New York is one of a kind! Cosmopolitan, full of life, and absolutely addictive, the Big Apple is on every traveler’s bucket list.
It offers hundreds of attractions, events, and landmarks to be enjoyed in every season, but winter is by far the most magical and fairy time of the year!
Dive into some festive atmosphere in December, watch the winter snow falling on Central Park and participate in the many activities typical of this special season!
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Maps of the best places to visit in New York City in Winter:
Winter weather in New York – What to expect:
November: max 55°F – min: 42°F. Reasons for choosing this month: you can watch some autumn foliage in Central Park and the weather is still mild. It’s the perfect mix of autumn and winter vibes.
December: max: 44°F – min: 32°F. Reasons for choosing this month: to get a taste of Christmas cheer! It’s the best winter month for a family holiday in New York.
January: max: 39°F – min: 26°F. Reasons for choosing this month: it’s low season and you’ll find cheapest hotel fares and flights. Keep in mind that it can be freezing cold and snow is usually abundant.
February: max: 42 °F – min: 28°F. Reasons for choosing this month: to spend a romantic St Valentine’s Day under the snow. It’s also still low season and everything is cheaper.
What to pack to visit New York City in Winter:
- Comfortable shoes that will keep your feet dry and warm, like this pair from Mishansha >>
- Wool socks to add a layer of protection, like these ones >>
- Thermal underwear for her>> for him>>
- Gloves and hand warmers (an electronic one you can charge so it’s more eco-friendly, like these ones>>)
- A hat and scarf
- A warm coat, I always recommend Canada Goose coats for super cold weather, it’s almost impossible to feel cold in them.
- A water-resistant camera, there’s nothing worse than not being able to take photos outside just because it’s raining or snowing (pro tips: when it’s really cold, electronics can stop working, make sure to wrap them in something or to keep them close to your body.)
- A water-resistant day pack, like this one by Travelon (gender-neutral, and anti-theft as well)
Related articles – Top 20 Dreamy Winter Destinations in the USA
Best things to do in New York – Sightseeing in Winter
1 – Visit a couple of museums
Museums are the perfect places to spend a couple of hours (or more!) in case of bad weather or to take a break on an extremely cold day. New York is rich in museums of any kind and you should add at least 2 or 3 to your itinerary, especially in winter. Some of them are always free, while many museums are cheaper or free on certain days and time slots. Check the complete list here >>
2 – Enjoy the view from the top of the Empire State Building
The view from the top of the Empire State Building will be even better with some snow! It’s always colder up there, so try to avoid windy days.
Address: 20, 34th Street. Opening hours: every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cost: 42$. Website: https://www.esbnyc.com/
Book your tickets now! Book your ticket in advance or get skip-the-line tickets here>> or book AM/PM Experience Tickets here>>
3 –Taste some local food at the Chelsea Market
Well heated and full of gastronomic specialties, the Chelsea Market is the perfect place to get to know local products and to buy some souvenirs and gifts. Among the many prized products, you should not miss the famous lobster roll and the many bakeries offering rich brownies and cupcakes. It gets really crowded during the weekend, so it’s best to choose a weekday for your visit!
Address: 75, 9th Avenue. Opening hours: 7 a.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website: https://www.chelseamarket.com/
Visit the High Line, a park that’s one of New York City’s best-kept secrets. Check out the chic Meatpacking District neighborhood, and explore the world-famous Chelsea Market on a 2-hour guided tour. BOOK HERE >>
4 – Take a stroll along Fifth Avenue:
Window-shopping at its best, especially during the Holiday Season. Enter some shops just to look around and warm up!
5 –Take a guided tour of the United Nations
Learn more about this important institution and go behind the scenes of a typical workday.
Address: the Visitor Center’s entrance is on 46th Street (Manhattan East Side). Opening hours: 9 am – 4.45 p.m. Cost: 22$ Website: https://visit.un.org/
6 – Enjoy a Bus Tour
You’ll be spoilt for choice because it’s one of the most popular activities for tourists in New York. You’ll have the chance to spend a couple of hours watching the most famous spots of the city passing you by while you sit comfortably on a heated bus.
