Prepared or not, rainy days in New York City throw a curveball into most travel plans. The weather is unpredictable and sometimes you need to come up with a Plan B, which is where I come in.
I’ve spent the better part of my last 6 years in The Big Apple coming up with various rainy day activities for my out of town guests. Thankfully, the fun doesn’t (have to) stop when the forecast predicts rain.
I’m looking to recommend top-notch experiences that are specific to the City that Never Sleeps (no movie theater recommendations here folks).
Alas, here’s a roundup of the best things to do on a rainy day in New York City. Let’s dive right in!
New York City Rainy Day Activities
#20. Eat Your Way Through the Essex Market
One of the best things to do on a rainy day in NYC is to support local businesses while learning a bit about the city’s history (through food, of course).
And when it comes to historic food halls, the Essex Market in the Lower East Side is hard to beat.
The market has been around since 1940 officially (unofficially since the 1880s), and has served as a culinary gathering place for New Yorkers for 80 years.
This three-story market is home to 30+ vendors, each with a unique story to offer. You’ll find a handful of food stalls, a grocery store and a few local shops.
So, if you’re looking for a fun rainy day activity in NYC, swing by the Essex Market. Order a meal or coffee/light bite and make your way to the seating area upstairs.
The floor-to-ceiling windows are perfect for watching the stormy weather outside and a great reprieve between winter activities in New York City.
#19. Explore Industry City
Industry City is one of my favorite places to visit on a rainy day in New York City (in summer too, actually!). Restaurants, stores, breweries and cafes. Industry City is a conglomeration of the best of NYC.
Located at the Brooklyn Waterfront, this industrial space includes 16 buildings and spans 35 acres.
Originally built in the 1890s, the space was used for manufacturing and distribution. Today it’s a cultural hub for locals and visitors alike.
In between the buildings you’ll find colorful courtyards decorated with seasonal decor and interesting art installations. As such, this is one of my go-to recommendation when I hear visitors say they don’t know what to do on a rainy day in NYC.
Local’s Tip: Check out Japan Village is you’re interested in Japanese culture! It’s a bustling indoor market with Japanese food stalls and a popular grocery store.
#18. Enjoy a Slow Evening at a Speakeasy
You can go to a cocktail bar if you please, but where’s the fun in that? Speakeasies offer a more intimate atmosphere with a dash of intrigue (getting in through a telephone booth? Say less!).
What’s with all the secrete, you may ask? Well, speakeasies are a byproduct of prohibition (in the 1920s). Being the most populous city in the US, New York was hit especially hard. But New Yorkers are nothing if not resilient, so speakeasies started cropping up.
Today, there’s a handful of great spots to choose from! So, whenever it’s raining during the weekend in NYC, I make my way over to cap off the day.
If you’re visiting NYC for the first time, I suggest swinging by Apotheke. The lab-coat donning waitstaff are considered mixologists, cocktails are referred to as prescriptions and the inspired libations churning out of the bar are nothing short of mad genius. It’s a great time!
If helpful, here’s a roundup of my favorite speakeasies in NYC.
#17. Wander the West Village
Alright, you’re going to think I’m crazy (or lazy – but I’m only one of those things!) hear me out. The West Village is arguably the most charming neighborhood in NYC rain or shine.
Every corner cafe and wine bar serve as an invitation to linger for an hour or two, while watching the rain patter outside.
I often make my way over whenever rain is in the forecast because the neighborhood takes on a magical glow right after a storm.
\My advice? Admire the brownstones and then park yourself at a local bar or cafe for a relaxing afternoon you won’t soon forget.
You may enjoy reading: 22 Exciting Things to Do in the West Village (Local’s Guide)
#16. Lighten Up at the Comedy Cellar
Speaking of the West Village, why not visit one of the best comedy clubs in NYC while you’re in the area?
Not everyone is a fan of comedy clubs (like yours truly), but even I’ll admit that visiting the Comedy Cellar is a great thing to do in NYC on a rainy day.
Opened in 1980, the Comedy Cellar is beloved by locals and visitors alike (shows tend to sell out most nights). Rather than headliners, this comedy club offers 5-7 performers a night, each performing a 20 minute skit.
As such, you never know who to expect on stage, but you’re guaranteed to have a good time because the Comedy Cellar always attracts top-notch talent to this day.
The roster of past comedians includes some big names, like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, John Stewart and Kevin Hart.
#15. Enjoy a Spa Day at Aire Ancient Baths
One of the best hidden gems in New York City is Aire Ancient Baths. Channeling ancient Greek and Roman bath houses it’s a serene and rejuvenating experience and one of the best things to do on a rainy day in NYC.
There are no cell phones allowed and Aire limits the amount of people in the bath house so the experience is a nice reprieve from the hustle of city living.
There are a handful of options to choose from so you can spend as much time as you’d like. And yes, massages are also offered. Hard to beat a full spa day while avoiding rainy days in NYC.
Local’s Tip: Chelsea Wellness is another great option if you’re keen on spa days!
