The Best Things to do in New York City in the Winter

The 15 Best Things to do in New York City in the Winter

Winter in New York City is a magical time. There’s a reason why so many people flock to “The City That Never Sleeps” during the holiday season, with all its winter markets and twinkling light displays. But even after the holiday season has come and gone, the NYC winter continues on, with more fun events and things to do. 

Planning your own winter trip to New York City? We’ve compiled a list of fun things to do in winter in NYC to help you get started. Just don’t forget to bundle up! 

The 15 Best Things to do in NYC in the Winter

1. Go on a Holiday Bar Hop

New York City During Winter: Holiday Bar Hop

New York City isn’t known for subtlety, which is especially wonderful come the holiday season. Decorations are everywhere, and many of New York City’s best spots become festive party scenes. If you want the chance to take in all kinds of decor, from classy to kitschy, a holiday bar crawl is one of the most fun things to do in winter in NYC.

One of the most famous spots is Rolf’s, which is home to tons of Victorian holiday decor and more than 20,000 twinkling lights. Skip a sit-down meal here and grab a drink instead! 

Over at Ollie in the West Village, the space became the Maccabee Bar, a Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar with treats like potato latkes and themed cocktails. The bar is set to return in 2023, but it’s unknown if it’ll be at Ollie again.

If you love all things kitsch, head to the Miracle pop-up over at The Cabinet in the East Village or Thief in Brooklyn, where you’ll find delightful Christmas decor and incredible festive cocktails.


2. Have an Afternoon Tea

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Afternoon Tea

A cup of hot tea can chase away those winter blues. Having afternoon tea is a delightful thing to do in NYC in winter, and there are plenty of places to do it, each offering unique experiences. 

One of the most famous afternoon teas is over at The Plaza. If you’re traveling with little ones, be sure to opt for the Eloise-themed tea. 

For fine Japanese tea, visit the Cha-An Teahouse in the East Village. Or follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole at Alice’s Tea Cup


3. Check Out Off-the-Beaten-Path Museums

New York City During Winter: Winter Museums

You’ve heard of the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And they both make for great New York City winter activities. But did you know that New York City is home to more than 100 museums and cultural institutions? So, why not check out one that’s a little less well-known?

Over in Queens, you’ll find the Museum of the Moving Image. Housed in the former building of Astoria Studios, it’s dedicated to the art and technology behind moving pictures.

Meanwhile, in a decommissioned subway station in Brooklyn, there’s the New York Transit Museum, the largest museum in the nation dedicated to public transportation. It’s quite a unique playground, and you’ll learn a lot about how New York City was built.


4. Hop Aboard the Holiday Nostalgia Ride

New York City During Winter: Holiday Nostalgia Ride

On select days in the winter, the New York Transit Museum allows New Yorkers and visitors alike to travel back in time. The Holiday Nostalgia Ride is one of the coolest things to do in NYC in winter. You’ll ride on a vintage train car as you take in the sights of an NYC winter.


5. See the Rockettes

Enjoying the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the famous Rockettes is one of the most beloved traditions in winter in NYC. With amazing dancing and breathtaking sets, it’s a show that’s fun for the whole family.

Tickets often sell out quickly for this one-of-a-kind event. Be sure to get yours in advance!


6. Go on a Holiday Tree Crawl

Places to Visit in New York City During Winter: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Most people know the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but there are several more to be found around NYC. Grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and make a day out of seeing all the beautifully illuminated trees. Going on a holiday tree crawl is easily one of the most fun things to do in New York City in winter!

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

You’ll find a huge one overlooking the rink at Bryant Park, another at Lincoln Center, a vibrant one at the South Street Seaport, and much more. 


7. Shop at Holiday Markets

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Holiday Markets

Featuring local vendors with unique wares, tons of seasonal treats, and festively fun decor, the holiday markets are filled with some of the best winter activities in NYC. The Bryant Park Winter Village is a great place to start on your holiday market tour. With a massive ice-skating rink, more than 100 booths, and fun activities like curling and riding on bumper cars on the ice, it’s much more than a market. 

Other holiday markets include the Artists & Fleas at Chelsea Market and the Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market. Or you can avoid the cold by going indoors at the Grand Central Holiday Fair. 


8. See ‘The Nutcracker’ at Lincoln Center

New York City During Winter: The Nutcracker

Each year, seeing “The Nutcracker” put on by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center is what to do in NYC in winter to get into the festive spirit. You’ll be immersed in the famous story as you take in the beautiful dancing, breathtaking sets and costumes, and the music you already know and love as performed by world-class musicians.

