Winter in New York City is a magical time of the year, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, cultural events, and unique indoor activities. With the right warm attire, the NYC winter should not deter you from having fun. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, here are some of the most fun and unique winter activities in NYC, including my favorite hidden gems.
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Packing for Winter in NYC
Wondering about what to wear in New York in winter? I suggest staying comfortable and warm. Here are some of my suggestions:
- Adjustable earmuffs like these, if you don’t want to flatten your hair with a hat
- Thermolayers like this one if you’re going to be standing outside a lot.
- Comfortable walking shoes. These are fashionable but comfortable. We walk a lot here!
- When there is snow in New York, waterproof snow boots like these are a must. They are high quality and gorgeous.
- Ultra-compact umbrella since it can get rainy at any moment.
- A spacious, lightweight tote bag for all of your things/shopping (we don’t have cars to keep your things)
- Puffy Coat. People love Canadian Goose. I think a compact one like this with sweaters and layers under is fine.
- Alpaca or wool gloves
- A lined hat. Hudson River wind is no joke!
Fun Things to Do During Winter in New York City
1. Luxury Winter Spas
Hundreds of gorgeous spas are scattered throughout the five boroughs, offering massages, steam rooms, saunas, and other ways to embrace wellness in the winter. Relaxing in a warm spa is one of my favorite things to do on an NYC winter day! Here are some gems to check out:
- I adore AIRE Ancient Baths Spa. This spa transports you to Southern Spain with its Moorish/Andalucian interior of stone baths, columns, and elegant furnishings. AIRE offers a floating salt bath, soaking pools, a Eucalyptus steam room, a red wine bath, massages, and many other spa services.
- Winter Spa at The William Vale: This seasonal spa (open fall to winter) is home to NYC’s first outdoor infrared sauna located on the fourth-floor terrace of The William Vale. This experience features red cedar outdoor saunas with panoramic dome windows and red cedar hot tubs with a full menu of luxury spa services.
- QC NY Spa in Governor’s Island: QC NY Spa is only a 5-minute ferry ride from Manhattan and has outdoor panoramic spa pools with a beautiful view of the NYC skyline. You book over 20 wellness spa services, including tailored massages. Their bistro also offers a small food selection.
2. Company XIV (Hidden Gem) ★
If you’re into burlesque, Company XIV puts on some of the most spectacular performances perfect for adding to your list of winter things to do in NYC. This Brooklyn venue is stunning, with lavish design features inspired by the court of Louis XIV.
Cocktail Magique and Nutcracker Rouge are the most popular shows. I loved that the diverse performers represented NYC, with about half of them being BIPOC! You don’t see that at Lincoln Center or the Radio City Music Hall. Both the Nutcracker and Cocktail Magique are limited engagements (for adults only). So keep an eye out for their other seasonal shows, too.
3. Floating Mountain Tea House
Located on the Upper West Side, the Floating Mountain Tea house offers high-quality Chinese tea in gongfu style. They offer several dozen teas listed on a menu by type and effects. For two people, the price should be approximately $30-$40. The experience is a wonderful way to relax in an intimate and beautifully lit setting with yourself or a friend. The owner Elina Medvedeva was also a wonderful host. Bonus: Sometimes they host meditations, tea ceremonies, and workshops.
4. House of Yes (Hidden Gem) ★
House of Yes offers dynamic shows, a bar, and a nightlight. I went to see Dirty Circus, a two-hour performance with interpretative theatre, dance, ballet, poetry, circus, cabaret, and much more. Their unique venue is built within a former ice warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
House of Yes is all about expression, artistic freedom, and representing the true diversity of NYC. They highly encourage audience participation and costumes (if you want, not required!). If you’re only visiting but you want something to wear, House of Yes participates with local thrift stores to help you put together an outfit!
