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20 Worthwhile Winter Activities in New York City

bryant park christmas, winter in nyc

As a seasoned NYC local, I can confidently say that visiting New York City in winter unveils a unique and enchanting side of the Big Apple. During my years of exploring the city’s winter wonders, I’ve discovered the best holiday markets, cozy spots for hot chocolate, and the top activities that turn the cold into an adventure.

In this post, let’s dive into the magic of New York City in winter, from iconic landmarks dusted with snow to the warmth of local traditions that make the chilly season unforgettable.


Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +3 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.


Visiting New York City in Winter

Table of Contents: NYC Winter Travel Guide

Holiday Nostalgia Train, visiting New York City in Winter

Hop Aboard the (Epic) Holiday Nostalgia Train

Website: Holiday Nostalgia Rides
Dates:
Saturdays in December
Address:
Trains vary from year to year

During the weekends in December, the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) partners with the New York Transit Museum and offers folks a rare opportunity to travel back in time. By running a vintage 1930’s subway train guests get a taste of what New Yorkers’ daily commute was like nearly 100 years ago. The subway lines that host the annual tradition vary from year to year.

This unique experience is known as the Holiday Nostalgia Ride, and it’s something you’re not going to want to miss if you’re visiting New York City during the winter. It’s one of the most affordable winter activities in NYC, since it doesn’t cost anything more than the standard subway fare ($2.90). Some locals even dress the part, showing up in clothing styles that represent the vintage era.


Winter in New York City, holiday lights

Enjoy the Holiday Lights

Dates: December

New York City goes all out with its holiday lights, creating a spectacular winter wonderland that draws visitors from far and wide. It’s the chance to witness iconic locations, like the towering Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and the dazzling Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show, adorned in festive brilliance.

The allure lies in the magical experience of seeing a city you’ve admired on the big screen transformed into a glittering Christmas spectacle. The nostalgia evoked by these enchanting displays makes a visit to New York City during the holidays an unforgettable and cherished memory.


Best Vintage Stores Awoke Vintage, things to do in New York City in winter

Shop for an Ugly Sweater at a Thrift Store

Dates: December

New York City’s thrift stores have incredible selections of clothes to sift through, which is to be expected in one of the fashion capitals of the world. If you’re prepping for the holiday season and are in New York City in the winter I suggest checking out one of the many thrift stores in search of a Christmas sweater. I’m just trying to help you squeeze in some retail-therapy during your New York City winter vacation. 😉


NYBG Holiday Train Show Best Christmas Show New York City
Winter in New York City
Image Courtesy New York Botanical Garden

Visit the Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden

Website: Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden
Dates:
November 17, 2023 – January 15, 2024
Address:
2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a cherished annual event that has captivated visitors with its enchanting display of model trains for more than 30 years. Featuring iconic New York City landmarks made entirely of plant materials, the exhibit showcases the creativity and artistry of the garden’s team.

Highlights include replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Grand Central Terminal. The Holiday Train Show combines the magic of the holiday season with a celebration of nature and architecture, offering an unforgettable winter activity in New York City (especially for kids!).


Enjoy the Winter Jazz Fest

Dates: January 10 – January 18, 2024

Celebrating 20 years, the Winter Jazz Fest attracts top-talent and sells out most shows. The festival has become so popular that it evolved into a week-long festival that takes place across 20+ jazz clubs in NYC in the winter. Featuring more than 500 musicians (including world-famous names and up-and-coming stars), you can see the full lineup and events here.


Chinese Lunar New Year Parade in 2023, Things to do in NYC in the Winter

Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Years in Chinatown

Dates: Events start February 10 and end February 25, 2024 with the parade
Address:
Chinatown, New York, NY

The Chinese Lunar New Year in Chinatown is a vibrant and festive celebration that marks the beginning of the lunar calendar. The festivities begin on February 10th and culminate on February 25th in a grand parade featuring colorful floats, traditional lion and dragon dances, martial arts performances, and a variety of cultural displays.

