New York City In Winter

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Many cities in the Northern United States tend to lie dormant through the winter months, but during this time ‘The Big Apple’ comes alive, filled with new opportunities in each corner of the city. The holiday season brings stunning decorations to all of the city’s landmarks, from Rockefeller Center to the top of the Empire State Building. As the snow falls, and the ponds freeze over, people of all ages race to Central Park to take advantage of winter in New York City, racing down steep hillsides in sleds.

For others who try to avoid the winter chill, holiday shows like the Rockettes or the Nutcracker tempt them to venture across down to join in the festive activities, while some take time to admire the impressive art at some of the most famous museums in the world. With Christmas looming, the Macy’s Day Parade starts the engines for shoppers eager to rush down the prestigious 5th Avenue, and shortly after all the presents have been opened, it’s time to count down the last moments of the year at Times Square. Whatever your pleasure in winter, New York City is well-equipped to prevent you from getting cabin fever. Check these out.

Winter In New York City

20 Things To Do In New York In Winter

1- Enjoy Ice Skating At Rockefeller Center Plaza

Christmas Tree Lighting At Rockefeller Center
Admiring the breathtaking Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center things to do in New York in the winter.

When the holiday season sweeps across New York City, people head straight to the heart of the celebrations, to catch their first glimpse of the beautiful decorations in the iconic Rockefeller Center Plaza.

In 1931, during the height of the Great Depression, the first Christmas tree was erected in this plaza, and when several workers decided to pool their money together to light the tree.

They adorned it with makeshift decorations, giving birth to a New York City winter tradition that still continues today.

Five years after the first Christmas tree was lighted, an ice rink was opened just below, inviting guests to frolic in this winter wonderland.


Since then countless onlookers have ventured upon the ice, eager to partake in this magical experience.

As they dash across the rink under the glow of the thousands of lights, carving swirling lines back and forth, the golden statue of Prometheus seems to look down on them from above in awe of their joyful celebrations.

You can still take part in this symbolic tradition of winter in New York City by renting skates and braving the crowds, or simply watch the skaters, surrounded by the stunning Christmas lights, and historic buildings from long ago.

The ice rink at Rockefeller Center Plaza is at: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, between 49th and 50th Streets.

2- Watch The Ball Drop In Times Square

Family Of Father And Little Kids On Times Square
Times Square in wintertime in New York.

Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, millions of people from around the world keep their eyes fixed on one magical illuminated ball high above Times Square.

In the final seconds, spectators on the streets countdown loudly as the ball slowly drops just a little lower each time.

When it strikes zero, an explosion of enthusiasm rushes across the crowds, as they sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and turn to kiss their loved ones.

Total strangers smile at each other, wishing each other a Happy New Year, while loads of confetti rain down from above.

In the hours before the ball drops, famous musicians perform songs to thrilled onlookers, surrounded by enormous colourful billboards blasting light from above.

As people dance with joy, dreaming about the year ahead, they also spend time remembering the best moments from times past.

Being in Times Square at any time of year feels like standing in the centre of the world.

It gives you the feeling of unlimited possibilities because if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

Recommended tour: NYC Night Bus Tour from Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge

3- Go Sledding In Central Park

Ice Skaters Having Fun In New York Central Park In Winter
Ice skaters having fun in Central Park during a New York winter.

The landscapes of Central Park are stunning at all times of the year, but when heavy winter storms blanket New York City with over six inches of snow, the city opens Central Park to one of the nation’s favourite pastimes, sledding.

There’s a bit of debate on whether Pilgrim Hill or Cedar Hill provides the best slopes for this winter sport, so perhaps it’s best to try them both and see for yourself!

Typically, the crowds gravitate to rushing down the hillside of Pilgrim Hill, while the lower part of Cedar Hill is best for beginners and young children.

If you’re feeling a bit more courageous, the steeper part of Cedar Hill near East Drive will surely get the adrenaline pumping.

Cedar Hill can be accessed by entering the park between 76th and 79th Streets on Fifth Avenue.

Recommended tour:

4- See The Rockettes At The Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall Exterior
Radio City Music Hall, New York City in the winter.

Kicking off the beginning of the holiday season, the Rockettes’ “Christmas Spectacular” has delighted New York audiences since 1933, with charming face-paced dance numbers, a live nativity scene featuring live camels, sheep, and a donkey, and flying Santa Claus!

Beginning on November 17, these “Queens of Christmas” perform four to five shows a day.

During these performances which have become a New York City tradition, the dancers complete an impressive 160 high kicks per show, for a total of over 650 kicks a day!

