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Things to do in New York City in the Winter

If you visit New York in winter make sure you take advantage of the unique experiences the city has to offer in the colder months - here's a list of my favorites so you don't miss out!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

17 min read

Things to do in New York City in the Winter

Ice skating in Bryant Park | ©Hellotickets

Traveling to New York in the winter? It's a very special season where you can make many fantastic plans both indoors and outdoors. Check out these 10 things to do in winter in New York and don't miss these tips to avoid freezing.

1. Ice skating in New York City

Ice skating in Bryant Park | ©Hellotickets
Ice skating in Bryant Park | ©Hellotickets

What to do outdoors when the temperatures drop in the Big Apple - go ice skating, of course! Whether as a couple, with friends, or as a family, it's an unforgettable experience to do in New York in winter and an ideal setting to take fun pictures. Which are the best ice rinks in New York?

Wollman Rink in Central Park

This ice rink located in the southeast corner of Central Park is the most famous and cinematic of all the rinks in the city. In my opinion, the sensation of skating on Wollman Rink is unmatched as you'll have the beautiful winter landscape of the park on one side and the views of the mythical skyscrapers in the background. In fact, sliding down the ice will make you feel like you're part of one of the many Christmas movies that have been filmed here.

  • Where: You'll find it just a two-minute walk from the entrance to Central Park South, between 59th Street and Sixth Avenue.
  • When: Usually open from late November through March or even April.
  • Price: Depending on the day of the week, between $ 12 and $ 19. Skate rentals are paid separately if you need them.

The Rink at Bryant Park

Don't let the cold beat you! Head to the Bank of America Winter Village Christmas Village** for ice skating at The Rink, a large, free-access ice skating rink that's open from late October through early January. There's also an iconic holiday market filled with decorative items, souvenirs, and culinary delights. How can you resist the hot chocolate from Ice Bites? Yum!

In addition, if you travel to New York in winter you will have the opportunity to attend the Bryant Park Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the acrobatic show of skaters to the rhythm of the music. Afterward, The Rink opens to the public as Lincoln Center musicians play live jazz.

  • Where: Located on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
  • When: The Rink is open from 8 AM to 10 PM from late October to early March. / The flea market is open Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 8 PM and weekends from 10 AM to 8 PM.
  • Price: Admission is free (you will have to pay to rent skates, if you don't bring them yourself).

Rockefeller Rink at Rockefeller Plaza

When winter arrives in New York, one of the most traditional plans is to go ice skating at Rockefeller Rink, the rink located in Rockefeller Plaza.

In New York, there are many options and this may be one of the most typical but because of the long lines to access it and its small size, it is not one of my favorites. However, if you want to live this experience so typical of winter in New York during Christmas, in a track as emblematic as Rockefeller Rink you can check all the information on the page Rockefeller Center.

  • Where: 45 Rockefeller Plaza.
  • When: Normally open from late November through March.
  • Price: Depending on the season, between $25 and $35. Skate rental, if needed, is extra.
  • For more information: Rockefeller Center has a lot to offer visitors. Check out this article on Top of the Rock

2. Free admission to MoMA on Fridays

The MoMA Gallery | ©Dan / Flickr.com
The MoMA Gallery | ©Dan / Flickr.com

If your travel plan didn't include seeing a museum but the weather during the winter is against you, I recommend that you skip the cold and take advantage of MoMA's Free Friday Nights to see the world's most important gallery of modern and contemporary art for free.

If you are trying to adjust your budget during your trip, this is a good opportunity to take a tour of this museum without costing you a dollar. You will also get to know a space of cultural identity and great prestige in the country.

Where to get tickets for MoMA's Free Friday Nights?

The line for these free tickets is located at the 54th Street entrance of the museum. With it, you will be able to access all of MoMA's exhibitions and galleries.

During Free Friday Nights, MoMA is open from 4 PM to 8 PM. Since the time for this visit is limited, my advice is to focus on the fourth and fifth floors, which is where the works of the most famous artists such as Pollock, Cézanne, Warhol, or Matisse are located.

If you are an art enthusiast, perhaps these four hours of free access are not enough to calmly see its vast collection of works of art signed by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Vincent Van Gogh, or Andy Warhol, among many others.

In case you are still in the mood for more modern art and want to recreate yourself in its rooms for hours and hours, I recommend you to get the no queue ticket to MoMA where you will get immediate access to the museum and its more than one hundred thousand pieces on painting, prints, sculpture, photography, drawings, design, film, architecture and prints.

In addition, with this MoMA skip-the-line ticket you will also gain admission to MoMA PS1, the contemporary art center in Long Island City, for 14 days following your visit to the Manhattan location.

