Winter in New York City - 14 Best Things To Do

Linda Bibb was born in New York and knows the area well. She is an award-winning writer who has been to nearly 60 countries.
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Winter in New York City is as great as any other season, but there’s something about the cold weather and the holiday lights that makes wintertime feel even more magical. There are lots of things to do in the city that will soon make you forget all about the freezing temperatures.

Here are some of the best things to do in New York City in winter:

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Admire the NYC skyline from the One World Observatory

View from the One World Trade Center

New York City is home to the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center. A ticket to the observation deck on the 102nd floor will give you breathtaking views of the city's skyline and its most famous landmarks, including the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, and Statue of Liberty. 

The floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning, 360-degree views, but there are interactive multimedia exhibits too — from the story of NYC’s evolution from the 1600s to today in the elevator to the Horizon Grid, 145 screens highlighting the famous moments, faces, and places of New York’s history. A visit to the top of One World Trade Center is a unique experience not to be missed.

Budget tip: With the New York City Pass, you can save money on over 95 attractions and landmarks throughout the city. Visit the Empire State Building, the Museum of Modern Art, the Statue of Liberty, and other popular attractions for up to 45 percent less than the regular price.

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Go sightseeing in a horse-drawn carriage

Romantic ride on a horse-drawn carriage

A horse-drawn carriage ride is a fun and exciting way to see the city during the winter months. You’ll bundle up in a blanket and take in the sights while learning more about the city and its history.

Day or night, the carriage ride is an old New York tradition and a popular romantic experience. This one-hour tour will take you through Central Park, Rockefeller & Times Square.

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Visit some of the amazing museums in NYC

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

When people hear New York City, it’s hard to overlook the many museums scattered throughout the city, it is a great way to soak yourself into the culture, arts, and history these museums offer. There is something perfect for every taste, whether you enjoy natural history, art, or something more unusual.

Some of the best include:

  • The Museum of Modern Art: More commonly known as MoMA, this museum is often considered the most influential modern art institution in the world and is home to many of the most recognizable works — from Warhol to Pollock — as well as the newest names and most groundbreaking pieces on the art scene.
  • The 9/11 Museum: The 9/11 Museum was built to commemorate the lives lost during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. It houses many artifacts from these events, from individual items owned by those killed to poignant reminders of the Twin Towers, their footprints now two reflecting pools surrounded by the largest manmade waterfalls in the US. To visit is an opportunity to understand more about the tragic events and honor the lives lost.
  • The Guggenheim Museum: This museum is famous for its many artworks belonging to the Impressionist movements, as well as the Post-Impressionist, contemporary, and Early Modern art movements, and contains some of the most popular collections in New York City. An average of 1.2 million people visit the museum each year.
  • American Museum of Natural History: This museum is perfect for fans of the natural world, housing many famous artifacts that span Earth's natural history, from rocks, meteorites to fossils, and even frozen tissue collections. It was made even more popular with kids by the movie Night at the Museum.

Indulge in the glitz and glamour of Broadway

Scene from the "Hello, Dolly!" musical show

New York City is bursting at the seams with cultural activities, and seeing a Broadway show is one of the city's most memorable experiences. Year after year, there are hundreds of musicals and theater productions on stage at Broadway’s 40 theater venues.

Tickets to Broadway shows can be extremely hard to get, so it’s best to buy your tickets ahead of time. And if you want to learn more about what it takes to produce a Broadway hit, you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the New Amsterdam Theater.

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Savor the Big Apple’s culinary might

Katz's Delicatessen - New York City

If you want to experience the best street food in New York, take a food tour. The city of New York is a foodie's paradise because it boasts a vibrant and eclectic mix of cultures and cuisines.

Some of the most satisfying food tours include:

  • Little Italy Italian Food Tasting Tour: New York City is home to a large Italian community, and Italian cuisine has made its way into New York City's general cultural fabric, but nowhere is its presence felt more than in Little Italy. This tour highlights the best restaurants and eateries in the neighborhood, with all the stories of how Little Italy came to be and how the city fell in love with Italian cooking.
  • Underground Donut Tour: NYC is also famous for its donuts, making it one of the most-loved sweet treats in the city. This tour takes you to some of the city's underrated gems, tasting your way from classic glazed rings to the most indulgent creations.
  • 3-Hour Manhattan Food and History Tour with a Local Guide: If you love both history and food and have no qualms about combining them, then this tour is perfect for you. With a local guide, explore every nook and cranny of Manhattan’s food scene while learning about New York’s progress from a seaport city to one of the one of the most-visited destinations worldwide. Your mind and stomach will be full by the end of this tour.
  • Food Tour of Greenwich Village: Greenwich Village remains one of the most iconic spots in the city, with its unique charms and character staying amid the massive modernizations surrounding them. This walking tour takes you around The Village, eating at some of its popular restaurants, and gives you the opportunity to exercise your credit card too in the neighborhood’s trendy shops.