5. Walk Through Prospect Park or Central Park ★
Central Park and Prospect Park are magical experiences in the winter, especially with a fresh blanket of snow. Both parks are huge and fun to stroll through when you need a bit of nature and a breath of fresh air. Be sure to bundle up with layers if it’s cold. When I am walking through the park, my body stays warm because I’m actively moving it. So don’t let the cold weather deter you from enjoying these parks!
I don’t recommend this activity if the weather drops below 30 F or if it’s windy because that type of cold hurts your face regardless of layers or body movement.
Both parks have large open spaces for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing and multiple ice skating rinks (Central Park Skating and Prospect Park). You can also go sledding at both parks in the winter: Pilgrim Hill and Cedar Hill are popular at Central Park, while Prospect Park has four sledding hills (Long Meadow, Lookout Hill, Drummer’s Grove, and Endale Arch).
6. The Comedy Cellar ★
Many of the top comedians in the industry have performed at the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan. It’s considered one of the best comedy clubs in the country, where several famous stand-up comedians got their start: Kevin Hart, Jim Norton, and Darrell Hammond, to name a few! The club is widely popular and has very limited space. Parties cannot exceed more than 8 people, and there is a two-item minimum purchase (food or drink) per person. If you’re local and looking for more to do, try an in-person comedy class, which includes 5 sessions, 1 live performance, and a free video.
7. Jazz Bars ★
During the Great Migration, 6 million Black Americans fled out of the American South due to racial violence and legal oppression. Many came to NYC bringing their music and cultural heritage. Today, NYC is one of the best cities in the world to listen to jazz outside of New Orleans. Here are just a few to start off with:
- Lunatico: Catch live shows ranging from jazz to neo-folk music while enjoying small plates of Italian cuisine. The artist-owned bar is located on Halsey Street in Brooklyn and offers live music nightly, with a $10 suggested donation to support the musicians. The food is great here, too!
- Ornithology Jazz Club: One of the best Jazz clubs in the city, with no cover and a big selection of cocktails. They are popular for their vegan bites and host stand-up comedy, vegan chef pop-ups, gallery events, and spoken word open mic nights in addition to Jazz.
- Blue Note: Blue Note in Greenwich Village hails the name “jazz capital of the world” for its history of hosting famous musicians and performers like Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner.
- The Last Word: Great date night spot for seasonal cocktails among speakeasy decor. Located in Jackson Heights, Queens. If you love Egyptian seafood, make sure to grab dinner next door at Hamidos.
- Terraza 7: You can find several amazing Latin Jazz artists at Terraza 7 in addition to literary events and film screenings. Located in Jackson Heights, the atmosphere here is very intimate, and they have a full bar with especially delicious coffee cocktails.
8. Cocktails at the Mandarin Oriental
The stunning view from the Mandarin Lounge (at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel) is one of the best places to get quiet skyline views over a nice glass of wine. They also offer well-crafted cocktails. Ask for a seat by the window to admire Columbus Circle and Central Park from above. The space is decorated with a modern yet comfortable interior. You can also order some food, but I felt the food was lacking in flavor, especially for the price.
9. Holiday & Christmas Markets ★
Holiday and Christmas markets in NYC are wonderful places to find unique artisan craft goods ranging from jewelry and art to food and home goods. These markets are also great for supporting small businesses and local artisans who can’t afford NYC storefronts all year. Most of these markets also serve warm hot chocolate, coffee drinks, and comfort foods!
The biggest and best Christmas market in NYC is Union Square Holiday Market, perfect for treating yourself or loved ones to handmade treasures from over 185 vendors. Some of my other favorites are the Bushwick Market (featuring vintage and flea market items) and the Grand Central Holiday Fair indoor market.
10. Lincoln Center Performing Arts
If you love a good ballet show as much as I do, the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts is going to be a must-add to your list of things to do in New York City in the winter. The Lincoln Center is one of the largest performing arts centers in the world; home to 11 residential arts organizations and features film, theater, dance, music, and more.
Ballet and opera performances are immensely popular here. Ballet shows include appearances by the School of American Ballet, Juilliard, and the New York City Ballet. The Metropolitan Opera House is also in the Lincoln Center Plaza.
