10 Things to do in New York City in the Winter

If you're visiting New York in winter, make sure you take advantage of the unique experiences the city has to offer in the colder months - here's a list of my favourites!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

17 min read

10 Things to do in New York City in the Winter

Ice skating in Bryant Park | ©Hellotickets

Travelling to New York in winter? It's a very special season when you can do a lot of great things both indoors and outdoors. Check out these 10 things to do in winter in New York and don't miss these tips to keep you from freezing.

1. Get pumped for the NBA

Madison Square Garden| ©Hellotickets
Madison Square Garden| ©Hellotickets

Whether it's because basketball is your passion or because you want to experience the atmosphere and the madness that this sport awakens in New York, you can't leave without enjoying the best basketball league in the world in person. So, don't hesitate and book your NBA ticket.

Even if you don't like the sport! Attending an NBA game at Madison Square Garden is one of the most fascinating experiences you have to have in the United States. And if you travel to New York in the winter, you'll be sure to see a game in the middle of the season- you'll have a blast! It's a true spectacle of music, dancing, partying and above all, sport, of course.

Nicknamed "The World's Most Famous Coliseum", Madison Square Garden is located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. It is a colossal indoor arena known for being the home of the New York Knicks (NBA) and the New York Rangers (NHL). Want to experience the magic of the legendary MSG? Here's how to get tickets in a jiffy.

How to buy NBA tickets?

If you have already planned your winter getaway to New York and want to include an NBA game in your agenda, my advice is to buy your tickets online from home before you cross the pond. Demand is extremely high, so tickets are bound to sell out quickly.

The American ticket market is dynamic, which means that prices go up as the date of the game approaches and supply decreases. If you wait too long, you run the risk of running out of tickets or having few tickets available at a high price and in sectors with less spectacular visibility. In addition, by booking online you can choose your preferred seat in the stadium yourself.

  • Where: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (Seventh Avenue between W. 31st and W. 33rd Streets).
  • How to get there: You can get there by underground at 34th St. Penn Station (lines A, B, C, 1, 2 and 3) and by bus on the M4, M10, M16, M34 and Q32 lines.

Book NBA tickets

2. Free admission to MoMA on Fridays

The MoMA Gallery| ©Dan / Flickr.com
The MoMA Gallery| ©Dan / Flickr.com

If your travel plans didn't include seeing a museum, but the winter weather is against you, I recommend that you don't get cold and take advantage of MoMA's Free Friday Nights to visit the world's most important gallery of modern and contemporary art for free.

If you are trying to adjust your budget during your trip, this is a good opportunity to take a tour of this museum without having to pay a dollar. Plus, you'll get to see a place of cultural identity and great prestige for Americans. Also, if it doesn't coincide with this day of the week, you can also book your ticket for the MoMA without queuing.

Where to get tickets for MoMA's Free Friday Nights?

The line for these free tickets is located at the 54th Street entrance to the museum. It gives you access to all of MoMA's exhibitions and galleries. During Free Friday Nights, MoMA is open from 4PM to 8PM. Since time is limited, my advice is to focus on the fourth and fifth floors, which is where the works of the most famous artists such as Pollock, Cézanne, Warhol or Matisse are located.

If you are an art enthusiast, maybe these four hours of free access are not enough to take your time to see the vast collection of works of art signed by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Vincent Van Gogh or Andy Warhol, among many others.

In case you're still hungry for more modern art and want to spend hours and hours in its rooms, I recommend you get a skip-the-line ticket to MoMA, where you'll get immediate access to the museum and its more than 100,000 pieces of painting, prints, sculpture, photography, drawings, design, film, architecture and prints. Plus, with this ticket you can also enter MoMA PS1, the contemporary art centre in Long Island City, for 14 days following your visit to the Manhattan location.

  • Where: MoMA is located on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.
  • When: Open from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM daily. Fridays from 10:30 AM to 8 PM, with Free Friday Nights from 4 PM to 8 PM.
  • To learn more: check out this article on how to visit the MoMa.