7 – Take a picture of Manhattan’s skyline from a heated boat
Another very common activity to do when visiting New York is watching Manhattan’s skyline from the sea. In winter, it’s not a good idea to spend time at sea, but there are some heated boats offering a panoramic cruise to let you take your pictures from a covered deck! A couple of nice winter cruises are the Manhattan Evening Jazz Cruise and the New York City Christmas Holiday Statue & Skyline Cocoa Cruise by Classic Harbor Lines.
8 – Get lost in Grand Central Station
Huge, historical, richly decorated, and totally chaotic, Grand Central Station represents the typical local lifestyle. It’s an unmissable stop in every season, but it’s even better in winter, spending some time indoors and taking advantage of the Grand Central Market to buy some souvenirs and gifts.
Address: 89, 42nd Street. Website: https://www.grandcentralterminal.com/
9 – Attend a Gospel Mass in Harlem
Experience New York like a local and don’t limit your visit to Manhattan. In December, one of the best neighborhoods to be explored is Harlem, especially because you can attend a gospel mass to get into the holiday spirit.
Must-do in New York – Things you can only do in Winter!
10 – Watch the lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center
This special ceremony officially kicks off the Holiday Season. A huge Christmas tree (82 ft high) is set up in the iconic Rockefeller Plaza and is adorned with more than 45.000 lights, and topped with a giant Swarovski star.
The lighting ceremony takes place on the first Wednesday following Thanksgiving Day and the tree remains there until January 7th. The ceremony takes place between 7 and 9 p.m. and is free.
11 – Watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
This American celebration takes place on the last Thursday of November and a famous parade is organized by the Manhattan mall named Macy’s. There are allegorical carts, marching bands, giant balloons looking like superheroes and comics characters, and everything you are used to seeing elsewhere in Carnival parades.
Macy’s has another important role in the Holiday season: its windows are adorned and decorated according to a theme changing each year and they are an attraction for both adults and kids.
12 – Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square
It’s one of the most famous New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world and everybody has seen at least a picture of the iconic Ball Drop with the countdown to midnight. It can get really crowded, chaotic, and cold, so it’s not an experience everybody would like to try, but it’s nonetheless an important part of local winter folklore.
The celebrations and shows start around 3 p.m. and go on all night.
13 – Enjoy some ice-skating:
New York has many ice-skating rinks but one of the best is named Wollmann Rink and it’s located in Central Park. It’s large enough to have fun even when it’s crowded and it’s immersed in a beautiful natural landscape. Another popular skating rink is located in Rockefeller Plaza, but it’s small and always overcrowded.
Address: 830, 5th Avenue. Opening hours: Mon/Tue 10 a.m. – 2.30 p.m. Wed/Thu 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Fri/Sat 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sun 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Cost: 12$ weekdays and 19$ weekends. Website: https://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/ . There’s also a free alternative: the skating rink at Bryant Park.
14 – Watch the Christmas Spectacular Show starring the Rockettes
This show will surely let you dive into the festive atmosphere and it always attracts thousands of locals and tourists. The Rockettes are a dance company taking part in major local events like Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the lighting of the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, and other shows representing New York in some way.
Address: Radio City Music Hall, 1260, 6th Avenue. Dates: from November to January. Cost: from 45$ to 200$ Website: https://www.rockettes.com/christmas/
15 – Celebrate the Chinese New Year in Chinatown
Also called Lunar New Year, The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice, which is between the second half of January and the first half of February. Chinatown is a great place to attend the celebrations since the Chinese community is large and very traditional. The highlight of the Chinese New Year is the colorful and lively parade with Chinese traditional characters.
The parade starts in Canal Streets around 1 p.m. and is free.
16 – Listen to some good music at the Winter Jazzfest:
If you love jazz music, winter is the best season for you to visit New York! In January, there are hundreds of artists playing in clubs and bars at every corner of the streets.