12. Weekend Getaways from NYC
If you start to run out of things to do in New York City in the winter, try booking some NYC winter getaways! Lake George and Lake Placid are popular winter destinations in the Adirondacks, full of opportunities for skiing, snowmobiling, and other outdoor recreation. For a relaxing mountain weekend away, you can book a lodge in the Poconos with lavish amenities, so you never have to leave. Or, try exploring a smaller city–like Boston or Burlington–to see what fun festivities they offer in the winter. Here are some gorgeous boutique hotels in Lake Placid to convince you to book the trip upstate!
13. Go Ice Skating (Or Learn How)
Ice skating in NYC in the winter is an iconic activity, with several rinks to choose from. Some rinks are open all year round and offer skate and sports rentals. Because of the popularity of this activity in the winter, check for reservations to guarantee a spot.
- Bryant Park: You can skate for free at Bryant Park, and it’s a great activity to do if you also plan to shop in the surrounding Winter Village. Guests also have access to free skating shows, high-quality rentals, and skating reservations to ensure a spot.
- Rockefeller Center Ice Rink: This famous skating rink is set right by the Golden Statue and is one of the most popular winter NYC activities for visitors worldwide. Rockefeller rink is more expensive but usually less crowded.
- Central Park’s Wollman Rink: Wollman Rink in Central Park is open from October to April (weather permitting). Seasonal passes, skating classes, ice hockey, and early morning skates are available.
- Prospect Park Lakeside Rink: Visitors can skate at Lakeside Rink seven days a week, all year round, with prices varying based on the day.
14. Puerto Rican Cooking Class ★
Puerto Rican cuisine is comforting and warm, full of seasoned meats, bread, and spices. Tasting Puerto Rican food is a treat in itself, but joining a cooking class to learn how to craft your own dishes is a great way to stay active in NYC in winter. The Essex Loisaida Center offers cooking classes every month, each surrounding a traditional dish that you can learn to make from scratch. The recipes often leave you with plenty of leftovers to take home to family and friends. This Puerto Rican cooking class (need link) includes cocktails if you like to drink and cook at the same time!
15. Run a 5K
What better way to get outside while staying warm than a nice run or jog? There are plenty of 5ks hosted throughout the winter in NYC, some with fun and festive themes. Cold weather may make muscles and joints feel tighter, so don’t forget to train or warm up before!
- November: Turkey Trot 5k on Governors Island
- December: NYCRUNS Cocoa Classic
- January: NSRF Polar Bear Prospect
- February: Central Park 5K
- March: Queens St. Patrick’s Half
16. Brooklyn Academy of Music
For more progressive and avant-garde performances, try booking a show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). This company has been successfully putting on shows since 1861, and in their main location at the Jay Sharp Building in Brooklyn since 1908. BAM offers everything from theater, film, dance, music, opera, and physical theatre performances. In addition to the Sharp Building, they host performances in two other locations: BAM Fisher on Ashland Place and BAM Strong on Fulton Street. Make sure you look carefully at your booking location when choosing an event!
17. Movie + Dinner & Drinks at the Alamo Drafthouse
The Alamo Drafthouse is a fancy take on a dinner and movie. You can see various new and old favorite films with comfortable bar-like seating. When you get to the theatre, grab the menu from under your chair and pick what you want to order to your seat. You can order dinner meals–like burgers and pizzas– or fresh chocolate chip cookies and coffee. For guests 21 and up, the drafthouse will serve you craft beers from local breweries, with over 30 beers on tap. Alamo has three locations in NYC: Downtown Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and Staten Island.
18. The NYC Museums
If you’re looking for winter things to do in NYC that a more educational, try visiting a museum! There are hundreds of museums hidden around every corner of NYC. It would be impossible to try and visit them all in one season, but here are a few that you definitely want to stop at:
- The MET: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) is the largest art museum in the entire Western Hemisphere! It was built in 1866 and had over 2 million pieces of artwork displayed in permanent collections. There display over 5,000 years of art history here and 17 departments to explore.
