Ultimate Guide To Visiting New York City In Winter + Christmas

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Where Are Those Morgans walking the Mall in Winter NYC snow locals and tourists out enjoying the New York City magical Central Park snow

Are you thinking about visiting New York City in winter? We are going to explain everything you need to know about planning the perfect New York winter vacation including key information on weather, costs, Christmas and the best things to do in NYC in December, January and February.

Is it worth visiting New York City in winter?

Yes! Winter in NYC is far more affordable, there are no crowds at the most famous attractions and it is a magical place when it snows. After living in New York City in winter ourselves, we can tell you from experience that the cold months around Christmas in New York should not be missed.

In this guide we will cover:

  • What is NYC like in the winter?
  • Is New York cheaper in winter?
  • Christmas in NYC
  • Winter weather in New York City
  • 10 best things to do in NYC in winter

Let’s start planning your NYC winter vacation!

Our NYC Winter Experience

Kristen is a New York native and after Mark moved to the US, we spent a year living near the peaceful New York Finger Lakes during the coronavirus pandemic.

We moved to New York City at the end of December in 2020 and spent 4 amazing months in the city until the end of April in 2021. We arrived into NYC at Christmas and left as the last of the snow was melting.

You might be questioning why we would choose winter of all seasons?!

The answer is very simple; December, January and February are fantastic months to explore New York City because tourist numbers are so low. Plus, we just really wanted to experience NYC in the snow!

We were able to visit every single New York attraction on our own bucket list with ease. Long lines, overpaying and even waiting for tables at restaurants were non-existent.

After 4 months non-stop exploring NYC in the winter, we left with thousands of photos, a completed bucket list and memories that will last a lifetime.

Here’s our favorite way of looking at it:

Winter in New York City is harsh and cold, but New York City in winter is extraordinary and unique.

Couple in winter coats stood on a bridge in central park overlooking Fifth Avenue in heavy snow
Mark and Kristen in Central Park overlooking Midtown on a snow day in NYC

Why Are You Visiting New York In Winter?

Let’s consider your intentions for a moment:

  • Are you visiting NYC in winter because you want to experience the city in snow like you have seen in the movies?
  • Or are you planning a winter NYC visit because you are a savvy money saving traveler who also prefers to avoid the crowds?

Both are excellent intentions!

We actually moved to NYC for those reasons combined. Winter was the perfect time for us to get a taste of life in the city, see Central Park covered in snow and do New York on the cheap.

We can’t guarantee you will get that quintessential NYC December snow at Christmas. But we can guarantee you will save money in New York in January and February compared with visiting any other time of year.

Tourist in coat with backpack walking the High Line in NYC with snow on the ground in December
Kristen walking alone on the High Line in February

What Is NYC Really Like In The Winter?

Grab that New York bucket list, tear it up and re-write your heading as the most magical city break, ever. Christmas in NYC is every kids dream, every proposers idyllic get-down-on-one-knee scenario and every retail therapists paradise.

Right?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of visiting New York in December, January or February:

Pros

  • Hotels have a lower occupancy rate and much better value for money when compared to peak season.
  • Flights to and from the major New York airports are more affordable.
  • You won’t have to book attractions in advance or wait in any really long lines.
  • New York is one of the most iconic places in the world to spend Christmas and New Year.
  • When it snows, NYC really is the magical winter wonderland you have seen in Home Alone 2, Miracle on 34th Street or When Harry Met Sally.
  • Walking through Central Park in the snow is one of the most amazing things you will ever do!

Imagine seeing iconic New York City landmarks like Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building blanketed in deep white snow.

Now picture yourself ice skating in Bryant Park with a hot chocolate or shopping on Fifth Avenue with snow falling all around you.

Sound good? Well that is the idyllic fairytale version of New York in winter!

Cons

  • New York can be extremely cold in the winter months.
  • It doesn’t snow as much as you might think.
  • Flights can be delayed or cancelled in adverse weather.
  • You won’t be able to eat outside or soak up the buzz of the city that you would get when it is warmer.

