NYC in winter is a magical time of year that is filled with snow, hot chocolate, twinkling lights, ice skating, and vibrant winter markets that are brimming over with goodies that are just waiting to be bought.
Sure, it can be hella cold once the polar vortex of doom rolls into town. You also may want to avoid stepping in giant puddles of slush that look smaller than they really are (they routinely come up to your knees) but on the whole, winter in NYC is pretty dang awesome.
And I should know. I’ve been a local New Yorker for well over 30 years and want to share all my insider winter tips with you so that you know all about some of the best things to do in NYC in winter.
This way, you can quickly and easily plan the NYC in winter itinerary of your dreams.
So, what are you waiting for? Check out this expert’s guide to all of the best things to do in winter in NYC and enjoy amazing activities like holiday lights displays, extravagant holiday windows, giant Christmas trees, immortal ballet productions, and so much more.
Plus, even when Christmas is but s distant memory, you can still enjoy Jazzfest, restaurant week, Chinese New Year, and more – and all without the intense crowds/high prices of summer because once January comes around, the off-season really begins.
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If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.
After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic.
Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
What are the Winter Months in New York?
Good question! And the answer varies based on where you are in the state. If you happen to be in upstate New York, winter typically starts in November and ends in April – a long and rough season indeed the farther north you go.
Now, if you’re planning to spend winter in NYC then you’ll be happy to know that winter isn’t quite as long in southern New York and extends only from December through March in most southern parts of the state (with winter bring super cloudy in western parts of the state thanks to the great lakes).
But for most residents of the city, “winter” really starts after Thanksgiving (basically once the Thanksgiving parade rolls into Herald Square.
At this time of year, the coldest months are definitely January and February, with snow possible any time between November and April (in reality it really only snows between December and February but we usually get 66 cm of snow per year).
And while temperatures vary by month, NYC winter highs typically hover around 43°F (6°C) and lows are around 27°F (-3°C) with wind chills whipping through the city and making it feel like the outside temperature is 14°F (-15°C).
So, the moral of the story? Use my local guide on what to wear in NYC in winter so that you can dress like a champ and be a comfy, cozy human.
Where to Stay this Winter in NYC
While there are a ton of great hotels in New York City, a lot of them can be excessively expensive or just generally less than stellar. Therefore, it can be difficult (to say the least) for even the best travelers to find beds in a hostel that cost less than $100 per night (sad but true) in some of the best areas to stay in NYC.
However, fear not faithful reader because we at Girl with the Passport are big-time people-pleasers who want to help you find some of the best and most affordable hotels in all of NYC. So, here are my picks for all of the best hotels for winter in NYC, regardless of your budget.
- Pod 39 – Located in the Murray Hill neighborhood (home to the best Indian food in the city), this sleek, modern pod hotel offers a fantastic selection of rooms that start at just $120 per night. Sure, they’re a bit small but this is a pod hotel after all. Plus, if you book a room here, you’ll get to stay inside a historic home from 1918 and can choose between queen-size beds or stainless-steel bunk beds with TVs and bedside shelves.
- The Jane Hotel – Located in the trendy West Village, The Jane Hotel was initially built in 1908 as lodging for out-of-town sailors. Since then though, this budget-friendly place has morphed into an awesome accommodation where you can find nautically-themed rooms with flat-screen TVs (with DVD players), iPod docks, bunk beds, terraces with river views, and more. There’s also an on-site restaurant with a great brunch menu and bikes that are free for guests to use.
- James New York – The James New York can be found in the popular SOHO neighborhood and is a stylish hotel with clean, and refreshing rooms that start at just $177 per night. They feature fabulous high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, complimentary toiletries, and a collection of linens that are made from all-natural fibers,
- The Bowery Hotel – This supremely posh, five-star hotel in Nolita is where I’d stay if money wasn’t an issue. And while rooms here start at around $300 per night, you’ll enjoy free Wifi, free bike rentals, and stellar city views. As you might expect, service is also top-notch, which we help make you feel like the king of New York that you are (Newsies anyone?).
