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Things to Do in New York When the Weather Goes from Fun to Frigid

Written by Chloe Nevitt

This blog post was updated on December 30, 2019.

As New York City’s trees shake off the rest of their leaves and New Yorkers stroll to work faster escaping the cold, the signals are pretty clear: winter is coming! Fortunately, NYC happens to be one of the most beautiful cities in the winter, and as the bustling metropolis quiets and the charm of the holidays begins to creep into stores and restaurants, you’ll find there are so many new and fun things to do. So if you happen to be in the Big Apple during the next chilly months of the year, be sure to take a bite out of these experiences!

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Skating Rink

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0 – Nan Palmero

All of Rockefeller Center is pretty magical in the winter. Its tree lighting is, hands down, world-famous, and tourists and lovebirds come here from all over the world to check out the glittering lights and snap selfies in front of them. The best way to avoid being shoved around while still being able to take in all of these sights is definitely from the safety of the Rockefeller skating rink —IF you can manage to stay steady on your feet, that is. The rink is open from the beginning of October and sometimes even runs into April. General admission tickets are given out on a first-come-first-served basis, so it’s better to get there as early as you can. And for those too scared to strap on some skates, fear not! The ground floor of the rink is surrounded by many restaurants, and the balcony also offers a great view for family members to watch their loved ones hobble around.

Looking at Macy’s Christmas Windows

Macy's Windows

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0 Elvert Barnes

Right after Thanksgiving, many of New York’s most fabulous stores begin decorating their store windows with glittering, animated, and enthralling designs. Most of these can be found down 5th Ave., with retail behemoths like Saks Fifth Ave. showcasing some of the priciest and most elaborate window displays yet. Despite the “lowly” price-tag, the Macy’s windows were the first to do the holiday display, so they hold a special place in NYC’s heart. With whimsical narratives and dreamy dolls and animatronics, Macy’s windows always manage to bring childhood memories rushing back. And what better way to celebrate the holidays than to feel like a kid again? Displays begin November 8 and run till early January.

Shopping in Bryant Park’s Winter Village

(Flickr Creative Commons/Shinya Suzuki)

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Shinya Suzuki

For those too intimidated to face the crowds at Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park Winter Village is a great alternative, though that’s not to say you shouldn’t just visit too! A wonderful ice-skating rink is tucked in the middle of these quaint rows of small pop-up shops offering foods, specialty items, and any and all gifts you might think of buying for your loved ones during the holidays. The cobblestones, bundled kids skipping around, and the aroma of mulled wine and hot chocolate give Bryant Park a Charles Dickens meets Frank Sinatra vibe that’s like none other.

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Walking Through The Cloisters

The Cloisters

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Laura LaRose

Tucked away in northern Manhattan sits The Met’s loveliest cousin: The Cloisters. And if you haven’t visited it yet, whatever the season, you’re missing out! Named after what it holds, it’s a collection of four French cloisters that were excavated, transported, and rebuilt in NYC with support from John D. Rockefeller. The museum itself is worth the trip, but blistering winds might prevent you from enjoying the scenic balconies. But best of all? The Cloisters sit right in the middle of Fort Tryon Park, which has a number of routes, bridges, and nooks and crannies that reveal old structures and gazebos. A winter stroll through Fort Tryon that reveals the smokey and castle-like Cloisters in the distance is NYC’s secret winter wonderland!

Mindfulness in The Rose Reading Room

(Flickr Creative Commons/Mike)

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0 – saebaryo

If the thought of wet socks, red noses, and snowballs don’t really do it for you and your winter plan includes hibernating until the sun comes back, then an afternoon in the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room is for you. Imagine sitting in a dimly lit corner, a thermo of coffee tucked in between your thighs to keep them warm, and your favorite book spread out in front of you. The thick blanket of snow that’s accumulating outside doesn’t bother you — you’re in another world. The Rose Reading Room reopened a few years ago after some restoration work, and its shelves of books and inspiring decor are again available to the general public, leaving the dreamers and winter-avoiders a place to escape.

Visiting New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

NYBG Holiday Train Show

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Joseph Bylund

The New York Botanical Garden is perhaps one of the most kid-friendly establishments in all of New York, and it’s no different come winter. To celebrate the holidays every year, the Botanical Garden sets up mini replicas of famous NYC landmarks made entirely of natural materials. And even better, they set up an elaborate and expansive network of mini steam engines to chug their way around the buildings and plants. The atmosphere created by Norman Rockwell-type buildings, tropical plants, and the giggles of small children is something you’re sure to find only in New York. The display is set to run from November 19 to January 16.

Sledding in Prospect Park

Image via Flickr CC - Christian Holland

Image via Flickr – CC BY 2.0Christian Holland

Prospect Park may be one of New York’s quieter parks, but it doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had there! The park has an abundance of hills that children can gleefully slide down and because the park is outside busy Manhattan, the risk of collisions remains quite low. For parents and lovebirds who are booking flights to JFK this winter season and prefer to keep their bottoms dry while at it, Prospect Park is dotted with little cafés serving hot and cold beverages. Notably, Bluestone Café offers visitors treats and a panoramic view of Prospect Park Lake. Oh, and did we mention there’s an ice skating rink too?

So this winter, when Jack Frost finally shows his face, don’t hide away! Pull on your warmest mittens and socks, and hit the city—New York is always an adventure, no matter the weather!

Do you have your own special place in NYC that you like to visit to enjoy the winter? Let us know what it is in the comments below!

About the author

Chloe Nevitt

Lover of cheese. Trash panda enthusiast. Avid nap-taker and fridge-hunter. Occasionally writes and sometimes travels. Responds to "Chloe" and "Generous Overlord."

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