The reality is that NYC in December, January and February is usually freezing cold, daylight hours are short and chances of delays with transport are higher than you might imagine.

Do the cons outweigh the pros? Absolutely not!

We love New York in winter and as long as you don’t mind putting up with the cold for a few days you will love it too.

Red and white striped smoke stack on the road in New York City
You will see smoke stacks like this across NYC in winter

Is New York City Cheaper In Winter?

New York is undoubtably cheaper to visit in the winter months of January and February. You can save a small fortune on flights and hotels when compared to summer months.

Even the first half of December during the build up to Christmas isn’t as expensive as you might think.

However, we must stress that hotel prices and flights spike emphatically in price from around December 20th through Christmas and New Years.

Let’s put Christmas and snow to one side for now. Here are some of the more practical reasons as to why it is a great idea to plan a New York City winter vacation:

1. Amazing Deals On Flights, Hotels, Shows And Dining

NYC is one of the top bucket list places to visit in the USA but in the harsh winter months of January and February, tourism naturally plummets.

That means airlines, hotels, broadway shows and even restaurants need to go the extra mile in order to tempt people to spend their hard earned cash.

The result is a considerable drop in prices compared to the typical average price point.

How Can You Save?

For instance, a London to New York return flight might cost US $1,000 in August, but you can pick up return flights for US $400 in January. Airlines still need to fill their seats, right?

Similarly, hotels still need to fill hotel rooms. So when searching for the best New York City hotels in January and February, allow yourself to look at more luxurious options than you typically would because the higher end hotels will be cheaper.

Even around Christmas you can find better value at hotels than you would in July or August. Be as flexible as possible with your dates of travel and read our guide on how to get cheap hotels for our expert tips.

Broadway shows struggle to fill theaters throughout the Manhattan winter months because there are far fewer punters in town. This is the perfect time of year to pick up discounted broadway tickets, or at the very least you will pay the going rate rather than a peak season rate.

2. Less Crowded At The Top Attractions

There are few places on Earth you can visit in the depths of winter, visit its most famous attractions and still leave feeling the same amount of wow factor as you would in spring, summer or fall.

We can tell you from experience that every single thing on your wishlist of the best things to do in New York City is just as amazing in winter as it would be any other time of year.

But with one major (and we really mean major!) benefit; no crowds.

We visited New York in late summer a few years before moving to NYC in winter. Every landmark and attraction felt like a theme park ride. Top of the Rock was like being at a music festival with no capacity limit and Brooklyn Bridge was practically impassable!

If you visit New York in winter you will have the freedom of the city. You can essentially turn up to anything and walk straight in. Trust us, that is not something to take for granted.

Where Are Those Morgans standing under an arch at Bethesda Terrace in New York City in Winter around Christmas Holidays
Mark and Kristen at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park on a snow day in winter

Christmas In NYC

Fabled Christmas trees, colorful lights, ice rinks, snow falling and the best shopping in the world make a New York Christmas vacation one of the most sought after trips in the world.

What does your New York winter itinerary look like? A quick weekend break from another US city? Maybe a 4 day NYC itinerary if you are flying across the Atlantic from London or Paris?

No matter how long you stay, we can tell you that the weeks leading up to Christmas in New York are incredibly popular among families and couples. There is a perpetual feel good buzz in the air and despite the cold everyone just wants to be outside.

Does it get any more romantic for couples than NYC at Christmas? Maybe Paris?

We can guarantee romance will flourish if you strike it lucky with a bona fide New York snow day during your visit.

Who hasn’t always dreamed of a romantic stroll through Central Park arm in arm with a loved one in the pouring snow?!

Things To Do In NYC On Christmas Day

Are you going to be in New York on Christmas Day?

There are so many unique things you can do around New York that would be completely different to any Christmas you have had before.