Should I Get the New York Pass for NYC in Winter?
Yeah, this is easily the most frequent question that I get from my readers. And there’s not really a simple answer since it really depends on who you are and what you plan on doing while visiting NYC in winter.
Because while there are a variety of different discount passes out there, they’ll really only save you tons of o money on top New York City attractions if you know how to use them.
So, for a more detailed answer to this question, feel free to check out my detailed review of almost every NYC discount pass on the market today.
Otherwise, the short and overly simplified answer to your questions is that if it’s your first time in the city and you’re planning on seeing a bunch of big-name attractions the New York Pass will be worth it.
But, to make the most informed decision possible. definitely check out my full review. No really! It’s super in-depth and even does a comprehensive price breakdown while comparing different discount passes. Because yes, I really am THAT anal-retentive.
Is New York in the Winter Fun? Should I Visit NYC in the Winter?
The short answer is yes! New York is loads of fun in the winter – cold but super fun. I mean, it’s the city that never sleeps so there are always lots of unique things to do in NYC in winter.
Just be forewarned that if you visit during the official holiday season, you’ll encounter large crowds and high prices. That’s why, if you can, try and visit in either January or February when you can get great deals on hotels and flights since it’s the off-season.
Best Things to do in NYC in Winter
1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Easily one of the best things to do in winter in NYC is see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It’s big, it’s bright, it sits in Rockefeller Center, it has an iconic skating rink at its base, and is typically put up around Thanksgiving every year (aka at the end of November).
The lighting of the Christmas Tree here is also a nationally televised event so you can either attend in person or watch it live on TV because yeah, this ginormous tree is a BIG deal during Christmas in NYC.
Other than that, just be prepared for a mega-dose of holiday spirit as you are inundated with ethereal angels that play trumpets, holiday window displays, bright lights, and huge crowds.
And if you want to avoid the crowds, try and visit on Christmas Day, after Christmas, or early on a weekday morning.
Pro Tip: Do not skate at the rink here. It’s small, expensive, crowded, and not worth your time. Instead, skate at one of the many other larger and more reasonably priced rinks scattered throughout the city. My pick would be the rink on the North end of Central Park since it’s cheap and a lot less crowded.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, New York
Hours: Open all day daily.
How to Get There: Take the M50 bus to E 50th street and walk from there. It’s also an easy walk (10-minutes) from Times Square.
2. Inhale Some of the Best Hot Chocolate in the City
Nothing screams, “nyc in winter” quite like a giant mug of piping hot, super delicious, hot chocolate. And while many people flock to Serendipity 3 to try their legendary “frozen hot chocolate”, I think that place is a giant NYC tourist trap that is best avoided by basically anyone with a pulse.
So, if you’re looking for the best things to do in winter in NYC and need a hot cholate fix like whoa, then here are my top local picks for some of the best hot chocolate spots in the city.
- Bar Pisellino (West Village) – This place feels like an old-world Italian cafe and serves up some of the best hot chocolate in the city. So, if you like SUPER rich hot chocolate (akin to drinking warm brownie batter) then give this place a try. Their hot chocolate also comes with freshly whipped Panna on top that slowly melts into your hot chocolate (#yum).
- Daily Provisions (Flatiron District) – Part bakery, part cafe, this place is run by legend Danny Meyer and serves up a decadent hot chocolate that is made with no less than 3 different kinds of chocolate – Guanaja dark chocolate, Bahibe milk chocolate, and Guittard chocolate ganache. And some fresh whipped cream and a homemade vanilla marshmallow on top and you have the perfect winter treat.
- Dominique Ansel Bakery (SOHO) – This place is known for their cronut but they serve a pretty rad, totally unique hot chocolate too. See, it has a marshmallow flower that appears to “bloom” as soon as warm liquid hits it, to reveal a chocolate truffle inside. Yup, the perfect place to go for anyone with kids.
