22 Reasons Winter Is the Best Time to Visit NYC, According to a Native
I’m gonna give it to you straight. I’ve lived here for as long as I’ve been alive and I love it every single month of the year (though springtime allergies can definitely shove off). But there’s just something unequivocally special about New York City in the winter. Maybe it’s the way everyone goes absolutely nuts over a bowl of ramen when it’s chilly, the lack of sweaty people on a subway platform, or just the way we all come together to commiserate over the snow and slush. It’s a good, cozy time to be in New York and you shouldn’t miss it. Drive, fly, swim -- here are a bunch of reasons you should come spend a few nights in NYC before the thaw.
Because tasting menus are proof heaven is real
If you want to taste the best of the city, there’s no better time to visit than during NYC Restaurant Week. This year it’s January 23rd to February 10th and some of the best (yes, the best!!!) restaurants are offering prix fixe lunch and dinner menus and seriously awesome prices so that YOU can taste their executive chefs’ food. We’re talkin’ ABC Kitchen, Bar Primi, and Indochine, if you're in the mood for French-Vietnamese fusion. I’ll see you there.
You can still drink on rooftops (with a lot fewer people)
When the views are as good as ours, you better believe the rooftop bars don’t call it quits when it gets a little bit nippy. Some, like 230 Fifth, have made drinking at high altitudes in the winter a hell of a lot cooler by introducing these inflatable heated igloos -- fully equipped with couches, TV, and champagne. Throw on some HGTV and you might never leave.
Our seasonal flea markets are set up in city landmarks
Brooklyn Flea’s Winter Market at Skylight One Hanson is one of the coolest seasonal attractions we have to offer. Every weekend, sellers of vintage and artisanal gifts along with Smorgasburg food vendors gather at one of the borough’s most recognizable landmarks -- Fort Greene’s former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Clock Tower. Get cozy and try everything, but personally, I never leave without having a doughnut from Dough and Fletcher’s Brooklyn BBQ.
Because over 3,000 dogs take over Madison Square Garden every February
I don’t know about you, but I freak out when I see even one dog -- even if it’s just kinda cute. So imagine the sensory overload every February when the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and over 3,000 BEAUTIFUL dogs storm Madison Square Garden. This year it’s February 13th to 14th and tickets are on sale. Raise your hand if you can think of a more romantic Valentine’s Day. (Put your hands down, cat people.)
Blizzards are celebrated instead of feared
In a suburban town, you have to shovel your car out before trekking into town to see if anything’s open. Not in NYC you don’t. Give me a snowsuit and I’ll ride a trashcan lid all the way to the bar and back home when I’m done. Our city doesn’t shut down when it snows and we don’t stay home alone, counting our water bottles. Instead, we gather together -- whether we’re reporting to work using our neighborhood cafe as an office, or spending the day kicking back in a local bar with a few regulars. An NYC Snow Day party is a collective experience, adult sidewalk snow angels included.
Astoria Park turns into a winter wonderland
It might sounds crazy, but… there are other parks in New York besides Central Park. Beautiful, sprawling parks that the city -- and my tax dollars -- work hard to upkeep. Like Astoria Park, for example. Sure, it’s beautiful anytime of year with its views of midtown Manhattan -- but spend a snowy night here walking by the waterfront and you’ll never forget it. Be sure to snap a moody black-and-white photo of the aptly-named Hell’s Gate Bridge in the snow. (You’ll know it when you see it.)
You can have Staten Island’s coolest museums all to yourself
I always want to go to the Met and the Whitney, but they can get pretty crowded. The best thing you can do is hop on the Staten Island Ferry (a cool thing in itself) and go see what’s happening across the Harbor. The Staten Island Museum at St. George (participating in NYC Attractions Week) features some seriously beautiful Tibetan art right now, while the Alice Austen House Museum & Garden showcases some of the 20th century photographer’s most groundbreaking work in her former home. Best part? You won’t be admiring artwork with your elbows out, fending off a crowd like you would on that other island to the north.