Streets are adorned with red lanterns and decorations, creating a lively and joyous atmosphere. Families and communities come together to usher in the New Year, which is associated with themes of prosperity, good luck, and unity. The celebration extends beyond the parade, with Chinatown’s streets filled with food stalls, traditional performances, and a palpable sense of excitement, making it a must-attend event for both locals and visitors alike every winter in New York City.


Things to do in New York City in Winter, Celebrate Valentines Day

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in NYC

Date: February 14, 2024

Some may say Paris is the most romantic city in the world and while that may be true, NYC is no stranger to a little romance. Home to world-renowned restaurants, charming jazz clubs and breathtaking observations decks, celebrating Valentines Day in NYC is a treat.

That’s why one of the best things to do in New York City in winter is to treat your special someone to a night on the town. There are so many romantic things to do in New York City, and you can create the most unforgettable night.


Attend The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Dates: February 17–April 21, 2024
Address: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
Where to buy tickets: New York Botanical Garden

Celebrated for the breathtaking display of thousands of colorful orchids, the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden is one of the most popular things to see in NYC in winter. Running for more than 20 years, the garden teams up with local designers every year to showcase unique exhibitions and rare orchids from around the world.

These artists transform the conservatory into an orchid paradise centered around a theme (the 2024 theme is fashion). Guests can enjoy the exhibit and attend workshops and lectures to learn more about orchid care and conservation. This is one of the best NYC winter events for anyone with a green-thumb.

Lincoln Center NYC Rainy Day
Winter in New York City

Catch a Performance at the Lincoln Center

Website: Lincoln Center
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023

A great way to stay warm while visiting New York City in Winter is to catch a show at the Lincoln Center. Established in 1950, it’s the cultural hub of the city, housing iconic institutions like the New York Philharmonic, City Opera, City Ballet, and Julliard School of Music. Spanning 16 acres, the center boasts five concert/theater buildings, a library, a band shell, and two plazas.

The Lincoln Center offers a wide variety of top-tier artistic performances. Ideal for an unforgettable date night, it’s the go-to spot to be wowed by world-class entertainment in the heart of New York City. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is one of the most popular holiday shows in NYC, and the New York Film Festival also runs from January 10-24th, and both are hosted at the Lincoln Center.


Mo Lounge NYC, best things to do in new york city in winter
Image Courtesy Mandarin Oriental

Bundle Up at an (Indoor) Rooftop Bar

Dates: All Winter

You might think that a winter holiday in New York City would mean scratching rooftop bars off your bingo card, but there’s are a few rooftop bars that are still suitable when it’s cold. Most of these watering-holes are enclosed, high up on a skyscraper, and boasting floor to ceiling windows.

The Mo Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental is a fabolous option that overlooks Central Park. There’s also Westlight in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that looks across the river towards Midtown, Manhattan (and the sunsets are nothing short of epic). Both offer cocktails and amazing views of the Big Apple from above.


Free things to do NYC winter

Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Website: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Located right off 5th Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been stopping people in their tracks since its completion in 1879. Welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year, this iconic New York City church is constructed in a Neo-gothic architecture that’s impossible to ignore.

Touring the interior is a no-brainer, and you’re allowed inside so long as the doors are open. It’ll be a nice reprieve from the winter weather in New York City and offer striking architecture, including 3,700 stained glass panels. For those of you that want a more in-depth experience, guided tours are available.


Best things to do in New York City in winter

Participate in a TV Show Recording

Dates: All Winter
Address:
(Most Shows) 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112

There are a handful of late night television shows that are filmed in New York City, and they use live audiences. You can sign up to participate on each individual shows websites (Saturday Night Live, Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers).

Most visits are free, you just need to apply in advance and hang tight on a wait-list. I know it might seem like a long-shot, but my wife and I have gotten into about half of the shows we’ve applied. Even better, if you visit New York City in winter there is less tourists and therefore less competition to get a spot.


Levain Hot Chocolate
Winter in New York City

Enjoy (a Lot Of) Hot Chocolates

Dates: All Winter

As the chill sets in, New Yorkers need more than just coffee to stay cozy in winter. Enter the ultimate warm hug – hot chocolate! It’s the go-to winter treat in NYC, age-neutral and perfect anytime (plus, it’s a toasty hand warmer!). For the richest hot chocolate in NYC, Jacques Torres Chocolate and L.A. Burdick are top picks. In contrast, Levain sells affordable hot coco alongside some of the best cookies.


