20 Magical Things To Do in New York City in the Winter

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Wandering around enchanting Christmas markets. Gliding across the ice at Rockefeller Center. Tucking into cozy bars with twinkling lights. New York City may be overlooked as a winter destination, as it can be cold and somewhat slushy, but if you’re willing to brace the elements you’ll find that there are so many amazing things to do in New York City in the winter!

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Wandering around enchanting Christmas markets. Gliding across the ice at Rockefeller Center. Tucking into cozy bars with twinkling lights. New York City may often be overlooked as a winter destination, as it can be cold and somewhat slushy, but if you’re willing to brace the elements you’ll find that there are so many amazing things to do in New York City in the winter!

My first ever week-long stint was in New York City this past January, and after spending another week there in June, I have to say there is definitely a different side to the city in January. For one, it’s much less crowded with fewer tourists and even the locals seem to stay more nestled inside, so it isn’t so overwhelming with people.

It’s also off-season, meaning that prices are generally lower across the board for hotels, shows, food, and other experiences. The city is also less smelly, because the heat isn’t causing refuse and other seedy elements of the city to percolate in the summer sun. Plus you get to experience all the magic of the holiday season – the lights and the pageantry – if you come before (or shortly after) the year’s end.

Let’s just say, if you can brave the cold, there is a softer, more docile side of New York City to experience!

Psst: Planning a trip to New York? Here are some other great posts about just that!

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Hey, want a printable version of our self-guided Lower Manhattan walking tour? It’s formatted and shortened to fit onto one easy to print page: directions on the front, map on the back. Super handy! Get your FREE New York walking tour printable map by entering your email below:

Winter in New York City FAQs

Now that you know about some of the benefits of NYC in winter (above), here are some good things to know about surviving NYC in winter!

How cold does NYC get in the Winter, really?

Starting in November, the temperatures start dipping down to the low 40s, and by January the average low temperature is about 26 degrees F. Luckily the highs from November-Febraury tend to span from the high 30s to the low 40s, so as long as you’re bundled up, you should be alright on the city streets.

Speaking of the city streets – they are windy. As you are probably aware, NYC has a lot of tall buildings and few trees, making a lot of wind tunnels that can shoot cold wind down the streets with momentous force. Always dress in layers, and make sure you have an underlayer that you can tuck into your pants so that the wind doesn’t make its way inside!

How do I get around NYC in Winter?

The normal way – by subway!

The subway in winter is actually even better than in the summer, because some of the cars don’t have AC, so in the winter they will actually be more pleasant, and smell better. 

For more info about the subway check out our NYC Itinerary post and this incredible How To Ride the Subway Guide.

Is NYC in the winter really worth it?

I think so, yes! While the spring and summer bring people strolling through Central Park, eating at outdoor patios, and traipsing down the city streets, you can have all this in winter, albeit colder.

What you’re gaining in winter are fewer crowds, cheaper prices, and a more relaxed city-exploring experience. Plus you get all the magic of the holiday season, meaning that if you come before the end of the year (or shortly after), you can see all the magical lights and displays.

skating at rockefeller center in the winter new york city-Blog Photo-2
Skating at Rockefeller Center is the ultimate winter treat.

Things To Do in New York City in the Winter

Dive into the magic of New York City in the winter with some of the best things to do below. Whether you want to brave the elements, cuddle up inside, or explore the Holiday offerings, we have you covered!

Go Ice Skating

Cold temps mean one thing: ice skating! And where is a more iconic place to skate than in NYC, where you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city from the ice, surrounded by towering skyscrapers and twinkling lights.

Here are some of the best places to skate in NYC:

  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center – This is probably the most iconic rink in the world, so if you want that true Holiday experience this is the place to be! Gliding underneath the gilded Prometheus sculpture, gazing at the giant Christmas tree… now that’s the true New York City in winter experience. The rink usually opens in early November and stays open through April, and purchase your timed ticket in advance to avoid lines.  
  • Wollman Rink – Located in the southern part of Central Park by the Zoo, this rink gives you the added bonus and luxury of being surrounded by nature as well as skyscrapers! A perfect place to end up after a stroll around the park.
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place – Nestled along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan, The Rink at Brookfield offers sweeping views of the river while you skate, and is an incredible place to watch the sunset. This rink is even bigger than the one at Rockefeller Center, and you’ll find far fewer crowds!

For more places to skate in NYC, check out this great article!

