Are you thinking visiting New York City in the winter? You’re in for a treat, albeit a frozen one.
I’ve lived in the Big Apple for 8+ years, and winter is by far my favorite season.
The undeniable buzz of happy tourists, folks dressed in cozy winter attire, and the welcoming magnetic pull of every corner cafe and bar — winter in New York City is downright irresistible.
In an effort to make your trip planning easier, I’d like to highlight some of the best things to do during winter in NYC from a local’s perspective.
I’ll share both indoor and outdoor New York City winter activites to make sure everyone leaves happy.
I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to it.
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 +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
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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.
Visiting New York City in Winter
#27. Hop Aboard the (Epic) Holiday Nostalgia Train
Let’s start this list with one of my favorite things to do during winter in New York City — ride the Holiday Nostalgia Train!
During certain weekends in December (2022 dates to be announced), the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) partners with the New York Transit Museum and offers folks a rare opportunity to travel back in time.
If you’re wondering how, well, they do so by running a vintage 1930’s subway train at the 2nd Avenue subway station (F Line).
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.
My favorite thing about this unique NYC winter experience is that it doesn’t cost anything more than the standard subway fare. Plus folks are known to dress the part, showing up in clothing styles that represent the vintage era.
If interested, more info about the Nostalgia Train rides can be found here.
The Holiday Nostalgia Train consists of eight cars from the 1930s that ran along lettered lines through the late-1970s. Featuring rattan seats, paddle ceiling fans, incandescent light bulbs, roll signs, and period advertisements, these are the cars that inspired Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.” Today, they are preserved as part of the New York Transit Museum’s collection.New York Transit Museum
#26. Warm up with a coffee at Ralph’s
Picture this: It’s the first snowfall of the season and you’re wandering the breathtaking (and fully decorated) blocks of the affluent Upper East Side (one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country).
The temperature gauge flirts with freezing and you find your limbs following suit. What to do?
Easy. You pop into Ralph’s for a frou-frou coffee drink (hey, it’s the holidays) and warm up with a nice cup of coffee. Ralph’s is decorated to the nines during the holidays and I’m convinced it’s one of the most photographed spots in the city as a result.
The interior is decorated in sophisticated shades of velvet green, which sets the proper tone for a fancy New York City winter.
It’s impossible not to feel under-dressed, unless you’re on the way to the Met Gala. But trust me when I tell you this is the best place to start your day while visiting New York City in the winter.
Looking for more Instagram-worthy coffee shops? Check out 20 Cute Cafes in New York City.
#25. Catch a performance at the Lincoln Center
If you’re visiting New York City during winter and you only have time for one magical Christmas activity it should be catching a performance at the Lincoln Center.
The Lincoln Center is considered the cultural capital of New York City.
Founded in 1950, the Lincoln Center is home to the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, Julliard School of Music, Film Society and many (many) other world-class institutions.
The venue sits on 16-acres and consists of five separate concert/theater buildings, a library, a band shell and two outdoor plazas. There is always something to do here when visiting New York City in winter (or any time of year).
This is the city’s go-to spot to see world-class artistic performances, especially for those that want to be wowed. If you’re looking to impressive someone with an unforgettable date night in New York City, this would be the place to do it.
Word to the wise: If you’re visiting New York City in winter, try to budget catching the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. It’s a breathtaking 2-hour ballet performance alongside a live orchestra, and one of the best holiday shows in New York City.
#24. Stroll the Chelsea Market
The Chelsea Market is a famous food hall mixed with unique shops, restaurants, spice markets, and cafes. This is a super popular spot for both locals and tourists alike, but it really comes alive in the winter months.
The market has 35 vendors waiting to impress you with tasty treats and fare, not to mention a warm place to rest your legs during the frigid winter in New York City.
The entire place is decorated in beautiful holiday lights and decor, which gives it a very welcoming and cozy vibe. It’s like that one neighborhood house that goes all out during the holidays, to the benefit of the whole neighborhood.
So whether you plan on shopping (or just window shopping) pop in for the epic decorations, there’s a reason folks consider this a can’t-miss winter activity in New York City.
Highlights at the Chelsea Market include: Matcha from Chalait (so good), warm donuts from the Doughnuttery (what’s better than a warm donut?), tacos from Los Tacos No. 1, spices from Spices and Tease and souvenirs from Pearl River Mart.
#23. Get a bowl of Michelin-rated ramen
Surviving winter in New York City is not for the faint of heart. Long after the beautiful holiday decorations have come down, there’s still 2-3 months of wintry weather for locals to get through. As such, you learn to find new things to love — enter ramen.