- Squish Marshmallows (East Village) – This place is known for its over-the-top marshmallows, which come in flavors like smores and banana pudding. So, if you hardcore LOVE marshmallows, then give this place a try since the hot chocolate here will serve as a nice backdrop to their homemade marshmallows.
- Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery (West Village) – Brought to you by acclaimed pastry chef Umber Ahmad, this place whips up (pun intended) a truly classic hot chocolate that is made with Valrhona chocolate and steamed milk and served with a toasted, homemade vanilla bean marshmallow on top. So stinking; good.
3. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Another one of the best things to do in NYC in winter is visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s located on Fifth Avenue, right across the street from Rockefeller Center, and is easily one of the best and most iconic churches in the city.
So even if you stop by for just a few minutes since churches aren’t your thing, do take some time to walk through this Cathedral and admire the exquisite, neo-Gothic architecture here.
Because this place was first built in 1878 for a hefty sum of $2 mullion and is currently the largest Catholic Church in the United States.
And some of the church’s most important features that you might want to look at include a Louis Tiffany altar, a 7000-pipe organ, and a Charles Connick’s Rose Window.
Plus, there’s even a creepy basement crypt here where people like Pierre Toussaint (a famous advocate for the poor and the first African American to become eligible for sainthood) are buried.
And although there are infrequent walk-in guided tours of the church available, I highly recommend doing this joint tour of 5th Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Not only are tickets just $35 per person, but you’ll embark on a personal, hour-long tour of Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center and even enjoy Fastpass admission to the church itself before doing a self-guided audio tour of the building. Yup, just another one of the best things to do in NYC in winter.
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm.
How to Get There: Take the M train to 53rd street station and walk from there.
4. Ring in the New Year
Celebrating New Year’s Eve in New York is easily one of the best things to do in NYC in winter. And although I definitely wouldn’t recommend spending the holiday in Times Square (it’s awful) there are definitely a ton of other fun things for you to do in the city that never sleeps.
You could always go the traditional route and opt for a VERY expensive pre-fixe dinner at top restaurants across the city (most include an appetizer, entree, dessert, and drinks or an open bar. Bar Boulud and Carbone are two good options) while counting down the minutes until the ball drops.
Conversely, you could go always go a more alternative route and try:
- Enjoying Fireworks at Prospect Park
- Do the New York Road Runners Midnight Run
- Do Some New Year’s Eve Yoga at Laughing Lotus
- Attend the Naked Show
- Watch the Poetry Project’s Marathon Reading
- Catch a Show at a Comedy Club
- Attend a New Year’s Concert at St. John the Divine
- See Phish at Medison Square Garden
- And more! For the full deets, read this post here.
Yes, there are so many fun things to do in winter in NYC and so little time so be sure to choose wisely.
Pro Tip: Please do not watch the ball drop in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. Not only will you have to stand in the freezing cold for 12+ hours (the streets in the area routinely close off at noon or earlier), but it’s super crowded, hard to go to the bathroom, and just not a lot of fun. I promise they are many other infinitely more fun things to do in NYC in winter.
5. Watch the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall
Not sure about the best things to do in NYC in winter? Then why not check out these dancing ladies of awesome? They are known as the Rockettes and their nigh-kicks on the stage of Radio City Music Hall have made them famous the world over.
Yes, I have seen these high-kicking dancers a time or two in my life, and their show is a great way to kick off (pun intended) the holiday season in NYC.
Now, is the show the best thing I have ever seen? No, but it’s a whole lot of fun and perfect for children. It also provides you with a fantastic opportunity to see the stunning art deco interior of Radio City Music Hall without doing a formal tour.
Also, it’s not overly Christmasy (when I saw it there was a nativity scene at the end but that’s about it) so people from a variety of different faiths can easily enjoy the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
The parade of the wooden soldiers is also super cool to see and a real highlight of any performance.