- MOMA: To visit another one of the country’s largest art institutions, explore the 900 exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). This museum is located in Long Island City, with one of the city’s best collections of contemporary art. The large white walls of the museum allow the art to speak for itself, and these pieces are simply breathtaking.
- American Museum of Natural History: Millions of visitors every year come to NYC just to see the American Museum of Natural History. Nestled into the Upper West Side, you can peruse renowned exhibits about the natural world, human cultures, and a ton of hands-on exhibits. When you purchase your ticket, add features such as the planetarium or film features to get the full experience.
- Intrepid Museum: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a complex of several buildings and historic vessels that teach you about American History and famous scientific discoveries. You can see actual space shuttles and the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier from WWII, which survived five kamikaze strikes and a torpedo!
*There are several free museums in NYC, so check before your visit to plan around these days.
19. Go to the NYC Breweries
Nothing warms you up on a frigid winter day than tasting some freshly brewed beers. NYC has more breweries to explore than you can count. Depending on your area, you could probably hit a few in a day or take a tour exploring the various breweries in each borough.
- Threes Brewing Gowanus (Brooklyn): One of the most popular breweries in NYC with amazing craft lagers, IPAs, and floral pilsners. It’s a combination of a bar, coffee shop, and beer shop, with the option to purchase food at the pop-up food truck, The Meat Hook.
- Evil Twin Brewery (Queens & DUMBO): Originally a nomadic brewery with no home base, Evil Twin is now settled in Queens with a smaller location in DUMBO. The taproom in Queens looks like an enormous greenhouse, and they offer unusual takes on classic brews, with 20 rotating taps, frozen cocktails, NYS ciders, and food from Caludia’s Cafe pop-up.
- TALEA Beer Co. (Brooklyn): This is the only woman-founded brewery in NYC that started off as a passion project. TALEA aims to make craft beer more inclusive and approachable, with a welcoming atmosphere in two locations: Cobble Hill and Williamsburg.
20. Broadway Shows
Did you know Broadway shows in NYC attract more than 13 million visitors a year? Over 41 theatres in the city feature Broadway plays and musicals, you can attend on a cold winter day. Two of the most popular long-running shows are The Lion King and the Phantom of the Opera. Hamilton is another fantastic show, leading in Tony Award nominations, and Chicago is the longest-running musical in Broadway history! You can find all currently running Broadway shows here with options to purchase tickets.
21. Holiday Cheer
NYC is my favorite place to be around the holidays, with countless events and traditions to explore. Holiday shows like the Rockettes and the Nutcracker are yearly traditions for many, and now with amazing variations like the non-traditional Nutcracker by the Brooklyn Ballet or Nutcracker Rouge at Company XIV.
The city sparkles with holiday lights you can explore, from Dyker Heights to the Botanical Gardens and the famous Rockefeller Center Display. If you want to tour the city in warmth, you can try a holiday water cruise or limousine ride with complimentary drinks while you see the sites. We have a ton of other suggestions for Christmas in NYC here!
22. Hasidic Brooklyn Tour ★
Hasidic Jews make up a significant part of Brooklyn’s population and history, which most people know nothing about. The Hasidic lifestyle has always been a bit mysterious to outsiders, but their culture is fascinating, and you can take a tour to learn all about the community and faith. These tours will teach you about everyday Hasidic life, let you sample traditional Kosher foods, and tour world-famous Synagogues. Tours are given by local guides in an intimate setting where you can freely ask questions to gain an understanding of the culture. Try this Hasidic Walking Tour in Williamsburg or this tour opportunity in Crown Heights.
