NYC in the winter is absolutely beautiful! December is definitely the most magical time of the year in the city.
The first time I visited the NYC in the winter, I definitely wasn’t prepared and completely froze! In high school, my mom, grandma, and I took a girls weekend trip to the city on one of the red-eye bus trips that take you into the city just for the day in December. The day of our trip ended up having a huge snowstorm and I only had brought a thin coat because I wanted to look cute rather than be warm. And let me tell you, that was a big mistake.
Over time, as we have lived here, I have learned the best way to get around the city and enjoy my time, even in the cold weather.
I wanted to share these tips with you so that you can be more prepared than I was my first time and have the time of your life in the city that never sleeps.
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*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
1. Wear comfy, warm shoes!
It can be tempting to want to dress as the most stylish person on the block and wear those super cute shoes you have, but trust me when I say, it is so much better to be warm rather than stylish. The first time we went to NYC, I didn’t know this and wore shoes that were super cute, but my feet froze after 10 minutes of walking on cold pavement. There was a huge blizzard, my feet became soaked and cold, and it made the rest of the trip miserable.
NYC is a city of walking and you will definitely be walking a lot, no matter where you plan on going in the city. Warm, comfortable shoes will make your trip so much more enjoyable. I recommend wearing waterproof boots in the winter. All you need is warm, comfortable shoes. They don’t need to be expensive, only comfortable and warm. My boots are from TJ Maxx, but here is a pair on Amazon that is similar to the pair that I have (and love!).
2. Dress extra warm
NYC is cold, very cold. Not only is it pretty northeast in the United States, but it also surrounded by water, with wind whipping off the water and up each of the streets. The streets act like funnels in the wind and it feels as if you are constantly walking into the wind, no matter what way you turn. It is very helpful to dress warm and in layers. In addition to wearing a heavy coat, wear several layers under your coat including a long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt.
While many destinations don’t require a pair of gloves and hat, here it is almost essential to have gloves, a scarf, and hat at all times. I love wearing beanie toboggans, like this one on Amazon. This is especially crucial if you plan on taking any ferries or going to the Statue of Liberty. Again, it may not be the most stylish thing out there, but you will see that locals in NY bundle and dress warmly, even if it compromises your style in some aspect.
3. Plan your transportation
It’s good to know where you’re going and how to get there before you are out and about. Not only will your phone die rapidly in the cold weather, everyone will also be trying to hail a taxi or take an Uber if the weather turns bad. (A power bank we love to use in the winter or really anytime our phone dies is the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger. It’s super fast to charge your phone and has ports to charge both Apple and Android devices. Also, it easily slips in the side pocket of a purse or backpack.)
Most of the time, I would recommend riding the NYC Subway. Sometimes it may take a little longer or be a little dirty, but in all actualities, the NYC Subway is an amazing deal, is super convenient, and is so warm all winter. While with an Uber or Lyft you will be waiting out in the cold weather and possible snow for your ride, waiting for the subway is very warm and heated. Plus it only costs $2.75 per ride.
4. Plan your itinerary with a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities
Along with planning on where you’re going and when, it’s helpful to plan a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities. Try not to plan all of your outdoor activities in one day if possible. For example, if you plan on spending the morning visiting the Statue of Liberty (which is mostly outdoors), it would be best to spend the rest of your day doing something inside, like a museum or experience. Of course you may not be able to avoid mixing up your activities equally, but if possible its worth trying.
5. Museums can be your best friend for keeping warm
One of the best possible indoor activities, especially if the weather is bad, are museums. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (otherwise known as the MET) is one of the best places to go if it is a cold or stormy day. The MET is ginormous and you could spend days inside, basking in all of the famous artworks. There is something to see for everyone in the MET. In addition to being warm inside, there is also a free coat check available to take your coats and shopping bags while you browse all of the art exhibits. I really recommend visiting the MET on your trip, especially if the weather is not good during your visit.
Pro Tip: If you are a student (of any age) in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, bring your student ID to pay-what-you-wish to get in!
Some other museums I like (and think are worth visiting) are the Color Factory, The Museum of Ice Cream, the American Museum of Natural History, and the MoMA.
7. Grab Hot Drinks Often
If it is cold when you’re walking around, stop in a coffee shop and grab a hot coffee or a hot chocolate. This could be the difference between being miserable and having a great time. Don’t underestimate how lovely a hot drink could help you feel when you’re feeling cold and tired. There are so many amazing coffee shops and cafes throughout New York City. One of my favorite coffee shops in the city is Maman NYC. There are several Maman shops throughout different parts of Manhattan. Check out my NYC Coffee Shop Post to find more coffee shops throughout New York City.
8. Get an Early Start
This is not only a point for traveling to NYC in winter, but really a point for traveling anywhere at anytime. Getting up early and starting your day much earlier than other tourists can allow you the opportunity to see the city like a local. Most tourists don’t visit popular attractions early in the morning, so the earlier you get started, the less people will be around the places you visit.
Often times during the day, popular tourist attractions can be overcome with tourists and it can feel less relaxing. Stores or shops may not be open in the morning, but you can skip the crowds at a lot of outdoor attractions by starting early. By waking up early, you often skip the crowds and are able to enjoy your visit much more.
There are several places I recommend visiting early in the morning. Brooklyn Bridge is one great attraction to visit early in the morning. My friend and I visited the Brooklyn Bridge around 9 am one morning and felt like we had the bridge to ourselves. Another great place to visit early is the 9/11 Memorial. The 9/11 memorial is a very solemn area and is even more special and touching while visiting in the morning.
9. Embrace the Cold Weather
If you’re visiting for the holidays in November or December, it is inevitable that it will be cold. There is no avoiding the cold. So take advantage of the cold weather opportunities while you can.
Lean into the the cold weather and go ice skating or visit to an outdoor Christmas market. Bryant Park is a wonderful place to visit in the winter. Bryant Park has many winter festivities including an ice skating rink and a holiday market.
You may also enjoy: Guide to Visiting NYC in the Winter and around the Holidays
Drink a hot chocolate while walking around Central Park and see the frozen ponds. The Central Park Lake, near the Bethesda Terrace and Loeb Boathouse, is a beautiful area to walk around in, even in the cold weather.
There are so many things to do in only the cold weather in the city, so embrace it while you can.
10. Make reservations for any place you definitely must see
My last recommendation is more a practical one, but make reservations for any particular thing that you want to do, whether its a restaurant, museum, or experience. There are many tourists to NYC in the winter and places that you may plan on visiting may be booked. Also, its better to have a place for dinner booked rather than wandering around in the cold to try to find someplace to eat, especially if you are a large group of people trying to eat together.
Many restaurants in NYC that take reservations use and website called Resy to make and manage reservations. We usually find the restaurant we want to eat at on Google Maps and there is a reservation option through the listing on Google Maps that will show you where you can make a reservation for that specific eatery.
To make resevations for museums or experiences, you will need to go to the individual organization’s website and make a reservation through there.
Do you have any other tips for visiting New York City in the winter? Let me know in the comments down below!
Other post you may like: Place You Must See in NYC
Thanks for reading!