This post, updated for 2018, lists the top ten January activities as well as family-friendly events, things to do at night, and of course, free activities since we love saving money. January is a fine time to visit New York City since crowds are small and lines are short, but much of the holiday spirit and activities are still going on. The video below covers January weather as well as things to do. Be sure to check out our extensive list of Things to Do in NYC or our guides for other months for even more ideas.
Below is our top 10 list. If you are considering visiting many of NYC’s top attractions, then you might want to consider a tourist discount pass, which could save you considerable money. Read our post comparing the different tourist discount passes.
If you cant make it up to the New York Botanical Gardens train shown above, this Train Show is more centrally located. You also get the double bonus of visiting the spectacular Grand Central Terminal layout features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, travel all the way to the diorama’s the North Pole. Get all the information here.
No Pants Subway Ride January 7, 2018 (tentative date)
Get ready to freeze your behind during the annual Improv Everywhere event the No Pants Subway Ride. On the designated date and time meet up with hundreds of sparsely clad others. You’ll receive instructions from an Improv Everywhere representative, which is basically to start riding the subways…but leave your pants behind. The intent is to appear as if the participants do not know each other and it is pure coincidence that they are wearing winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants. See this video for the reactions of subway riders.
See the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree until January 7, 2018 (kid-friendly)
Lucky for those coming to New York City the first week of January, you get a chance to see the stunning and gigantic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The tree remains illuminated from 5:30 am to Midnight every day. The tree is located in the middle of the Rockefeller Center complex between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. These subways will take you there: B, D, F and M to Rockefeller Center; E or M to the 5th Avenue/53rd Street Station and the 6 train to 51 Street Station.
Enjoy a 5-star meal at a top New York restaurant and pay 1/4 of the regular cost! During Restaurant Week, more than 300 of New York City’s best restaurants offer a prix-fixe menu including 3 courses for a very low price, relative to their regular prices. Prices for 2018 are $29 Lunch / $42 Dinner.
Winter Jam in Central Park January 28, 2018 (kid-friendly)
At the park’s Winter Jam, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the Central Park Bandshell area is covered with blown-in snow. This is a great activity to bring kids to. You can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding. There will also be live Ice Sculpting, Ice Bowling, Taste NY Winter Market / Warming Hut, Dodgeball and more! Bring equipment or borrow it free. Bring photo ID for sports or a legal guardian if under age 18. Free.
January is an excellent time to shop for all kinds of items, from clothing to electronics and everything in between. Nearly every store will be running great post-holiday sales. You have likely heard of the main department stores like Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales, and others. But we have some tips on other shopping areas that may not be as crowded and also offer even lower prices. TIP: Did you know that you do not have to pay tax on clothes and shoes that total $110 or under? A lesser-known fact by visitors to New York.
Woodbury Commons is one of the best outlets in New York. This giant shopping outlet mall has 220 stores including many upscale stores. Shops offer 25%-65% off items and post-holiday sales prices will be even lower! Woodbury Commons is only one hour north of New York City and worth the easy ride to get there. Our post on Woodbury Commons has everything you need to know to get there.
Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is not an indoor mall. It is a popular shopping area with dozens of retail shops, including many outlets of national chains selling clothes at deep discounts. In just a few blocks you can find outlets of Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and Gap. Discount shops like Nordstrom’s Rack, TJ Maxx and Century 21 are there. You also have Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy, Claires, Lane Bryant, Target and more. There is a newly renovated Macy’s located in a building dating back to 1928 which, in fact, was the original anchor store for the now defunct department store giant Abraham & Strauss.
Free NYC Second-Hand & Vintage Shopping Day Tour – This is a name-your-own-price tour through Free Tours by Foot. Join your guide to be taken to the best second-hand stores, cool vintage shops and high-end charity shops where stores offer new and gently worn contemporary clothing, as well as vintage clothing bearing a higher price tag than thrift shops where the prices are a lot lower. The tour is offered on Jan 4 and Jan 7th in the Gramercy Park neighborhood and on Jan 6th in Chelsea. You can read more about both neighborhoods here: Chelsea and Gramercy Park.
Ice Skate in Bryant Park’s Rink – Day or Night! (kid-friendly)
A beautiful location to skate at a beautiful price: FREE — that is, if you have skates. If you don’t have skates, rental prices are very reasonable. The lines to get in can be long, so plan for a wait, but well worth it. Surrounding the rink is Winter Village, stalls selling unique gifts and plenty of food stalls with seasonal treats. Just below is information on attending Winter Village. For information on ice skating hours and prices, click here.
