don their pirate flare, adorning houses, businesses and roadways. Visitors from around the state will come to watch the Pirate Parade featuring crew floats and marvel at the “Invasion” (boat parade) led by Jose Gaspar himself. After “capturing” the mayor, the flotilla will sail through the Channel from downtown Tampa to Bayshore Boulevard.

Florida Manatee Festival

Kayaking with manatees at Crystal River, Florida
Kayaking with manatees at Crystal River, FL

Downtown Crystal River, famously known for it’s manatee habitat, hosts this annual festival to spread awareness for the Florida Manatees. The festival features live concerts, boat tours of the Crystal River, learning seminars and a Kids Zone with arts, crafts and bounce houses.

South Florida Fair

The South Florida Fair is held annually in Palm Beach for two weeks of fun. Each year the fair changes themes and has events and booths to reflect that theme for the season. There’s a large exhibition hall with local and national vendors, kids activities, competitions and live entertainment around the fairgrounds.

Saint Augustine Film Festival

The Nation’s Oldest City welcomes film fanatics from across the country during this annual celebration. The long weekend has films playing all day every day, so getting an access badge for the event is pertinent. A schedule of events will be posted online and available at the venue for guests to reference as they select their desired films to watch, as well as partake in food and beverages from local vendors.

Homestead Championship Rodeo

This South Florida town holds an annual rodeo for ropers and riders to compete in racing events and shows. Audiences will thrill at the calf roping, barrel racing and bull riding events while noshing on scrumptious fair food and drinks. The rodeo also holds a beauty pageant to crown Miss Rodeo Homestead and a parade for all to watch.

Art Fort Lauderdale

This four day event features artists that are internationally recognized, with a particular emphasis on local and budding artists. The fair seeks to bring awareness to Fort Lauderdale’s art culture and hosts thousands of visitors in large exhibits over the course of the event.

Mecum Auto Auction

Mecum Auctions hosts a large event in January, located in Kissimmee near Orlando, for car enthusiasts and collectors to come from all over the country. The Auto Auction has a wide selection of cars available, mostly refurbished and freshly painted, ranging from muscle cars to luxury vehicles.

Key West Food & Wine Festival

This annual event held in Key West is an opportunity for visitors of all sorts to participate in dining events over the course of five days. There are several ticket options with events ranging from wine tastings and shrimp boils to receptions and story tellings. Leave the kids at home for this one!

Conclusion

Whether diving in the Florida Keys, visiting Walt Disney World or touring the Everglades, January is a great time to be outside in the state of Florida. The weather is some of the best you’ll experience on a vacation here, with cooler and drier temperatures for your recreational activities.

January is ideal for the relaxed traveler who doesn’t mind the cooler than average temperatures in Florida and seeks to take advantage of the nice weather for more adventurous activities. And because the tourist crowds tend to be lower, accommodations will also be favorable and easier to book this time of year.

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