What’s better than a hot bowl of ramen on a cold, winter New York City evening? If helpful, my favorite place in the city is Mr. Taka in the Lower East Side. The restaurant was founded in Tokyo, where it (properly) received a Michelin star.
They keep the menu simple. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the ramen — I’m partial to the Spicy Tonkotsu but my wife loves the Yuzu Shoyu.
There are plenty of other ramen restaurants that warrant a shout-out. We also enjoy Ippudo Ramen and ROKC (Ramen, Oysters, Kitchen and Cocktails). Regardless of where you go, know this: enjoying a bowl of ramen is definitely one of the best things to do during a cold New York City winter.
#22. Enjoy the holiday lights
New York City never does anything halfway and nowhere is this more evident than in the epic holiday lights throughout the city.
The various light shows and extravagant displays are the top reason folks end up visiting New York City in winter. And it’s not hard to see why — experiencing a city you grew up seeing on the big screen decked out in Christmas decor is an experience you won’t soon forget.
There’s something so magical about the towering Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center and the stunning Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show — just writing about it makes me nostalgic for the holidays.
The biggest challenge with this NYC beloved winter activity is knowing where to go, but that’s where I come in. I recently rounded up the best spots to see Christmas lights in NYC, you can read the roundup here.
#21. Watch sunset from the Timeout Market
The Timeout Market is located in the picturesque DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The Timeout Market is a collection of some of the best restaurants in New York City. By bringing 21 unique dining experiences together under one roof, this spot has made eating out in large groups much easier.
One of the coolest things about the Time Out Market is the rooftop area because of the stellar views of the city skyline and East River.
Try to go during sunset (it’s busy, but worthwhile ) to watch the colors of the skyline ablaze in warm shades of orange and red while you’re nursing a hot toddy.
We’ve taken a handful of friends to the rooftop during warm New York City winter evenings and they all seem to agree — the views are unforgettable.
#20. Catch a show at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a historic music venue that has been around for more than 130 years. Frequently playing host to the best orchestras and philharmonics in the world, catching a show during the winter season in New York City should be on the docket.
Now I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t necessarily queue up classical music on my Spotify regularly, but once you see a symphony perform live you’ll develop a special appreciation for it.
The show I’m most looking forward to this winter in New York City is a performance titled, Notes from Ukraine. Several talented Ukrainian choirs will perform traditional Ukrainian Christmas songs on December 4th at Carnegie Hall.
There are, of course other performances taking place this winter in New York City. I suggest taking a look at Carnegie Hall’s schedule and see if any shows catch your eye.
#19. Bundle up at an (indoor) rooftop bar
There are plenty of indoor rooftop bars to be enjoyed during winter in New York City. Some are enclosed, whereas others are technically not “roof-top” and are just on a high floor of a building.
And let’s face it, fall outfits tend to be the cutest (and comfiest). Throw on your favorite comfy sweater, strap on your boots and make your way to any of the beautiful rooftop bars NYC has to offer.
If budget (and time) is not an issue for you, I recommend making an effort to dine at Mo Lounge. Mo Lounge is a restaurant within The Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park. Plus, if it snows while you visit New York City in the winter the views are epic.
With drinks clocking in around $26, it is on the expensive side, however the views are hard to beat.
If you’re looking for something more casual, Westlight in Brooklyn has epic views of the city and the fries are worth the trek alone. Both Westlight and Mo Lounge are enclosed, so need to worry about the winter, New York City chill.
#18. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Located right off 5th Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been stopping people in their tracks since its completion in 1879. And it’s not hard to see why this is arguably the most popular church in New York City.
Welcoming more than 5 million visitors per year, this iconic New York City cathedral took 21 years to build because construction halted during the Civil War.
With a seating capacity of 2,000 people per mass, this is one of the largest cathedrals in NYC. Touring the interior is a no-brainer and self-guided tours are free, so swing by on your winter trip to New York City.
If you want a more in-depth experience, sign up for a guided tour.
You’ll be amazed by the stained windows, which consist of 3,700 stained glass panels. The star of the show is the breathtaking Rose Window which spans 26 feet. You’ll also notice the 20 alters located within the confines of this sacred space, two of which were designed by Tiffany & Co.
The cathedral was recently renovated to the tune of $177 million, so you can bet it’s a sight for sore eyes.
You may enjoy reading: 12 Breathtaking New York City Churches.
#17. Visit the Holiday Train Show at New York Botanic Garden
The Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden is a can’t-miss New York City winter activity, especially if you’re visiting New York City in winter with kids.
