What to Pack for New York in Winter: 6 Packing Tips You Need
Packing for Winter in NYC can be tricky. These tips and tricks will save you tons of time. Check out the ultimate guide on what to pack for New York in Winter.
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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love winter weather, but there is something magical about New York City in the winter.
What’s not to love with all the lights and excitement for the holidays, including some stunning window displays on 5th Avenue and the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree?
Even after the holidays end, there are still plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy.
The only downside is all the slush, snow, and puddles that you have to trek through to make it to your eventual destinations.
Don’t let the threat of winter weather deter you, there are plenty of unique and fun activities around the city.
Read on for the ultimate list of the best things to do in NYC in the winter.
Naturally, as a massive theater fan, seeing a Broadway show has to be at the top of my list.
There’s nothing better than grabbing a pre-show cocktail to warm up, before running a few blocks through the cold to settle into a warm theater.
Sometimes you even get lucky and end up at a show like Oklahoma that serves up free chili and cornbread during intermission.
It’s the ultimate way to be transported out of the cold, and into somewhere wonderful for a few hours.
Plus, if you are in town during a major snowstorm that cancels flights, you can score some really hard to get tickets at the last minute.
That’s how I got lucky enough to see Bette Midler in a totally sold out run of Hello, Dolly! from the front row!
My friend Olivia and I have a holiday tradition of strolling 5th avenue with hot chocolate while seeing all the window displays and lights.
It sounds corny, but once you see the epic scale of the light shows and window displays you’ll understand just how magical this tradition is.
We always go on the later side to avoid the massive amounts of tourists on the streets, and I suggest you do the same. It’s way more relaxing when you aren’t fighting to get through a crowd.
For an excellent hot chocolate nearby, head to the Rockefeller terminal and grab one at Jacques Torres.
This world-famous train station is wonderful anytime of year, but is extra festive during the holiday season.
Every year they host a holiday fair for about six weeks, with roughly 40 vendors setting up in Vanderbilt Hall.
It’s a ton of fun to wander around, especially if you have some holiday shopping to do!
Local’s Tip: Even if you end up there after the holidays, don’t stress it’s still worth a visit just to see the station’s stunning ceiling!
I love an excellent museum any time of year, but there is something extra appealing about them when the weather outside is frightful.
NYC certainly has no shortage of museums to choose from while you’re in town. In fact, I lived there for over 13 years and never made it to them all!
These are some of my favorite to spend an afternoon exploring:
Is it just me, or is ice skating in NYC on everyone’s bucket list?
After growing up watching movies like Serendipity and Autumn in New York, I’ve really romanticized skating on one of these world famous rinks.
Turns out I’m not the graceful skater I imagined myself to be, but skating under the tree at Rockefeller Center still felt like the ultimate movie moment.
For your own movie moment on the ice, head to one of these picturesque NYC rinks:
This ranks almost as high up as fashion week in my book.
Restaurant Week is a special period (typically a week) during summer and winter, where you can get insanely discounted meals at some of the best restaurants in the city.
If you’re a foodie, you need to plan your trip around this week. Some of the pre-fixe lunches and dinners you can score are out of this world!
I have no shame in admitting I played hooky one year from my theater job in order to enjoy a divinely discounted meal at 5 star
I must admit, I really didn’t get into the city’s comedy scene until the last year or so. Mainly because I’d choose to catch a Broadway show over any other options on my nights off.
It wasn’t until a good friend convinced me to spend a few nights a month checking it out, that I really got into hitting up comedy clubs.
Turns out, NYC has some of the best comedy around! Which isn’t a total shocker since it’s home base for SNL.
Plus, laughing over cocktails warms you up on a cold winter evening!
These are the spots to check out for a night of laughs the next time you’re in the city:
Oh, and don’t forget to turn your phone off. You’ll thank me later.
I’m one of those people that feels that shopping is always a good idea, especially during the winter when the weather can be brutal.
My favorite way to pass a snowy afternoon is to wander around one of the city’s massive department stores for hours on end.
Most of them even have cafes and restaurants inside, so you really don’t have to leave until they close.
