20 Actually Cool Things to Do in NYC This Winter

From a toasty fire pit on Governors Island to a wintry pop-up bar with three distinct spaces, these activities are perfect for chilly temps.

Wollman Rink in Central Park
Wollman Rink in Central Park | EarthScape ImageGraphy/Shutterstock
Wollman Rink in Central Park | EarthScape ImageGraphy/Shutterstock

It’s time to collectively agree as a city that we can’t be conquered by so-called seasonal blues because winter is still a magical season…even if the sun does set promptly at 5 pm. Although puffers, boots, and beanies have become part of the daily attire, NYC is still buzzing with ways to divert your attention in between snow falls during the upcoming cold months.

This winter, take it easy with a cleansing spa day or truly embody that “we live where you vacation” mindset and hit up anything from a toasty fire pit on Governors Island to a wintry pop-up bar with three distinct spaces. Whatever your vibes are this season, we’ve got you covered with 20 actually cool things to do in NYC this winter.

Information listed here may be subject to change depending on the developing situation with COVID-19's Omicron variant. Please check for the latest updates available or contact each establishment directly for more info.
Yakov Oskanov/Shutterstock

Through February
Governors Island
Just a short 10-minute ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan is the recently-opened hub for winter amusement, Governors Island Winter Village. From sledding down snowy hills to skating around a 5,000-square-foot ice rink, cross off classic seasonal activities from your list all in one place this year. When you’re looking to warm up, hang out around one of the fire pits while sipping on toasty drinks and snacks from a rotating range of vendors like El Toro Rojo and Joe Coffee. And in even better news, now your pup can accompany you with the newly instated Dog Days.
Cost: $11 admission; free admission on Fridays; skate rentals at $8

Dante Winter House
Dante Winter House | Photo by Mike Szpot/Courtesy of The Howard Hughes Corporation

Throughout winter
South Street Seaport
This season, Dante has transformed South Street Seaport’s multi-bar space, Pearl Alley, into a winter wonderland-themed seasonal pop-up bar. Amid frosted greenery, decorative snow, and twinkling lights, Dante Winter House features three separate bars—one exclusively serving a variety of belly-warming Negronis—and two food trucks serving flatbreads and affogatos. There’s also an aperitivo hour and live entertainment as an added bonus. And if you’re looking for an activity to accompany your sips and snacks, the main hall has games like foosball to liven the mood.
Cost: Cocktails start at $15

January 27–February 19
Bowery
SPAM has been a favorite of Asian communities for decades, and with the recent rise of Tik Tok stars posting their own recipes, this canned meat dating back to the Great Depression is seeing a social media resurgence. And what better way to gain extra appreciation for canned meat than a play dedicated to its storied past. Held at Dixon Place on the Bowery, Specially Processed American Me—written by Jaime Sunwoo and directed by Karim Muasher and Jaime Sunwoo—chronicles the path of SPAM in the military, the Asian-Pacific region, Asian cuisine, and how it affected Sunwoo’s Asian-American upbringing. The dialogue flips between humorous and weighty as the cast flows through the scenes, so be ready for a whirlwind of emotions.
Cost: Tickets $25 in advance; $28 at door

The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show
The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show | Photo by Alessandro Fresco

January 28–29
Chelsea
What better way to give yourself a dose of serotonin than to spice up your wardrobe with one-of-a-kind, gorgeous vintage pieces during our current chilly season. At The Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, fill your closet with those near-impossible to find Y2K accessories and garments that have been taking over our social media feeds (as long as you’re masked and vaxxed). Here, over 70 vintage dealers will have their finest threads on display for you to peruse and snag. It’s the perfect excuse to score a new coat or boots to channel that 2000s look we’re all so obsessed about.
Cost: Tickets $15 pre-show online, $20 at door

The William Vale Winter Spa
The William Vale Winter Spa | Photo courtesy of The William Vale

Through March
Williamsburg
Sometimes, we’re all in need of a little self care. When you find yourself looking for a way to destress from the work week or deserve an extra bit of pampering, head over to The William Vale Winter Spa. Running through March, don a cushy white robe over your bathing suit and step into one a private red cedar sauna with a plus one for a thoroughly reviving sweat. While you detox, a selection of pods have panoramic views of Manhattan through its domed window, and all with the option to soak in your very own outdoor red cedar tub.
Cost: $80 per person