Munch on roasted chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts - winter streetfood in New York

One of New York City's most popular winter foods is roasted chestnuts, and you can buy them from street vendors for just a few dollars. These chestnuts are hot, flavorful and nutty, with a smoky flavor that enhances the New York winter experience.

Go ice skating in the city parks

Statue of Prometheus at the Rockefeller Center, New York City

Countless shows and movies depicting ice skating as the thing to do in winter in New York City aren’t wrong — your winter stay in the Big Apple won't be complete without trying out this experience.

In addition to the rinks at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, the Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink in Central Park are two of the city's most popular ice skating destinations.

Tip: Skating at Wollman Rink is included in the NYC Sightseeing FLEX Pass.

Shop 'til you drop in Christmas Markets

Christmas Market in the World Trade Center Oculus, NYC

Christmas shopping can be a stressful endeavor, but you can turn it into a joyous occasion by visiting one of the many Christmas markets set up throughout New York City. These events provide an opportunity to purchase locally made, handcrafted, and one-of-a-kind gifts and traditional sample foods while warming up with holiday beverages.

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Do some window shopping on Fifth Avenue

The holiday window displays on Fifth Avenue in New York City are a sight not to be missed during the holiday season. You will see some of the most well-planned and intricate holiday displays anywhere on this street (from Bloomingdale's to Macy's), including some of the most expensive displays you will ever see.

The animated windows raise the bar for window dressing to an entirely new level. We suggest going at night when the displays are illuminated by the holiday lights, which create a magical atmosphere.

Admire the famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center

In the heart of Midtown Manhattan, Rockefeller Center has one of the most beautiful holiday displays in New York City. People have been flocking to Rockefeller Center to see the giant Christmas tree for more than 80 years.

Skating at the Rockefeller Center ice rink is another popular wintertime tradition in New York City. Afterward, you can take advantage of the many shops and restaurants that surround the plaza.

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Bask under holiday lights at Dyker Heights

Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, NYC

The houses in Dyker Heights are a sight to behold, with dazzling and blinding lighting displays composed of spectacular decorations and joyously festive lights. Located between 11th and 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th Street in Brooklyn, they are unquestionably a must-see attraction.

An annual tradition for many families is a walk through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights on display. You will undoubtedly feel as if you have been transported into a Hallmark Christmas card with all of the Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other festive decor.

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See the Rockettes at the Christmas Spectacular

Radio City Music Hall, New York City

The Rockettes are the highlight of the annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. World-renowned for their performances, their extravagant routines always include Santa Claus, the Toy Soldiers, a Nativity scene, famous New York department store windows, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and other holiday-themed characters and decorations. 

No one should visit New York during the holiday season without seeing one of these magical productions. Theater enthusiasts can also take a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the art deco theater and meet one of the Rockettes.

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Jump aboard a romantic NYC cruise

Cruise under the bridge, New York City

While you might have to throw on a few extra layers, a romantic cruise  around New York Harbor is arguably more romantic in winter as the city glistens in golden light. Take in the sights of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the New York City skyline at sunset as you enjoy a drink from the on board bar. On a twilight cruise of New York Harbor, you'll hear insightful commentary from your tour guide as you take in the city's sights. 

Feel the thrill of a helicopter flight across the city

View from a helicopter over New York

A private helicopter flight  over New York City might be at the top end of anyone’s budget, but for an extra special experience on your trip it might just be worth it. Take to the skies with that special someone for memories that will last a lifetime. Flights are available day and night, and each has their advantages — you’ll see a lot more and a lot further in the day, but twilight is a truly spectacular sight. 

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Linda Bibb was born in New York and knows the area well. She is an award-winning writer who has been to nearly 60 countries. You can read more of her travel articles on her travel blog, As We Saw It.