For a full day of shopping, head to one of these classic NYC department stores:
Local’s Tip: Macaron lovers should note that L’Avenue at Saks sells Pierre Herme macarons. They make the perfect afternoon
NYC has produced some of the best jazz players in history, from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong. So obviously no trip to the city would be complete without taking in a bit of jazz.
Visiting during the winter is prime time to catch the city’s famous Winter Jazzfest.
If you’re wondering what Jazzfest is, let me break it down for you. It’s roughly a two-week festival that takes place in Manhattan and Brooklyn every January, featuring over 700 artists!
JazzTimes Magazine even named it the “#1 Jazz Festival in North America” in 2015.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to be in town during JazzFest, don’t stress, just head to one of these popular spots for a night of jazz:
I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t go to Brooklyn often, especially Dyker Heights.
In fact, I typically visit only Dyker Heights once a year to see their epic Christmas light displays.
It’s easily the most festive neighborhood in all of NYC, and the best part is that it’s totally free to check out!
It’s best to stroll through the neighborhood between 81-86th Streets and between 10-13th Avenues for the best views.
I recommend taking public transportation, as the area gets really congested during the holidays and finding parking is a nightmare.
Fun Fact: This section of Brooklyn is so famous for its holiday lights that they even have a dedicated website for them.
New Yorkers are pros at doing brunch, especially boozy brunches!
During the winter, boozy brunches are sometimes more preferable to going out at night, mainly because it’s warmer during the afternoon.
If you don’t have a big day of sight-seeing ahead, I recommend getting your drink on at one of these popular brunch spots:
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the legendary Rockettes is a New York institution that everyone should witness at least once.
It’s an impressive 90 minute show with original music, over 140 performers, and tons of singing and dancing.
Plus, seeing it in NYC means you’ll get to check out Radio City Music Hall, which is famous in its own right.
Okay, as far as I see it, you’ve got two options if you’re in town for New Year’s Eve.
You can either celebrate like a local, which means avoiding Times Square at all costs, or celebrate like a tourist and head right to the center of chaos to watch the ball drop at midnight.
If you choose to watch the ball drop, be warned they put you in a little gated area, and you’re not allowed to leave again unless you want to lose your spot.
That means no bathroom breaks, and that you hopefully brought snacks for the long, cold wait until midnight.
Also, that many people without a bathroom for hours… I’ll just let you do the math on this one.
The alternative is paying a ridiculous amount of money for a reservation at a place that has a view of the ball drop.
If you want to celebrate like a local book a nice dinner out somewhere downtown near a bar where you’ll want to hang out after midnight.
If you want to really go wild celebrating, book passes to one of the many clubs’ NYE parties. They’re a ton of fun, but fair warning, they’re always insanely packed.
Okay, this one isn’t for everyone, but let me tell you it’s a wonderful feeling being surrounded by beautiful flowers in the dead of winter.
Typically running from February until April, The Orchid Show at New York Botanical Garden is the U.S.’s premier orchid show.
As someone who’s on over one occasion desperately attempted to keep orchids alive for more than a week, I’ll be the first to say these people who can grow this many are next level impressive!
The best part is, because these flowers are so finicky, the entire place is warm, making it almost feel like a small vacation to somewhere tropical!
The British seriously have the right idea with warming up over an afternoon tea.
Thankfully, there are plenty of cute and classy spots around New York that have adopted this British tradition.
These are some of my all-time favorite places to enjoy afternoon tea in the city:
If you’re visiting during Saint Patrick’s Day, taking place every March 17th, checking out this legendary parade is a must.
It’s the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world!
Every year, it starts at 11:00 am on 5th Avenue and East 44th Street, and ends at East 79th Street.
Local’s Tip: If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the parade gets scheduled for March 16th, so that everyone can make it to church on the Holy Day.
Central Park carriage rides have become something of a rite of passage for tourists visiting the park.
I know my mom and I definitely took one the first time we visited in the city, which was during the winter.
It turned out the perfect way to quickly and warmly see most of the major sights in Central Park.
I highly recommend it during the colder months, as most carriages have blankets you can warm up under while you tour the park.
Just head to 7th Avenue and West 59th Street to find the line of carriages available for hire.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably reading this and thinking “why would a botanical garden have a train show?”.