23. Full-Day Tour to Niagara Falls
Visiting Niagara Falls in the winter is just as magnificent (if not more so) than in the warmer months. The falls do not freeze all the way over–the last time this happened was in 1848! The water continues to power through the cold, building beautiful glaciers that make for quite an experience away from the busy city. Niagara Falls State Park is 6 hours from NYC, worth the visit to avoid the crowds that tend to stay away this time of year. The park also has a pretty cool winter itinerary of things to do in the winter, including visiting the Aquarium of Niagara, Old Fort Niagara or warming up on the Niagara Wine Trail. If you’re looking for a winter day trip from New York City destination, Niagara falls is one of the coolest options.
24. Intimiate Turkish Coffee Time + Fortune
If you’ve never tried Turkish coffee before, sip slowly. This drink is made using a cezve and finely pressed beans, served unfiltered. It’s delicious but strong, nothing like your average American cup of joe. This unique experience with Dr. Honeybrew is the perfect opportunity to explore the tradition of Turkish coffee with the ancient practice of fortune reading dating back to the 1600s! He’ll take your coffee grinds and project them on a monitor to look for symbols that will reveal what’s coming in your future.
25. First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum
First Saturdays hosted by the Brooklyn Museum are an exciting opportunity held on the first Saturday of February-August and October, offering free admission and programming. This event has been running for 25 years and makes art, history, and culture more accessible to all New Yorkers and visitors. First Saturdays are only in the evenings from 5 pm to 11 pm. You must register online ahead of time to enter–no tickets are sold at the door for these evenings. Each Saturday has a schedule of events you can attend, from curator tours to musical performances to pop-up markets and book talks hosted around the museum.
26. Brooklyn Brainery ★
Work out your brain on a budget this winter by taking a free class at the Brooklyn Brainery! This is an amazing community-based initiative that offers affordable (and free!) classes about anything and everything. You can learn how to paint, make jewelry, write fiction, ferment yogurt, sing opera, and so much more. Advanced registration is required to attend. If there is something you WANT to learn about but don’t see a class, you can suggest a course to be held in the future.
27. Friend of a Friend Collective
You’re certainly not the only one in NYC who is looking for something new and exciting to do this winter. If you love to meet new people as I do, you can submit an application to the friend of a friend collective to have a dinner party with some new friends! Once you are accepted as a member, you can sign up for exclusive 4-8 people dinners with other people around NYC. There is a small fee to book a spot at an event, but they handle the reservation and organization of the dinner–you just show up, pay for your meal, and enjoy!
28. The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club
Have you ever gone out with your friends for a night of shuffleboard? You might want to consider it! Shuffleboard at The Royal Palms in an exciting venue introducing younger generations to this 100-year-old game. You can walk right in and sign up for a court or simply show up to enjoy the DJ and tropical drinks. They have a rotating schedule of food trucks you can order from throughout the week. Be mindful that this is a 21 and older venue only.
29. Helicopter Tour
New York City is just as beautiful from a bird’s eye view, especially when you get to avoid the winter chill. Helicopter tours of the city run all year round (weather permitting), taking you above all the famous landmarks the Big Apple has to offer. Rides are generally pretty short, about 12-15 minutes, so you can easily plan for other activities before or after. This Manhattan Sky Tour will soar you by the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, and more. If you want to see a lot of the city in a short period of time, this is perfect for you!
30. Go on a Skiing or Snowboarding Day Trip
Unfortunately, New York City doesn’t have ski slopes, but you don’t have to travel far to find them. Hunter Mountain is a fantastic ski resort in the Catskills about 3 hours from Manhattan, with a mix of skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing for various skill levels. You can book a round-trip ride from NYC to Hunter Mountain through Comfort Ski for only $55. Urban Sherpa Travel also offers trips several days a week to Hunter Mountain, as well as Windam Mountain, a ski resort about 2 hours away from NYC with 54 trails, a tubing park, a spa, and more.
31. Queens Foodie Tour
It’s often talked about, but Queens is actually a cultural destination for exotic foods! Queens is the most ethnically diverse borough in the city, with over 138 languages spoken among 120 nationalities. In South Queens, there is a vast South American and South Asian population. You can book a Queens Foodie Tour to explore these diverse cuisines, trying dishes from India, Tibet, Columbia, and more. This tour is mostly outdoors, so make sure to bundle up.
