Top 10 Things to Do in Portland in January (2023)

Portland Oregon
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Portland, Oregon is a beautiful city with a lot to offer visitors, and Portland in January can be a great time to visit. While Portland does receive some rain during the winter months, temperatures are generally mild, and snow is rare, so it’s a good time to explore the city without being too cold.

January is also considered the off-season for tourism in Portland, which means that many of the city’s popular attractions will be less crowded. This can make it easier to visit museums, parks, and other sights without having to wait in long lines.

Portland has a vibrant food scene, and January is a great time to enjoy comfort foods like warm soups, stews and hot chocolate. The city also has a number of cozy cafes and restaurants that are perfect for a winter meal.

With that, let’s dive into the top things to do in January in Portland.

Best Things to Do in Portland in January

Here are some of my favorite things to do in January in Portland, Oregon.

1. Celebrate the O’Shugatsu Japanese New Year

Portland Japanese Garden

For a unique cultural experience in the heart of Portland, celebrate the O’Shugatsu Japanese New Year. It’s held at the Portland Japanese Gardens, where you can explore one of the best sites in the city.

The event takes place on January 8th and celebrates prosperity and happiness with a magical display of lights and activities. Some iconic activities you have to join include hishimai (lion dance) and the Sumi-e Japanese brush painting workshop.

This is a lovely way to experience the garden’s plum, pine, and bamboo forests in a festive and joyful way. To make things even better, the Portland Coffee Roasters will serve free coffee for all visitors to the event.

2. Join the MLK Breakfast

For a short but equally impactful experience, join the MLK Breakfast on January 16th. The breakfast takes place at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Portland and is much more than just a fancy meal.

The event looks to honor the great Martin Luther King, Jr, who played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement. You’ll hear powerful words from city leaders and listen to some fantastic live music.

This significant event highlights the struggle for equal rights in America and globally. It also helps that it lasts no more than two hours, so you can still enjoy the city after a heartwarming breakfast.

3. Discover the Portland Art Museum

Art Museum

It will be chilly outside, so visiting the Portland Art Museum is another fantastic indoor activity. This establishment has been here for 130 years, so any avid art lover must visit.

The museum has a collection of over 42,000 artworks and 41 individual viewing rooms, which you can spend hours exploring. Each floor is dedicated to a unique art style, from Asian art to Native American art.

They also have works on display artists like Jules Orlitski, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Cézanne. It’s an ideal warm activity when you’re looking for what to do in Portland in January.

Admission costs $25 for adults and is free for children under 17. The museum is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays between 10 am and 5 pm.

4. Enjoy a Dinner Cruise Through Downtown Portland

Dinner Cruise

Seeing as the Columbia River flows through the city, why not make the most of the waterside views? Yes, it gets cold here in January, but if you’re dining in the comfort of a heated cruise ship, you won’t even notice the weather.

You’ll start by boarding the Portland Spirit and being shown your table for the night. The cruise ship will then pass all the majestic sights of the city, lit up by dazzling nightlights.

You’ll feast on delicious dishes prepared by some of the best chefs in the city and made with local ingredients. The sounds of live piano and the beautiful city sites make a dinner cruise one of the best things to do in Portland in January.

Tip: Join this dinner cruise through downtown Portland for a memorable night.

5. Join the Festivities in Portland’s Music Month

seattle winter guitar

January is Portland’s Music Month, and you’ll find 31 days of excellent live music across the city, from lively bars to upscale ballrooms. It’s a lovely time of year, with local performers warming you up during winter.

The 12 dedicated venues have over 100 unique acts during the month, so you’re not short of choices. Narrow down your options by seeing who’s playing when you’re in town. 

Another option is to visit the NearHear app featuring custom playlists from all the artists to help make your choice.

Although December is the festive period, January is the time to party as this unique city becomes one long music festival. You won’t even feel the cold, as all the venues are indoors.

6. Watch Whales Migrate

Whale

Although Portland’s annual Whale Watching Week finishes on January 1st, watching this migration is still possible. Over 20,000 grey whales migrate from the Pacific Northwest south towards the warmer lagoons of Baja Mexico.