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a girl wandering around columbus holiday market in winter in new york city
Wandering around the Columbus Circle Holiday Market.

Explore an Outdoor Holiday Market

Even if you can’t visit Europe in winter to check out some of their amazing Christmas markets, there are several outdoor winter markets in NYC to shop, drink, and get in the holiday spirit around! Walk around some real-life “winter wonderlands” while shopping for gifts like ornaments, alpaca hats, candles, jewelry, and of course, toys!

Make sure to check out these markets for some holiday treats:

  • Bryant Park’s Winter Village – At this market you can ice skate, which is free (if you bring your own skates) on the 17,000 square-foot rink, and even check out the bumper cars on ice, which looks just as fun as it sounds. The main attraction is the shopping, where you can stroll down allées strung with lights, stopping at over 180 little stalls! The Lodge Bar and Food Hall has you covered when you need a snack, and you can expect lots of hot chocolate, s’mores, and even a place selling Mexican sandwiches. Winter Village generally opens at the end of October and runs through the beginning of January.
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market – Located on the Southwestern corner of Central Park, this holiday market features over 100 vendors and is your gateway to a gorgeous stroll around Central Park before shopping for gorgeous homemade gifts. They also have food from tacos to donuts to bratwursts, so bring an appetite! This popup runs from late November to late December.
  • Union Square Holiday Market – This market combines the beauty and charm of an outdoor market with 150+ vendors in Union Square, plus all the fabulous businesses located in the district itself. This means you can weave your way around the local artisan vendors outside, then do some more shopping inside to warm up! This market starts in mid-November and runs through late December.
lights at dyker heights winter new york city-Blog Photo-2
Dyker Heights is a epic competition to out-Chirstmas-light your neighbors! (Photo Credit)

Go on an Epic Christmas Light Tour

The Dyker Heights Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour is perhaps the best way to get your Christmas lights fix in NYC. Sure, you can stroll along the window displays of Rockefeller Center but it’s missing that homey, neighborhood feel that really exemplifies the spirit of the holidays (though you should totally do that too)! 

During this 4-hour tour that departs from Midtown, you’ll be taken to the ritzy residential neighborhoods of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, Italian-American sections of Brooklyn, where residents go all out with exceptional Christmas light displays. And you’ll not only drive by these twinkling homes, but walk through the neighborhoods with a guide to hear the stories behind this event.

In a lavish display of over-the-top beauty mingled with kitsch, you’ll find houses sprawling with lights, lawns crammed with Santas and snowmen, tinsel, life-sized figurines, and more decor than your brain can even process. 

The tour will really show you the best of the best houses, and it’s much easier than trying to drive down the cramped, busy streets yourself. So grab a coat and your best Holiday spirit, and board the best Christmas tour in town!

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macy's caveman chirstmas display nyc
Since the dawn of time Macy’s has been dressing their windows… well, since 1874 anyway. (Photo Credit)

Peruse the Holiday Window Displays at the Department Stores

Each year stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue create their own little Christmas miracles in the windows of their stores. These window displays have been a tradition since 1874 when RH Macy put up his first one. That makes 2024 the 150th year of window displays!

These stores are all a little spread out, but starting at Macy’s you can take a 1.8-mile walk to the three other stores and get all the holiday magic, including visiting Saks Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center with their iconic ice rink and tall Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree. 

Every year the stores have a different theme, from Christmas motifs like winter wonderlands, whimsical candylands, and classic characters to astonishingly avant-garde and fashion-forward displays. The only way to experience it is really to go see it for yourself, and Saks Fifth Avenue even has a light show which is projected on their facade several times an hour once the sun sets.

During peak hours about 10,000 people each day will pass by Macy’s holiday windows, so going later in the evening once more of the kiddos have gone to bed will give you more time to linger in front of the stunning displays!         

new york city skyline fromt he top of the rock
Seeing the NYC skyline at night will truly take your breath away!

See the City from the Top of The Rock

While there are plenty of observation platforms in the city, Top of the Rock has one of the best views of the Empire State Building and Central Park. It’s located right in Midtown and has expansive, 360-degree views from 850ft over Manhattan. It may not be the highest platform in the city, but it has fewer crowds, a less expensive admission ticket, a great location and gorgeous Art Deco architecture that makes it a destination all its own!