Here are some things we would consider doing in New York City on Christmas Day:

  • See the Rockefeller Christmas tree
  • Ice skate in Central Park or Bryant Park
  • Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with a coffee
  • See a Broadway show
  • Go out for a high end Christmas dinner
  • See the Dyker Heights Christmas lights

Marriage Proposals

New York City plays host to hundreds of couples saying YES each year and Christmas has to be up there with most wonderful times of the year to pop the question.

Here are some of the most popular places you can expect to see a proposal in NYC:

  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain – Gorgeous spot in Central Park
  • Brooklyn Bridge – Both on it and near Jane’s Carousel
  • Empire State Building and Top of the Rock – Stunning city views
  • Ice Rinks – Classic NYC winter proposal locations
  • Rooftop Bars – Views, drinks and an audience cheering
Bow Bridge in snow central park in winter around christmas
The incredibly photogenic Bow Bridge in NYC in winter

Winter Weather In New York City

One of the most important considerations when planning your NYC winter vacation is weather.

After 4 months living in New York in winter, here is the most important thing to remember; it is usually cold but it rarely snows.

Upstate New York sees a huge amount of snow each year (we spend a lot of time in upstate NY and know real snow!) but NYC only sees a handful of days with significant snowfall each year.

Let’s take a closer look at NYC winter weather:

When Does It Snow In New York City?

We are going to show you how much it snows throughout winter in NYC and we think you will be shocked by what you see.

Each year snow will fall in NYC, that much is almost guaranteed. Occasionally November and March will get snowfall but it is not worth planning a trip around.

It is important to know that some years can see far more or far less than average amounts of snow in New York through December, January and February.

Here are averages for how much snow has fallen in New York City between 2010-2019:

Average NYC Winter Snowfall Volume

  • December – 4.4 inches
  • January – 12.9 inches
  • February – 11.8 inches

Average Amount Of Snow Days In New York City

  • December – 1.1 days
  • January – 2.6 days
  • February – 2.5 days

Days With Over 1 Inch Of Snow On The Ground

  • December – 2.9 days
  • January – 7.9 days
  • February – 9.1 days

Source: Current Results

So why does it appear as though you see NYC covered in snow so much?

Because the temperature often stays below zero after significant periods of snowfall, which means ground snow can stick around for quite some time.

Ground snow still means you get to see New York white over but it isn’t the same as experiencing actual snowfall.

We highly recommend you plan your trip for late January or early February if your main priority is a New York snow day.

 

Our Snow Day

We had to wait a long time for our dreamy snow day in New York.

It wasn’t until February 7th that we finally had one of those fairytale downpours with huge thick snowflakes. Once it happened, everyone in New York beelined for Central Park.

We spent hours gleefully walking through Central Park ticking off classic movie locations with deep snow all around and heavy snow falling. Kids were flying around the park on sleds, friends were throwing snowballs at each other and dogs were having so much fun.

It was one of our all time favorite content collecting days since starting this travel blog back in 2018 and we have everything crossed hoping that you will get to experience the same on your visit to New York City.

Looking through buildings with a bridge above ground
Meatpacking District street on a cold day in January

How Cold Does It Get In New York City In The Winter?

It is no secret that New York is cold in the winter. You already know it is going to be chilly and you plan to pack heavy coats, right?

However, it is important to know that the temperatures can vary quite significantly in New York City in December.

Just look at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 2020, when average high temperatures in NYC (according to historical weather data) were a balmy 62F and 63F respectively. Sunscreen was more of a possibility than a winter coat!

So if you are planning a New York Christmas vacation, you might not have to deal with below zero temperatures as often as you might have initially expected.

But we have to say that January and February are pretty brutal!

January is the coldest month of the year in NYC. It has the most amount of days where the temperature drops below freezing and February is only slightly less frigid.

NYC December Weather

  • Low – 34F (1C)
  • High – 45F (7C)

December is actually quite pleasant in New York as far as temperatures are concerned, especially if you visit earlier in the month.

