Post overview: What to wear in New York in Winter
If you don’t know what to wear in New York in winter, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or you recently moved here, this post is full of recommendations and tips that are sure to help.
It’s no secret that winters in New York City can be brutal, especially for those who are ill prepared. Average winter temperatures in NYC are just above freezing. If you’re not used to that, it can be a shock to your system.
The extreme cold in New York City lasts about three solid months, starting near the end of December going until March. Snow is not always guaranteed, but it’s not uncommon during January or February.
After surviving eight winters in the Big Apple I’ve created a fool-proof list of 20 things I think everyone needs to pack. So without further ado, here is what to wear in New York in the winter.
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Things to consider when deciding what to wear in New York in winter
Consider the weight of your outerwear
Packing for NYC in the winter doesn’t have to be a hard task, a general rule of thumb is if you don’t plan on exploring the city by foot that day, leave the heavy coat at home.
The reason for this is simple, I know if i’m going to be popping in and out of restaurants and museums all day I’ll get sweaty and lugging around a heavy jacket is going to feel like a chore.
Additionally, the subway is the easiest way to get around the city and during the winter some subway platforms can get as hot as 100º.
Local’s tip: Leave the heavy coat at home, instead pack a shacket (it’s a real thing, look it up), a vest or a packable coat that’s easy to throw in a bag and carry around.
Staples go a long way
When most people think of New York they think of fashion, and I get it- I’m guilty too!
But the amount of times I’ve planned an outfit in my head thinking I would turn heads only to find myself shaking like a chihuahua, has made me realize it’s simply not worth giving up my warmth to look cute.
Now that’s not to say you can’t do both, the trick is investing in quality layering staples that will actually keep you warm layer instead of hoping you can brave the cold (spoiler alert: you can’t).
If helpful, my go-to winter staple is this piece (I refuse to leave the house without it!). Or anything HeatTech from Uniqlo. PS: If you want to blend in like a true New Yorker, opt to wear only black clothes. 😉
What to Wear in New York in Winter (Clothing)
Down coat or parka (non-negotiable!)
Before you start calling me hypocritical, I recommended that my sister not bring her coat when visiting me in NYC in winter and she hasn’t forgiven me since.
She runs cold all the time and she said she regretted not bringing a parka with her since we spent so much time outside. All this to say, you know yourself best — if you do run cold consider a parka when deciding what to wear in New York in winter.
Daily temperatures in New York City during December average around 44º. And during January and February it’s not uncommon to see daily temperatures drop as low as 26º.
A good quality down coat or parka (preferably with a hood) is non-negotiable when packing for New York in winter if you want to be comfortable.
I hail from the Pacific Northwest so I know a thing or two when it comes to dressing for the rain (or so I thought- ha!). When I lived in Oregon using a raincoat (let alone an umbrella) was seen as pointless and almost embarrassing – who can’t handle a little rain?
After moving to the East Coast I quickly learned I was ill prepared and had no idea what to wear in New York in the winter.
In Oregon I left my house, got in a car and drove to my destination, being in the rain for all of 10 seconds. In New York City on the other hand, I walk everywhere and find myself drenched by the time I make it to my destination.
Learn from my mistake and pack a high quality raincoat to stay dry. The best part is most raincoats are thin and compact so they take very little space in a suitcase.
When people ask me what to wear in New York in winter, without a doubt I always mention that good shoes are non-negotiable.
The second your sneakers get wet or your toes freeze because there isn’t enough insulation in your shoes, misery kicks in. You want nothing more than to head back to the hotel and call it an early day.
This is where our list of what to pack for New York in winter comes in handy. We want you to enjoy NYC as much as possible, and it all starts with footwear.
Pack boots that are spacious enough you can wear thick socks but also comfortable enough you can last a long time walking.
I’ve owned these for three years now and recommend them to everyone. If you’re in the market for something a little more heavy duty, these are my tried and true.
Thick sweaters might seem like the right move when packing for winter in NYC, but thats not always the case. I’ve learned that when packing sweaters, you need to be strategic with it.
Too thick, and you’ll pay the price when you find yourself peeling off layers on a subway platform. Too thin, and you’ll feel instant regret when the wind blows seemingly freezing your bones stiff.
When packing what to wear in New York in winter, consider packing sweaters that are breathable and light — easy to layer with. At the end of the day, you know how your body deals with cold weather best so pack whatever feels right to you.
Thermal leggings and undershirts become just as important as underwear when packing what to wear in New York in winter. I can’t live without them!
I love having these essentials because layering them with a light sweater or a pair of jeans means I’m still able to dress fashionably and stay warm. Most thermal layers are thin so they never feels bulky and pack nicely.
These are my go-to thermal pieces when anyone asks what to wear in New York in winter.
Wool socks are my sweet, holy grail item when it comes to what to wear in New York in winter.
These socks can do no wrong in my eyes. They are comfortable, warm and offer enough padding (thanks to the thickness) that my feet don’t hurt after a day of walking miles in winter boots.
Good luck catching me without these in the New York winters! But you can’t go wrong with any good-quality wool sock.
The nice thing about New York City in the winter is that rain and snow are not always guaranteed, especially in December. Don’t get me wrong, it’ll still be cold outside, but there are plenty of dry days where sneakers are exactly what you’ll want to wear in New York in winter.
New York City is best explored on foot because the city’s amazing skyscrapers are half the fun. As such, you’ll probably spend a lot of time walking from Point A to Point B.
Whenever friends visit us in NYC we keep track of steps and typically average 10 miles a day! All this to say, definitely bring good walking shoes.
If the weather allows, good, reliable sneakers are a must when packing what to wear in New York in winter. I swear by these.