Pro Tip: Book your tickets now since this show is popular and regularly sells out well before Christmas. Also, if you’ve seen the Rockettes before, you really don;t have to see them again since the show doesn’t change all that much from year to year.
Address: Radio City Music Hall at 1260 Avenue of Americas, New York, New York
Hours: The show is around ninety minutes long and runs from November through early January, with performances sometimes daily at 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 8:00 pm. For information on exact times, visit this website now.
Price: Tickets range in price from $49 to $225 per person. (You may be able to get discounted tickets through TodayTix and Groupon)
How to Get There: You can easily walk from Tines Square since it’s only about 7-minutes away.
6. Catch a Broadway Show
New York’s Broadway is famous as one of the best theater districts across the world and Christmas brings a whole new persona to the area. Here you will find all the best themed musicals and plays in the best theaters that the city has to offer.
It can’t get better than this right? Oh but it can! While everyone else is walking through the frigid breeze and clammy snow, you will be nice and toasty indoors! It is definitely one of the top recommended things to do in NYC in winter.
Pro tip: I advise checking out the schedules beforehand. That way you can head straight to the theater of your choice without plowing through the winter slush. Why is it important? Well because Broadway is huge! It runs the entire length of Manhattan and you really don’t want to keep walking up and down in the cold now do you?
Hours: Open daily
Price: Dependent on the show and theater.
7. See the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center
One of the best things to do in NYC in winter is enjoy a special performance of The Nutcracker by the always incredible New York Ballet Company at the David Hi. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center.
Not only will this show instantly transport you back to your childhood, but it’s a truly magical production that traces its origins back to 1892.
So, grab your tickets today to see a complex theatrical performance and an immortal staged ballet that includes a variety of dances/characters that we all know and love.
Because in total, 62 musicians, 90 dancers, and 125 children work together to seamlessly bring Tschaikovsky’s music to life and create the production of a lifetime.
Additionally, intricate sets and awe-inspiring lighting help illuminate popular elements of the show, like a Christmas Tree that grows from 12 feet to 41 feet, the Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy, Mother Ginger (the costume weighs 85 pounds and is nine feet wide), the Snowflake Waltz, and more.
Pro Tip: Not sure where to eat either before or after the show? Try some of my fave restaurants in the area like P.J. Clarke’s (great burgers), The Smith, Lincoln Restaurante (Italian place right in Lincoln Center), Cafe Fiorello (try the pizza bolognese), and Rosa’s Mexicana (orde the guacamole/queso fundido).
Address: David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, United States
Hours: The season runs from the end of November through the beginning of January and performances are held almost daily at either 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm. The first act is roughly 49 minutes while the second act is 41 minutes.
Price: Tickets range in price from $89 to $280 per person.
How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 66th street and Lincoln Center station and walk from there.
8. Enjoy Pop Up Holiday Markets All Across The City
As you probably already guessed, once the temperature goes down and the holiday season quickly approaches, holiday/winter markets seem to pop all across the city.
So, whether you’re a total shopaholic or are just in it for the food, one of the best things to do in NYC in winter is visit one of these amazing markets.
Because not only will you encounter a sea of charming AF winter chalets that double as vendor stalls, but you’ll find a wide variety of local products, delicious foods, and decadent drinks that are eagerly waiting to be purchased.
Plus, many of these markets even have their very own skating rinks (yes Bryant Park Winter Village, I’m talking about you) where you can stop and take a spin on the ice as you admire the vibrant holiday decor all around you.
But, if you’re still not sure exactly where to go this winter in NYC, here are some of my picks for the best holiday markets in the city.
- Bryant Park Winter Village and Holiday Market
- Columbus Circle Christmas Market
- Union Square Holiday Market
- Grand Central Holiday Market
- Artists and Fleas at Chelsea Market
9. Visit The Museums
I think that winter is one of the best times of the year to visit museums and NYC is full of them. Did you know that some of the theaters like the Metropolitan museum of art are world famous? The Museum of the American Indian is another intriguing place to visit!