Honestly, I have no idea what inspired this annual event, but I will say it’s actually pretty cool.
From late November through January, you can see model trains running through a miniature landscape of NYC, that includes over 175 replicas of city landmarks made entirely out of natural materials.
This might be the most random and interesting exhibit that you ever visit in the city. It certainly makes for some fun photo opportunities.
I believe a bit of quality spa time is always a good idea, especially in a chaotic city setting.
After all, what’s a vacation without a little rest and relaxation?
If you’re craving a bit of R&R during your visit, book at treatment at one of these spots:
If you really want to do something wild and unique while visiting the city, this is for you.
The annual “No Pants Subway Ride” is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll be riding the subway in just your panties.
The idea began in 2012 as an Improv Everywhere gimmick and now has spread to over 60 cities worldwide.
Basically, you all meet in a designated area, get assigned train lines, then all board the train and act like things are totally normal.
From there, they film people’s reactions, which are typically funny, and post them online.
Personally, I’d only do this after a few drinks and with a group of friends—ideally including a few male ones to avoid the creepy men that you’ll likely encounter.
New York City is one of my favorite places in the world because it’s such a walkable city.
The one downside to that is walking in winter weather can be truly brutal. Especially if you’re new to the city and don’t know your way around well.
If your first visit to the city is during the wintertime, I highly suggest taking a Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus tour to get your bearings.
They point out iconic spots, stop in all the major neighborhoods, and have plenty of heating.
It’ll be a lot warmer than stumbling around trying to figure out which direction is downtown.
These are some of the best NYC bus tours to book with!
During the winter, two of my favorite Brooklyn activities move into the same indoor space.
Brooklyn Flea is Brooklyn’s largest flea market, making it prime for anyone who loves vintage fashion, accessories, and furniture.
Smorgasburg is a giant food market with some of the most unique and Instagrammable creations imaginable.
Together, you’ve got the ultimate way to spend an afternoon warm indoors shopping and indulging in unique bites.
If you can handle the cold, or happen to be visiting the city during a warm spell, visiting Central Park is a must.
It’s one of my all-time favorite spots in New York City. During the winter you can go ice skating at Wollman Rink, visit the zoo, ride the carousel, and even go sledding if there’s enough snow.
Local’s Tip: Grab a hot beverage to walk through the park with!
The New York City ballet is legendary, especially for its annual performances of Balanchine’s The Nutcracker during the holiday season.
I can still remember the awe that went through the audience as the massive Christmas tree rose on that legendary stage the first time I attended the ballet.
These days I enjoy going to the ballet year-round, but will still attempt to catch The Nutcracker every few years.
Fair warning, this is one holiday show that you’ll want to book well in advance.
If you’re in town after the holidays, don’t stress, there are plenty of other gorgeous productions taking place.
Just check the online schedule to see what will be playing.
Most of you probably already know that I’m not one to seek out sports games, especially if I could be in a theater instead.
I know not everyone loves theater, so just for fun, I’ve included the idea of going to attend a game where a bunch of grown men fight over a hockey disc.
I hear our team is pretty good, plus it’ll give you a chance to check out Madison Square Garden, which is pretty famous on its own.
Local’s Tip: If you’re being taken against your will by a sports fan, I hear having a drink or two before the game helps you get into the spirit of yelling at the players.
When you’ve seen all the touristy spots, the city offers and you want to try something new, book a cooking class.
This is one memory in the making that will pay off for years to come.
The next time you’re in NYC and looking for a way to warm up, check into booking one of these popular cooking classes:
NYC is magical during the holidays, especially thanks to all the little holiday markets that pop up all over the city.
You’ll find everything from delicious food booths to unique gifts from small businesses at one of these popular holiday markets:
I love a good hot chocolate during the winter as a mid-afternoon treat, especially while running around the cold streets of NYC.
The city has so many delicious options available, these are my favorite hot chocolate spots to hit up:
Being a part of a live studio audience is a unique experience that gives you insight into how your favorite shows get made.
With so many shows taping in NYC, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. These are the most popular:
Local’s Tip: You must request tickets for most of these shows well before your visit. So plan way ahead on this one, especially for SNL!
