New York City’s infamous winter is seen very differently among tourists and locals. While we can all agree that the snow looks beautiful once it has freshly blanketed our city streets, a sight any tourist romanticizes heavily, a true New Yorker is sitting there dreading the thought of treading through the wet, sludgy mess it will quickly become. Many of us New Yorkers tend to follow in the footsteps of the hibernating bear and hide out in our apartments until the first glimpse of spring.
Luckily, the never-ending list of fun things to do in New York City is enough to test our strength and pull us out of our warm, cozy beds and into the bustling streets of the city we love so much, even if there is a chill in the air. The truth is, New York in the winter isn’t so bad, and these can’t miss wintertime experiences are sure to prove it to you. From rooftop iceskating with breathtaking views of the city to the best places to experience igloo dining, here’s our list of the top things to experience this winter in NYC.
1. Learn to ski at NYC’s Winter Jam
Returning for another year at Central Park is NYC’s beloved winter festival Winter Jam! This festival is open to all ages and (arguably the best part) totally FREE! Taking place on Saturday, February 5, New Yorkers can spend the day in a snowy paradise skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and more.
There will be a lot of winter fun packed into the day, so be sure to get there early!
2-6. Strap on your skates at one of these must-visit ice rinks
Put your ice skating skills to the test at one of NYC’s many ice rinks. From a Brooklyn rooftop rink with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline to Bryant Park, New York City’s only ice skating rink with free admission, there’s no shortage of places to bundle up and put your blade to the ice. Here are some of our favs:
- Abe Stark Rink, Coney Island
- Wollman Ice Rink, Central Park
- Industry City, Brooklyn
- Staten Island Skating Pavilion, Staten Island
- Governor’s Island Winter Village Ice Rink
7. Let your inner child shine with bumper cars at Bryant Park
There are some restrictions (you have to be over seven years old and at least 42 inches tall), and you’ll have to reserve your spot in advance, but it’s an experience you won’t want to miss out on! Sessions are $20 and last 10 minutes long and will occur on a first-come, first-serve basis within your one-hour booking window.
8-12. Warm up with some tasty hot cocoa from one of our favorite NYC spots
If you’re thinking hot chocolate is the same everywhere, let NYC prove you wrong. Whether you opt for hot chocolate in the form of fluffy mousse, hot chocolate topped with a marshmallow flower, or red velvet hot chocolate, the choices are endless, and they’re all equally as tasty. Allow a sweet cup of hot chocolate from one of our favorite spots to warm you up all winter long:
- Blue Stripes, Union Square
- Martha’s Country Bakery, Williamsburg
- Snowdays NYC, Bay Ridge
- Daily Provisions, Gramercy
- The Chocolate Room, Cobble Hill
13. Experience the beauty of nature in the winter at Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Even though it may be winter the Brooklyn Botanic Garden still has a ton to do, like viewing their evergreens and winter berries, smelling the citrus scent of witch-hazels, a ribbon-like flower that blooms in the winter, or keeping an eye out for the pair of hawks who have been nesting in one of the garden’s pines for several years.
The best part – all winter Brooklyn Botanic Garden is offering pay-as-you-wish admission on weekdays, Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4:30pm! It will be closed on Mondays and admission will be full price, $18, on weekends.
They also offer free community tickets, up to 20 percent of their total daily capacity, for those who are facing financial hardship. It’s still recommended to reserve your tickets in advance for COVID-19 safety.
14-16. Cozy up while dining in igloos across NYC
Dining in igloos seems to have become an NYC winter staple post March 2020, so why not try one yourself to enjoy a new dining experience? From Lower Manhattan to the Upper West Side, there’s no shortage of igloos to cozy up into. We created a list of some of our favs, three of them being:
- City Winery, Rockefeller Center
- Lucciola, Upper West Side
- No5, Long Island City
17-21. Or stay cozy while enjoying heated al-fresco dining
Just because you’re not hidden within the safety of an igloo doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy al-fresco NYC dining without freezing your toes off. A lot of NYC restaurants have heaters in their outdoor spaces so you can keep your body toasty and your belly full, even in the dead of winter. Five of our favorites include:
- Boucherie, West Village
- Sushi Lab, Theater District
- Ainslie, Williamsburg
- The Chester, Meatpacking District
- Periyali, Flatiron
22. Check out the new lantern display lighting up the streets of Chinatown
A permanent display of 250 colorful and bright lanterns are now lighting up Chinatown, and they’re totally worth seeing in person. The organization Send Chinatown Love has been working tirelessly to keep Chinatown and all its businesses afloat during the pandemic.
“Light Up Chinatown” is the organization’s newest venture, which has installed permanent light fixtures on Mott St. (from Canal St. to Bayard St.) and Bayard St. (from Mott St. to Bowery St.) to help entice customers back to Chinatown in order to support local businesses. So take a trip down to Chinatown, grab a bite to eat, and allow the new light display to dazzle you.
23-27. Hang out at one, or all, of NYC’s winter wonderland rooftops
Walking in a winter wonderland doesn’t apply to just frolicking around on a cold, snowy day. It can also mean hanging out at one of the many NYC rooftop bars that turn into winter wonderlands in the colder months!
Some of our favorites include:
- Mr. Purple, LES
- Haven Rooftop, Midtown
- The Ready Rooftop, East Village
- The Rooftop at Pier 17, Seaport District
- Chalet de Ning in Midtown.
Here’s our full list of our top favorite spots.
28. Enjoy some winter sports on the Empire State Trail
Empire State Trail, the longest single-state trail in the nation that links NYC to Canada, is 750 miles long and open for some winter fun. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers are welcome to enjoy the trail’s paths. And, following snow events, some trail sections will be plowed for walkers and cyclists.
29-31. Discover your new go-to winter date spot
Escape from the cold for a couple of hours with a cozy, dimly-light, romantic date night. Warm up with a glass of red wine or a hot toddy and feast on the most delicious meals. Unsure of where to go? Here are some of our favorite spots:
- Apotheke, Chinatown/Little Italy
- Jimmy at The James Hotel, NoMad
- The Little Shop, Seaport District
See our full list here.
32. Sip on tasty drinks at this three-in-one bar
From acclaimed NYC Aperitivo bar Dante comes Dante Winter House, a seasonal pop-up taking over Pearl Alley. This winter wonderland located features not one but three bars in one space: Coffee Bar, Dante Bar, Negroni Bar. (Plus a flatbread food truck and a gelateria truck will also be there for when your stomach starts to rumble).
33-35. Warm up by slurping on some of NYC’s best bowls of ramen
When hot chocolate can’t cut it on a cold winter day, ramen is our next favorite thing. There’s a ton of delicious ramen spots scattered across NYC, but some of our top picks include:
- Ichiran, Bushwick
- Chuko, Prospect Heights
- Momosan Ramen & Saki, Murray Hill