It can be hard to find things to do in January. After the organised (or disorganised!) fun of the Christmas holidays and New Year, the remaining months of winter can feel a little dreary. Especially when you might be watching the budget more closely after spending in December, or have set yourself a resolution to manage your finances carefully in 2023.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. We’ve got lots of ideas of fun, free activities in January to keep you entertained without having to spend.
It might not seem like the time of year to head outside, but as the saying goes ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing’. Besides, getting outdoors in the winter has health benefits, including helping us make vitamin D and contributing to getting better sleep at night. So wrap up warm and step outside!
- Join Park Run. If getting more exercise or fresh air featured on your New Year’s resolutions, then Park Run is a free event every Saturday morning where you can get running alongside a friendly community.
- Have a go at GEOcaching. There are free treasure hunts in locations all around the country, and you can find clues for your nearest ones by searching online. Plus it’s a good way to get to know your neighbourhood a bit better
- For even more games and challenges to liven up your walk round the local park, try the Love Exploring app
- Venture a bit further from home and head to a nature reserve. Many of these are free entry to the public: check the list of RSPB reserves to find your nearest one.
- Go stargazing. The long winter nights mean you don’t have to stay up late to be able to spot stars, meteors and planets overhead. Throughout January, look out for Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, the constellation Orion to the southeast and even Mars.
Visit somewhere new
If the bracing cold isn’t your thing, don’t worry! There are plenty of indoor venues that won’t charge you for entry. Here are a few ideas.
- National Storytelling Week (led by the Society for Storytelling) begins in January, and many of their events and workshops are free to attend.
- Warm Welcome Hubs. Throughout winter 2022–2023, many venues are offering anyone a space to come indoors and warm up. Grab a hot drink or charge your phone for free.
- Local libraries offer a whole host of free activities, from music groups for toddlers, to storytime sessions, to coding courses. You don’t have to pay or be a library member to attend these events.
- Visit your nearest museum. Most museums in the UK won’t charge you for entry, and there’s a whole host to explore, from natural history museums with dinosaur skeletons, to local museums that will tell you the history of the community where you live, to war museums where you can watch people battle with swords or on horseback. Pick a subject that interests you and see what you can find!
- Check out what your local church is doing. Churches love getting to know the people in their communities, and you may find one near you running a weekly children’s group, a choir, a lunch club or a ceilidh.
- Join a CAP group or course. All CAP’s groups are free to attend and you’ll learn some useful skills as well as meeting some friendly faces, whether you pick a CAP Job Club, CAP Life Skills or CAP Money Course. See what’s available near you.
Stay at home
For days when leaving the house just isn’t an option, here are some ideas to keep you entertained.
- Join in with the Big Garden Birdwatch. Running 27–29 January, spend an hour watching the wildlife from your window and record what you see to help conservation efforts in the UK. You don’t need to have a big garden and you don’t need to know your blackbirds from your bald eagles: the RSPB will send you a free guide complete with photos of the birds you might see outside.
- Create an at-home cinema. Pick your favourite movie, make the sofa extra-cosy with a duvet or blanket, grab some snacks (like this 5‑minute nachos recipe), and if you have kids then get them to make tickets for everyone. It’s up to you whether you want to also make the floor sticky and sit behind someone tall, to make it an authentic cinema experience.
- Junk modelling. If you’ve got cardboard boxes left over from Christmas, this is a great kid-friendly activity to use them up before they go in the recycling bin. What can you build from the empty containers you’re about to throw away? A house? A robot? A spaceship?
- Host a pot luck. If you’re feeling sociable but don’t want to spend a fortune feeding all your friends, a pot luck or bring-and-share can take the pressure off the host. Each person brings a dish. Why not invite a group of friends over and ask them each to bring their favourite pudding from when they were a child?
- Time for a January clear out? OK, clearing out old unwanted items isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but the feeling of satisfaction you get once you’ve decluttered and donated those old dvds to the charity shop makes the effort feel so worthwhile.
Christmas might be over, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to or celebrate. And sometimes counting down to a celebration in the calendar can be all you need to feel a bit happier. Here are a few key dates coming up in January:
- Lunar New Year falls on 22 January 2023. In the lunar calendar, this marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit. You could make paper lanterns to decorate the house. And while it’s not quite free, this low-cost hoisin noodles recipe costs just £1 per portion, for a special Lunar New Year dinner.
- Burns Night is 25 January, as you will most likely already know if you’re reading this in Scotland! If you’re based outside Scotland, it may be trickier to source haggis from your local shops, but you could still have a go at learning a ceilidh dance. Just look up a tutorial video online, put on some ceilidh music, and have fun dancing and spinning round the house (maybe move the furniture out of the way first for safety though!)
- You may not be familiar with St Dwynwen’s Day unless you’re one of our Welsh readers, but it’s on 25 January and is often described as the Welsh version of Valentine’s Day. If you like the principle of celebrating the people you care about, but find 14 February a little too commercialized for your tastes, then this might be the perfect day for you! Traditionally, it’s a day to exchange carved wooden spoons, but why not use it as an opportunity to tell someone what you love about them?