  • Where: MoMA is on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
  • When?: Open from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily. Fridays from 10:30 AM to 8 PM with Free Friday Nights from 4 PM to 8 PM.
  • To learn more: see this article on how to visit MoMa

Isabel's Traveller Tip

There are many different museums in New York but MoMA is one of the few that really connects with the public because its tour is very pleasant and enjoyable even for children.

3. Vibrate with excitement with the NBA

Madison Square Garden | ©Hellotickets
Madison Square Garden | ©Hellotickets

Whether it's because basketball is your passion or because you want to experience the atmosphere and the madness that this sport awakens in New York, you can't leave without enjoying in person the best basketball league in the world.

Even if you don't like the sport! Attending an NBA game at Madison Square Garden is one of the most fascinating experiences you have to have in New York. Plus, if you travel in the winter you'll be sure to see a game in the middle of the season. You'll have a blast! It's a true spectacle of music, dancing, partying and above all, sports, of course.

Nicknamed "The World's Most Famous Coliseum", Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It is a colossal indoor arena known for being the home of the New York Knicks (NBA) and the New York Rangers (NHL). Want to experience the magic of the legendary MSG? I'll show you how to get tickets in a jiffy.

How to buy NBA tickets?

If you have already planned your winter getaway to New York and you want to include an NBA game in your agenda, my advice is to buy tickets online before leaving home. Demand is extremely high so it is normal for tickets to sell out quickly. The key is to buy them as soon as possible to get the best seat at the cheapest price.

The NBA ticket market is dynamic, which means that prices go up as the date of the game approaches and supply decreases, just like flights for example. If you wait too long you run the risk of running out of tickets or that there will be few tickets available at a high price and in sectors with less spectacular visibility. In addition, when you book online you can choose your own seat in the stadium.

  • Where: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. (Seventh Avenue between W. 31st and W. 33rd Streets).
  • How to get there: You can take the subway from 34th St. Penn Station (lines A, B, C, 1, 2 and 3) and the bus lines M4, M10, M16, M34 and Q32.

4. Go up to One World Observatory

Views from One World Observatory | ©Hellotickets
Views from One World Observatory | ©Hellotickets

If you are not afraid of heights and you feel like seeing the city from a bird's eye view you should climb the One World Observatory, the highest observation deck in New York with a height of 12,680 feet.

Unlike other observatories such as the Top of the Rock or The Edge, this observatory does not have an outdoor area from which to contemplate the city, which in the middle of a freezing winter in New York is an advantage because you will enjoy the beautiful views of the Empire State, Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty without the cold ruining your experience.

One World Observatory is located on the top floors of the skyscraper One World Trade Center, specifically from 100 to 102. The modern design of this observation deck at Zone Zero allows you to see up to 80 kilometers of the city in all directions and from here you will have 360º views to enjoy New York in all its splendor.

If you like modern architecture and skyscrapers like me, you will love this experience. It starts from the very moment you access the elevator, which is covered with LED panels that enliven the climb to the viewpoint with the development of New York from its origins in just 47 seconds!

  • Where: Located at 285 Fulton Street.
  • Hours: One World Observatory is open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM.

5. Marvel at New York's Christmas window displays

The Edge Shopping Center | ©Hellotickets
The Edge Shopping Center | ©Hellotickets

New York is one of the dream shopping destinations for many travelers - it's the shopping mecca of the United States! If throughout the year the city is a real magnet for fashion lovers for the bargains to be found, at Christmas the shopping experience is elevated to another level because the stores decorate their windows with beautiful Christmas motifs to attract all eyes. And what a success!

For several decades, New York department stores have been pulling out all the stops to attract our attention and surprise us with their creative proposals. For example, during the Christmas season at Macy's you can travel to the North Pole without leaving the mall. At this time of the year, they recreate a winter village known as Santaland, where the kids can meet and chat with Santa Claus himself. Although this activity is free, you must reserve a time.

To tell the truth, all the stores in New York in winter are decked out to live the Christmas spirit so if you love shopping I recommend that you prepare a route through the windows of the city with a special stop at Bloomingdale's, Tiffany & Co, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fith Ave, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys or Macy's, among others. You will be left in awe! You can read more here: what to do in New York at Christmas.

6. Welcome the Chinese New Year in Chinatown

Decoration for the New Year in Chinatown | ©Hellotickets
Decoration for the New Year in Chinatown | ©Hellotickets

A very special time to visit Chinatown it is precisely in winter when the Chinese New Year, the most important holiday in Chinese culture, is celebrated. Although it usually takes place in February, the date depends on the lunar calendar.

I have been lucky enough to be able to see it on one occasion and it is very worthwhile because it is celebrated in style. Every year the streets of Chinatown are decorated with lanterns to welcome a different animal depending on the year and thousands of people participate in an impressive parade of floats, dragons, dances, and music.