Model trains make way past 190 replicas of New York’s landmarks, all made from natural-growing materials. It should come as no surprise the train show has been an a staple of winter in New York City for more than 30 years!
I don’t want you to think these are small, popsicle stick replicas. The New York Botanical Garden goes all out, this is an immersive, walk-through experience.
Don’t have kids? Visit during the adult-only bar nights for an experience you soon won’t forget. A model-train show might not be up everybody’s alley but add some booze and you’re sure to enjoy.
This year the shows will be taking place from November 19th, 2022 to January 16th, 2023. Tickets can be purchased here. While on the website consider also picking up tickets to see NYBG Glow, their holiday light experience.
#16. Visit the 9/11 Museum
You may have noticed that a lot of items on this list include indoor activities. Well, the reason is simple, winter in New York City is notoriously chilly, so you’ll want to spend time in doors as much as possible.
Visiting the 9/11 Museum is a great way to stay warm while learning about the impact of the terrorist attacks that took place in 2001. This particular museum is incredible moving, and it’s very important so I encourage all my friends visit.
Once you’re done exploring the museum, take your time paying your respects at the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial is comprised of two reflecting pools that sit on the footprint of the destroyed Twin Towers.
Look closely and you will see that cascading waterfalls embrace both cavities — symbolizing of a void that can never be filled and an unrelenting sadness we can never shake.
The Oculus Mall is right across the street from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, making visiting a no-brainer while you’re in the area.
The Oculus Mall looks like the spine of a fish long forgotten, it’s quite the architectural feat! It’s both a mall and functioning subway hub, and during December is home to a small Christmas market.
The fact that there are plenty of dining options and places to shop makes it a great spot to visit during your winter trip to New York City. An added bonus is that it has public bathrooms, which are hard to come by in NYC.
Address: 185 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10007
#15. Enjoy a drink at Mace (one of the best bars in the world)
No list of the best things to do during the winter in New York City is complete without stopping for a drink. And in a city like NYC not all bars are created equal, so allow me to share my favorite, Mace.
The bar has graced the list of World’s 50 Best Bars for three years in a row. An astonishing feat, considering this popular Manhattan bar was opened in 2015, merely seven years ago.
The menu boasts extravagant drinks feature exotic spices from around the world. The bar’s popularity grew like wildfire as evidenced by the fact they had to relocate to a bigger space in the heart of Greenwich Village.
Getting a reservation at Mace may require nothing short of a miracle. But I’m going to let you in on a little local’s tip, they open their doors at 4PM and the first hour is usually slow.
So if you find yourself in the area on a chilly New York City winter day, make sure to pop in for a craft cocktail that’s guaranteed to keep you warm.
Address: 35 W 8th St, New York, NY 10011
Looking for more boozy hangouts? Check out 10 Memorable Manhattan Bars Everyone Should Visit.
14. Participate in a TV show recording
If you’re looking for something unique to do in New York City in the winter I suggest participating in a TV show taping. Most of the live recordings you can sign up for are late night talk shows, which are easygoing and engaging.
If I’m being honest, it’s kind of bizarre seeing your favorite shows being taped, but totally worth it. You view TV So differently and really appreciate the work that goes into it after taking a look behind the curtain.
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 in.
Local’s Tip: The Rockefeller Center (where a lot of TV tapings happen) is home to the NBC store on the first floor. Stop by for some merch of the TV show you just took part in!
13. Have brunch at Balthazar’s
New York restaurateur Keith McNally opened Balthazar in 1997 and it didn’t take long for it to become one of the most iconic restaurants in the Big Apple.
Specializing in French-fare, the interior is charmingly Parisian and its home neighborhood of SoHo is equally enchanting during winter in New York City.
Not to mention, during the holiday season the restaurant is decked out in Christmas lights and garlands. It’s one of the most beautiful restaurants to visit in New York City in winter, and the warm lighting seems to add an even cozier feel.
The snug atmosphere and delectable hot-drinks make this a top-notch destination during the winter in New York City, so don’t forget to make reservations.
If you can’t get in for brunch, I learned a trick – visit the bakery next door! They make the BEST chocolate donuts I’ve ever had – perfectly dense and chocolatey. Oh, and the chai latte from this joint can’t be missed.
Address: 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
12. Enjoy (a lot of) hot chocolates
With temperatures dropping, locals need to find ways to stay warm during winter days in New York City. And let’s be honest, coffee isn’t always the answer.
