In this article of our winter travel series, we invited our fellow blogger Carla Vianna of Travel By Carla Vianna to present the best things to do in New York City in Winter. We are completely convinced, what about you?
No matter the season, a visit to New York City is always a good idea. New York is the kind of destination that attracts visitors all year long, but if there’s one season that truly brings magic to the city, it’s winter.
New York’s ornate holiday displays are reason alone to visit NYC in the winter months. Cozy afternoons in West Village cafes and snowy walks in Central Park are an added bonus.
The good thing about visiting NYC in the winter is that there’s no need to stay outside if the temperatures drop. While there are plenty of exciting outdoor things to do in NYC in the winter, there’s a myriad of indoor experiences like museums and restaurants that offer a warm retreat from the cold.
Why Visit NYC In The Winter
It’s no secret that New York is one of the most exciting seasonal destinations to visit in the U.S. Each season is prominently defined and equally celebrated throughout the city, whether it be with pumpkin displays in the fall or a line of ice cream trucks in the summer. You may be asking yourself, then, “Why should I brave the cold and visit in the winter?”
Imagine this: Start your morning with a snowy horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park, and spend the rest of the day ice skating with hot chocolate in hand. At night, head to one of the many European-like winter markets across the city, snap a photo of the giant Christmas tree in the park, and enjoy the sparkling holiday lights all around you.
Are you beginning to paint a picture of what NYC looks like in the winter? It’s like living in a Hallmark movie!
If you do decide to visit NYC in the winter, the best time is November and December, when the city is at the peak of its holiday celebrations.
The last two months of the year offer a number of holiday-themed events that are unique to the city of New York, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting, and the New Year’s Eve ball drop. This is why spending Christmas or New Year’s in New York finds its way onto so many bucket lists.
Aside from the holiday festivities, the winter is also one of the most romantic times to visit NYC.
Cozying up near a hotel fireplace with a couple of glasses of red wine is just as much a New York experience as is ice skating in the park. Plus, the city is likely to be less crowded in the winter, which means you’ll have better luck securing reservations at the most charming restaurants in town.
Many people also choose to visit NYC in January and February, too. The early months of the year offer more affordable airfare and hotel rates, as well as tons of post-holiday sales.
While the holiday decorations may be taken down, Central Park will remain just as picturesque — and perhaps even snowier. January and February are considered to be the snowiest months in NYC.
Where to Stay in NYC
NYC is made up of several delightful neighborhoods, each of which offer their own hotel experiences.
The biggest concentration of well-known hotel chains can be found in Midtown. This is the center of Manhattan below Central Park. It’s a central location with easy access to public transportation but be warned: The closer you get to Times Square, the more crowded the streets become, and the more expensive hotels get.
While many people may want to stay near Times Square, it’s actually regarded as one of the least favorable locations by locals. You’re better off staying at a hotel a few blocks south, such as near Herald Square or Union Square. Or stay a few blocks north, near Midtown East or the lower Upper East Side. Not only will you get a better rate, but you’ll also be closer to better restaurants.
Head over to Queens to find more affordable hotel deals, or over to Brooklyn for luxe hotel rooms that boast incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. For a stay that feels more local, check out hotels or Airbnbs in neighborhoods like the East Village and the West Village.
10 Things To Do In NYC In The Winter
From ice skating in Central Park to spending an afternoon at The Met, there are a myriad of things to do in NYC in the winter. Here are the 10 best things to do in New York when the temperatures dip.
#1 Ice Skating in Bryant Park and Central Park
The most popular ice skating rinks in NYC are found in Bryant Park and Central Park, both of which offer picturesque rinks among the tallest skyscrapers in the city. Here’s a local tip: One of the best times to ice skate is at dusk, right before the skyscrapers begin to light up around you.
The Wollman Rink in Central Park can be found at the entrance on West 59th Street and Sixth Avenue. Meanwhile, the rink at Bryant Park can be found between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas, between 40th and 42nd Streets. You can bring your own skates or rent some on site.
#2 Holiday Markets in Bryant Park and Union Square
Feel transported to a European winter village at the Bryant Park and Union Square holiday markets. The display of holiday lights is as charming as it gets, and there are enough hot chocolate stands to keep you warm all night. These markets are one of the most popular winter activities in NYC. Shop for gifts, eat at one of the many holiday-themed food stands and snap plenty of photos under the twinkling lights.
#3 Snowy Walks In Central Park
There are few things as beautiful as Central Park covered in white. Those who are lucky enough to catch a snowy Central Park certainly won’t forget the experience. Take a stroll down The Mall walkway to take it all in. The best chance to catch this winter wonderland is in January and February, the coldest months of the year.
#4 Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Every year, a giant Christmas tree is erected at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown. The famous tree lighting ceremony is held sometime in early December, attracting millions of people each year. The intricately decorated tree is one of the most visited and photographed sites in the city during the holidays.
#5 Hot Chocolate at a Cozy Cafe
One of the best ways to enjoy NYC is to do as the locals do. Wake up, walk to the nearest cozy neighborhood cafe, and settle down for a hot chocolate. Observe local life and imagine what it would be like to call this incredible city home.
Some of the most charming cafes in NYC include:
- Maman (several locations)
- Urban Backyard (Nolita)
- Devocion (Williamsburg)
- Fairfax (West Village)
- Bluestone Lane (several locations)
#6 Visit The Met
When it gets too cold outside head into The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a delightful museum that gives The Louvre a run for its money. The Met is home to over two million works from all over the world, making it the largest museum in the country. Other notable museums worth a visit include the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA), The National History Museum, and The Whitney.
#7 Catch a show on Broadway
It’s no secret that Broadway is one of the top attractions in NYC. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening in the city, especially during the winter months. There are dozens of shows to choose from at all price levels, including a kiosk in Times Square that offers discounted same-day tickets.
#8 Admire the Holiday Displays Around The City
It seems that every street corner in NYC is decorated during the holiday months, but the best displays can be found in Midtown and along the storefronts of Fifth Avenue. Luxury stores compete for the most elegantly decorated windows along the famous shopping street. Explore further into Midtown to find Christmas trees and bows stretched across entire buildings.
Here are some of the most notable displays across the city:
- Fifth Avenue shops
- Christmas tree at the Lotte NY Palace in Midtown
- Giant red Christmas tree balls on Sixth Avenue near Radio City Music Hall
- Red bow on the Cartier building at 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue
- Washington Square Park Christmas tree
#9 Grab a Drink At a Covered Rooftop Bar or Restaurant
Rooftops are always a good idea in NYC. There are plenty of covered rooftops that are equally as enjoyable in the winter as they are in the summer. Some are even converted to cozy rooftop ski chalets, while others offer igloo-style dining with views of the Empire State Building (check out 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar).
#10 Catch The Holiday Lights at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn
Take a trip out of the city to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood, which is known for its lavish display of holiday lights in December. Homeowners here take their holiday decorations very seriously, so much so that the neighborhood attracts tons of visitors every year. Walk or drive through to witness one of the best light displays in New York.
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