If you can, try to arrive a little bit before sunset (also keep in mind it takes about 20-30 minutes to actually get up on the deck). This way you can see the city during golden hour and then watch the city light up all around you. There is something so special about seeing millions of twinkling city lights that feels so NYC, especially during the holiday season.

Something too about the briskness of being outside on a super tall skyscraper during winter really makes you feel alive, but just make sure you really bundle up. Expect to see far fewer people up here during winter too, which is a great bonus.

Plan to spend about 45 minutes to an hour on the observation deck. There are also several more stairs up to higher platforms than the level you enter from the elevator, so don’t forget to explore those too!

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kimberly akimbo playbill new york city broadway
I saw this Tony Winner before it won, just sayin’!

See a Broadway Show

When most people think of NYC, they think of Broadway, the catch-all name for the 41 theaters in the area that have 500 seats or more. This district is where you going to see the largest, most spectacular shows on Earth, and even if flashy musicals aren’t your thing, they usually have regular plays with some of the best actors in the country gracing the floorboards.

Broadway shows come and go, but some will never leave us, like Phantom of the Opera and Cats! Oh wait – they’ve closed?! Well, I guess a good thing can’t last forever… 

During late January and early February, there is also Broadway Week, where you can get discounted tickets on Broadway shows (I was able to get two tickets for Chicago for under $200). And if you are really willing to see any show and are okay with lining up, you can get tickets for cheap at TKTS in the middle of Times Square the night of the show (here’s a how-to guide for TKTS).

Below are some of the best shows on Broadway right now, and remember you can view all the shows on the Broadway website:

  • Kimberly Akimbo – The Tony Award Winner for Best Musical 2023 is Kimberly Akimbo, which tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who looks like an old woman due to a rare disease. This show is not a huge, flashy show like some other ones playing but it is witty, funny, and relatable – perfectly expressing the human experience.
  • Wicked – Since it opened in 2003, Wicked has remained one of the most well-attended shows on Broadway, and for good reason. It has spectacle, humor and pathos, and explores the story of the Wizard of Oz from Elphaba, the Wicked Witch’s, point of view!
  • Sweeny Todd – Sondheim has created some of the best American musicals, and the darkly macabre and humourous Sweeny Todd turns the saccharine Broadway musical on its head. Never has the story of one man’s murderous, revenge rampage been so beautifully operatic.
cheese boat new york city
Are you ready to try the pure magic that is a Georgian cheese boat?

Take a Food Walking Tour of Hell’s Kitchen

Even though it may be cold out, you can’t completely fight it, so you may as well learn the history of NYC while walking and eating!

The Hell’s Kitchen Food Tour by Manhattan Food Tours takes you through the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, located on the west side of Midtown next to Times Square. What was once filled with Irish tenements and the infamous gangs is now a trendy, high-end, food-focused neighborhood.

On this two-hour tour, you’ll explore the modern-day eateries of one of NYC’s most food-centric hoods while learning about the gangs, riots and notorious Irishmen who controlled the streets. Basically, you’ll be learning about the gangs of New York over meatballs – now that’s authentic!

You’ll also try some famous cookies, a Georgian “cheese boat”, Japanese BBQ, and so much more! If there is one thing you can guarantee on this tour is that you won’t be leaving hungry.

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Cozy Up in an Adorable Bar

What better way to celebrate the colder months of the year than by squirreling away into a warm, beautiful bar and having a delicious cocktail or two? 

Luckily, NYC has no shortage of special places to spend an evening. Some of my favorites are:

  • Lillie’s Victorian Establishment – At this bar, red leather chairs and gilded mirrors line the bar, stained glass windows are illuminated on the walls alongside portraits of old-timey people, and they have plenty of handcrafted cocktails on the menu, many named for Old Hollywood celebrities. Try the Fly Me To The Moon honoring Tony Bennett with Gin Laine 1751 Violette, Fresh Lemon, Pomegranate Puree, Rhubarb Bitters, & a Splash of Soda, or the James Dean which is “cinnamon smoked” with Templeton 4yr Rye, Amaro Nonino, Giffard Peche, & Angostura bitters.
  • Dante – Dante opened in 1915 is a registered historic landmark where famous faces like Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bob Dylan have stopped in for a drink or two. You’ll feel very Parisian sitting at the bar – mint green and white accents with soft lighting and music floating in the background. The bar is famous for Martinis and aperitivo, and from 3 to 5 pm you can enjoy $10 martinis during “martini hour”. Try the With A Twist martini with hints of grapefruit, lemon, and lime, and if martinis aren’t your thing, try the Negroni Bianco garnished with little white flowers. 
  • Ophelia Lounge – This stunning sky lounge is in a 1928 Art Deco building that has sweeping views of the Hudson River, and is a great place to take in the city from above on a chilly night. Under the twinkling star lights hanging from the ceiling check out the purple tuxedo, with gin, absinthe, plum bitters, and more which makes it purple, sweet and refreshing as well as the Beekman classic palo santo martini, a gin martini with a smokey twist.

