Do what we do in New York City's colder months -- grab a coat and head out to enjoy the seasonal festivities and fun winter activities!
Below we share with you our favorite things to do in NYC in the winter during the 2023-2024 season! Plus, we share some tips to make your visit a magical one!
- Top Winter Activities
- Free Things to Do
- What to Pack
- Festivals & Holidays
- Things to Do in NYC All Year
Before we go into the things we enjoy doing in the winter, we'd like to point out why coming to NYC in winter is a smart choice!
This means fewer tourists so attractions aren't as crowded and entry lines won't be long at all.
Next, you can participate in plenty of activities that don't take place during the other seasons, like going ice skating and shopping the post-holiday sales!
Want to save even more?
If you are planning on going to a lot of attractions (which might be the case if you want to be inside on colder days), look into getting a tourist discount pass.
So many of the top New York attractions are included for free with one of these passes, you may find that getting one is right for you.
Still need convincing that winter is an awesome time of the year to visit NYC? Read our post, Best Times to Visit NYC.
Here are some links to the most popular things to do year-round in NYC:
See what events are happening during these winter months, plus what you can expect, weather-wise):
Go Ice Skating
We wait all year to put on our skates and hit the ice rinks. There's something incredibly magical about ice skating in the city.
Surrounded by beautiful buildings by day and dazzling lights at night, ice skating in NYC is an unforgettable experience.
Of the city's several skating rinks, our favorite is at Bryant Park's festive Winter Village.
It's free if you have your own skates. They also rent skates there.
Of course, skating at the iconic rink at Rockefeller Center is a must-do, at least once in a lifetime
Another gorgeous place to skate is Wollman Rink in Central Park (see the picture above). The skyline around the rink is just lovely, especially at night.
You'll recognize it from the movies like Home Alone 2 and Serendipity.
Wollman Rink is just one of the stops on our seasonal NYC Christmas Movie Tour.
Read here about NYC's ice skating rinks.
See the City Sparkle
Even after decades in NYC, we never get tired of how beautiful NYC is at night when the lights come on and the city sparkles.
At the holidays, we get an extra layer of sparkle, filling us with joy.
Despite having seen the department store holiday window displays many times, we can't resist going every year - the new themes and designs are always fun to see.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree never disappoints!
Let us show you the best places to see the city lit up on our New York Holiday Lights Tour.
For a mind-blowing holiday lights experience, see the over-the-top Dyker Heights Holiday Lights.
They have to be seen to be believed! Join a tour or see them on your own.
Check out our post Christmas in NYC to see all the best light displays during the holidays!
Embrace the Holidays
Winter is somewhat synonymous with the holidays. This is a good thing, even if you don't celebrate them.
That's because the holidays bring with them all sorts of wonderful activities that only happen this time of year.
When else besides winter can you see the Rockettes kick up a storm at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular?
One of our favorite things to do this time of year is to hit up the Christmas markets to buy holiday gifts, decorations and unique artisan crafts.
And if you are here on December 31st, brave the crowds and cold to see the ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve.
Attend a Broadway Show for Less
If you are here in late January to early February, you are in for a treat!
Over the years, we've saved loads of money seeing shows during Broadway Week.
But even if you aren't here at that time, you can still find lower prices on tickets since it is off-peak tourist season.
In the video above, Katie, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, explains how to get discounts on Broadway show tickets.
Read our detailed post on how to get discount Broadway tickets any time of the year!
Go to a Sports Game
If it's too cold for you outside, head indoors and see some athletes sweat playing ice hockey and basketball.
You can also see a football game, and though you'll be sitting outdoors, we can vouch that the boisterous, electric atmosphere at a Giants or Jets game is unbeatable.
Football (September - January)
Ice Hockey (October - April)
See what other sports are happening this winter in NYC.
Catch a Concert
Those of us who live in NYC are pretty spoiled when it comes to seeing concerts. We get the top names coming into town, even in the winter months!
There are some fantastic holiday concerts by big-name performers in 2023.
Like always, Phish will play at Madison Garden for four nights, including New Year's Eve.
These performers are playing this winter:
- Jonas Brothers | December 6th, 7th, 9th
- Madonna | December 13th, 14th, 16th, January 22nd, 23rd, 29th
- Andrea Bocelli - December 13th
- Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas One And All! | Dec 17
- Billy Joel | December 19th, January 11
- Phish | Dec. 28-31
- Harlem Gospel Choir | Dec. 21-31
- Tool | January 12 & 13
- Aerosmith | January 19
- Black Pumas | January 19
- Billy Joel | Feb. 9
- Stevie Nicks | Feb 14
- Mitski | multiple dates
TIP: Check out the Madison Square Garden All-Access Tours to see how this iconic arena has become a world landmark.