Hot chocolate is the perfect winter drink in NYC regardless of your age or the time of day (and it doubles as a hand warmer!).
I suggest checking out Jacques Torres Chocolate or L.A. Burdick for some of the richest cocoa in the Big Apple. Both are rich in flavor and pack a chocolatey punch, like they melted down a Hersey’s bar and poured it in a cup.
Further Reading: One of the best things to do during winter in New York City is to explore with a warm drink in hand, here is our list of 20 Cozy Cups of Cocoa | The Best Hot Chocolate in NYC
11. Shop for an ugly sweater at a Thrift Store
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.
In a city so well known for its fashion, New York City’s thrift stores have incredible selections of clothes to sift through. You never know what you’re going to find!
And if thrifting isn’t up your alley you can always shop one of the hundreds of other stores. I’m just trying to help you squeeze in some retail-therapy during your New York City winter vacation.
10. Explore Central Park in the snow
Although snow isn’t guaranteed during your visit to New York City in winter, if you’re one of the lucky few that does get it then you’ll want to make a beeline for Central Park.
Central Park is magical anytime of year, but especially so during the first snowfall of the year. It’s hard to describe the emotion of this magical winter experience in New York City in any way other than, dreamy,
If you’re visiting by yourself I suggest popping in your headphones and let the Christmas music roll as you meander through the various paths, it’s a very peaceful and magical experience.
If you’re with a special someone, split the headphones with them as you slowly stroll through fresh powdery snow. Can you think of a more romantic way to spend a day in New York City in winter?, because I can’t.
Also worth mention, if you’ve never visited Tavern on the Green pay it a visit during the holiday season. The interior is decorated in cheery Christmas decor and the expansive menu is full of delicious seasonal fare.
9. Eat your way through Essex Market
One of the best things to do on a winter day in NYC is to support local business’ and partake in apiece of New York history.
Located in the Lower East Side, Essex Market is New York City’s most historic food hall. The market has been around officially since 1940 (unofficially since the 1880’s) and has served as a culinary gathering place for New Yorkers to come together as a community.
This three-story market is made up of over 30 individual vendors who each bring a unique story and new flavor to the table.
Along with the plethora of food options, Essex Market also offers a place to pick up fresh groceries, check out an art gallery, heck even a spot to get your hair cut.
It’s hard to go wrong when picking a spot to eat at the Essex Market. I always crave the potato pierogi from Veselka, especially during the cold New York City winter. If you’re craving caffeine try Cafe Grumpy and then finish with something sweet at Best Damn Cookies.
Address: 88 Essex St, New York, NY 10002
8. Cheer on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
The NBA season runs from October to April, so winter in New York City is blanketed by the inviting excitement of an basketball court.
New York City is home to the New York Knicks & the Brooklyn nets of the NBA. Supporting either one is a fine choice, but I always recommend folks check out out a Knicks game since they’re the original New York City team.
Madison Square Garden is the home of the Knicks and the Barclays Center is home of the Nets, and both are easily accessible via subway so there’s no excuse not to visit during a trip to New York City in the winter.
Depending on how competitive the team is the tickets may or may not be expensive. On any given day tickets can be had for as little as $20, so it doesn’t necessarily take an arm and a leg to enjoy a game.
7. Celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square
One of the most popular winter events in New York City has to be the Times Square Ball Drop.
Every year celebrity performers and television crews cram into a few small city blocks with hundreds of thousands of people, all eagerly waiting for midnight. Not to mention, it’s estimated more than 1 billion folks worldwide tune in from home.
But in full transparency, this is a New York City winter activity I’ve done once, and won’t be in a rush to do again anytime soon. I didn’t want to leave it off the list because I know so many people dream of attending themselves.
If you want to know why I’m not a huge fan of New Years Eve in Times Square read this post.
6. Celebrate Chinese New Years in Chinatown
Celebrating Chinese New Years in Chinatown is like celebrating Oktoberfest in Germany or St. Patrick’s day in Ireland, it just feels right. It’s one of the most popular winter events in New York City, but don’t take my word for it, the event is attended by thousands of visitors ever year.
Chinatown is already one of the best Manhattan neighborhoods to explore, but during Chinese New Years it goes to a whole new level.
The streets come alive with locals in festive, traditional wear and music fills the air for days. The celebrations culminate in the Lunar New Year parade (February 12th, 2023) and just like that we’re in a new year.
If you’ve never seen such an event I can’t encourage the pit-stop more. It’s one of the best events in the winter in New York City and a memorable way to enjoy a bit of a new culture.