This year, the Rockettes will once again perform a fan favourite, the ‘Dance of the Frost Fairies’ alongside ‘Fairy Drones’ that dance above the audience.

The ‘Christmas Spectacular’ is performed at the famous Radio City Music Hall.

It’s the largest indoor theatre in the world and provides plenty of space for the 36 incredible dancers, and their elaborate stage sets.

Radio City Music Hall is at 1260 6th Ave, New York.

Recommended tour: Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour

5- Enjoy The Nutcracker At Lincoln Center

Enchanting New York City audiences since 1954, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker transports attendees into a magical fairy tale world, telling the story of a family’s joyful celebrations on Christmas Eve.

This cherished event astonishes guests with perfectly synchronized ballet dances, elegant costumes, and a musical score sure to bring everyone into the holiday spirit.

Over five million people worldwide have come to New York City in winter to enjoy Tchaikovsy’s timeless ballet, divided into two acts.

The performance takes place inside the stunning David H Koch Theater, which in itself is a masterpiece of architectural design.

Serving as the cultural heart of New York, the Lincoln Center also houses the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, the Philharmonic Orchestra, and the New York City Ballet.

David H. Koch Theater is at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023.

Recommended tour: Broadway Theaters and Times Square with a Theater Professional

6- Feel The Excitement Of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Every Thanksgiving, thousands of people flood the streets eager to find the perfect spot to watch the Macy’s Day Parade, a New York winter tradition dating back to 1924.

For over three hours, the parade marches through Manhattan presenting a variety of enormous character balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns, and performance groups.

The best place to catch the Macy’s Day Parade is along Central Park West where the excitement begins.

The parade kicks off at 12 pm so be sure to arrive in advance to beat the crowds.

Macy’s Day Parade begins from Central Park West and 77th Street, New York.

7- Find The Perfect Gift On 5th Avenue

Known for being the most expensive street in the world, 5th Avenue offers flagship stores for Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Apple, Versace, Cartier, and Saks Fifth Avenue.

It’s also the place to find the perfect gift for someone special during the holidays.

Also known as Millionaire’s Row due to the number of mansions that were constructed here in the early 20th century, this elite shopping district of New York City can be found between 49th Street and 60th Street.

With wide sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly areas, it’s hard to not get swept up in all the buzz.

It’s not all about luxury designer brands either as 5th Avenue caters to a range of shoppers.

During the holidays you can find discounts on all sorts of products, and even just window shopping as you stroll down the street is a blast.

Recommended tour: Private Walking Tour: 5th Avenue and the Gilded Age Mansions

8- Line Up For The Chinese New Year Parade

Chinese New Year Parade
Chinese New Year Parade in New York in the winter time.

Ringing in the Lunar New Year with a bang, the Chinese New Year Parade and Festival celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring with colourful costumes, giant dragon dancing, martial arts performers and plenty of fireworks.

The parade takes place in the heart of Chinatown, where hundreds of thousands of onlookers line the streets in anticipation.

The event carries on for several hours, presenting a dizzying array of floats, and visually stunning dancers.

The next best thing about the Chinese New Year Parade is the 200 food vendors lining the parade route.

With so many delicious options, you are sure to find something great to eat while you’re watching the festivities.

The events begin at 1 pm, but be sure to arrive early if you’re looking for a front-row seat to all the fun.

The Chinese New Year Parade begins at Mott and Canal to Chatham Square, New York City.

Recommended tour: Chinatown and Little Italy Tour in New York City with Local Expert

9- Catch A Musical On Broadway

Broadway Street Sign In New York City USA
Broadway, New York City in winter.

When winter’s icy grip takes hold of New York City, the world-renowned theatrical shows on Broadway offer wonderful solutions to escaping the cold, filled with fantastic live performances and musicals.

As the longest street in the city, the opportunities seem almost endless.

With award-winning sets, elaborate costumes, and the most talented stars in the entertainment industry, you will surely be captivated by the excitement.

The variety of shows suits people of all ages.

Musicals such as The Lion King, Chicago, Cats, and Les Misérables have drawn the most attention from large audiences while the lesser-known shows introduce theatre-goers into a world of the unexpected, shedding light onto stories many have come to love.

Whatever your tastes, you are sure to find something to watch between the 41 different Broadway theatres.

The hardest part may be deciding which one is the best.

Broadway Theatre is at 1681 Broadway, New York.

Recommended tour: Broadway Theaters and Times Square with a Theater Professional

10- Wander Among Christmas Lights At The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The warm glow of Christmas lights is one of the most memorable parts of the holidays, bringing wonder and joy to people of all ages.