What to Wear in New York in Winter (Accessories)
Gloves & Scarf
When it comes to packing for winter in New York City, I suggest getting a pair of gloves and a big scarf to protect you from the wind.
There is so much ground to cover when exploring NYC, especially during the holidays. While there is a lot to see indoors, a lot of the epic sites in the Big Apple are outdoors. Prepare yourself to be outside for long periods of time.
I love wearing a big scarf that can be styled multiple ways, and am so grateful for it when a big gust of wind blows and my neck is protected. As far as gloves go, I suggest anything with touch screen fingers that allows you to use your phone while staying covered up.
Hat/ Ear Muffs / Headbands
Prioritizing protecting your ears from the cold is key when packing what to wear in New York in winter.
Winter months in New York City are known to be the windiest, so even if the weather is dry, expect to be hit with intense wind gusts.
I purchased this set a few years ago and reach for it every winter.
Backpack or Fanny bag
I cannot stress how important a bag is when packing what to wear in New York in winter. Most people who are visiting NYC in winter find themselves out exploring for hours at a time.
If you’re visiting for the holiday season, a backpack is the perfect way to carry any souvenirs or Christmas gifts you might pick up.
I love traveling with a big backpack when I’m exploring NYC because I’m able to stuff my jacket if I get too warm and avoid carrying it all day.
Not all coats are created equally, and not all coats are waterproof. You will be walking a lot while enjoying NYC in the winter, if you’re packing a wool coat or a down coat I suggest packing an umbrella to protect the material from the rain.
It’s compact and travels well, fitting perfectly in most bags. I suggest this one when packing what to wear in New York in winter.
You’ll thank me later for this one.
Purchasing a pack of hand warmers is a no brainer when packing what to wear in New York in winter. I never leave the apartment without these from Amazon during the cold winter months.
Stick them in your pockets and forget about them, then later when you place your hands in your coat you’re greeted with the warmest little pouches of heaven.
Now this isn’t for everyone, but I still felt the need to add it to our list of what to wear in New York in winter.
If you took away anything from this post, it’s that New York is cold in the winter and you will be doing a lot of walking. So to make the time go by or to feel like the main character in a movie, pack a pair of headphones to do the trick.
I love putting on my headphones, turning on Christmas music and walking down Fifth Avenue, checking out the impressive holiday window displays.
Further reading: If you want to get lost in NYC, plug in some headphones and check out Where to see Christmas Lights in New York City or 15 Stunning New York City Christmas Trees (Local’s Guide)
What to Pack For New York in Winter (Bag Essentials)
Hand sanitizer / Sanitizing wipes
I feel like this goes without saying, New York City is dirty. Keeping hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes on you at all times can go a long way. After the subway, after opening a door or after a meal, a quick spray and you’re on your way.
When packing what to wear in New York in winter, keep this bag essential in mind. A small first aid kit or a pack of bandaids is one of the best things to bring along. I like to keep bandaids in my bag incase I feel a blister coming from my shoes, this is an easy temporary fix.
Chapstick + Lotion
With cold weather comes drying weather. Your lips and skin are going to pay the price. Make sure to pack chapstick to keep your lips moisturized and lotion to help with dry hands.
Even if you leave your hotel with a full battery, there is so much to see in New York City in the winter you’re bound to drain your battery with picture taking.
Not to mention, most folks who visit NYC use their phone as a way to get around with maps, so I suggest bringing a charger. You can warm up and rest your feet at a cute coffee shop while letting your battery charge.
If stopping isn’t in the cards for you, fret not, invest in one of these.
Further reading: Need suggestions where to rest your feet? Check out 20+ Cute Cafes in New York City (Instagram Worthy Spots)
Cash goes a long way when visiting NYC in the winter. Whether it’s to shop at a holiday market or to tip a street performer, I suggest carrying a few small bills on you.
What are the best materials to wear in New York in winter?
- Wool: The material is tried and true and has been used for thousands of years. Made from sheep hair, wool holds heat and is somewhat resistant to water.
- Fleece: Fleece was created to replicate the benefits of wool. The material is light weight and inexpensive but still keeps you warm.
- Cashmere: Cashmere is considered to be luxurious and softer than traditional wool. Although not quite as warm as wool, it’s a popular light-weight material used in sweaters and scarves.
- Silk: Silk is one of the best materials to wear in New York in the winter because of how tightly woven the fabric is when created. This acts like an insulator and keeps your body heat trapped in the fabric.
- Down: Down serves as both insulation and padding and is commonly found in winter coats. Whether you get a coat with synthetic feather or natural feathers, down is some of the best material to keep you warm in NYC in winter.
What to Wear in New York in Winter (Post Summary)
- Down Coat/ Parka
- Waterproof Boots
- Comfortable Sweaters
- Thermal Layers (Uniqlo/ Amazon Basics)
- Wool socks
- Comfortable Shoes
- Backpack / Fanny pack
- Hat/ Ear Muffs / Headbands
- Portable Charger
- Hand sanitizer / Sanitizing wipes
- Chapstick + Lotion
- Phone charger
Love New York City in the Winter?
You might find these posts helpful too:
- 15 Stunning New York City Christmas Trees (Local’s Guide)
- Where to see Christmas Lights in New York City
- Christmas in New York City: 20 MAGICAL Things to Do (5 to Avoid)
- 15 Cheerful Christmas Shows in New York City (2022)
And there you have it, that is everything you need to know about what to wear in New York in winter. We hope you found this list helpful and now you can comfortably enjoy exploring NYC in the cold!
Very helpful. Question – How do New Yorkers feel about the wearing of fur coats?