Through March
Various locations
For the next three months, Carnegie Hall has launched Afrofuturism to acknowledge the beauty, power, and passion of the current and future Black cultural movement. Through art exhibits, musical performance, intellectual lectures, political discussions, and more, the city-wide festival embodies a forward-looking theme of Black inclusion and success. Live performances at Carnegie Hall include: a performance by rapper and producer Flying Lotus on February 12; a blues and jazz fusion show by Sun Ra Arkestra with special guests Kelsey Lu and Moor Mother on February 17; and an electronic-music concert led by Theo Croker on March 26. Among the in-person happenings, there’s a wide range of virtual events that can be found via the website.
Cost: Varies

Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown
Lunar New Year Parade in Chinatown | Steve Sanchez Photos/Shutterstock

Tuesday, February 1 and Saturday, February 12
Chinatown
Even months before NYC’s first official COVID-19 case and lockdown in the pandemic, Chinatown in Downtown Manhattan saw a drastic decrease in business and foot traffic due to anti-Asian sentiment and xenophobia. Since then, residents, non-profit organizations, and advocates like Chinese-American cookbook author and culinary historian, Grace Young, have been fighting to regain a semblance of vitality for the neighborhood, and its eateries and small businesses are in need of our continued support. And with Lunar New Year approaching on February 1, dine at one of the many local restaurants and join the festivities during the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival on February 12.
Cost: Varies

Olympics
Olympics

Friday, February 4–Sunday, February 20
Various locations
There’s something about the graceful athleticism of the Olympics that actually sparks interest across the board, even for those who don’t identify as sports fans. For the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 held in China this year, celebrate both the global diversity of the games and the metropolis we call home by cheering on this year’s athletes at the city’s best sports bars. From dive bars to spots with TV screens as far as the eye can see, there’s plenty of watering holes to root for your desired country screaming alongside your new multinational BFFs.
Cost: Varies

The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope
The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope | Conceptual sketch by Jeff Leatham

February 16–May 1
Bronx Park
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is already a tropical oasis for New Yorkers, but starting February 16, an astounding array of dreamy flowers will give you a new reason to visit. Returning for its 19th year, The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope is a stunning floral exhibition focusing on different orchid colors. With the help of resident horticulturists, expect towers of thriving orchid species, water elements, and a kaleidoscope tunnel of lights inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Dropping by during the day will be an option, but an enhanced night experience for adults (21+) will also be available, along with music, drinks, and food. Sign up for ticket alerts here.
Cost: Tickets from $23 on weekdays; $30 on weekends

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park | Photo by Angelito Jusay for Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Throughout winter
Bryant Park
Returning for its 20th season is the popular shopping and hangout spot Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. And although the open-air market has closed its doors for the season, you can still take a spin around the ice rink or practice your curling skills at its ice-less lanes. And located adjacent to the ice rink and adding to the ice-sports excitement is the return of its bumper cars. Afterwards, if you’re looking for an intimate (and toasty) dining experience, hang out in the lodge or book a heated glass cabin for sipping on mulled wine and munching through a charcuterie board.
Cost: Skate rentals $15-45; Curling Café packages from $250; bumper car tickets from $20; heated glass cabins from $200.

Six
Six | Photo by Joan Marcus

Throughout winter
Theater District
After a hiatus and pauses due to the pandemic, Broadway shows are officially back. The slow return began back in September of 2021, and theater-lovers are now able to once again catch a multitude of new and long-beloved shows—from Six and Girl from the North Country to Hamilton and Wicked—as long as you’re masked and vaxxed. And not to worry, whether for before an opening number or after the final curtain closes, we’ve also got you covered on pre- and post-show eats at the best restaurants in the Theater District and Midtown West.
Cost: Varies

Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park
Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park | Kris Yeager/Shutterstock

Throughout winter
Various locations
When temperatures drop below forty, the city collectively tries to spend as little time exposed to the cold as possible. That being said, there’s one ever-classic holiday activity that seems to always pull us out into the elements: ice skating. Scattered throughout the boroughs are a mix of indoor and outdoor rinks fit for both the practiced and novice skaters among us. Hit up the indoor Staten Island Skating Pavilion, the outdoor LeFrak Center in the heart of Prospect Park, or get in a quintessential NYC moment at Central Park’s Wollman Rink.
Cost: Varies