Book your ticket for the MoMa without queues

3. Climb up to the One World Observatory

Views from the One World Observatory| ©Hellotickets
Views from the One World Observatory| ©Hellotickets

If you're not afraid of heights and you want to see the city from a bird's eye view, you should climb the One World Observatory, the highest observation deck in New York at 386.5 metres. Unlike other observation decks such as Top of the Rock or The Edge, this observatory does not have an outdoor area from which to view the city, which in the dead of winter in New York is an advantage, as you can enjoy the beautiful views of the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty without the freezing wind freezing your eyelashes off and leaving the place freezing cold.

One World Observatory is located on the top floors of the One World Trade Center skyscraper, from 100 to 102. The modern design of this Ground Zero observation deck allows you to see up to 80 kilometres in all directions and from here you'll have 360º views of New York in all its splendour.

If you like modern architecture and skyscrapers like me, you're going to love this experience. It starts from the very moment you enter the lift, which is covered with LED panels that show you the development of New York from its origins. In just 47 seconds!

  • Where: Located at 285 Fulton Street.
  • Opening hours: One World Observatory is open daily from 9am to 8pm.

Book your ticket for One World Observatory

4. Ice skating in New York

Ice skating in Bryant Park| ©Hellotickets
Ice skating in Bryant Park| ©Hellotickets

What to do outdoors when the temperatures drop in the Big Apple?Go ice skating, of course! Whether as a couple, with friends or as a family, it's an unforgettable experience to do in New York in winter and a great place to take fun pictures.Which ice rinks do I recommend you visit in New York?

Wollman Rink in Central Park

This ice rink located in the southeast corner of Central Park is the most famous and cinematic. In my opinion, the sensation of skating on Wollman Rink is unparalleled, as you have the beautiful winter landscape of the park on one side and the views of the mythical skyscrapers in the background. In fact, gliding across the ice will make you feel like you're part of one of the many Christmas movies that have been filmed here.

  • Where: You'll find it just a two-minute walk from the entrance to Central Park South, between 59th Street and Sixth Avenue.
  • When: Usually open from late November through March or even April.
  • Price: Depending on the day of the week, between $12 and $19 (approximately €11.20 and €17.70). Skate rentals are extra if you need them.

The Rink at Bryant Park

Don't let the cold get you down! Head to the Bank of America Winter Village for ice skating at The Rink, a large, free ice rink open from late October to early January. It's also home to an iconic Christmas market filled with decorative items, souvenirs and gourmet delights - how can you resist the hot chocolate from Ice Bites?

And if you're travelling to New York in winter, you'll have the opportunity to attend the Bryant Park Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the acrobatic skaters' show as they perform to music. Afterwards, The Rink opens to the public as Lincoln Center musicians play live jazz.

  • Where: Located on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
  • When: The Rink is open from 8am to 10pm from late October to early March / The Rink is open Monday to Friday from 11am to 8pm and weekends from 10am to 8pm.
  • Price: Admission is free (you will have to pay to rent skates if you don't bring them with you).

Rockefeller Rink at Rockefeller Plaza

When winter arrives in New York, one of the most traditional plans is to go ice skating at Rockefeller Rink in Rockefeller Plaza.

There are many options in New York and this may be one of the most typical ones, but because of the long lines and small size, it's not one of my favourites. However, if you want to live this typical winter experience in New York, in a rink as emblematic as Rockefeller Rink, you can check all the information on the Rockefeller Center website.

  • Where: 45 Rockefeller Plaza.
  • When: Normally open from late November to March.
  • Price: Depending on the season, between $25 and $35 (approximately €23 and €32 depending on what level the exchange rate is). Skate rental, if you need it, is extra.
  • To know more: Rockefeller Center has a lot to offer visitors. Check out this Top of the Rock article to find out more.