The Gapstow Bridge under the Snow, visiting new york city in winter

Explore Central Park in the Snow

Website: Central Park
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
New York, NY

Exploring Central Park in the snow is like stepping into a winter wonderland. With an average of 25 inches of snow each year, it’s not an unlikely event if you’re visiting New York City in the winter. Picture snow-covered trees along the Mall and around Bow Bridge, making it all look like a postcard.

The Great Lawn and Bethesda Terrace become these huge open spaces perfect for some casual snow fun – think snow angels and friendly snowball fights. And the Bow Bridge? It’s like straight out of a winter dream. Whether you’re skating at Wollman Rink or just taking a stroll, exploring a snowy central park is an unforgettable winter activity in NYC.


Essex Market
Best things to do winter in New York City

Eat Your Way Through Essex Market

Website: Essex Market
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
88 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

Supporting local businesses and enjoying a warm becomes unforgettable at Essex Market in the Lower East Side. Operating officially since 1940 (unofficially since the 1880s), this historic food hall is a culinary hub and community center. Housing over 30 vendors, each with a unique story and flavor, the three-story market is a vibrant mix of local culture.

Beyond diverse food options, Essex Market also provides fresh groceries, an art gallery, and even a place for a quick haircut. It’s a dynamic space that captures the essence of NYC, making it a must-visit for a slice of local life and history while exploring New York City in the winter.


Cheer on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden

Website: New York Knicks
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001

Winter in New York City gets a boost of excitement with the NBA season running from October to April. The city boasts two teams, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, with Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center as their respective homes.

While supporting either team is great, catching a Knicks game at MSG is a classic choice, considering they’re the original NYC team. Both arenas are easily accessible by subway, making it a must-try winter activity. Ticket prices vary based on team competitiveness but can be as low as $20, offering an affordable winter activity in New York City.


New York Public Library, winter in nyc

Rest Your Legs at the New York Public Library

Website: New York Public Library
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

When the New York Public Library opened in 1911, it proudly held the title of the country’s largest marble building—a colossal feat that took 16 years to complete. Today, it’s my go-to escape from the winter weather in NYC. It’s easy to wander through this iconic library, especially the Rose Main Reading Room, where you can lose myself in a good book.

With its vast expanse spanning two city blocks, finding a cozy spot is a breeze. Even without a book, exploring the beautiful building and soaking in its historical charm is a treat. During December, a festive Christmas tree at the entrance adds an extra sprinkle of magic to this must-visit NYC landmark in winter.


watching a broadway show in Times Square, best things to do in NYC in winter

Check Out a Broadway Show

Website: Broadway
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
Theater District, New York, NY

Spending a winter day in NYC is incomplete without soaking up the warmth of Broadway shows. With a whopping 41 theaters, over half of them bustling with performances at any given time, the options are endless. Broadway tickets can dent your wallet, but the unforgettable experience is worth the expense.

Witnessing the sheer effort poured into each show is downright impressive. And here’s a tip: during Broadway Week (January 12 – February 8, 2024), snag 2-for-1 tickets, doubling the magic without breaking the bank. If you’re a Broadway buff like me, winter in NYC just got even more enticing.


Christmas Tree at Bryant Park Winter Village, Best things to do winter NYC

Explore the Winter Village at Bryant Park Holiday Market

Website: Winter Village at Bryant Park
Dates: All Winter
Address: 41st Street and, 6th Ave, New York, NY 10018

Winter in New York City means diving into the enchanting world of Christmas markets, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out! Picture this: warm apple cider in hand, you wander through unique stalls, never quite knowing what delightful find awaits around the corner. These markets are gift gold mines, filled with one-of-a-kind treasures you won’t spot in big-box stores.

Plus, supporting local small businesses and artists just feels right. For a top-notch experience, hit up the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Ice skating in the heart of the market adds that extra dash of magic. And even if you’re just people-watching, it’s a New York winter adventure you won’t want to skip—locals hustling, couples on cozy dates, and parents treating their kids to sweet delights.


