When you first think of travel to New York City in the winter, do you think “oh no, it’s going to be gray and cold, what will we do?” I know, I know. Heading to the city that never sleeps doesn’t seem like much fun if you have to huddle in your hotel room the whole time! But maybe you don’t have to. Sometimes winter months are the only time you can get away. And it can actually be really great to travel during the winter. Lines at restaurants and events are shorter. Prices can be cheaper in the off season. And who knows, you might discover an activity you would never been able to experience had the weather been warm and sunny. Recently, I found myself in that exact situation. And I found more than enough to keep me busy and experience this famous city, weather be damned!
1. Ice skating
I don’t think there’s anything more quintessential New York in the winter than ice skating at Rockefeller Center. And even though it’s more associated with Christmas and the holiday season, did you know the rink stays open until April? And while iconic, Rockefeller Plaza isn’t the only place to don a pair of skates. Many people prefer Central Park’s Wollman Rink for its large rink, cheaper prices, and more relaxed atmosphere (skating at Rockefeller can feel like a bit of a fish bowl for some). Both rinks offer skate rentals and timing will be better on weekdays than weekends (Wollman Rink is also open until April). Either way you cut it (or explore another rink in the city), ice skating is a great way to experience New York City in the winter!
2. Visit a new to you museum
An obvious choice for New York City in the winter would be to visit one of the many famous museums (like the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Guggenheim); they are indoors, the treasures are incredible, and the experiences unforgettable. But if you’ve been to those museums, maybe it’s time to discover something new. On our last visit, we decided to venture to the Lower East Side and the Tenement Museum. We were rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into the lives of immigrant families who made New York City their home and built their lives in these tenement apartments. The museum offers a variety of tours so you can spend as little or as much time as your schedule allows.
3. Take tea at the plaza hotel
Okay, maybe it’s been done a million times, but if you haven’t had afternoon tea at the The Plaza, you should. Of course, I love the ritual of afternoon or high tea anywhere. For me it’s a chance to be really present, choosing teas and small bites to accompany the tea, and savoring each element both savory and sweet. The setting of the Plaza Hotel takes your experience up a notch. First of all, it is perfectly located near Central Park on 5th Avenue. Second, the lavish decor and atmosphere exude classic New York style. No wonder it’s the set for countless movies like Home Alone 2, Sabrina, etc. Tea in the Palm Court at the Plaza is an experience like none other and perfect for a cold winter’s day.
4. See a Broadway show
Ahem, I know seeing a Broadway show is very obvious for my list of 7 things to do in New York City in the winter. I mean, most people who visit New York City anytime of the year will want to see a Broadway show. But winter is such a great time to do it so you can enjoy all the outdoor warm weather fun when you visit in the summer! Just remember to do your homework and find out what or who’s in town. Last year, we were able to catch Sara Bareilles and Jason Mraz in The Waitress! We did buy tickets in advance but many people opt for the lottery in Times Square to take their chances on scoring tickets to a show they might not have planned.
5. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
If it’s not too cold, one of my favorite things to do in winter in New York City is to get the heart rate up a little and take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to explore DUMBO (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge). The Brooklyn bridge itself is stunning and full of photo ops. And the up and coming neighborhood of DUMBO is growing with plenty of restaurants and shops to explore and have lunch or dinner. Just make sure you grab the iconic photo of the Empire State Building peaking out under an arch of the Manhattan Bridge (that is, if you can get one without scores of other tourists in your shot!).
6. Try a new to you restaurant
No trip I’ve taken is complete without trying new restaurants and tasting the food at my destination. New York City is a foodie’s paradise and chock full of so many restaurants and dining experiences, it can be overwhelming. I suggest doing a little homework to find some choices in the areas you will be and then pick a few to explore. And because it’s winter, you have a better chance of getting a reservation! Here are 3 restaurants I love for the food and visual feast: Old Rose, Boucherie, Buvette (these may be a little French-inspired!)
7. Take in the view from an igloo!
Before you leave your winter vacation in New York City, don’t miss an opportunity to hang out in an igloo with some of the best views in the city. At 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, you have your choice of heated, plastic igloos to share with friends or strangers while you sip a cocktail. Step out every so often to take in the stunning nighttime city views including those of the Empire State Building! Then relax and savor your trip and appreciate how you made the most of your time, even though it was winter. 🙂