Book tickets for Top of the Rock

5. Celebrate Chinese New Year in Chinatown

Decorate for the New Year in Chinatown| ©Hellotickets
Decorate for the New Year in Chinatown| ©Hellotickets

A very special time to visit Chinatown is in winter, when the Chinese New Year, the most important holiday in Chinese culture, is celebrated. Although it usually takes place in February, the date depends on the lunar calendar.

I have been lucky enough to see it on one occasion and it is well worth it because it is celebrated in style. Every year the streets of Chinatown are decorated with lanterns to welcome a different animal and thousands of people take part in an impressive parade of floats, dragons, dances and music. A great time to book a tour of Chinatown.

It's a fun event for all ages and is attended by New Yorkers and tourists alike. So if you're going to see the New Year's Day parade, I recommend finding a cross street location where you can soak up the atmosphere and get a good view at the same time.

Where to eat?

When the parade is over, don't hesitate and go to a restaurant or food stall to enjoy the best Asian cuisine in the heart of Chinatown. If you're a foodie who loves to eat, you'll have a great time in this neighbourhood.

Book a Chinatown Tour

6. Feel the magic of Broadway

Broadway musicals| ©Hellotickets
Broadway musicals| ©Hellotickets

During a stay in New York, whatever the time of year, a must-do is to see a musical on Broadway, the famous theatre-lined boulevard that runs through the centre of Manhattan including Times Square.

Here you can see prestigious shows such as The Lion King, Chicago, Los Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Aladdin or Frozen, whose theme is very appropriate if you're travelling to New York in winter, right? In this season the snow-white city almost looks like Arendelle, the home of Elsa and Anna.

What if I don't speak English?

Some people are wary of going to the theatre in the United States because they don't speak English, but this is not a problem on Broadway, as the storyline is full of musical numbers to help you follow the plot.

However, if you are still hesitant, my advice is to go for a musical that has been made into a film such as Chicago, The Lion King, Frozen or Aladdin. If you check out the film before you travel, it will be much easier to follow because they usually have the same script. Plus, I promise you that their majestic staging and musical numbers will blow your mind - you'll love going to Broadway!

How to buy Broadway tickets?

If you want to enjoy the experience of going to a Broadway musical, the best thing to do is to buy your tickets online, because the theatres fill up and the box offices quickly hang the Sold Out sign at Christmas.

From experience I advise you to buy your tickets online as far in advance as possible to ensure you get the best seats on the date you want and at a better price than at the box office, where you will also save having to wait in endless queues.

If you wait to buy them when you are in New York, you run the risk of running out of tickets. Don't hesitate, buying your tickets online is easy, safe and fast.

Book Broadway tickets

7. Toast to your trip to New York from a rooftop!

Views from one of New York's rooftops| ©Hellotickets
Views from one of New York's rooftops| ©Hellotickets

You go to New York to have fun and after a long day of sightseeing there's nothing better than going up to one of the city's wonderful rooftops to enjoy a drink and the sunset in the best company.

One of New York's most glamorous rooftops is 230 Fifth on Fifth Avenue. It is a spectacular place with the typical modern atmosphere of the Big Apple. Outdoors it has the largest rooftop garden in the city, but inside there is a large glassed-in lounge ideal for when temperatures are low.

The views of the illuminated Empire State Building are magnificent from here, so if you don't want to give up the terrace even in winter, my advice is to book a spot in one of their igloos to stay warm and not miss out on the views of Manhattan. In addition, at night at 230 Fifth they project a beautiful light show that enlivens the magic of the moment and they provide customers with comfortable dressing gowns so they don't get cold.

  • Where: 230 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001.
  • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 2pm to 2am; Friday from 4pm to 4am; Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 2am.

Want to know more about rooftops in the Big Apple? Check out our post on the 10 best rooftops in New York.