On selected nights from November 17 through January 1, Brooklyn Botanic Garden presents Lightscape, an illuminated trail one-mile trail that winds through the park featuring over one million colourful lights set to music, created by local and international artists.

For several years, the tunnel of lights called the Cathedral, and the many candles of the Fire Garden, have been the favourite spots for most spectators.

This season, even more spectacles join the route including Supernova which features a 24-foot-high illuminated Moravian star, and the Chandelier Walk with a dazzling array of lights hanging from above.

To keep warm during this luminescent adventure, food vendors along the trail offer hot cocoa, hot cider, mulled wine, cookies and other treats.

Unlike traditional Christmas decorations, the trees and plants in the garden radiate brilliant colours in every direction, creating an otherworldly experience.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s main entrance is at 150 Eastern Parkway, New York and 455 Flatbush Avenue.

11- Gaze Over Snowy Manhatten From The Empire State Building

New York City - Manhattan Skyline At Winter Sunset
The Manhattan skyline in winter in New York.

As one of New York City’s most iconic structures, the Empire State Building towers 381 metres above Manhattan, and during the winter, visitors and residents love seeing the tower lit up at night with holiday colours for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Completed in 1931 after only 13 months, it was once the tallest building in the world for over 40 years.

The stunning Modernist Art Deco design gives the building a distinct look, and in 2019, an enclosed observatory was added on the 102nd floor, providing breathtaking 360° views of ‘The Big Apple’ without having to brave the windy and frigid weather conditions outside during the winter months.

From November 28 through December 30, the Fifth Avenue Lobby entrance is beautifully decorated with holiday lights, wreaths, and a lavish Christmas tree, while professional pianists play festive tunes.

On the 86th-floor observatory, you can get wonderful photos with wintry decorations, and the city skyline in the background.

Empire State Building is at 20 W 34th St., New York. Skip the lines and buy your tickets online here.

12- Listen To Some Great Music During The Winter Jazzfest

In the middle of January when winter seems the bleakest, the Winter Jazzfest brightens up the scene, filling the air with live music in every corner of the city.

Celebrating its 20th year, the event hosts over 500 musicians from around the world ready to bring some holiday cheer.

The artists featured from January 10 to 18 present the full spectrum of jazz styles including contemporary, hip-hop, experimental, and classic jazz.

There are marathon events in Manhattan on Friday 13 and Brooklyn on Saturday 14 from 6 pm to 3 am, allowing you to catch several great performances with different genres in multiple places.

Visit the Winter Jazzfest website to find out more about the specific artists and venue locations.

If you’ve come down with a case of the winter blues, the Winter Jazz Fest is surely the cure you are looking for.

Winter Jazz venues can be found throughout the city including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Harlem.

13- Explore The Chelsea Market

During the holidays, Chelsea Market comes to life.

The long corridors with high ceilings are covered head to toe with Christmas lights and large crowds of people gather to shop looking through books, clothing, and decorations.

in the heart of New York’s famous meatpacking district, the market once housed a cookie factory.

In fact, the famous Oreo cookies were invented here!

The lower level offers meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables that have become of staple of New Yorkers’ diets.

If you have worked up an appetite shopping, there are plenty of restaurants with a variety of dishes to satisfy, including a seafood stand offering delicious lobster sandwiches.

Chelsea Market is at 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011.

Recommended tour: Chelsea Market and High Line Food Tour by Like A Local Tours

14- Try Some Delicious Food During Restaurant Week

From January 16 to February 4, the best restaurants in New York City roll out the red carpet for diners looking to try some of the city’s best dishes at affordable prices.

Back in 1992, Tim Zagat and Joe Baum came up with the idea as a way to attract and delight guests and journalists visiting for the Democratic Convention.

With monumental success, the phenomenon spread throughout the country.

The cultural diversity in New York City adds to the appeal of Restaurant Week, offering up Italian, Asian, Latin, and Classic American plates.

You will even find incredible deals at steakhouses and grills offering fresh seafood.

Discover all the participating restaurants and make reservations in advance so you don’t miss you on the delicious treats during this fantastic event.

15- Cosy Up On Holiday Cruise

What better way to see the New York City skyline in winter than aboard a luxury yacht from the 1920s? Add in some jazz, Christmas carols, and hot cocoa, and you have the perfect recipe for a wonderful holiday cruise.

As you sit comfortably in the heated observation cabin tastefully adorned with Christmas decorations, the boat takes you on a 90-minute tour presenting spectacular night-time views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

While taking in the sights, the jazz bands play famous Christmas Carols as you enjoy warm hot cocoa and handmade Christmas cookies.