Summit One Vanderbilt
Summit One Vanderbilt | Photo courtesy of SL Green

Remember why you love NYC from its many observation decks

Throughout winter
Multiple locations
One silver lining of the pandemic: there has never been a better time to explore our city’s wonderful collection of sky-high observation decks. What should be on your punch list? The Empire State Building, of course, but we also recommend One World Observatory (the tallest building in NYC), Edge (the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere), and Top of the Rock for Midtown’s most spectacular views. Diehard view seekers might want to pick up a New York CityPASS C3, which offers access to all but One World Observatory on a single ticket. Also check out the latest hotspot, Summit One Vanderbilt, which features glass floors, immersive exhibits, and multiple cocktail bars.
Cost: Varies

Whiteface
Whiteface

Throughout winter
Various locations
There’s something magical about the first few snow flurries falling in the city on a winter day, but as soon as it touches the sidewalk, oh, we’re already over its gray and sludgy mess. To reignite long forgotten winter wonderland daydreams, hit the road for a ski trip instead. With plenty of options within traveling distance from NYC, picturesque chalets, snow-capped mountains, idyllic slopes, and fireside aprés ski sessions are not out of the question. Choose from Lake Placid’s Whiteface Mountain for the tallest vertical drop on the eastern seaboard (3,430 feet) with 87 trails and 11 lifts; Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut for a diverse range of wooded downhill runs and snowshoeing cross-country trails; and Vermont’s luxury Okemo Mountain Resort for cozy lodgings, 121 trails, and snow tubing.
Cost: Varies

Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry | John Penney/Shutterstock

Throughout winter
St. George/Financial District
There are few pleasures greater than hopping on a boat for a spin between the boroughs. And while that may seem like a fancy pastime, never overlook The Staten Island Ferry, which is free and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 25-minute ride boasts incredible views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan’s glittering skyline. Oh, and did we mention they serve beer on board?
Cost: Free

Russ & Daughters
Russ & Daughters

Throughout winter
Citywide
Remind yourself of NYC’s supremacy with dough on a whirlwind tour of bagels. Eat your weight in lox, schmear, and poppy seeds with Tompkins Square Bagels, Russ & Daughters, and/or Black Seed Bagels. If you decide to eat ‘em all in one day, just drink a lot of water, OK? Otherwise you’ll end up as salted as that gravlax you pounded.
Cost: Varies

Throughout winter
Citywide
While the city’s parks can sometimes be packed on weekends, head to the road less traveled for some more fresh air: an off-hours (in the middle of the weekday? early in the morning?), hike. With plenty of spacious options in every borough, our lesser-known parks have miles and miles of hiking trails for some serenity from our city sidewalks. Pick a path in your local park, layer up, leave the headphones off for the chorus of nature, and get some crisp winter air in your lungs.
Cost: Free

Veselka
Veselka | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Throughout winter
Citywide
Sure, we have the best pizza and bagels in the world, but those are hardly the only iconic dishes in our food-obsessed city. Plan a day this winter to taste some of NYC’s other famed eats and it’ll make you fall in love with living here all over again. While it’s impossible to list them all, here are a few of our favorites to get you started: a towering pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen; soul food at Sylvia’s; dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor; steak at Peter Luger’s; cheesecake at Junior’s; hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya; cookies from Levain Bakery; a cheeseburger at J.G. Melon; a pierogi brunch at Veselka; and more.
Cost: Varies

New York City skyline
New York City skyline | mapman/Shutterstock

Throughout winter
Citywide
As crucial havens especially during the pandemic, NYC boasts some pretty sweet riverside parks. When in need of a change from air shaft views and stale air in your apartment, remind yourself of the city’s awesomeness with a stroll that has waterfront views. Bring your phone for a couple of sweet IG uploads along either the Hudson and East Rivers from Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively.
Cost: Free

TTstudio/Shutterstock

Throughout winter
City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge Park
While this iconic NYC landmark and tourist destination is usually swarmed with people, the pandemic has made it easier for locals to enjoy. Treat yourself to a scoop (or two) of ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory as your starting point in Brooklyn, then reward yourself once crossing over into Manhattan with a grand meal from Temple Court located inside the gorgeously restored Beekman Hotel (which also dates back to 1883, the same year the Brooklyn Bridge was built). As you turn back around for your return trip over the bridge, make sure to have your camera handy to capture more skyline and the once-in-a-lifetime views.
Cost: Free to cross; food and drink prices vary

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Izzy Baskette is an editorial assistant at Thrillist.
Juliet Izon is a Thrillist contributor.
Rachel Pelz lives and writes in Brooklyn.