More information at https://www.winterjazzfest.com/
17 – Watch a Broadway show at a discounted price:
Towards the end of January, during Broadway Week, check out the discounted tickets! You can get a 2×1 ticket to attend a show in one of the many Broadway theaters.
More information here >>
18 – Shop at the Union Square Holiday Market
The most famous Christmas market in New York is located in Union Square. Buy your gifts here and choose from many handicrafts and art objects at affordable prices.
Address: Union Square. Dates: Nov 21st – Dec 24th. Opening hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m
19 – Admire the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn
This area is famous for its spectacular Christmas lights and is really worth a late afternoon visit. The best light installations are to be found in the streets between 11th and 13th and between 83rd and 86th.
Best things to do in New York – Where to warm up
- Try the Sunday Brunch at Buttermilk Channel: if you’ve overslept on a cold winter Sunday, try the local habit of going out for brunch. This location is nice and quiet and the menu is rich in high-quality foods. Address: Carroll Gardens at 524 Court Street, Brooklyn.
- Have a glass of wine by the fire at Black Mountain Wine House: a wide selection of wines and some tasty food in a cozy Brooklyn bar. Address: 415, Union Street, Brooklyn
- Enjoy a drink in a winter rooftop bar at Bar 54: the highest rooftop bar in New York is open in winter thanks to some sort of heated transparent bubbles where you can sip your drink while enjoying the view. Address: 135 W 45th Street / part of Hyatt Centric Times Square).
- Try some German cuisine under the Christmas lights at Rolf’s: the restaurant is more famous for its Christmas decorations than for its menu, but it’s a real Instagram-friendly restaurant! Address: 281, 3rd Avenue, Manhattan.
- Choose among dozens of hot chocolate flavors at MarieBelle: a refined and elegant atmosphere will welcome you while you taste a hot chocolate and buy an original box of candies as a souvenir. Address: 484, Broome Street, Soho.
- Have a French breakfast at Ce Ci Cela Patisserie: if you love fluffy croissants, hot coffee, some relaxing music, and a quiet environment with a European vibe, that’s the right place to start your day! Address: 14, Delancey Street, Soho.
- Have a meal entirely based on cheese at Murray’s Cheese Bar: a wide selection of cheese and cheese-based dishes with some tasty sauces. Try their fondue if you are a cheese-lover! Address: 264 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village.
- Sip a beer at The Dead Rabbit pub: from late afternoon to late night, have a glass of beer while listening to some good music in this historical Irish pub. Address: 30th, Water Street, Financial District.
Travel tips for visiting New York City in Winter
- Book well in advance to spend some days there during the Holiday season!
- For a low-cost stay, choose the end of January or the first week of February.
- Dress in layers in order to be fully equipped for freezing winter days and warm indoor environments. The best outfit? A microfiber t-shirt retaining heat, sweater, jeans, boots, or waterproof shoes in case of snow, coat, hat, gloves, and scarf.
- Don’t spend too much time walking in the cold but choose the subway instead! It connects every corner of the city, it’s cheap and way faster than taxis that get stuck in traffic jams. Buy a MetroCard on your arrival and choose the most suitable one for your needs. More information at https://new.mta.info/fares
- Alternate between outdoor and indoor activities in order to have enough time to warm up. Always check local weather forecast before going out and bring an umbrella with you. It’s best to visit the parks in the middle of the day.
Where to stay in New York City
In New York City, you’ll find every chain hotels you’re used to, if you are looking for something a bit more original, with more charm and less standardized, you can check out the hotels listed below.
Did we miss any things to do in the winter in New York City? What activity are you looking forward to trying the most? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re looking for more inspiration for this winter check out the best destinations in the US for a winter getaway.
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About the author
From Italy, Chiara is a travel designer, writer and freelance travel consultant. She works with travel professionals worldwide, helping them with content creation, research activities, and other travel-related tasks. When she’s not writing, she’s out and about visiting World Heritage Sites around the world.