Inside this cosy and intimate atmosphere, your holiday spirit is sure to come alive.

The New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise departs from Pier 62 in Manhattan daily.

16- Learn Something New At The American Museum Of Natural History

Containing over 34 million objects, specimens, and artefacts you are sure to learn something new and intriguing at the American Museum of Natural History, and it’s a great way to keep warm on the colder days in the city.

The brightly lit and spacious Fossil Halls are a great way to examine the skeletal remains of a variety of dinosaurs, and even stand face-to-face with a T-Rex!

If you’re here to see animals from recent history, explore the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, where you will discover a 29-metre replica of a blue whale hanging overhead, among other great examples of aquatic life.

The museum also takes you on a tour of our universe inside the planetarium of the Rose Center.

Unlock the mysteries of space with a variety of stellar exhibits, or ponder the size of the massive 15.

5-ton Willamette Meteor that landed in Oregon 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The American Museum of Natural History is at 200 Central Park West, New York. Skip the lines and reserve your museum tickets here.

17- Be Amazed By The View On Top Of One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center Building Observatory
One World Trade Center Building is a must-visit even when winter ends in New York.

As the tallest building in the United States, standing at an astounding 541 metres above the busy Manhattan streets, One World Trade Center provides truly breathtaking views of ‘The Big Apple’ from above.

During the holiday season, the observation deck that sits atop a 104-story skyscraper comes alive with Christmas activities.

During the weekends, you even have the opportunity to visit with Santa, or get your photo taken while riding in his reindeer sleigh!

One World Trade Center is at 285 Fulton St, New York.

18- Take The Ferry Out To Ellis Island And See The Statue Of Liberty

New York, Statue of Liberty, Financial District
The Statue of Liberty in New York in winter.

The Statue of Liberty is more than America’s more prolific symbol of freedom.

It also represents welcoming arms to those who ventured across the seas in search of new opportunities, and at the Ellis Island Museum, you can learn more about their first steps into a brave new world.

From Battery Park in New York City, you can take the ferry to both sites and spend as much time as you please and head back to the mainland when you are finished.

Entry to both islands is free.

On Liberty Island, you take pictures of the Statue of Liberty from various angles and learn more about its unique history from great exhibits, see the original torch housed inside, and take in the incredible views from various levels.

At the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, you can ponder the voyage to America through various artefacts that chronicle immigration to the U.S. from the 16th century until modern times.

The wonderfully restored buildings help you imagine what it was really like to arrive in New York ready to begin a new life.

Ellis Island departs from Battery Park, New York.

Recommended tours:

19- Admire The Wonderful Exhibits At the Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Metropolitan Museum Of Art In New York City
Metropolitan Museum Of Art has lots of winter activities in New York.

Containing 1.5 million pieces of art from around the world over 5,000 years, you could spend days wandering through the exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art (MET) and never cover it all.

Inside you can discover artefacts ranging from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times through many centuries of European art, up to modern and contemporary works.

The collection of Asian art is among one of the favourite wings of the museum.

The MET is considered one of the largest and most impressive museums in the world, and planning your visit is essential to finding what interests you the most during your visit.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 5th Ave, New York.

Recommended tour: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum Guided Tour

20- Watch A Knicks Or Rangers Game At Madison Square Garden

With the level of enthusiasm and energy that New Yorkers bring to sporting events and concerts, it’s hard to imagine a more exciting venue than Madison Square Garden to escape the winter chill.

Originally opened in 1968, it supplies seating for 20,000 guests on five floors, and since it’s right in the middle of Manhatten, many sports fans have easy access to games by taking a quick taxi or subway ride.

Madison Square Garden is the oldest arena in the NBA and serves as the home to both the New York Knicks and Rangers.

During the holiday season, it’s a great way to have some fun with family and friends amongst a very lively local crowd.

Madison Square Garden is at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001, United States.

Recommended tour: Madison Square Garden All Access Tour

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Grant Doremus
Grant Doremus is a freelance writer from the United States, eager to share his travel experiences and knowledge about some of the best destinations in the world. He grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, and after a successful career in finance, he decided to chase his dreams of becoming a digital nomad. As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast he went on a road trip across the U.S. visiting 26 states, exploring most of the country's national parks, and climbing some of the highest peaks in the country. After a year on the road, he headed to Europe where he backpacked through 10 countries before finally settling in Spain. Grant loves to write about Spanish culture, its rich history, and traditions. His favourite destination so far is Mallorca, but he hasn’t finished his travels just yet!