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Take a Speakeasy Drinks and Prohibition Tour

If there is one thing that makes a NYC experience feel complete, it’s delving into the underbelly of the city to drink while learning about gangsters, illegal liquor, and prohibition! 

During this 3-hour Speakeasy Drinks and Prohibition History Tour in Midtown you’ll retrace the steps of immigrants, infamous gangsters, and notorious bootleggers as you visit three different NYC watering holes and speakeasies. You’ll also find out about the women of the Gilded Age who contributed to prohibition (or the illegal bootlegging side), as well as the eventual demise of the Volstead Act.

Under the cover of a winter evening, it feels especially appropriate to sip on strong cocktails to warm you from the inside snuggled in a cozy bar!

Sip the Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

Maybe it’s passé, but hot chocolate on a cold winter day always sounds like a good idea to me. The whipped cream, marshmallows, the decadent sweetness of the chocolate, my fingers thawing on a warm cup… Luckily there are no shortages of hot chocolate in New York City! Some of the most famous spots are:

  • Serendipity3 – Though perhaps the most classic and obvious place to get hot chocolate, it’s for a good reason! Serendipty3 has a kitschy, whimsical ambiance in spades and is home to the ultra-decadent, world-famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, which has 14 gourmet cocoas mixed in a blender with milk and ice. While it may not exactly warm you on a cold evening, it will certainly light your inner child!
  • L.A. Burdick – Located in Soho, L.A. Burdick has some of the richest and best cocoa you’ll find anywhere, and I’m not making that up. In fact, they call they’ll hot chocolate “Drinking Chocolate” – because they’re ritzy like that – and it’s so heavy and rich that unless you’re seriously hardcore about chocolate, order the small size and thank me later.
  • Max Brenner – Another hot chocolate that could be described as “liquid fudge” is that from Max Brenner! This decadent cup of hot chocolate can be found at their Times Square store, or if you want to get really fancy, you can check out their Union Square location you can try one of their 9 hot chocolates, including Italian Thick, Mexican Spicy, and Salted Caramel!
beef dish from thai diner in new york city
The ultra-yummy Kaeng Kieow Waan from Thai Diner.

Have a Delicious Meal

New York City is one of the best places to have a meal, and the choices are endless with so many excellent kinds of food. One of the biggest pros of coming in winter too is that from mid-January to mid-February it is NYC Restaurant Week, where some of the best restaurants in town have specials for a more affordable meal! 

While it’s hard to know what restaurants will be featured before they’re announced, some of the best places to get a winter meal in general are:

  • Rolf’s German Restaurant –  Located near Gramercy Park, Rolf’s German Restaurant is called NYC’s “most festive restaurant”, and for good reason. From the ceiling hang hundreds of thousands of ornaments, lights, and icicles, while wreaths, porcelain dolls, garlands, ribbons, and other festive bits and bobs cover almost every inch year-round! Rolf’s specializes in Southern German or Bavarian cuisine, with dishes like Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, Potato, Pancakes, apple strudel and more.
  • Thai Diner – I am always scouting out a good Thai place, and Thai Diner is like if you mixed a Thai restaurant with a Tiki Bar, with decorations to match. The dishes are more Thai with a twist, like the decadent Kaeng Kieow Waan with curry braised beef short ribs with eggplant, shallots, and basil. They also have fun combination drinks, like the Thai-rish coffee, with Jameson whiskey, espresso, and condensed milk whipped cream. 
  • Left Bank – Left Bank features farm-to-table, simple food that leans into the American / Italian fare. The best part is that from 5-7pm Monday-Friday and 4-6pm Saturday & Sunday you can order from their happy hour menu, which includes pasta and a glass of wine, a burger and beer, and two appetizers at a fixed price. For your apps, try the half dozen east coast oysters and the shaved brussel salads, and for your entree the capricci cacio e pepe (with your choice of wine, of course). Their parmesan fries are also on the happy hour menu, which makes a great additional app if you want something truly decadent.