Best ice skating rinks New York City
Winter in New York City

Go Ice Skating in Central Park

Website: Wollman Rink
Dates:
All Winter
Address:
830 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065

When it comes to quintessential NYC winter vibes, ice skating at Wollman Rink takes the cake. Tucked in the southern nook of Central Park, the popular NYC ice skating rink offers stunning views of the skyline. Open from late October to early April, this activity is a must-add to your winter NYC bucket list.

Bundled up, gliding on the ice, surrounded by crisp Central Park air and friends—it’s a New York winter dream. Pro tip: the Christmas rush hits Wollman Rink hard, especially on weekends. Dodge the crowd, visit on a weekday, and make sure to hit the ATM beforehand—it’s cash-only (unless you book online).


Tips for Spending Winter in NYC

  • Bring winter boots: It’s no secret that winter in New York City is cold, and the most miserable place to be cold is in your toes. I recommend insulated/waterproof boots (here’s the pair I live in) and the only wool socks you’ll need.
  • Bring lip balm & moisturizer: Winters in New York City are dry and cold. Add the raging industrial heaters to the mix and you’re bound to need quality lip balm and moisturizer. Lip balm is a personal thing, but if helpful, here’s the best one I’ve found to date (and it’s cheap!).
  • Be mindful of the ice: If you’re visiting New York City in winter be sure to keep an eye on the weather, if it drops below 32° there’s a possibility of ice on the streets. What this means for you — pack these handy things and keep an eye out for ice (especially when using stairs).
  • Portable charger: Cold weather depletes batteries (both cellphones and camera) quicker than you’d expect, so when heading out for the day make sure you’re at full charge and pick up one of these.

Complete Winter NYC Itinerary (Post Summary)

  1. Hop Aboard the (Epic) Holiday Nostalgia Train
  2. Enjoy the Winter Jazz Fest
  3. Catch a Performance at the Lincoln Center
  4. Enjoy the Holiday Lights
  5. Bundle Up at an (Indoor) Rooftop Bar
  6. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  7. Visit the Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden
  8. Participate in a TV show recording
  9. Enjoy (a Lot Of) Hot Chocolates
  10. Shop for an Ugly Sweater at a Thrift Store
  11. Explore Central Park in the Snow
  12. Eat your way through Essex Market
  13. Cheer on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
  14. Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Years in Chinatown
  15. Celebrate Valentine’s Day in NYC
  16. Attend The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden
  17. Rest Your Legs at the New York Public Library
  18. Check Out a Broadway Show
  19. Explore the Winter Village at Bryant Park Holiday Market
  20. Go Ice Skating in Central Park

Map of the Best Winter Activities in New York City

Frequently Asked Questions
Is New York worth visiting in winter?

New York is worth visiting in winter for its festive holiday spirit, iconic winter activities, and a magical atmosphere that transforms the city into a snowy wonderland.

Can you walk in NYC in the winter?

It’s easy to walk in NYC in winter, so long as you have comfortable shoes you can enjoy the chance to experience the city’s festive charm and unique winter activities.

How to survive New York City winter?

Surviving a New York City winter involves bundling up in layers, embracing indoor and outdoor winter activities, and savoring warm drinks and hearty meals to make the most of the chilly season.

What are the worst winter months in New York?

The worst winter months in New York are typically January and February, characterized by cold temperatures, occasional snowstorms, and brisk winds.

Is New York still Christmassy in January?

While some Christmas decorations may linger, the city’s festive atmosphere tends to diminish in January, transitioning into a quieter winter ambiance.


The Best of December: 30 EPIC Things to Do in New York this December (Best Attractions!)

What to Do in January: 15+ EPIC Things to Do in New York City in January (2024 Guide)

Things to Do in February: 20 FUN Things to Do in New York City in February (2024 Guide)

How to Stay Warm: 3 Essential Winter Coats New Yorkers Swear By (Helpful Local)

How to Prepare: Question from a reader: How do I prep for the winter weather in NYC?


And there you have it, 30+ things to do during your New York City winter vacation.

Hope you enjoyed, cheers!