All the best parts of Coney Island are still open
A lot of people think Coney Island is a summertime thing only, but the truth is, it’s eerily beautiful in the colder months. If you don’t mind missing the rides, you can still experience the best parts, AKA the boardwalk, tons of authentic food vendors, and lifelong Brooklynites. Most importantly, the line for an original Nathan’s Famous is a fraction of the size compared to the summer months. So bundle up and go grab a hot dog.
Because Flushing’s soup dumplings taste even better when the weather is frightful
New Yorkers and tourists alike travel to the Queens neighborhood for its famous Shanghainese soup dumplings -- specifically from Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao. You’ll figure out pretty quickly why New Yorkers are hopping on the 7 train all the way to the last few stops for these juicy babies. Not only is the broth light but flavorful, ensconced by the most delicate of wrappers, but the entire thing is perfectly steamed and chock full of whatever filling you’ve decided to order. It’s the perfect cheap and hot meal you need to warm you on a cold city day.
Some of our most iconic bars have fireplaces
There’s no shortage of bars in NYC, and no shortage of bars with fireplaces either -- but the number of fireside seats are definitely limited. Take it from me, the best time to go is when the weather scares other people away. You’ll be able to sip pricy cocktails at the Rose Bar at Gramercy Park Hotel in peace -- surrounded by art from Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and others. (Great for when you want to feel like a foreign spy.) Or, if a flameless mantle is enough for you, check out the artifact that is the fireplace of the historic McSorley’s Old Ale House (est. 1853). Fun fact: it’s labeled BIBLE HOUSE because it was salvaged from the ruins of the old American Bible Society, one of the historic buildings that helped make Astor Place the hub it is today before it was torn down and replaced by the Cooper Union.
Because you can get 2-for-1 tickets to the best Broadway and Off-Broadway shows
Just when you’re settling in to the post-holiday funk, NYC Broadway Week and NYC Off-Broadway Week come around to remind you winter truly is the best time of the year. From January 17th to February 5th, Broadway Week gives you the opportunity to buy tickets to some of the best shows on the Great White Way. Grab tickets to classic shows like the longest running musical ever: The Phantom of the Opera. Off-Broadway Week rolls around a little later in the season, with eligible performances running from February 27th to March 12th. You can finally see those raunchy puppets in Avenue Q or two-time Tony winning actor Matthew Broderick in Evening at the Talkhouse. I mean… you’re practically saving money.
And 2-for-1 tickets to museums and attractions and tours and stuff, too
My first reaction to this was, “Are you kidding me?” As if NYC wasn’t cool enough already. NYC Attractions Week is the same kind of deal as Broadway Week and Off-Broadway Week; from January 17th to February 5th, it’s buy-one-get-one to attractions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum, and all those bus tours that look silly but you secretly really want to do -- plus tons more. And no, do not wave at me from that big red bus.
You can finally learn the answer to, “So, how ‘bout them Yankees?”
Regardless of your favorite team (I can hear the screams from here, Boston), Yankee Stadium gives pretty cool tours during the off-season. Stops include the New York Yankees Museum, the Audi Yankees Club, and the Press Box, among others. And tickets are just $20 online for adults. You can also opt for the slightly pricier “Hands on History” experience, where you can spend some time with priceless Yankees artifacts: Babe Ruth’s bat from 1922–23, Mickey Mantle’s glove from 1963, and tons more.
The Orchid Show is a sight to behold
We get it. We’re not exactly the greenest, most lush place in the US, but we have our moments -- like every winter. This year, beginning February 18th, go celebrate the culture of Thailand at the New York Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show. It’s been taking place for 15 years. Trust me, it’s way less crowded than the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Sakura Matsuri cherry blossom festival every spring -- and just as breathtaking
It’s probably summer compared to where you’re from
If you’re from somewhere cold (like, actually cold), a New York City winter is nothing. While the temperature dips every once in awhile -- which we secretly LOVE because we love complaining (I can say it, I’m from here) and LOVE when our bosses tell us to work from home -- it almost never happens. You’ll feel far superior to us weak New Yorkers, so savor it. This won’t happen often.