No matter what museum you pick, you can’t go wrong because you leave the cold outdoors and walk into the cozy warm museum interiors. It truly doesn’t matter where your interest lies. In New York City, there is literally a museum for everyone.
Pro Tip: Check out the free museum days or pay what you wish options for the museums before you select your destination. That way you can visit the museums on a budget!
10. Go Ice Skating at Bryant Park
Whether it’s winter or spring I absolutely love visiting Bryant Park at basically any time of year. That’s because it’s beautiful, the New York Public Library sits right on the perimeter of the park, and there’s a lovely classic, French-style carousel here too.
However, this park gets infinitely more awesome once the Winter Village comes to town and a dynamic array of holiday vendors set up shop here.
Add in an insanely large, 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink at the center of it all and you easily have one of the best things to do in NYC in winter.
You’ll also love that unlike the expensive AF rink in Rockefeller Center, skating here is totally free (the only free rink in the city) – unless you need to rent a pair of skates to go for a twirl on the ice.
And when you start to feel a bit chilly, you can always cozy up inside the nearby Lodge (a food hall right next to the rink) or visit the awesome observation deck on the second floor of the Skating Pavillion.
But if you’re not a huge fan of crowds, some other cool ice rinks in the city include:
- The Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
- The Rink at Brookfield Place (you can also see the luminaries here too)
- LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park
- Wollman Rink in Central Park
- The Rink at Industry City
- The William Vale
Pro Tip: Stop by the Breads Bakery kiosk here and get a loaf of Chocolate Babka. It’s easily one of my favorite foods in NYC. You can also check out the Morgan Library and Grand Central Terminal while you’re since both are within walking distance.
Address: 35 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018
Hours: The rink is open daily (once the winter village is set up) from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Price: Around $22 per hour to rent a pair of skates.
How to Get There: It’s a short walk from Times Square.
11. Visit the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History
Each winter towards the end of November, the Butterfly Conservatory comes to the American Museum of Natural History.
So, if you want to escape the cold and walk among more than 500 free-flying butterflies that take over the Whitney Hall of Oceanic Birds on the second floor of the museum, then this is one of the best things to do in NYC in winter for you.
Trust me, you’ll stand in awe of these awesome creatures as they visit a lush area of tropical plants that are kept inside a habitat that is regularly 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
You’ll also be able to spot a diverse array of butterflies that come from three of five different families of butterflies, making this one of the best things to do in winter in NYC for families.
Pro Tip: If you are a New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut resident with a valid ID, you can pay what you wish but must book tickets in advance.
Address: 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
Hours: This year the exhibition opens on November 20th and you can purchase tickets daily (except Mondays and Tuesdays) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Price: Tickets are $23 for adults, $13 for children (3-12), and $18 for seniors (60+)/sutdents with a valid ID.
How to Get There: Take the C or B train to the 81st street/Natural History Museum station and walk from there.
12. Visit Holiday Window Displays in New York City and Window Shop on Fifth Avenue
Not gonna lie, visiting the holiday window displays that pop up over the holiday season is easily one of my favorite things to do in NYC in winter.
And while they are all great, I particularly enjoy the one at Saks Fifth Avenue since it’s different every year, is usually incredibly intricate. and tells an elaborate story across six-well though-out, mechanical window displays.
Just don’t cut. the line since are usually long queues to get up close and personal with the annual window display here.
However, if you’re not in the mood to wait, you can always catch the ten-story light show that illuminates the Saks Building every 10-minutes between 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm daily throughout the holiday season.
You can also escape the crowds of Saks Fifth Avenue and check out some of the other holiday window displays in the city, like the ones at Macy’s, Barney’s, Bloomingdales, Lord and Taylor, Tiffany and Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and Henri Bendel, just to name a few.