Tickets to this show often sell out far in advance, so be sure to get your seats before your NYC winter trip.


9. Visit the Holiday Train Show at the Botanic Garden

Over in the Bronx, you’ll find one of the most fun things to do in NYC in the winter, especially if you’re traveling with little ones. The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanic Garden is a beloved annual tradition featuring a display of nearly 200 famous New York landmarks. The botanic garden has also recently added an all-new outdoor train display as well.

While it’s a great daytime activity for kids, there’s also fun to be had for adults. On select nights, the botanic garden hosts Bar Car Nights, featuring nighttime viewings of the train show and NYBG GLOW, the garden’s outdoor lights experience with thousands of choreographed dancing lights. Adults can also enjoy specially-curated cocktails with the experience.


10. Stroll through Central Park in the Snow

Places to Visit in New York City During Winter: Central Park

Spending some time in Central Park in the winter often means walking in a winter wonderland. With the fresh snow on the ground, this iconic park takes on a truly enchanted quality.

In addition to just strolling through the park and enjoying the sights of NYC in winter, you can also snowshoe or cross-country ski in Central Park, go ice skating, or go sledding. And if you’ve never gotten a bite to eat at the famous Tavern on the Green, winter is a great time to do it as the restaurant is decked out in holiday decor.


11. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Spa Day

Need to warm up from that frigid NYC winter air? Having a spa day is one of the best New York City winter activities to help you shake off the cold. 

The William Vale in Brooklyn is one of the best places to start. Its Scandinavian-style Winter Spa invites you to relax in red cedar outdoor saunas featuring amazing views from their domed windows. Then, soak in one of the red cedar hot tubs for added relaxation.

If you’re willing to venture a bit outside of NYC, head to Edgewater in New Jersey. There, you’ll find the SoJo Spa Club, where you could easily spend a whole day. Featuring eight different outdoor bath and spa experiences, this spa is best known for its rooftop infinity pool, which has a stunning panorama of the Manhattan skyline.


12. Spend New Year’s Eve Away from Times Square

Places to Visit in New York City During Winter: Times Square

Have you ever watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve on TV and thought to yourself, “I want to see that in person one day?” In all honesty, no, you don’t. You’ll be standing in a massive crowd in the freezing cold for 12 or more hours. If you have claustrophobia, it’s even more of a skip.

But New York City is home to tons of great places to go on New Year’s Eve that will keep you away from the madness in Times Square. Join others for a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge to ring in the new year, check out the fireworks at Prospect Park, or hop on a party cruise with views of the fireworks.


13. Catch a Show on or off Broadway

New York City During Winter: Broadway Show

When the weather gets cold, there’s no better winter activity in NYC than taking in a show in one of the city’s historic theaters. There’s a Broadway show for everyone, whether you’re taking little ones to see their first performance or love a side of history with your art. 

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Broadway Show

But Broadway tickets can sometimes be hard to secure and are often expensive. However, New York’s theater scene doesn’t end with Broadway. Plus, seeing a show off-Broadway can mean seeing the next big thing before everyone else.


14. See the Light Displays in Dyker Heights

Places to Visit in New York City During Winter: Dyker Heights

Over in Brooklyn, you’ll find some of the most impressive sights in NYC in winter. The neighborhood of Dyker Heights is world-famous for its holiday light displays. This tradition has been going on since the 1980s. Since then, New Yorkers and tourists alike have flocked to the neighborhood to see the elaborate, festive displays.

You can make an evening out of touring the neighborhood yourself, or you can hop on a tour bus to take in even more sights. This tour will take you on a sightseeing ride to Brooklyn, followed by a walking tour of the streets of Dyker Heights. You’ll also get to see the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline on your journey.


15. Celebrate Lunar New Year in Chinatown

Things to do in New York City During Winter: Lunar New Year in Chinatown

Chinatown comes alive with vibrant displays and incredible events when the Lunar New Year arrives. If you’re looking for what to do in NYC in winter to get into the festive spirit, a visit to Chinatown is a must! One of the biggest highlights is the annual parade, with its ornate dragons, amazing martial arts performers, and much more. It’s a stunning sight you won’t want to miss.

Be on the lookout for more Lunar New Year happenings through Chinatown, like Welcome to Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Dinner Series, featuring chef-curated menus and special holiday programming at various locations. They also host the Lunar New Year Fair, which features local AAPI vendors and cultural programming.

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in NYC in winter. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!


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Author

  • Jacqueline Gualtieri

    Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California.

    When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes.

    Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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