#14. Visit the Strand Bookstore
The Strand is the city’s most iconic bookstores and one of the best places to spend rainy days in NYC.
Founded in 1927, the Strand is the only remaining bookstore from “Book Row” which was a coalition of 48 bookstores that lined Fourth Avenue in the East Village.
Every single bookstore, with the exception of the Strand, closed during the Great Depression. Today this large NYC bookstore is home to 2.5 million books and serves as a safe-haven for insatiable bookworms far and wide.
Looking for more independent bookstores to spend a New York City rainy day in? Check out 12+ Charming New York City Bookstores You Can’t Help But Love.
#13. Catch a performance at the Lincoln Center
Founded in 1950, the Lincoln Center is home to 8 remarkable institutions:
- The Metropolitan Opera House
- New York Philharmonic
- New York City Opera
- New York City Ballet
- School of American Ballet
- Julliard School of Music
- The Chamber Music Society and the Film Society.
In other words, the Lincoln Center is the culture hub of New York City. Rub elbows with locals while watching world-class ballerinas take the stage.
Or, if opera is more your speed, catch The Metropolitan Opera’s rendition of Puccini’s La Bohème (currently premiering). If helpful, here’s a list of upcoming events at the Lincoln Center.
#12. Visit a Jazz Club
Home to some of the most significant jazz clubs in the world, the music scene in New York City is hard to beat. There’s a plethora of clubs to spend a rainy NYC day, taking in the serenading notes of talented musicians.
I have three jazz clubs on rotation: Village Vanguard, Smalls and Blue Note.
If you’re visiting New York City to mark a special occasion, make reservations at Blue Note. I caught a performance at Blue Note during my first visit to New York (100 years ago) and still remember that night.
If you’re looking for something super intimate, Smalls fits the bill. I’ve caught a few shows here over the years and still get excited to go! It’s the perfect NYC rainy day date night idea!
#11. Visit a Charming Wine Bar
Wine tasting during a rainy day in NYC? Groundbreaking, I know. But what can I say? Sometimes simplicity is key.
I’ve been getting more interested in wine lately, so my roster of charming wine bars is slowly growing. Admittidely, I enjoy this activity more on a sunny day, but hey — gloomy weathered wine dates aren’t half bad!
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of quaint wine bars in NYC (P.S. the West Village has the lion’s share). Here’s a roundup of my favorite wine bars in the Big Apple.
#10. Explore the Chelsea Market
Home to 35 vendors, the Chelsea Market is a famous food hall mixed with unique shops, restaurants, spice markets, and cafes.
Checking out Chelsea Market is one of the best indoor things to do in NYC during a rainy day. Especially if you’re visiting during the holiday season (when rain is all but guaranteed) since they decorate for the seasons/holidays.
Highlights at the Chelsea Market: Matcha from Chalait (so good), warm donuts from the Doughnuttery (what’s better than a warm donut?), tacos from Los Tacos No. 1 and souvenirs from the Pearl River Mart.
#9. Reserve a Room at Sharks Pool Club
You don’t have to be a pool shark to enjoy a round or two. Considered one of the best indoor activities for a rainy day in New York City, Shark’s Pool Club gets packed quickly.
It’s a great concept though, you can rent a private room for some friends and play around for a bit. Each room includes a TV, couch and Bluetooth speakers. Check out Sharks Pool Club’s website to make reservations.
Oh, and the best part? It’s BYOB. Pick up a six-pack, grab some pizza and make your way over with a group of friends for unique rainy day activity in NYC.
#8. Hang out at a Local Cafe
New York cafes are irresistibly charming, which makes them particularly inviting during rainy days. Speaking from experience, whenever there’s rain in the forecast for 3+ days in a row, I make an effort to leave the house and work from a cafe instead.
One, it gets me out of the house. And two, it’s an opportunity to make small talk with strangers. I swear, I risk losing social skills if I stay inside too long.
As such, one of my favorite things to do on a rainy day in NYC is to take a window seat at my local coffee shop and people-watch for a bit.
Local’s Tip: Not all cafes allow laptops and/or have outlets. Make sure to read reviews or check the website before stepping out with your laptop in hand.
#7. Take a Cooking Class (Yes, Really!)
Remember during the pandemic when everyone was taking up new hobbies (DIY haircuts, anyone?)? Well, a rainy day in NYC is a perfect excuse to keep learning new skills!
Sur La Table hosts a variety of fun cooking classes perfect for amateur cooks.
Expect to learn the art of baking French pastries (home made croissants!) to perfecting your steak recipe, or mastering homemade ravioli.
There may be a temptation to write this off as a “lame NYC rainy day activity,” but that’d be a mistake. These classes are actually quite popular, so much so that they often sell out.
I suggest signing up a week or two early if you notice rain in the forecast. Better yet, why not coerce your special someone to join you? It’s a fun rainy day date night idea (and often more affordable than eating out in NYC).
If you’re interested, here’s a roundup of classes currently offered at the NYC location (W 57th St. & 8th Ave).