We celebrate the Lunar New Year better and badder than anyone
For the past three years, the Chinese New Year Temple Bazaar has been held at Flushing Town Hall. Accompanied by performances, martial arts, crafts, and tons of food, this year will ring in the Year of the Rooster on January 28th. (That’s 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, and 2005 if you feel like reppin’ your year.) There are two sessions and tickets are only $5. Plus, if you get there at 9:30am, you get to join in the dragon parade. (Harmless dragons, not Game of Thrones dragons.)
We take our hot chocolate very seriously -- and very rich
Sure, summer in New York has its advantages (like sipping rosé by the fancy hotel pools), but it doesn’t have hot chocolate -- which we happen to do really well. City Bakery’s cocoa, thick like chocolate soup with one mountainous marshmallow in the middle, is decadent in a totally-worth-it, melty-fluff-suspended-in-chocolate sort of way. Then there’s Momofuku Milk Bar’s concoction made from special Milk Bar fudge sauce and milk, which… I have to go actually. I need one right now.
Because the Staten Island Mall is its own ecosystem and needs to be experienced
Growing up in the city, we didn’t exactly have malls close by. That’s why New Yorkers have a soft spot -- and will happily pay $16 to cross the Verrazano Bridge to get to the Staten Island Mall. It’s where I bought my first MacBook (with my own money!) when I was 19 and spent way too much of my mom’s at Hollister and Sephora. (Hi mom, sorry.) If you’re looking to shop NOT in the cold, you can easily spend an awesome day here. And feel really old when you realize it’s where alt-rock group New Radicals filmed the music video for their ’90s hit “You Get What You Give.”
The hot pasta and pizza on Arthur Avenue isn’t gonna eat itself
Little known fact: NYC actually has two Little Italies, and one is the Bronx’s saucified, cheesy Arthur Avenue. Here you’ll find everything you could ever dream of eating and probably a minimum of 12 people named Tony gathered in one place. Ravioli, lasagna, imported sausages and cheeses -- these are the kinds of meals that not only warm your stomach, but your heart and soul, too. It’s as real as New York gets.
Ramen just tastes better when it’s cold out
Ramen’s amazing all the time and we have the best ramen ever -- but man, does it go down even smoother when it feels like -10 degrees out. Whether it’s pork bone ramen from Brooklyn’s Chuko, the Original Ramen Burger™ from Long Island City’s Ramen Shack, or Akamaru Modern ramen (onkotsu soup noodles topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, and tons more) from Ippudo in the East Village, you won’t be disappointed by NYC’s ramen game.
Our seasonal cocktails can’t be beat
Listen, if you want beer, we have beer. But our craft cocktail makers are some of the best in the world and they don’t shy away from any season. If you’re coming down after an excessive holiday season, Café Clover serves up its detoxifying drink, the Maple Leaf Cleanse, made with vodka, honey, lemon, and cayenne. Or, if you’re not quite there yet (’cause you’re on vacation after all), try a Brooklyn Toddy from Anfora. Not just your average toddy, its main ingredient is rye from the Brooklyn-based New York Distilling Co., whose mission it is to bring distilling back to the city for the first time since Prohibition. So take a note of what you’re sipping, there. You might taste notes of a rich history.
You can stay in some of the city’s most sought-after neighborhoods for some of the best deals
I seldom stay in NYC hotels, but it’s always awesome. I remember riding in the famous clear elevators in the New York Marriott Marquis when I was 16, the entire hotel and its happenings surrounding me as I took what felt like an amusement park ride to my floor. It was nothing short of magical -- and that was just the elevator. So yeah, I highly suggest you stay there while you can get a sweet deal. Right now, you can stay in some of the city’s nicest hotels for less than $100/night. I might just take a little staycation myself.