Seriously, you could spend an entire day hopping from one holiday window to the next and experience some of the best things to do in winter in NYC.
Address: 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Hours: The window display is open twenty-four hours a day.
How to Get There: It’s only a half-mile away from Times Square so you could walk for 10-minutes or take the M-50 bus.
13. Check Out Harlem Meer in Central Park
You cannot in good conscience create a list of the best things to do in New York City in winter without mentioning Central Park. I mean, this ginormous greenspace is magical any time of year, but particularly in the winter when the area’s awesomeness is amped up with holiday lights and ice skating rinks.
However, Central Park is huge and if you try to see it all at one time, you might get a wicked awful case of frostbite, die of exhaustion, or get lost and end up on an episode of Law and Order (just kidding).
And while Wollman Rink on the southern side of the park is SUPER popular, you can escape the crowds this winter in New York City by heading to the Harlem Meer section of the park instead.
It’s located on the east side of the park, between 106th and 110th street, and features a beautiful lake since “meer” actually means “lake” in Dutch.
So, imagine a glassy lake that shimmers with the reflection of all the glistening lights that adorn the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center and you have some idea of just how awesome this place is.
Next, throw in some ice skaters and a ton of Beech and Gingko trees, and you have a remarkably beautiful part of the city that is not to be missed this winter season.
Address: Harlem Meer, Central Park
Hours: Open twenty-four hours a day, every day.
How to Get There: Take the 5/6 train to 103rd Street station or the 2/3 train to Central Park North (110th Street) and walk from there.
14. Celebrate Chinese New Year in China Town
Each year, right around the start of February (it varies from year to year), New York’s China Town neighborhood erupts with colorful dragon-filled parades, exciting street performances, and amazing traditional dances in honor of the Chinese New Year.
Additionally, you may see rogue lion dancers and vibrant fireworks displays as you inhale delicious dim sum from Nom Wah Tea Parlour, aka one of the places you must eat in NYC.
After all, it’s a holiday that is enjoyed all throughout Asia (not just in China) since the Lunar New Year is a time when people slow down, spend time with their families, honor their ancestors, and praise otherworldly deities.
So, stop by Manhattan’s Chinatown and check out the annual Chinese New Year Parade and Firecracker Ceremony since these special events are easily some of the best things to do in winter in NYC.
Pro Tip: The parade route typically goes down Mott and Canal Streets before heading down East Broadway toward the Manhattan Bridge. It then makes its way to Forsythe and Eldridge Streets in the direction of Grand Street.
15. See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Okay, I know this is more of a fall in NYC activity than a winter in NYC activity but honestly? Nothing ushers in winter in NYC quite like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
And, you know what? I think that’s true for most of the country since this event is nationally televised and immortalized in a ton of iconic and semi-iconic movies.
Although, there truly is nothing quite like watching Santa roll into Herald Square and officially start the holiday season in New York City.
So, if you want to see a supremely awesome array of bands, musical/theatrical performances, and floats in person, be sure to nab a spot along the parade route sometime before sunrise since the parade officially runs from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Thanksgiving day.
Yeah, the route is basically a 2.5-mile path that runs from 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street and Herald Square. And if you’re not a fan of crowds, do try and stay as far away from Herald Square as humanly possible.
Instead, hang out somewhere between 59th Street and 75th Street on Central Park West for the best parade viewing experience possible this winter in NYC.
Pro Tip: I never see the parade live and ALWAYS watch Macy’s blow up the parade balloons the night before. So, if you want to be like a local and see the balloons get blown up, enter at 74th Street and Columbus Avenue between 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm on Thanksgiving Eve. The area is pretty big and extends from West 77th all the way to West 81st street.
16. Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights
If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in NYC in winter then do not miss the Dyker Heights Christmas lights.
And just in case you have no idea what Dyker Heights is, it’s an affluent community in Brooklyn that sets up extravagant holiday light displays that attract thousands of visitors each year from across the country.