Book tickets for the Empire State Building

8. Celebrate Valentine's Day in New York

Romantic cruise on the Hudson| ©Hellotickets
Romantic cruise on the Hudson| ©Hellotickets

February is one of the coldest months in New York, but having the opportunity to experience Valentine's Day in a different and unforgettable way is reason enough to travel to the city with your sweetheart - there are plenty of romantic plans to do!

One of them has been organised for several years in Times Square under the slogan "Love in Times Square", where several couples in love vow eternal love either by getting engaged, getting married or renewing their vows withNew York as a witness. Can you imagine being one of them?

To be among the lucky couples on 14 February, you have to register online in advance. A raffle will determine who will experience a very original Valentine's Day, an unforgettable story to tell the grandchildren!

Tribute to love in Times Square

But this isn't the only way to celebrate Valentine's Day in Times Square, as every year an interactive sculpture with a love theme is installed so that people can take some romantic photos of their trip to New York with lots of hearts in the background. And if you're looking for another romantic plan to continue the day, remember you can book a dinner cruise on the Hudson to end the day

Book a dinner cruise on the Hudson

9. Marvel at New York's Christmas window displays

The Edge shopping mall| ©Hellotickets
The Edge shopping mall| ©Hellotickets

New York is one of many travellers' dream shopping destinations -it's the shopping mecca of the USA! If all year round the city is a real magnet for fashion lovers because of the bargains to be found, at Christmas the shopping experience is taken to another level, as the shops decorate their windows with beautiful Christmas motifs to attract all eyes. And what a success they are!

For several decades now, New York's department stores have been going all out to attract our attention and surprise us with their creative offerings. For example, during the Christmas season at Macy's you can travel to the North Pole without leaving the mall. At this time of year, they recreate a winter village known as Santaland, where the kids can meet and chat with Father Christmas himself. Although this activity is free, you have to book an appointment.

To tell the truth, all the shops in New York are decked out in winter to get into the Christmas spirit. So much so that there is a Christmas window tour. So if you love shopping, I recommend you book this tour or prepare a route through the city's shop windows with a special stop at Bloomingdale's, Tiffany & Co, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fith Ave, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys or Macy's, among others. You'll be amazed! You can read more here: what to do in New York at Christmas.

10. Live St. Patrick's Day like an Irishman!

St. Patrick's Day| ©Running With Bulls
St. Patrick's Day| ©Running With Bulls

Don't forget to pack a piece of green in your suitcase if you're going to be in New York on March 17th, because that day is St. Patrick' s Day in style. The Irish community is large and the St. Patrick's Day parade is one of the oldest traditions in the USA, having been celebrated since 1762.

Although not a holiday as such, New York is a big party on St. Patrick's Day. People take to the streets to enjoy a huge parade down Fifth Avenue involving police, firemen and marching bands from 11am until it ends around 5pm.

Where to go out on St. Patrick's Day?

Hours after the St. Patrick's Day parade, the party continues in New York's bars, where people come to have a good beer in honour of Ireland's patron saint and to have a good time.

I suggest McSorley's Old Ale House, one of the oldest Irish pubs in the city, dating back to 1854. Also Peter McManus Café, another Irish pub with a lot of history that has appeared in series such as "Law and Order" or "Seinfeld". And remember to wear something green!

What else to see on this day?

On St. Patrick's Day you can also take the opportunity to visit the Empire State Building illuminated in the colour of the patron saint and St. Patrick's Cathedral, located in front of Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue. Admission to the church is free!

What is the weather like in New York in winter?

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a cold winter's day.| ©Hellotickets
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a cold winter's day.| ©Hellotickets

During this season, temperatures in New York are usually very low and it gets really cold. It can even snow in the early months of the year and the thermometer can drop below freezing. Winter occurs between 21 December and 21 March. Average temperatures range from 2°C to -6°C, although the coldest days can reach as low as -10°C. Temperatures start to rise in March but remain low, with lows of around 2°C and highs of 10°C.