#6. Cheer on the New York Knicks
The NBA season runs from October to April, aligning perfectly with the rainy season in New York City. As such, catching an NBA game is a great indoor activity during a rainy day.
Madison Square Garden is the home of the New York Knicks and the Barclays Center is home to the Brooklyn Nets. Admission varies by game, but you can often score a decent deal.
Local’s Tip: If you’re catching a show or game at Madison Square Garden (MSG), take advantage of the great food scene in the area! MSG is located in Koreatown, which has some of the best Korean BBQ in NYC (I love Jongro).
#5. Enjoy a Hot Bowl of Ramen
My husband and I are big fans of rainy New York City days because they give us an excuse to go out for ramen.
Between me and you, sometimes a restaurant is the only thing that gets me out of the house when it’s gray outside. It’s hard to think of a more comforting dish than ramen.
We’ve tried well over 20+ ramen spots in the city, but our favorite is Mr. Taka in the Lower East Side. Not sure if we’re simply sentimental about it at that point, but I definitely think they serve some of the best ramen in the city.
Other standout ramen shops worth traveling for during a rainy day in NYC are Ippudo (we tried this spot in Japan, so good!), Momofuku and Ivan Ramen.
#4. Warm Up With a Whiskey Flight
One of my favorite NYC rainy day traditions is to sign up for whiskey tasting. New York City is home to some of the best bars in the world, and it would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of having access to some remarkable drams.
Many bars offer private whiskey tastings for large groups. Gather a group of friends and learn about Scotland’s greatest export.
If you’re in NYC during a rainy day alone or with a small group, I suggest popping into a bar for a whiskey flight. They’re less expensive and require less planning than a whiskey tasting and can be just as fun.
I enjoy visiting The Flatiron Room, an award winning bar that offers tastings and flights. The tastings can be reserved online (several options to choose from).
#3. Tour 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 avoid a NYC rainy 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 get out of the rain.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are named Patience and Fortitude, here’s why.
#2. Visit a Museum
If you’re you’re looking for NYC rainy day activities I’m going to make your job easier. Visit a museum. Boom. Done. Never underestimate how much time you can spend in a museum, a cultural experience should not be rushed.
Although it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the cornucopia of museums in the Big Apple (there’s more than 80), they all make for a great way to spend a NYC rainy day.
When the weather goes south my go-to is the MET, since it has large windows facing Central Park. Watching the rain fall over the park is serene and comforting.
Not to mention, the MET is fifth largest museum in the world so no matter how many times I visit there’s always something new to learn.
But word to the wise: Show up early! Visiting a musuem is the most popular rainy day activity in New York City.
Overwhelmed by options? Feel free to check out: 15 Exciting Museums in New York City (& What to See at Each).
#1. Catch a Broadway Show
There is no better way to spend a rainy day in NYC than by spending a few (dry) hours enjoying a Broadway show. 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.
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. During the rainy season I try to enter as many Broadway lotteries as possible to save some cash.
Another way to save a few bucks is to purchase a solo ticket. These are seats left in between groups that the theater sells at a discounted rate to fill as many seats as possible. It’s one of the best ways to spend a rainy day in New York City alone and score a deal on a Broadway show.
Further Reading: Need help deciding which show is worth it? Here is our round up of 10 Brilliant Broadway Shows in New York City You Won’t Soon Forget.
Tips for Spending Rainy Days in NYC
Comfortable walking shoes are a must
You will be doing a lot of walking in New York City, and during a rainy day you’re going to want shoes that will keep your feet dry and comfortable. The subway is efficient but it doesn’t drop you off at the door. Bring your most comfortable pair of shoes because you’ll be getting those steps in, I guarantee it.
New York City averages more than 63 million visitors per year, meaning crowds are all but guaranteed rain or shine. That’s a lot of people trying to eat at the same popular restaurants and do the same popular thing. Show up early and bring an umbrella in case there’s a line out the door.
Treat the sidewalk like a highway
Nothing bothers a New Yorker more than a person that stops smack-dab in the middle of the sidewalk. It’s inconsiderate and you’re guaranteed to garner eye rolls.
There’s two ways you could inadvertently hog the sidewalk: walking side-by-side in a large group and stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, effectively preventing access. Make sure you step to the side of the sidewalk if you need to stop.
NYC Rainy Day Activities (Post Summary)
- Catch a Broadway show
- Visit a museum
- Visit the New York Public Library
- Warm up with a flight of whiskey
- Enjoy a bowl of ramen
- Enjoy an NBA game
- Sign up for a cooking class
- Hang out at your local cafe
- Play at Sharks Pool Club
- Enjoy a jazz club
- Watch a performance at the Lincoln Center
- Shop the Strand Bookstore
- Aire Ancient Baths
- Laugh at the Comedy Cellar
- Visit a speakeasy
- Get lost in Industry City
- Explore the Chelsea Market
- Explore the West Village
Map of the best indoor things to do in NYC on a rainy day
And there you have it, folks! My roundup of the best things to do during a NYC rainy day. I hope you found it useful.