Yeah, we’re talking next-level awesome Christmas lights that can cost upwards of $20,000 to create. So, stop by this neighborhood any time after Thanksgiving and enjoy a wide array of animatronic reindeer, angels, soldiers, angels, and more.
Now, the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights can typically be seen anywhere from 11th to 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th Streets. However, this place is NOT super close to Manhattan will take about an hour to get to via subway.
Therefore, I highly recommend booking a 4-hour bus tour of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights so that you can stay warm, see as many lights as you want to without spending an hour on the subway (or getting lost), and enjoy expert commentary with all these fabulous lights displays.
Pro Tip: Book your tour tickets well in advance since they sell out quickly. But, if you choose to DIY it, dress warmly, bring a hot beverage (you’ll be outside for a while), and consider grabbing something to eat at one of the restaurants on 3rd, 4th, or 5th avenue.
Fun Fact: This obsession with Christmas lights started back in the 1980s when residents here decided to compete to see who would have the ultimate Christmas lights display in the area.
Address: From 83rd St. to 86th St. between Eleventh Ave. and Thirteenth Ave, in Dyker Heights Brooklyn.
Hours: Lights come on after sundown (best seen between 5 pm and 9 pm), daily, from late November through early January (if you go after December 25th, it will be a lot less crowded).
Price: Free, unless you do the tour which is around $56 per person.
How to Get There: Take the D train from Rockefeller Center to 71st Street station and walk from there.
17. Watch Winter Jazzfest
Starting in 2005 as a small, one-day event, Winter Jazzfest has quickly become an integral part of the winter season in New York City.
That’s why the event is now a week-long spectacular that features performances, in a variety of different locations, from more than 700 different artists on ten different stages.
In particular, the Friday and Saturday night performances are extra special and are not to be missed if you happen to be in New York City around the second week of January.
Therefore, if you love jazz and want to enjoy live performances from established artists, as well as vibrant newcomers, then add Jazzfest to your list of the best things to do in winter in NYC.
Added bonus? The festival also has a wide array of free seminars that are open to the public and that cover important topics like social justice, mental health, the jazz community, etc.
18. Enjoy Fashion Week
If you’re a fashionista of even the smallest measure then run, don’t walk to New York Fashion Week. Because this semi-annual event lasts for between 7 and 9 days in September and February and routinely showcases collections from some of the greatest designers in the world.
So, if you’re looking for some of the best things to do in New York City in winter and love clothes, then stop by NYC in February to see some of the world’s greatest models strut their stuff.
Now sadly, the fashion shows themselves are invite-only (a no-go for us mere mortals). But, there is still a ton of excitement in the air and plenty of public events that are hosted at venues like Lincoln Center and Bryant Park.
Parties also routinely pop up all across the city so who knows, you might be able to snag a highly coveted invite to one. If not though, you can always attend several panels that examine the future of fashion and various other topics that are related to the industry.
19. Take Advantage of Restaurant Week
Foodies of the world rejoice because this is one of the best things to do in winter in NYC for you! See, Restaurant Week is a magical time of year (usually in June/July or early January) when diners can enjoy insane discounts at some of the finest restaurants in the city.
Now, restaurant week deals typically consist of two or three-course pre-fixe menus that are offered at participating restaurants on select days of the week for either lunch or dinner (or both).
Menus cost either $21, $39, or $125 per person for new, Signature Dining Experiences.
However, not every restaurant in the city participates in this event (you know, just 300 or so) so definitely do your research and figure out exactly what your dream eateries are offering.
You’ll also want to book a table as far in advance as possible since this event is super popular and tables at top restaurants routinely fill up fast (Reservations open up on the website about 2 weeks before the event starts but lunch reservations for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are always easier to get).
But, for the most up-to-date info possible, keep your eye on the official website since details for the winter event are routinely released in mid-November.