Take a Sightseeing Tour
Don't let the weather stop you from seeing NYC! It doesn't stop us from doing things around town!
As long as you have packed for an NYC winter, you will enjoy a guided sightseeing tour with us as much as any other time of the year.
In the winter, our tour groups are smaller in size and you'll get more up-close and personal time with our guides.
If you are here around the holidays, we have special tours that you can't take any other time of the year like our New York Holiday Lights Tour.
See what other tour offerings we have!
Hop on a Bus Tour
If you’re not up for walking, or the weather is cold, stay warm while you see New York City on a bus tour.
Just take a look at the video to see what a winter bus tour is like!
Also, hop-on, hop-off buses stop at the most popular attractions, so you can use the bus to go from destination to destination and still see a lot of the city.
Our post on the best Hop-On, Hop-Off NYC Bus Tours can help you decide which is best for you.
Dining Discounts During Restaurant Week
If you've seen the food tours we offer, then you know we are foodies! And boy, do we wait for this time of year to roll around!
During Restaurant Week (a 3-week stretch from late January to mid-February) you can enjoy a 5-star meal at top restaurants 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 either 2 courses or 3 courses for a low price, relative to their regular prices.
See our post, Restaurant Week, to get all the details plus our suggestions of where to eat organized by neighborhood.
Shop the Post-Holiday Sales
If you are in New York after the holidays, you are in luck!
Department stores offer deep discounts and we love looking through the racks for bargains.
You can get even better deals at the already discounted shopping outlets.
Woodbury Commons is one of the best outlets in New York. It's only one hour outside of NYC and worth the easy ride to get there.
In this video, tour guide Katie explains how to get to Woodbury Commons along with tips for shopping there.
Find out how to get there and what you can expect from this huge outlet mall from our post on getting to Woodbury Commons.
See where the best shopping is in NYC here.
Go to a Top Tourist Attraction Without the Crowds
Just like we do, take advantage of the off-peak season to visit one or more popular attractions.
Lines are shorter so you won’t have to wait long (if at all) to get into the attraction.
We enjoy this time to go to museums as they are less crowded in the winter.
Winter is also a great time to visit one of the observation decks which offer spectacular skyline views from inside, as well as outside.
TIP: See our post on the long list of NYC's attractions
Look into a Tourist Discount Pass
A tourist discount pass affords you discounted entry into most of NYC’s most popular attractions.
While the passes themselves certainly aren’t free, if you plan your itineraries well, you will end up getting one or two attractions for free each day.
There are several different types of passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save the most money on your trip.
We here at Free Tours By Foot's NYC team love free things to do in our city!
Some activities that are free every day are even more enjoyable in the winter for a variety of reasons.
Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge
New Yorkers love walking across the Brooklyn Bridge often due to the sense of freedom one feels from there.
But the bridge can get very crowded though in peak tourist season.
Bundle up and cross this NYC gem in winter with lots of room to breathe!
See our guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge to maximize your experience.
Attend a Free TV Show Taping
This is totally free and totally fun and in January it is easier to get a seat when the tourist season is over.
Sit in on tapings of shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Today Show, and The Daily Show.
See our post on all the New York TV show tapings and how you can score tickets.
Explore Central Park
There is never a bad time of year to visit Central Park. It can be especially charming when there is a dusting of snow.
You will want your camera for these moments. Head to The Mall and Gapstow Bridge to capture iconic images.
See our suggestions for the best photo spots in Central Park.
We also have an audio tour you can use day or night.
Hear a Gospel Choir
Let an inspirational choir warm your heart in the winter. NYC has many churches that you can go to and hear the gospel for free.
In the video below, Derrick, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, discusses how to get tickets for the famous Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem.
While there are some basic etiquette expectations, attending a gospel service is easy.
Find out where to hear Gospel Music in NYC.
Get a Spectacular View of NYC from the Free Staten Island Ferry
If you like to avoid crowds, take the free Staten Island Ferry in winter!
During the summer, it can be hard to find a spot along the railing with so many visitors on board, but in colder months, you'll have no trouble.
As for the weather, grab a seat indoors to stay warm then pop out to take pictures of the amazing view of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
For other ways to get out on the water, see our post about all of NYC’s boat tour options.
Check Out the Top Art Museums for Free
You might have been disappointed to find out that the top museums in New York cost a small fortune.
Luckily, many of the top museums offer free days or special free hours, often in the evening.