New York is one of the best cities for grabbing a drink with a view. Even during the winter, we’ve got plenty of rooftop bars that give you the opportunity to check out the skyline without threat of snow.
These are some of my favorites:
One World Trade is one of my favorite places to take out-of-town guests.
On top of having one of the best views in the city, they have a truly unique elevator ride up to the top.
I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll see and learn a lot about the city’s history.
My favorite time to visit is right
If you’re feeling like doing something a little less touristy with your evening, consider checking out an off-broadway show.
During the winter is when some of the best theater from around the world ends up playing off-broadway.
These are some of my all-time favorite off-broadway venues to keep an eye on:
Taking place every February, Chinese New Year brings with it multiple festivals, a firecracker ceremony, and a parade in Chinatown.
Chinatown is just one of many neighborhoods that hold events. You’ll also find New Year events in Koreatown, Flushing, and Sunset Park.
The schedule of events changes every year, so if you’re in town during February do a quick Google search to see an up-to-date lineup of activities!
Spending the evening with the New York Philharmonic is another one of my favorite winter activities.
It’s so much fun to dress up and listen to some of the best musicians in the world play classical music that will transport you.
Local’s Tip: I especially love grabbing a glass of wine nearby at Vin Sur Vingt before showtime.
In an ideal world, you’re super well connected and can score tickets to a Fashion Week show.
In a less ideal world, you can gaze from the sidewalk at all the fashionable New Yorkers, celebrities, and models who have tickets.
Either way, it makes for some great people watching! Plus, you’ll likely get an idea of what trends you should shop for!
NYFW takes place every February and September. Check out the official website for specific dates and show locations.
Warm up with a bit of beer and an educational tour at Brooklyn Brewery.
During the tour you’ll learn all about the brewing process, some beer history, and the story behind the brewery.
They distribute their beer in over 30 different countries, including most of the United States, so you know it’ll be delicious!
While you’re seeing the sights in midtown, stop by Rockefeller Center for a delightful break from the cold weather.
They have a wonderful underground concourse with shopping, cafes, and restaurants.
If you’re over 21, take the elevator up to iconic BarSixtyFive for one of the best views in the city.
If you’re under the legal drinking age, buy a ticket to the Top of the Rock. It’s basically the same view as the bar, just without the fun of cocktails and with a heftier admission cost.
You can also book a tour to see behind the scenes at some of your favorite NBC Productions that film in the building.
If you visit during the holidays, you’ll also want to stop and check out the infamous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center.
Plus, you’ve got the option during the winter to ice skate on the iconic rink in front of 30Rock.
Meeting friends or a date at a cocktail bar of my favorite things to do in NYC during a cold winter’s night.
Cocktails have a way of instantly heating you up, making you almost forget it’s the middle of winter in the city.
If you’re looking to warm up with a solid cocktail, check out one of these spots:
Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram and only to see a bunch of epic snow photos taken in the city?
NYC after any major snowstorm has both influencers and tourists out en masse taking advantage of the winter wonderland that the city has become overnight.
These days, even when it’s not snowing, you’ll likely see people with their cameras out every few blocks, vying for that perfect IG photo.
So why not join in on the winter fun, especially if you are in town during a snowstorm?
Okay, I know you’re probably thinking, seriously trivia night?
I would have thought the same thing a few years ago, but since then it converted me.
Trivia nights, especially ones with free drinks or shots as prizes, are a ton of fun!
The next time you’re in town during the winter and want to warm up your body and your brain, look into the trivia night schedule at one of these bars:
This is the first winter in over 13 years that I haven’t experienced in New York. Though I don’t miss the frigid temperatures, wind tunnels, and large puddles, there are certain things I’ve missed.
I really felt homesick for the magic of the holidays in the city, even though this year was inevitably different from years past (thanks, COVID).
I believe everyone should experience the holidays in New York, but even if you miss them, this list will still provide you with some of the best things to do in NYC in the winter.
Whether it’s warming up with a cocktail or being part of a live studio audience, the city offers something exciting for everyone!
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite winter activity in NYC is!
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