32. Dinner or Drinks in the Igloos
A new NYC winter trend are the outdoor igloos for drinks and dining. They pop up all over to give visitors a unique way to get some sunshine outside without the cold elements. These igloos provide a private and warm setting to enjoy dinner and drinks with friends, family, or a romantic date.
Some of the igloos are on rooftops where you can see stunning views of the city skyline, such as Somewhere Nowhere in Chelsea or the super hyped-up 230 Fifth Rooftop in Midtown. Bryant Park has several restaurants with igloo rentals near the ice rink, too. And large groups can fit in the Swiss Alp-inspired Chalet de Ning at The Peninsula with the option for private rentals if you have more than eight guests.
33. New York Catacombs by Candlelight
Behind the scenes of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral are the curious catacombs of the Basilica. Unless you book a Catacomb tour, these parts are off-limits to typical church visitors. Deep in the dark tunnels, you can discover some of the most hidden secrets of NYC. Tours are guided by candlelight to mimic life back in 1815 when the crypts were first built. Local guides can teach you all about who lies within the catacombs and other interesting (and chilling) facts about the church’s history.
34. Tea at the Parisian Tea Room
The Parisian Tea Room takes you back in time to 1920s Paris for the day! Depending on the day and your schedule, you can reserve a spot for High Tea, Afternoon Tea, or Breakfast Tea. You’ll get to choose from a curated menu of appetizers, entreés, deserts, and an assortment of fine Frech Teas with white glove service. If you’re not partial to tea, they also serve hot chocolate, coffee, and other warm drinks.
35. Snowboarding/Skiing at Mountain Creek
Take the NYC Snow Bus to go snowboarding or skiing at Mountain Creek. Less than 2-hours from NYC, Mountain Creek has 167 acres of terrain with 4 different mountain peaks. There’s 46 trails, catering to both beginners and experienced skiiers and snowboarders.
You can pick between just riding the NYC Snow bus, or buy a combination package that includes a lift pass and equipment rental. For beginners there’s a learn to ski/ride package that includes 60 minutes tuition to help you get started.
36. Skiing/Snowboarding at Belleayre Mountain
Go skiing or snowboarding at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills with the NYC Ski Bus. Belleayre Mountain has 63 different trails, suitable for a range of difficulty levels (including beginners). There’s also 4 lodges serving food. The NYC Ski Bus includes both round-trip transportation from NYC to Belleayre Mountain plus an All-area lift ticket. You can add on ski/snowboarding rental, and if you’re a beginner you can opt for a 60 minute beginner lesson.
37. Snow Tubing & Brewery Visit at Mountain Creek
Head to Mountain Creek for a 2-hour snowtubing session with the NYC Snow Tubing & Brewery Bus. Mountain Creek has a dedicated tubing slow where you can race down the mountain with your friends, then enjoy a hot cocoa by the bonfire between runs. After, you’ll head to Pennings Winter Beer Garden where you’ll enjoy dinner and a local beer/cider. Your bus ticket includes roundtrip transportation between NYC and Mountain Creek.
Where to Stay in NYC this Winter
- The Bowery Hotel: This hip hotel in Manhattan has a really cool old-world look. The guest rooms are full of vintage and industrial decor, with complimentary bicycles for guests to use to get around the city. [BOOK HERE]
- The Conrad: The Downtown location has a really cool modern design and 2,000 pieces of artwork on display throughout the hotel. All the rooms are suites, and you’re only a few minutes away from the World Trade Center and shopping at Brookfield Place and Westfield. [BOOK HERE]
- Casa Cipriani: Casa Cipriani is an elegant luxury hotel on the East River in the beaux-arts Battery Maritime Building. They have a wonderful spa and organic cafe, and you’re only 8 minutes from the Statue of Liberty. [BOOK HERE]