Here are three to visit:
- Museum of Modern Art - Fridays, free from 5:30 pm – 9 pm
- Guggenheim Museum - Saturdays, free from 5:45 pm – 7:45 pm
- Whitney Museum of American Art - Fridays, free from 7 pm – 9:30 pm
See more free museums here.
Visit the 9/11 Memorial
Seeing the Memorial site and the beautiful giant cascading fountains is a moving experience.
In this video, Katie takes you on a tour of the National September 11th Memorial, also known as the 9/11 Memorial, which is free to visit.
Next to the memorial is the National September 11th Museum which educates the public through documents and videos. The museum also houses artifacts recovered from the Twin Towers site.
There is a fee to enter the museum, but you can enter for free on Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Also, should you buy a tourist discount pass, you can choose the museum as one of your attractions.
Discover the Underground Art Scene
It might be a little cold and rainy outside during the winter, but if you're looking to escape the weather, we have the answer.
Use this virtual subway art tour to discover the underground art scene in NYC's subways!
By walking into any subway station you’re more than likely to find a subway performer or two. Find them easily with our tips for finding subway musicians.
If you are new to the city or a first-time visitor, you may find our post How to Use the NYC Subway helpful.
THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN NYC IN THE WINTER
Some of the events and activities listed above are family-friendly, such as ice skating, seeing a sports game, and taking a free walking tour so be sure to look through this entire post for more ideas.
Visit a Top Attraction
Below are indoor, kid-friendly experiences that will keep your little ones warm and entertained.
These attractions are quite fun for grown-ups too!
- Madame Tussauds
- Museum of Broadway
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not
- Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
- New York Transit Museum
- Tenement Museum
- American Museum of Natural History
Take a Sightseeing Tour
We offer several family-friendly pay-what-you-wish walking tours that include a mix of historical facts and humorous stories.
Most of our tours are appropriate for children and they are recommended by Red Tricycle as one of the best tours for families in New York City!
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
If you are here between November 17, 2023 – January 15, 2024, you should check out this popular annual model train show.
People of all ages love seeing the 190 famous New York landmarks replicated in miniature with birch bark, acorns, and cinnamon sticks!
Attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
As the name implies, this annual parade occurs on Thanksgiving morning in New York City every year.
You can expect a huge variety of floats and performers throughout the parade, and of course, you'll also see Santa Claus!
This is the same parade depicted in the holiday classic Miracle on 34th Street, and it's a popular activity for families to attend.
For more kid-friendly activities, see our post on Things To Do with Kids in NYC.
Visit the Butterfly Conservatory
Located at the American Museum of Natural History, this annual event takes place from the end of November through May of the next year, making it the perfect winter activity.
You'll find more than 500 butterflies fluttering around all kinds of beautiful tropical plants inside the museum's Butterfly habitat.
Get Active at Chelsea Piers
This gigantic sports complex is located right along the Hudson River, and they have a lot of indoor activities that both you and your family may enjoy.
Some of the most popular indoor activities here include:
- Rock Climbing Walls
- Batting Cages
- Golf Club
- And more!
Winter in New York City requires a warm winter jacket or coat.
Bring along some gloves, a scarf, and a hat, unless your coat has a hood. Some days in January or February can be blustery or windy.
Layering clothing is a good idea for any vacation.
In winter, layering will keep you warm outdoors, and you can peel off those layers when indoors.
Some items to bring warm slacks or heavy jeans; for women, skirts are fine if you are willing to wear some very warm leggings or tights.
Long-sleeve shirts of wool or heavy-duty cotton as opposed to lighter materials.
Be sure to bring a wool or cashmere sweater (the thinner, the better kind unless you want your suitcase to be bulky!)
Last but not least, warm (preferably waterproof) boots are also a good idea in case of rain or snow.
Bring a tried and true pair - you don't want to be breaking in a new pair on your vacation!
TIP: If you find you need some additional items to layer but are on a budget, you can try chain stores, particularly Uniqlo, known for its warm yet lightweight apparel.
For more details on weather conditions, see our posts for each month:
There are a lot of interesting festivities that take place in New York City during the winter, and you might want to consider attending some of these events.
We also have a post that covers all of the major public holidays recognized in New York.
Chinese New Year
In 2024, the Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, February 10th (Year of the Dragon, 4721).
The colorful Lunar New Year parade will occur on Sunday, February 18, 2024, in Chinatown.
If you're a jazz fan, this annual event is an absolute must.
The music festival will be taking place between January 11th - 18th, 2024.
You can look forward to more than 100 bands and musicians playing at multiple venues in Greenwich Village.
Buy a day or weekend pass. Let these smoking hot jam sessions warm you up this winter. See their website for the details.
Here's what else is happening during the winter.