Mark grew up in (the original!) York in England and the average temperatures are very similar to NYC in December.

NYC January Weather

  • Low – 29F (-2C)
  • High – 40F (4C)

January is the coldest month of year in New York City. Temperatures plummet after New Year and they stay low throughout the month.

NYC February Weather

  • Low – 30F (-1C)
  • High – 42F (6C)

February remains very cold in New York but there is light at the end of the tunnel, especially if you visit later in the month.

Source: Weather Spark

Now those cheap flights and hotels are starting to make more sense, right?!

We spent months walking around New York in sub-zero temperatures. There were some challenging sunrises, sunsets and night photo shoots!

READ: Visiting New York City in April

What To Pack For Winter In New York

Packing for your New York winter vacation is fairly straightforward:

  • Pack for late fall and early winter conditions if you visit New York in December.
  • Pack exclusively winter gear if you visit NYC in January or February.

No matter when in the winter you plan to visit NYC, we suggest erring on the side of caution. That means overpack with more layers and warm clothes than you think you might need.

You might end up with a heavy suitcase but you will quietly thank us when you arrive.

We would not have survived winter in NY without our heavy parka jackets with wooly hood liners. You must wear or pack a coat that is going to keep you warm.

Hats, gloves and scarves are essential to keep warm and you can even dress them up. You might think it but sunglasses are very important when the sun is out and snow is on the ground.

Packing base layers is not overkill. We often wore high quality moisture wicking base layers like under-layer pants underneath our jeans for added warmth.

Footwear is important if it snows. That fluffy pair of Ugg boots isn’t going to cut it in the snow! Nor will running shoes or fashionable shoes for that matter.

Even if it doesn’t snow, you will still need thick pairs of socks and a robust pair of shoes to keep your feet warm. Cold toes were one thing we struggled with despite our best efforts.

Thick snow clouds above New York City at night reflecting light as seen from the top of an observation deck
View over Hudson Yards from Empire State Building with thick snow clouds reflecting the city lights

Best Things To Do In New York City In Winter

New York is one of just a few cities you can visit any time of year and it will be an experience you will never forget.

Each season brings its own blend of amazing benefits to the table, but we have to say winter (especially around Christmas) is the most magical time to visit NYC. And it is so much quieter!

What is the most important thing to know about planning a New York City winter vacation?

You can see and do almost all of the same things as you would in spring, summer or fall, plus more unique activities you can only do in winter. As a result, there are actually more things to do in New York in winter than any other time of year.

Crowd free attractions, discount prices, a cheerful atmosphere and a bit of help from the weather gods will make this a trip for the scrap book.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 things to do in NYC in December, January and February.

Need help planning your visit to NYC?

Our popular New York City travel guidebook will help you with planning every aspect of your trip, including airport links, the subway, top attractions, itinerary ideas, restaurants, hotels and map!

View NYC Guidebook
Where Are Those Morgans NYC travel guidebook

1. Explore Snowy Central Park

Wagner Cover in Central Park NYC on a snow day
Central Park covered in snow is spectacular

When it comes to iconic New York City winter landmarks and attractions, we can’t think of a better place to begin than Central Park.

Central Park is one of the most famous urban escapes in the world. Local New Yorkers run, cycle and walk dogs while tourists explore every nook and cranny of the diverse landscape.

Here’s what you can expect outside of winter in Central Park:

  • Spring – Beautiful soft pink cherry blossoms.
  • Summer – An ocean of emerald green.
  • Fall – A vibrant array of golden yellows, burnt oranges and fiery reds.

But there is just something so special about Central Park in winter.

Here’s a little of what you can expect at Central Park in December, January and February:

  • Stunning trees, movie scene benches and historic statues lining The Mall covered in a foot of snow, kids hurtling down shallow hills on improvised sledges made from dustbin lids and maybe even a giant octopus sculpture expertly crafted in snow.
  • The exquisite tiled ceiling of Bethesda Terrace Arcade glowing orange next to heavy snowfall blanketing Bethesda Fountain and professional photographers snapping wedding shots.
  • A maze of narrow winding paths intricately transporting tourists through The Ramble, passing by frozen ponds and underneath ornate stone arches.