5. Rest your legs at the New York Public Library
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country. No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this epic structure.
In the present it’s where I go to get out of the cold on a New York City winter day. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the iconic library, find a seat in the beautiful and Rose main reading room and get lost in a good book.
The library is huge, spanning two full city blocks so it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to make yourself comfortable. It’s also a beautiful building to just explore, no book required, and admire a bit of history.
If you visit during the month of December you’ll be welcomed by a beautiful Christmas tree at the entrance, which is another reason to visit this iconic building in New York City in winter.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are named Patience and Fortitude, here’s why.
4. Check out a Broadway show
There is no better way to spend a winter day in New York City than to enjoy a few (warm) hours enjoying a Broadway show.
There are 41 official Broadway theaters in NYC and at any given time more than half of them are putting on shows. This means there’s plenty of plays and showtimes to choose from.
Admittedly, Broadway Shows can be so dang expensive, but the experience is truly unforgettable. The amount of effort that goes into a single show is impressive (to say the least) and I have yet to leave a show feeling like it wasn’t worth it.
During Broadway Week (January 17 to February 12 2023), you’re able to purchase 2-for-1 tickets, effectively doubling the bang for your buck. If you’re a Broadway geek (like me) this is another reason to visit New York City in the winter.
3. Wander the MET
If you’re you’re looking for a climate-controlled winter activity in New York City I’m going to give you a simple suggestion– visit a museum. Never underestimate how much time you can spend in a museum, a cultural experience should not be rushed and you can make a day of it.
NYC is home to more than 80 different museums covering art, culture and history but the one I strongly encourage all my friends visit is the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met).
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s considered the most visited museum in New York City.
Just remember, show up early since this is a popular winter activity in New York City and the last thing you’d want is to have to wait in a line outside.
Looking for the best things to see at the Met? Read 20 EPIC Things to See at The MET in New York City.
2. Explore the holiday markets
Winter in New York City brings an abundance of Christmas markets and you’re not going to want to miss them. Warm apple cider is the perfect companion as you peruse the different stalls and you never know what’s around the corner.
Christmas markets are some of the best spots to find gifts because the products are unique and you won’t find them in big-box stores. Not to mention the vendors are usually small businesses and artists, and it feels good to buy local.
All this to say, if you’re visiting New York City in winter visiting a holiday market is always worth the stop. My suggestion is to visit the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park and enjoy the ice skating rink in the middle of the market.
Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, the people watching at local markets is a blast. You can watch the locals scurry about doing last minute shopping, couples holding hands on a date and parents feed their children sweet treats.
Further Reading: Here are 10 Cheerful Holiday Markets in New York City worth checking out this winter in New York City.
1. Go Ice Skating in Central Park
Ice skating at Wollman Rink is arguably one of the most iconic things to do in New York City in winter. Located in the southern part of Central Park with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
It’s one of the New York City winter activities everyone needs to add to their bucket list. And since the rink is open from late October through early April, there’s plenty of time to partake.
Bundle up and enjoy the crisp Central Park air as you glide on the ice with friends, it’s one of the most memorable winter activities in New York City.
The popular rink gets crowded quickly during the Christmas season, especially during weekends. Try to visit during the weekday and arrive early! Also, Wollman Rink is CASH-ONLY, but there’s an ATM onsite.
Further Reading: If Wollman Rink isn’t enough, check out 10 Impressive Ice Skating Rinks in New York City you can enjoy this winter.
Best things to do during winter in New York City (post summary)
- Ride the Vintage Subway
- Get coffee at Ralph’s
- Catch a performance at the Lincoln Center
- Stroll the Chelsea Market
- Enjoy a bowl of ramen
- Revel in the holiday lights
- Happy hour at Timeout Market
- Catch a show at Carnegie Hall
- Bundle up at a rooftop
- Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Holiday Train Show at NYBG
- Visit Oculus Mall & The WTC Complex
- Enjoy a drink at the best bar in North America
- Participate in a TV show taping
- Have brunch at Balthazar’s
- Find the best hot chocolate in NYC
- Shop for an ugly swear at a thrift store
- Explore Central Park in the snow
- Enjoy a bagel from Russ & Daughters
- Cheer on the NY Knicks at Madison Square Garden
- Celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square
- Celebrate Chinese New Years in Chinatown
- Explore the New York Public Library
- Check out the Broadway show
- Wander the MET
- Explore the NY holiday markets
- Go ice skating
Map of the best winter activities in New York City
And there you have it, 30+ things to do during your New York City winter visit.
Hope you enjoyed, cheers!