See The City From the Water on a Boat Tour

Even in the winter, one of the best ways to see NYC is to take a boat cruise around it! But don’t worry, you’ll be inside on a *mostly* cozy boat.

On this 1.5-hour Landmarks Circleline Cruise along the Hudson River, you’ll traverse around the tip of Manhattan to the East River, seeing landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, One World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge and many more! It’s one of the best ways to see the city because you’re not actually *inside* the city but getting to view it from the water in all its vastness!

Besides the unrivaled views of the skyscrapers (which are worth the cruise alone), it is one of the most comprehensive and enjoyable ways to learn about the city from one of the fabulous guides. The day I went Andy was absolutely hysterical and told us things like how Manhattan means “land of many hills” in the Lenape language, how Wall Street used to have a literal wall built by the Dutch to keep the English out (hence the name), and that Brooklyn is almost the size of Chicago. Who knew!

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tenement museum in new york city
The Tenement Museum really explores NYC’s past in a time capsule.

Learn about Life in NYC’s Past at the Tenement Museum

The Tenement Museum explores the lives of immigrant and migrant families through tours of reconstructed family tenement apartments. You can learn about how Jewish, Italian, and Irish families lived and worked in NYC, in oftentimes overcrowded and poor living conditions.

Each hour-long tour focuses on a single working-class family and time period, exploring an apartment that has been refurbished to be what it would have looked like in the period. The buildings you tour were real tenement residences from 1863-1935 and once abandoned, weren’t touched until 1988, leaving a store of relics and a huge window into the past.

There are plenty of tours exploring apartments from 1869 to the 1960s, and I explored the 1933 Tenement. Our knowledgable guide Jill took us through the lives of the Baldizzi family, which included the trials of immigrating from Italy and the Great Depression, and the everyday realities of a family in a small tenement.

This is a great way to really see NYC from a new perspective, and learn about the actual people who helped build the city!

Check Out Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is one of the most bustling, exciting, and delicious indoor markets in the world, and a fabulous place to hide away from the chilly New York winters.

There are all kinds of food and shopping options to explore in this 1.2 million sq feet building, including:

  • Los Tacos No. 1 – This Taqueria is a colorful, quick-service restaurant that has a limited menu that is all fantastic. All the tacos are divine but the Adobada pork tacos with pineapple on top is the best taco I’ve ever had in my life. There’s usually a line (a good sign!) but it moves quickly.
  • Miznon – If you are an Israeli food lover, this is the place for you. Definitely try “The Original World-Famous Baby Cauliflower” which is a whole cauliflower roasted to perfection.
  • Artists & Fleas – This indoor flea market has more than 30 vendors for you to peruse, to find new jewelry, art, and gorgeous things to wear! 
  • Takumi Taco – Can’t decide between Mexican and Japanese food? You can have them both! Here you can try tacos with the best of both worlds, like the spicy tuna taco with Sashimi Grade Big Eye Tuna and a Crispy Gyoza Shell or the Japanese Curry Beef with Medium Spiced Japanese Style Curry and Cotija Cheese.
glass of champagne and woman singing at sleep no more new york city
Picture from the post-show jazz concert… no photos allowed in Sleep No More!

See a Show like No Other at Sleep No More

Sleep No More is an immersive theatrical experience that tells the story of Macbeth as you wander through different rooms and sets, encountering a whole host of characters and their stories. You may find Macbeth in the graveyard, Lady Macbeth in the bedroom, and plenty of other tortured spirits in the ballroom.

Sleep No More is like wandering through a mesmerizing dream and a nightmare at once – think the most beautiful, ornate haunted house you’ve ever been to – without the jump scares. It’s creepy, dimly lit, and surreally gorgeous at once. 

The story is mostly told through dance and music which lilts from every corner of this enormous, several-story warehouse, and it’s easy to get lost in its many rooms and corridors. Characters disappear from one room to the next, and you can follow whatever character you like at any point.

When you arrive your phone is locked up and you are given a sinister-looking mask to wear, making everyone in the “audience” anonymous. What stories will you uncover on your journey? Well, it’s really up to you! 