Don’t forget to buy a hot cup of coffee before you begin exploring the park!

READ: Best places to visit in Central Park in winter

2. See The Legendary Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Rockefeller christmas tree outside rockefeller center with ice rink in january
The famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree in NYC

Home Alone fans rejoice! After the movie locations extravaganza in Central Park, you finally get to see the enormous Christmas tree from the end of Lost in New York.

The world famous Rockefeller Christmas tree is symbolic of the holiday season in New York City and no NYC winter trip would be complete without seeing it up close.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Rockefeller Christmas tree is a Norway Spruce and stands at anywhere between 65 – 100 ft tall.
  • A televised lighting ceremony takes place the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
  • So in 2023, the lights will illuminate Rockefeller Plaza from November 29th.
  • Typically, the tree will be lit for around 30-35 days.
  • The star on top is Swarovski crystal.
  • One of the best viewing points is from Fifth Avenue, through the Channel Gardens.
  • The tree is positioned between the Rockefeller Center and the Rockefeller ice rink, with golden statue of Prometheus at its base.

If you are lucky enough to get a snow day at Christmas in December, do not miss a visit to the Rockefeller Christmas tree in the early evening once darkness descends over NYC.

3. Watch The New Year’s Eve Ball Drop In Times Square

Times Square NYC empty where are those morgans standing alone surrounded by lights around christmas in winter
Mark and Kristen alone in Times Square at dawn

Sydney’s Harbor Bridge, Rio’s Copacabana Beach, London’s Big Ben and New York City’s Times Square host some of the biggest New Years Eve parties on the planet.

Fireworks, bells chiming, thousands of people cheering and a ball slowly dropping down a flagpole from 11.59pm until 12.00am on December 31st bring in the New Year for millions in New York.

Times Square ball drop facts:

  • The fifth (and current) iteration of the NYE ball is 12ft in diameter and has been in use since 2009.
  • It is lit by over 32,000 LED lamps and weighs almost 12,000lbs.
  • You will find the ball on its flag pole perched atop the One Times Square building.
  • If you want to see the ball drop, plan to arrive at Times Square no later than mid-afternoon.

You might be wondering what type of magic we used in the photo of us at Times Square above. How could we possibly be the only 2 people in shot?

Well, it isn’t a Photoshop edit, it is real and we were the only 2 people in all of Times Square. We took the photo at 6.00am on a Tuesday morning in January in the later stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel tip: The Renaissance Hotel on Times Square has a handful of rooms and a bar overlooking the NYE ball drop and celebrations. Rooms sell out for New Year a long way in advance so get in quick!

4. Go Ice Skating On A New York City Ice Rink

Bryant Park ice rink on a cold january day
Ice skaters in Bryant Park in winter

Does your home town have an ice rink in winter? Can you see the Empire State Building from it?!

Taking to the ice is classic bucket list NYC in winter, especially for families, couples and groups of friends visiting the city. Ice rinks in New York are open throughout the winter season.

We have already mentioned the famous ice rink at Rockefeller Plaza but be warned, despite its iconic status the rink is very small.

If you are looking for a bigger ice rink with room to move, you can venture out a handful of alternatives including:

We took the photo above of skaters circling around Bryant Park ice rink. We had already whizzed round a few times ourselves before taking the photo from a table as we sipped on Belgian hot chocolate and ate waffles to refuel.

New York’s ice rinks aren’t huge, they are overpriced and they are a little gimmicky, but that’s not going to come as a surprise to you. Embrace it, you are in NYC in winter!

5. Shop Fifth Avenue And Enjoy NYC Winter Holiday Displays

Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window display
Holiday displays in the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue in December

During the winter in New York City, the most famous and expensive shopping street on Earth comes to life in a dazzling display of Christmas colors and design.

Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan is a shopping haven for millions each year and Christmas presents couldn’t be purchased from a more legendary place.

High end designer boutiques to popular flagship high street stores line the flanks of Fifth Avenue, including renowned department store Saks Fifth Avenue. Don’t miss the varied window displays as you walk alongside the Saks building.

Macy’s Herald Square might not be on Fifth Avenue (it is on 34th street between 6th and 7th avenue) but it more than deserves to be included on your NYC Christmas or winter shopping bucket list.

The world’s largest store is unmissable for shopping lovers any time of year, so the bright red sign with white letters spelling out Macy’s is another iconic stop on your NYC winter itinerary.

Travel tip: If you visit NYC at the end of November just before winter begins, you can watch the fun filled Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Best Christmas Lights In NYC

Are you visiting New York for the most Christmassy Christmas trip ever?! You simply have to make the effort to visit Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.

The residents of 11th avenue to 13th avenue and from 83rd to 86th street put on a festive Christmas extravaganza each December. It is a hugely popular NYC winter attraction but it is a bit of a pain to reach.

Expect the trip from Manhattan take around one hour each way via subway, or you can take this popular guided bus tour of Dyker Heights instead.

Either way it is well worth the effort for lovers of Christmas!

6. New York City Winter Walks

Where Are Those Morgans walking the High Line in NYC at Winter
Mark and Kristen walking the High Line completely alone in winter

There is no better way to see New York City than by foot. Sure, the subway is great if you need to cover a longer distance but walking really allows you to get a taste for the vibe and atmosphere of a new neighborhood or part of town.

We walked as much as we possibly could in four months living in NYC, despite it being winter. Since moving out we have been back to New York several times and we always walk.

If you visit New York in summer you are going to share sidewalks with a whole lot of other people, but the colder winter months mean sparsely populated walkways are more accessible.

Here are just some of the best places to take a leisurely Christmas or Winter stroll around NYC:

  • The High Line – Pictured above, one of the most popular walkways in the city.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – The famous bridge is far less chaotic in winter.
  • Central Park – Without snow the huge park will be very quiet in winter.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park – Shop, eat, photograph bridges and see the Lower Manhattan skyline.
  • Financial District – Hit the touristy sites around Wall Street.
  • SoHo – If Fifth Avenue isn’t high end enough, try glitzy SoHo instead.
  • Broadway – Central Park to Union Square passing a host of famous sites in Midtown Manhattan.

Just be sure to wrap up, grab a hot chocolate and enjoy seeing the city with barely any crowds.

7. Watch The Rockettes Perform In The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Radio City lights at night Rockettes Show at Christmas in one of the best things to do in NYC in Winter
Radio City Music Hall lit up at night in winter

Did you know New York’s Radio City is the largest indoor theater in the world?

The entertainment venue was opened at the end of 1932 as part of the sprawling Rockefeller Center complex and it seats up to 5,931 patrons.

In recent years, the music hall has played host to various tv shows, awards ceremonies, concerts and even the NFL draft from 2006 through 2014.

New: Radio City is undergoing development for the construction of a rooftop garden, 90 years after original plans were shelved.

But the biggest event of the year comes right around Christmas in NYC, when the Rockettes perform their precision dance show as part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

Shows typically run from the beginning of November and end around the beginning of January. In the winter of 2023/2024, tickets are on sale from November 17th until January 1st.

Search ticket prices and availability to watch the Radio City Rockettes.

Broadway Week

If your winter NYC vacation will be later in the season you won’t get the chance to see the Rockettes perform a NYC Christmas classic. However, there are many more shows and experiences to enjoy in New York, and you will find them at discounted prices in January and February.

Broadway theater shows are among the very best in the world. Elite actors, dancers and performers wow locals and tourists alike with a wide range of theater hits from classics to the most modern shows.

Each year around late January and early February, Broadway Week is a highly anticipated slot in the NYC winter calendar for theater lovers and all shows sell 2-for-1 tickets for roughly a 20 day period.