It's a fun, all-ages event attended by New Yorkers and tourists alike. So if you're going to see the New Year's Day parade, I recommend finding a cross street location where you can soak up the atmosphere and get a good view at the same time.

Where to eat?

When it's over, don't hesitate and go to a restaurant or food stall to enjoy the best Asian cuisine in the heart of Chinatown. Foodies will have a great time in this neighborhood.

Isabel's Traveller Tip

If you go to the Chinese New Year parade you will have a great time outdoors. Wrap up warm and bring an electric hand warmer or a thermos with coffee to better withstand the low temperatures. A total life-saver.

7. Celebrate Valentine's Day in New York City

Romantic Hudson River Cruise | ©Hellotickets
Romantic Hudson River Cruise | ©Hellotickets

February is one of the coldest months in New York but having the opportunity to live in a different and unforgettable way Valentine's Day is reason enough to travel to the city with your better half. There are plenty of romantic plans to do!

One of them has been organized for several years in Times Square under the slogan "Love in Times Square", where several couples in love swear eternal love either committing themselves, getting married or renewing their vows with New York as witness. Can you imagine being one of them?

To be among the lucky couples on February 14, you must register online in advance. Sweepstakes will determine who will live a very original Valentine's Day. Undoubtedly, an unforgettable anecdote to tell your grandchildren!

Tribute to love in Times Square

But this is not the only way to celebrate Valentine's Day in Times Square, because every year an interactive sculpture with a love theme is installed so that people can take some romantic photos of their trip to New York with lots of hearts in the background.

Night cruise in lower Manhattan

Another great thing to do in New York for Valentine's Day is to sail on a beautiful sailboat through lower Manhattan at dusk. The views of the city's illuminated skyline are spectacular and very romantic for such a special day.

8. Feel the magic of Broadway

Broadway Musicals | ©Hellotickets
Broadway Musicals | ©Hellotickets

During a stay in New York, whatever the time of year, a must-do is to attend a musical on Broadway, the famous boulevard lined with theaters that run through the center of Manhattan including Times Square.

Here you can see prestigious shows such as "The Lion King", "Chicago", "Les Miserables", "The Phantom of the Opera", "Wicked", "Aladdin" or "Frozen", whose theme is very appropriate if you travel in winter to New York, right? In this season, the city covered in white with snow almost looks like Arendelle, the home of Elsa and Anna.

How to buy Broadway tickets?

If you want to enjoy the experience of going to a Broadway musical, it is best to buy your tickets online because the theaters fill up and the box offices immediately hang the Sold Out sign at Christmas.

From experience I advise you to buy tickets online as far in advance as possible to ensure the best seats on the date you want and at a better price than at the box office, where you will also save having to wait in endless lines.

If you wait to buy them when you are in New York you run the risk of running out of tickets for the day you would like to go to the show because of the high demand. Don't hesitate, buying your tickets online is easy, safe, and fast.

9. Toast to your trip to New York City from a rooftop

Views from one of New York's rooftops | ©Hellotickets
Views from one of New York's rooftops | ©Hellotickets

In New York, you go to have fun and after a long day of sightseeing, there is nothing better than going up to one of the wonderful rooftops of the city to enjoy a drink and the sunset in the best company.

One of the most glamorous rooftops in New York is 230 Fifth located on Fifth Avenue. It is a spectacular place with the typical modern atmosphere of the Big Apple. It has the largest rooftop outdoor garden in the city but inside there is a large glass room ideal for when temperatures are low.

The views of the Empire State illuminated are magnificent from here so if you do not want to give up being on the terrace even in winter, my advice is to book a place in one of their igloos to be warmer and not miss the views of Manhattan. In addition, at night at 230 Fifth they project a beautiful light show that enlivens the magic of the moment and make available to customers comfortable robes to keep warm.

  • Where?: 230 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
  • Hours: Monday through Thursday from 2 PM to 2 AM; Friday from 4 PM to 4 AM; Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 AM.

Want to know more about rooftops in the Big Apple? Check out the post the 10 best rooftops in New York.

10. Live St. Patrick's Day like an Irishman!

Don't forget to include a green garment in your suitcase if you're going to be in New York on March 17th because that day is celebrated in style as St. Patrick's Day. The Irish community is very large in the city and the St. Patrick's Day parade is one of the oldest traditions in the United States, having been celebrated since 1762.

Although it is not a holiday as such, New York is a big party during St. Patrick's Day. People take to the streets to enjoy a big parade down Fifth Avenue featuring police, firefighters, and marching bands from 11 AM until it ends around 5 PM.

Where to go out on St. Patrick's Day?

Hours after the St. Patrick's Day parade the party continues in the bars of New York, where people go to have a good beer in honor of the patron saint of Ireland and to have a good time.