Many people dread travelling to New York in winter because it's too cold outside for most interesting activities. However, I think it's a great time to see a different side of the city from what we're used to.

You just have to adapt to the circumstances of your trip for an unforgettable adventure. For example, seeing New York covered in snow is a magical experience and since it gets dark earlier you will enjoy the Big Apple lit up for much longer. The city at night is spectacular! We should always try to see the glass as half full.

Book a Brooklyn Christmas Tour

Advantages of travelling to New York in winter

Christmas decorations in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighbourhood.| ©Hellotickets
Christmas decorations in Brooklyn's Dyker Heights neighbourhood.| ©Hellotickets

If you want to travel to New York but I haven't yet convinced you to do it in winter, let me tell you about some of the advantages of visiting the Big Apple during this season. After Christmas and up until Easter is the time of year when there is less tourism in the Big Apple. This does not mean that the city is empty during these months, but there are fewer people queuing at the main tourist attractions. In addition, the low season in New York in winter makes it easier to find cheap flights to New York as well as accommodation.

And that's not all! Many tourist attractions, monuments and museums lower their prices to attract more visitors during the winter. Even most of New York's tourist cards have special offers that you can take advantage of during the rest of the year.

If you're travelling to New York in winter, from late January to early February, don't miss NYC Restaurant Week, an event that allows you to eat at New York restaurants at a lower price than usual. It's a great opportunity to discover new places and get your teeth into New York's varied cuisine.

Book a Christmas lights tour

What to wear in New York in winter?

A rainy day in Times Square| ©Hellotickets
A rainy day in Times Square| ©Hellotickets

Before you pack for your winter trip to New York , I recommend you check the weather forecast for the days of your stay at home. That way you'll be able to pack the clothes you'll really need and wear.

Winter in New York is harsh, with low temperatures and snowfall - it's very cold so you'll need to wrap up warm! However, on the street it's inversely proportional to how warm it is inside the museums, restaurants and tourist attractions.

So how do you choose what to wear in winter in New York? The key is to dress in layers, i.e. like an onion. This way, you can easily take clothes on and off depending on the temperature of the place you're in.

What to wear in winter in New York

In any case, the essential attire for walking the icy streets of New York in winter is what I suggest you wear:

  • Woollen hat.
  • A wool or fleece thermal scarf.
  • Thermal and tactile gloves, so you can use your mobile phone without taking them off and your hands won't freeze.
  • Woollen jumper, sweatshirt or fleece.
  • T-shirt, in case you go somewhere where it's hot and you want to take off your jumper.
  • A vest and, if you are very cold, choose a thermal T-shirt.
  • Thick trousers or leggings.
  • Thermal socks or thick socks to keep your feet warm.
  • A coat that protects you from the cold, such as an anorak or down jacket. It should be long if possible so that it also covers the back area. If the coat is waterproof and has a hood, the better, in case it rains or snows you will be better protected.
  • Boots that are comfortable for walking and warm. Choose boots with raised soles because in winter it is common to walk on melting snow and icy debris.

Gadgets to combat New York's winter chill

In addition to clothing, there are a few gadgets you can pack in your luggage to help you withstand the cold temperatures during your stay in the city.

  • Hand warmer: Very useful when you're walking the streets of New York and it's freezing cold. It's similar to a power bank that uses all its energy to keep you warm wherever you are. They can also be used to charge your mobile phone, which is essential if you don't want to run out of battery when you're on one of the best tours in New York.
  • Ear muffs with headphones: Another gadget to combat the cold is ear muffs. Not only does it keep your ears warm, but it also allows you to listen to music with your headphones while you're out for a stroll.
  • Thermos: One trick to warm up when it's really cold is to drink hot coffee or tea. In New York it is very common to ask a coffee shop to serve you a hot drink in your own thermos to help the environment. Plus, by carrying it in your hands, you'll keep them warm for a long time.

Book a Horse and Carriage Tour to see the Christmas Lights