This migration takes place from mid-December to mid-January, so you’ve still got a fantastic chance to witness these glorious animals in action. Fort Stevens State Park and Ecola State Park – around one hour and a 20-minute drive from the city – are the best spots for whale watching.

You’ll be able to see these animals perform iconic moves like the blow, breach, and dive. To avoid worrying about transport, join this Oregon coast tour from Portland and spot some grey whales. You can then explore the best things to do in Astoria after.

7. Celebrate the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

The celebrations keep coming, and joining the Chinese New Year should be no exception. It takes place at the San Lu Chinese Garden and is seen as the biggest lunar new year celebration in the Pacific Northwest.

The celebrations start on January 21st and run until the end of the month. Dragon dances and lantern displays fill the gardens with a joyful mood that you simply have to be a part of.

It celebrates the Year of the Rabbit for 2023, where you can join in scavenger hunts and craft workshops galore. When you’re not enjoying the festive activities, take a walk through the calming gardens.

It’s also free to the public, so you can enjoy this event without taking a chunk out of your pocket.

8. Go Skiing at Mt. Hood 

Skiing

Winter is the season for all things snow, and despite it barely snowing in the city, the nearby mountain ranges have plenty to spare. For a short day trip from Portland, visit Mt. Hood for a day of skiing, snowboarding, and breathtaking views.

It’s a doable hour and a half drive away and a welcome escape from the hustle of Portland. There are three ski resorts for you to choose from, but Mt. Hood Skibowl is easily the best.

There are 64 trails you can test your skills on, 34 of which are lit up for night skiing. The difficulty levels range from beginner to Olympic-grade courses.

9 Join a Portland Underground Donut Tour

voodoo doughnuts eugene

Join this underground donut tour for a unique and cozy experience in Portland. The city is well-known for its donuts, so why not explore the best donut shops in town?

You’ll have a local guide take you past iconic shops like Voodoo Donuts and lesser-known spots such as Sesame Donuts. If you’re gluten intolerant or vegan, don’t worry; most donut shops have a couple of options catering to every diet.

This is a lovely way to see the city, unlike the usual food tours you find in just about every city. It’s also a fun thing to do in Portland, Oregon.

10. Visit Columbia Gorge

Columbia Gorge

If you’re planning a dog-friendly vacation in the Pacific Northwest, visiting Columbia Gorge is a must. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a 15-minute drive from the city and offers plenty of hikes.

I highly recommend hiking to Multnomah Falls and Latourell Falls. Multnomah is the largest waterfall in the state, while Latourell is arguably the most impressive. Also, remember to go to the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint for the best angle of Columbia Gorge.

You can easily enjoy the day exploring this region, but if you want some structure, join this Columbia River Gorger hiking tour.

Your trip can also be extended by spending 3 days in Portland, Oregon.

Other January Events in Portland, Oregon

For variety, here are some other activities you can enjoy in Portland in January:

  • ZooLights – Walk through Portland’s dazzling zoo as Christmas colors light it up. The standard $21 entrance fee applies, and this light show runs until January 5th.
  • Portland Old Time Music Gathering – Enjoy authentic Appalachian-style string-band music and Honky Tonk dancing at several venues across town. The event runs from January 12th to 15th.
  • Rose City Classic Dog Show – See some stunning canines compete for the ultimate honor of the title of Best in Show. This is an exciting event and a chance to meet some friendly pups if you’re a dog lover. It runs from January 19th to 22nd.

Next Read: If you still want more, read my post on the best winter things to do in Portland.

January Weather in Portland, Oregon

As Portland is in the Pacific Northwest, you can imagine January to be a cold and wet time of the year. The average temperatures are chilly, to say the least, with highs of 47°F and lows of 37°F. Expect late rises and early nights, with the average sunrise at 7:42 am and sunset at 4:55 pm.

The city also receives an average of 6.9 inches of rain in January, so bringing a raincoat with you is a good idea. Snow is rare in January, but not impossible, and will most likely occur in the first few days of the month.

Learn more about the best rain gear for the Pacific Northwest before visiting Portland in January.

Which of these things to do in Portland in January are you most excited about?

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