The most popular shows sell out incredibly quickly, so keep an eye on dates and when tickets are released. NYTix is showing Broadway Week dates as January 12th to February 4th for 2024.

8. Explore The Best New York City Museums In Peace

Egyptian exhibit in the MET museum
Exhibit inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Are you a history buff or an art aficionado?

If the answer is yes, you are going to love New York City. And better yet, you are going to love NYC in winter even more once you step foot inside the top museums and see how quiet they are.

Not only is winter the perfect time to explore museums because it is freezing cold outside, but by far one of the greatest aspects of visiting NYC in winter is a distinct lack of crowds at the most popular attractions.

We visited a dozen or so museums during our time living in New York in winter and we never felt overwhelmed by hordes of people.

For reference, we visited The Louvre in Paris a few years back in summer and we couldn’t even get into the room that houses the Mona Lisa. Similarly, our summer visit to The Vatican in Italy was insanely busy. And we suspect summer in New York’s top museums is likely the same story.

There are hundreds of amazing NYC museums you could visit in winter, but here are our top recommendations.

Top NYC Museums

The MET and 9/11 were our two personal favorite museums and you should plan to spend several hours at each one.

If you are interested in the history of NYC mass transportation or want to visit a unique museum, you will also like the New York Transit Museum.

9. See NYC From Above And Have Room To Move

Sunset at the Edge in NYC observation decks are quiet during winter in new york city perfect for tourism
Sunset view over NYC from Edge in winter

What is the one thing you can’t miss when you visit New York City?

For us, it was photographing the world’s most recognizable skyline from high up among its most iconic skyscrapers.

Even if architecture and buildings aren’t of particular interest to you, we can guarantee you will be blown away by the immense urban landscape of Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

Throughout several visits and our time living in New York, we have been to the top of all major observation decks in New York City on several occasions.

Here are the 5 NYC observation decks you can visit for sweeping city views:

We can’t possibly tell you which one to visit because they are all amazing and offer unique aspects.

But what we can tell you is that each observation deck will be easily accessible and relatively crowd free if you visit New York in winter.

During previous summer visits to NYC, we have both stood on the top floor at Top of the Rock for sunset and seen how ridiculously packed it gets.

Well, at sunset on a Saturday night in February we were two of only 5 people on the very same top floor at Top of the Rock.

Different Take On NYC Observation Decks:

READ: The 5 NYC observation decks compared

10. Dine Out On Cheap High End Meals During Restaurant Week

Afternoon tea at the whitby hotel in manhattan
Luxury afternoon tea experience at The Whitby Hotel in NYC

Foodies are going to love this one.

Twice a year, once in the summer months of July and August and once again in winter months of January and February, some of New York City’s best restaurants offer us the chance to eat top quality food at bargain bin prices.

Since 1992, Restaurant Week in both winter and summer has been celebrating New York’s world famous culinary culture by allowing the average local or tourist to taste luxurious food samples from high end eateries and the best chefs in the city.

If you are planning a to visit New York City in January or February and right now you are thinking man, I hope our 4 day trip falls into restaurant week, you will be happy to know that restaurant week actually lasts for around a full month.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Typically, the winter week runs from around January 20 through February 20, give or take a few days either side.
  • You can pick up prix fixe (multiple courses charged at a fixed price) meals at lunch or dinner.
  • Prices are $21, $39 or even $125 for a signature dining experience.
  • Most restaurants only have this offer available Monday through Friday.

Sorry, NYC Christmas visitors but you will miss out on this awesome perk!

Looking up at the Chrysler Building from below with a construction elevator to the side
The stunning art deco style Chrysler Building on another chilly NYC winter day

Best Places To Stay In NYC In Winter

Picking an affordable and high quality hotel in a great neighborhood can be the hardest part of planning a visit to New York any time of year.

However, you stand a much better chance of ticking all the boxes if you visit NYC in January or February thanks to lower demand.