Here are some general tips for exploring Sleep No More (not spoilers per se, but skip if you want to go into the experience totally blind):

  • Buy the earliest ticket time you can. The show doesn’t actually happen once but three times, giving you the chance to explore different character tracks over the same story. This also means at certain times characters may “reset” the set, so if you see a maid putting pillows on a bed that may not be the main “story”.
  • This experience is meant to be a solo journey, and you will be told that exploring on your own will bring the most unique encounters (plus you can compare journeys later). Fortune favors the bold.
  • If you get lost and no one is around, try to find where the people are congregating. Crowds mean something is happening (i.e. a character is doing something somewhere). When in doubt try to listen to where the music is coming from as well.

Take a Food Tour of Little Italy and Chinatown

During this two-hour Little Italy and Chinatown Walking Food Tour, you’ll wind through the colorful neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy, and though they are neighbors, feel like totally different worlds. Along the way, you’ll try light-than-air spongecake, Dim Sum Dumplings, pizza, cannolis, and more. 

You’ll learn about the origin of Chinatown, the mafia, walk underneath a pegasus made of noodles (really), and learn all kinds of traditions and customs associated with Chiantown and Little Italy.

Since the tour is only two hours, you don’t walk too far, but you will definitely get plenty to eat and you’ll enjoy the twinking holiday lights decking the streets!

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is so pretty in winter.

Take a Stroll Through Central Park

Listen ya’ll, Central Park is the most iconic park to meander through, even in winter. Something about wandering under tall, leafless trees surrounded by cold skyscrapers with people rushing about feels very New York.

The park itself is about 843 acres and, of course, how much you see is up to you.

One of the most iconic areas is The Mall & Literary Walk, where you can walk down a stunning stretch of American Elms, see statues like those of William Shakespeare and the newest statue celebrating Women’s Rights Pioneers, along with many others. 

At the end of the mall is the Bethesda Terrace, with the Angel of the Waters statue shining in the sun above the Bethesda Fountain, and if you’re lucky, she’ll be rising above a frozen pond!

I also love strolling past the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, watching the fountain in the middle of the half-frozen pond jet against the skyscrapers and dim sunlight. The pond itself has a 1.58 mile track around it, and is 106 acres big and 40 feet deep. Jackie O used to run around the reservoir and it was renamed in her honor in 1994.

If you want to walk the length of the park, this 3.3-mile route will hit all the places mentioned above, and more!

Cozy into Alice’s Tea Cup for a spot of tea!

Pour Yourself a Cup of High Tea

When your fingers are thoroughly numb from the breezy, frigid city streets, pop into a high tea room to thaw those fingers and warm your heart (if that needs thawing too). Luckily NYC has no shortage of stunning tea rooms, where you can drink delicious blends of luxurious tea and nibble on some divine little snacks.

Some of our favorites are:

  • The Russian Tea Room – Completely iconic, the Russian Tea Room serves up a touch of camp, kitsch, and over-the-top grandeur at its 57th St location. While not the cheapest place to have high tea in the world, what you’re paying for is ambiance as you’re tucked away in a dimly lit red room, with a 12-foot bear-shaped aquarium to keep you company. The food includes sandwiches like Smoked Sturgeon, desserts like scones and cupcakes, and tea such as Darjeeling and Mint Verbena. It also comes with a glass of alcohol!
  • Alice’s Tea Cup – Fall into Wonderland at Alice’s Tea Cup, with two locations in the Upper West and East Sides. Here among the whimsy of Alice in Wonderland decor, you can enjoy Alice-themed teas (among many standards) like the Un-Birthday Tea which blends black teas, flowers and tropical fruits. Besides the tea, you must try their scones, whose flavors change by the day, but definitely try the cheddar and ham one if available!
  • The Whitby Hotel – The Whitby Hotel is a masterclass in elegance, where maximalism meets refined taste. Each room has a point of view, with striking wallpaper, dreamy color palettes, and unusual art. You’re having tea here because you’re classy but have style, and you can expect chocolate and hazelnut opera cake and teas like the Mythical Creatures by Wedgewood, a tea with oolong, sunflower blossoms, cornflower blossoms and a touch of ripe green mango.

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beautiful rooms at the metropolitan museum of art in new york city
The French rooms of the Hôtel de Varengeville at the MET.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an institution almost as famous as the city itself, displaying some of the most renowned works of art over a stupendous 2 million square feet. 

This museum is the most visited in the United States, with more than 5 million visitors each year, which means this place can get busy. Though in the winter, you’ll find fewer people than in the summer (the difference between my visit in January versus June felt huge).