Pro Tip: There is also a New York Hotel Week that typically runs for 10 days throughout the first and second weeks of January. Like restaurant week, you can get unbelievable deals on rooms at participating hotels for between $100 and $400 per night. FYI, Broadway Week (where you get two tickets for the price of one) is also typically held around this time of year during either the last week of January or the first week of February.
20. Uncover Hidden Treasures at the Indoor Brooklyn Flea
Any New Yorker worth their salt knows that one of the best things to do in NYC in winter is to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea in Chelsea (aka Chelsea Flea).
Sure, this place is better known for its sprawling outdoor summer markets that are brimming over with rad antiques, vintage clothes, and old-school records that local New Yorkers love.
But, Brooklyn Flea has become SO popular that the market now moves indoors for the winter so that shoppers can browse merchandise from more than 60 different vendors without hardcore freezing to death.
So, stop by on any Saturday or Sunday you like and haggle your way to flea market shopping nirvana as you hunt for buried treasure and take a hidden gem or two home with you.
Plus, you’ll love that New York’s beloved Smorgasburg now has an outpost here so that you can enjoy some of the best food and drinks in NYC as you shop til you drop like a boss.
Address: 29 W 25th St, New York, NY 10010
Hours: Open Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Price: Depends on what you buy.
How to Get There: Take the R/W train to 28th Street Station or the F/M train to 23rd Street station and walk from there.
21. Admire the Christmas Decor at Rolf’s
If you’re looking for things to do in winter in NYC that will help get you into the Christmas spirit then be sure to stop by this old-world German restaurant near Gramercy Park.
Because while you might think this place is known for its delicious cuisine, it’s actually famous for its totally insane Christmas decor – vibrant Christmas baubles, ornaments, twinkling lights, and strands of garland that typically emerge towards the end of November and stay up through May every year.
So, attempt to step inside in December and you might just wish you had a pair of sunglasses – it’s that bright.
Pro Tip: Visit at an off time during the week (the crowds are insane) and skip the food. Just grab a drink at the bar and enjoy the epic Christmas baubles all around you. My personal faves are the warm mulled wine, the spiked apple cider, and the Holiday Martini (Bailey’s Vodka, Godiva liqueur).
Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010
Hours: Open daily from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
Price: Entrees start at $25.00 each.
How to Get There: Take the 6/R/W train to 23rd Street Station and walk from there.
22. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show
Another of the many best things to do in New York City in winter is to check out the New York City Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show.
After all, it’s been a staple of the New York holiday season for the past 30+ years since creator Paul Busse first started it way back when.
So, be sure to stop by and see these pint-sized trains as they whizz by on a half-mile-long track that takes them past more than 150 scaled-down versions of NYC’s most immortal structures – a track that has been beautifully bedazzled with all sorts of sparkly holiday lights.
You’ll also love that artist tries to intertwine a wealth of natural materials, like twigs and barks and leaves, into the exhibit since, helo, this is the botanical gardens.
Whatever you do though, don’t forget to look up so that you can catch some aerial trains chugging by just overhead. Also, definitely book your tickets well in advance since this is a popular event among families in NYC and sells out quickly.
Pro Tip: The Bronx Zoo is also nearby and has a fantastic outdoor, winter lights display (starting around Thanksgiving and running through the holiday season) that the kids will love.
Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard Bronx, NY 10458-5126
Hours: The show typically runs daily from the last week of November through the last week of January. Times vary but they are typically open 9:30 am to 4:00 pm daily.
Price: Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors (65+)/students with valid ID, $18 for children (2-12), and free for anyone under 2. Book your tickets now!
How to Get There: Take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd. Station. From the station exit, take the B26 bus east to the Botanical Garden’s Mosholu Entrance.
Map of the Best Things to do in Winter in NYC
Additional New York Travel Resources You’ll Love
- Best Things to do in Chelsea, NYC
- Best Grocery Stores in Manhattan
- Best Christmas Lights in NYC
- Coolest Museums in NYC
- Best Things to do on the Upper East Side