I suggest McSorley's Old Ale House, one of the oldest Irish pubs in the city dating back to 1854. Also Peter McManus Café, another Irish pub with a lot of history that has appeared in series like "Law and Order" or "Seinfeld". And remember to bring something green!

What else to see on this day?

On St. Patrick's Day, you can also take the opportunity to visit the Empire State illuminated with the color of the patron saint and the St. Patrick's Cathedral, located in front of Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. The entrance to the temple is free!

What is the weather like in New York in winter?

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a cold winter day | ©Hellotickets
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a cold winter day | ©Hellotickets

During this season, the temperatures in New York are usually very low and it gets really cold. So much so that it can even snow in the early months of the year and the thermometer drops below freezing.

Winter occurs between December 21 and March 21. Average temperatures range between 35ºF and 21ºF, although the coldest days can reach -14ºF. Temperatures start to rise in March but still remain low: the minimum is around 35ºF and the maximum is 50ºF.

Many people are afraid to travel to New York in winter because it is too cold outside for most of the interesting activities. However, I think it is a great time to enjoy a different side of the city than what we are used to.

You just have to adapt to the circumstances of the trip to experience an unforgettable adventure. For example, seeing New York covered in snow is a magical experience and since it gets dark earlier you will enjoy the Big Apple illuminated for much longer. The city at night is spectacular! Just trying to see the glass half full, here.

12. Advantages of traveling to New York in winter

Christmas decorations in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighborhood | ©Hellotickets
Christmas decorations in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighborhood | ©Hellotickets

If you want to travel to New York with all your might but I still haven't convinced you to do it in winter let me tell you some of the advantages of visiting the Big Apple in this season of the year.

After Christmas and until Easter is the time of the year when there are fewer tourists in the Big Apple. That is, from mid-January to early March. This does not mean that the city is empty during these months, but there is less crowding in the queues of the main tourist attractions, which is a very good thing.

Also, since New York is low season in winter it becomes easier to find cheap flights to New York and also accommodation.

And not only that! Many tourist attractions, monuments, and museums lower their prices to get more visitors during the winter. Even most New York tourist cards offer special deals that you can take advantage of during the rest of the year.

If you travel to New York in winter, from late January to early February, don't miss the NYC Restaurant Week, an event that allows you to eat in New York restaurants at a lower price than usual. It's a great opportunity to get to know new places and to try some of New York's varied gastronomy.

What to wear to New York in winter?

A rainy day in Times Square | ©Hellotickets
A rainy day in Times Square | ©Hellotickets

Before packing your luggage to travel in winter to New York I recommend that you check out the weather forecast on the days of your trip. This way you will be able to pack the clothes that you will really need and wear.

Winter in New York is harsh, with low temperatures and snowfall. However, on the street, it is inversely proportional to how warm it is inside the museums, restaurants, and tourist attractions.

So how do you choose what to wear in winter in New York? The key is to dress in layers, i.e. like an onion. This way, you can easily put on and take off clothes depending on the temperature of the place you're in.

Winter clothing for New York City

In any case, the essential attire for walking the icy streets of New York in winter I suggest consists of:

  • Wool hat.
  • Thermal wool or fleece scarf.
  • Thermal and tactile gloves, so you can use your cell phone without taking them off and your hands don't freeze.
  • Wool sweater, sweatshirt, or polar fleece.
  • T-shirt, in case you go somewhere where it is hot and you want to take off your sweater.
  • Undershirt and if you are very cold, choose a thermal type.
  • Thick pants or leggings.
  • Thermal socks or chubby socks to keep your feet warm.
  • A coat that protects you from the cold, like an anorak or a down jacket.
    If possible, it should be long so that it also covers the back area. If the coat is waterproof and hooded, in case of rain or snow you will be better protected.
  • Boots that are comfortable for walking and warm. Choose ones with embossed soles because in winter it is common to walk on melting snow and ice debris.

Gadgets to combat the cold of New York in winter

In addition to clothing, there are certain gadgets you can include in your luggage to resist the low temperatures during your stay in the city.

  • Handwarmer: Very useful when you're walking the streets of New York and it's freezing cold. It's similar to a power bank that uses all its energy to provide warmth wherever you are. They can also be used to charge your cell phone, essential to avoid running out of battery when you are doing one of the best tours in New York.
  • Earmuffs with headphones: Another gadget to combat the cold is earmuffs. Not only does it keep your ears warm, but it allows you to listen to music with headphones while out for a walk.
  • Thermo: A trick to warm up when it's really cold is to drink a hot coffee or tea. In New York, it is very common to ask a coffee shop to serve you a hot drink in your own thermos to take care of the environment. Besides, by carrying it in your hands, you'll keep them warm for quite a while.