Though there are fewer people in the winter at the MET, you still may not be able to see it all in one day. Here are some of my personal favorite things to see, but if something tickles your fancy on the map, head there:

  • The French rooms of the Hôtel de Varengeville – Step back in time to mid-1700s France by wandering through the maze of reconstructed rooms from the Hôtel de Varengeville. What were once private residences of eighteenth-century Paris, you’ll see gilded oak paneling richly embellished with C-scrolls, S-scrolls, sprigs of flowers, and rocaille motifs in fully decorated rooms with dramatic lighting and a serene, almost eerie, ambiance.
  • The Greek and Roman Sculpture Court – The Greek and Roman sculpture court is filled with statues larger than life, like Perseus with the head of Medusa, Venus Italica, and Ugolino And His Sons. They’re so big and imminent you can almost feel them being sculpted.
  • The Temple of Dendur – This Egyptian temple from 10 B.C. lives inside the MET in a large room with window-covered walls and water features all around. While the temple isn’t huge it depicts some of the most important gods of Egypt like Isis, Osiris, and their son Horus. 

For more things to see at the MET, check out this fabulous 20 Things to See at the MET guide. You can even download free audio tours while you are there, like The Highlights Tour, or even book a two-hour guided tour of the highlights.

a dragon at chinese new year winter new york city
a dragon at chinese new year winter new york city Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/qZec16

Celebrate the Lunar New Year

If you happen to be in NYC during late January or early February, make sure to find out when the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, will be celebrated in Chinatown!

What is now a public school holiday in NY, the Lunar New Year is the main spring celebration that begins the day after the first new moon appears between January 21 and February 20. In 2024, it will be the year of the Dragon and the festivities will take place on February 25th.

Partaking in the Lunar New Year celebrations is to be inundated in a sea of red, where fireworks and firecrackers burst to ward off evil spirits, parades of Chinese Dragons, Lions, and performers whiz by, and traditional costumes are on display. 

It’s one of the most dazzling times to visit Chinatown, and it’s a great way to shake off the winter blues with some high-energy celebration!

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Where to Stay in New York City

Staying in or near Midtown is your best bet for hitting all these things to do in New York City in winter. All activities are easily reached from this area so you won’t need to worry about traveling around too much, but if you do want to venture out, it’s a great starting point.

Here are some great places to stay in New York City that won’t break the budget:

  • citizenM Time Square – Located near Time Square, The citizenM has everything you need – a rooftop bar, three outdoor terraces, and hot & cold breakfast buffet! Not to mention the hotel itself is super modern with cozy rooms where you can control all aspects of the room with an iPad. You’ll be super close to the action and the subway, so this is the perfect place to base yourself!
  • Pod Times Square – These “pod” rooms may be on the smaller side, but they are inexpensive and don’t leave out the comfort of staying in a hotel! The hotel itself is stylish and cool with its own bar, and they even have double bunk rooms, which is a great option if traveling with a friend. It’s a few blocks away from Times Square, so super convenient!
  • The Standard, High Line – Now if you truly want to stay right on top of the High Line park with some truly gorgeous views of the Hudson River, check out the Standard. This hotel exudes luxury without the price tag of full-blown luxury, with white and wooden accents, and each room features floor-to-ceiling windows and a city or river view. Watch the sunrise or sunset from their rooftop nightclub or biergarten!

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About The Author: Richie Goff is a Louisville, Kentucky native with a great love of the outdoors. When he is not growing flowers for fun, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Practical Wanderlust and Let’s Go Louisville. He has been a friend of Lia’s since high school, and they have taken plenty of their own disaster-prone adventures together!


What things to do in New York City in the Winter do you want to do first? Let us know in the comments below!

Psst: Planning a trip to New York? Here are some other great posts about just that!

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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources

Here are our favorite travel tips & resources for saving money and planning travel logistics! For more tips, check out our travel tips resource page or our guide to planning a trip.

  • Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they’ve got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we’re not fans of Airbnb’s unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
  • Travel Insurance: We always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY suggest it – visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
  • Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like travel insurance, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local’s perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. When we book a rental car, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal.
  • Luggage Storage: Whenever we’re checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we’re running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
  • VPN Service: A VPN keeps your digital information (like website login details, bank info, etc) safe, even when you’re connected to an unsecured network while traveling. Plus, it lets you use Netflix & other streaming sites abroad! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO when you sign up!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!

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