Visit Winter Village in Bryant Park Until January 5, 2018 (kid-friendly)
NYC is filled with one of a kind pop-up markets in January, and some stay open beyond the New Year. Winter Village at Bryant Park(pictured on right) is one of the best holiday markets to shop for one-of-a-kind items including handmade winter clothing, sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, decorative items and more.
Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are a good way any time of the year to see a lot of the city in a little bit of time. They also help get you oriented to the layout of the city before you decide where you would like to visit more in depth. In January, a bus tour has the additional enticing feature of keeping you warm on days that are especially cold. Since they stop at the popular attraction locations, you can use the bus to move from destination to destination and it is a lot more interesting to look out a bus window then stand in a crowded subway.
Winter Antiques Show January 19–28, 2018 hours vary
This is the most prestigious antiques show in America and held at the historic Park Avenue Armory. Now in its 64th year, the show highlights an eclectic mix of works dating from ancient times to the present day. Click here for the specific information on hours, directions to the Armory and more. Tickets are $25 for each day and include the show’s 270-page catalog.
Get 2-for-1 deals on select theater shows during this week. Surely one of the best deals in town! Click here to find out more information. Don’t worry, if you aren’t here in January, there are plenty of other ways to save big on Broadway shows. See our post on How to get Broadways tickets at discounted prices.
Ice Skating at Night Days and hours vary by venue
In New York City you have many choices of where to ice skate, at varying prices and all different hours. Ice-skating at night is extra fun. Nothing brings out the fun of winter as a loop around a rink, or a fall on your behind under the holiday lights of the Big Apple. To find out the many places you can go skating in the city, see our post on Where to go Ice-skating in New York City.
Winter JazzfestJanuary 10 – 17, 2018
The festival features 100 bands and musicians playing at 11 venues in Greenwich Village. Buy a day or weekend pass. A marathon on January 12 and 13 with two unique kick-off events—a Dutch jazz-punk outfit the Ex at LPR and jazz-funk ensemble at Webster Hall. Let these smoking hot jam sessions warm you up this winter. Get all the information here: Winter Jazzfest. Ticket prices vary from $35 – $160.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of free things you can do in New York City in January and year round. Check our comprehensive post about Free Things to Do in NYC. Also, be sure to check out the other sections of this post, as many of these other ideas, such as visiting Grand Central Terminal are free (and warm).
Hear some Gospel Music!
Since January is a non-tourist season you will have a much easier time getting into one of the top Gospel services in New York City. On Sundays, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem is one of the most popular services to attend to hear this inspirational music. It’s free to attend but there are many rules to abide by such as adhering to the dress code and staying through the entire service. Find out more about this church as well as others where you can hear Gospel music in New York, read our post Gospel Music in Harlem and the Rest of New York City.
Attend a TV Show Taping
Totally free, totally fun! And totally easier to get a seat in January when the tourist season is over. Being in the studio audience of one of your favorite shows is possible. We have compiled a list of New York TV Show Tapings along with how you can get tickets. Here is a sampling: Good Morning America, The Today Show, Rachel Ray Show, The View, Live! with Kelly Ripa, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration January 14, 2018
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden Nov. 22, 2017 – Jan. 15, 2018 Prices vary
It’s worth taking a bit a slightly longer subway train ride to see these G-scale mini-trains circle 150 of New York City’s landmarks along a half-mile of track. See the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center re-created with only natural materials like bark and leaves.
This year’s theme is Midtown Manhattan and showcases New York’s iconic skyscrapers and other architectural beauties. For more information, click here. After seeing the mini-version of Midtown Manhattan, join us for a pay-what-you-like tour of the real size Midtown Manhattan.
National Geographic Ocean Odyssey 226 West 44th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
New to the list of tourist attractions, this Ocean Odyssey opened in October 2017. You will stay warm while you take a deep dive into the ocean. Using photo-real animation with giant projection screens and immersive sound, your simulated ocean voyage will feel real. This is a great activity for families with children as there is a great deal of interactive technology including touch screens, holograms, and games involving ocean conservation/research. They are open daily Sunday–Thursday until 10:00 am to 10:30 pm and Friday & Saturday from 10:00 am until 12 midnight. (Last ticket sold one hour prior to closing). Tickets with a reserved time slot cost: $39.50, seniors $36.50, children 12 and under $32.50. Buy your tickets in advance or you will have to pay $20 more! Get all the information here.
Visit a tourist attraction without the crowds
Below are indoor kid-friendly experiences Keep your little ones warm and entertained. These attractions are quite fun for grown-ups too! Click on the links below to be taken to our posts where you will find useful information such as best times to go, prices and hours, discounts, directions to get there and other nearby activities.