Our extremely popular where to stay in New York City neighborhood guide will help you work out the best area to book a hotel.

If you would prefer to take a deeper look at hotels, we have also written a complete guide to the 30 best hotels in NYC on our sister site Best Hotels Anywhere.

Don’t have time to read our detailed guides? Here are four of the top rated New York hotels we see get the most action:

Hotels do tend to book up rooms between mid December and the end of December, so we would recommend you get your hotel booked early if planning a visit to New York City at Christmas or New Year.

Be sure to have a good look around if you visit New York in January or February. You stand an excellent chance of picking up a luxury hotel room at very reasonable prices.

Search all New York City hotels on Booking.com to find your winter bargain.

1 hotel central park room overlooking the park
Our room at 1 Hotel Central Park in winter

Best Winter Month To Visit New York City

After reading all of the information we have provided so far, when do you think is the best time for you to visit New York City; December, January or February?

Here’s a brief summary of what you need to know about each month:

New York In December

The lead up to Christmas and New Year in December is a wonderful time to visit NYC. The atmosphere is electric, you can buy gifts on Fifth Avenue or at Macy’s, watch the ball drop in Times Square or eat and drink your way through the festive period with locals.

December is busier and more expensive in New York compared to January or February but that might be what you are looking for anyway. Hustle and bustle, socializing and soaking up the NYC lifestyle.

There is less chance of snow in NYC in December and it might even be surprisingly mild during your visit.

New York In January

If you want to pick up the very best deals on flights and hotels, January in NYC is your month. It is also the time to visit if you are dead set on avoiding the crowds.

January will most likely be brutally cold, but you will have the freedom of the city. All museums and attractions will be quiet and foodies can take advantage of restaurant week toward the end of the month.

New York In February

The first three weeks of February fall into restaurant week in New York. You will also have the highest probability of snow but it will still be cold.

Flights and hotels are still much cheaper, and top attractions remain quiet in NYC in February.

Don’t forget the next celebration after Christmas is Valentines Day. NYC might just see a couple hundred more marriage proposals next February!

Four major nyc attraction passes displayed in iPhones
The four popular NYC attraction passes

New York City Attraction Passes

If you are planning to visit the top attractions when you visit New York in winter, we recommend you purchase a New York City attraction pass.

The idea is simple with these attractions passes; the more attractions you visit, the more money you will save.

Having used the NYC attraction passes ourselves when we lived in New York, we recommend the New York Sightseeing Pass because its extremely easy to use while offering both flexibility and big savings.

Many of the attractions included in this New York winter guide are included with the NY Sightseeing Pass and we have an exclusive 10% discount just for our readers.

Want To Save Money In NYC?

Click the button to get our exclusive 10% off discount on any NY Sightseeing Pass.

You can also read our guides below to help decide which is the perfect pass for your visit to New York City in the winter:

Travel Tip: If you have a New York attractions pass, you will not have to pay the extra fee for a sunset time slot at the any of the NYC observation decks when you reserve your timed entry ticket online.

  • 50 best things to do in New York City – Our enormous collection of the best things to do on a visit to NYC after three months of relentlessly exploring tourist hot spots throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  • 4 days in NYC itinerary – The best and most efficient way to fit all of the very best things to do in New York City into four unforgettable days.
  • Where to stay in New York City – Our top ranking guide to the best hotels and neighborhoods to stay in New York City has helped thousands of visitors find their ideal NYC hotel.
  • Best Pizza in NYC – Roundup of the top rated pizza joints across New York City.
  • Best Bagels in NYC – Our collection of the best places to eat delicious bagels in New York City.
More NYC Guides

Want more New York City content? Head to our New York Travel Guides to explore more from the Big Apple as well as beautiful upstate NY.


We hope this ultimate guide to visiting New York City in winter helps with planning your dream trip to NYC around Christmas!

Please let us know if you have any questions about planning your NYC winter vacation in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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