Brrr-brilliant Places to Explore in Wintry NYC.

New York City

Brrr-brilliant Places to Explore in Wintry NYC.

During the winter months, New York City takes on a special kind of magic. Blanketed in snow and glittering with holiday lights, the city invites visitors to take part in beloved seasonal traditions and discover both classic attractions and new wintertime activities. 

Though the weather turns brisk, New York offers plenty of indoor diversions, from world-famous museums to the excitement of a Broadway show. During the holiday season, festive events like Christmas tree lightings and markets bursting with gift ideas provide seasonal cheer. From skating under the stars in Central Park to sipping hot toddies in cozy bars, winter is an excellent time to experience New York’s signature energy and hospitality.

The top spots to add to your winter travel itinerary include holiday window displays along Fifth Avenue, the towering Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and a Times Square ball drop on New Year’s Eve. But the city contains lesser-known gems as well, like feasting at restaurants during NYC Winter Dining Weeks or admiring wintry art exhibits. By bundling up and exploring New York during the most wonderful time of the year, visitors can fully immerse themselves in the city’s ode to the holidays.


Central Park

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One of the best places to visit in New York City during the winter is Central Park. The park transforms into a winter wonderland, with plenty of activities and sights to enjoy when the temperatures drop. 

The most iconic winter activity in Central Park is ice skating. There are two rinks that operate in the park from October through April – Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink. Wollman Rink offers skating with a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, while Lasker Rink is smaller and more intimate. Skate rentals are available at both rinks.

For a unique winter sport, visitors can try cross country skiing on the snow-covered paths in Central Park. When enough snow accumulates, certain trails are groomed and maintained specifically for cross country skiing. It’s a great way to explore the park during the quieter winter months.

Central Park is also home to several holiday markets during the winter. The Columbus Circle Holiday Market features dozens of vendors selling food, gifts, decorations, and more from November to January. You can find another holiday market at the park’s south end at Holiday Shops at Bryant Park.

With its festive atmosphere, winter activities, and seasonal sights, Central Park is truly a magical place to visit in New York City during the winter months. Ice skating, cross country skiing, and holiday markets are just some of the unique experiences visitors can enjoy there when it’s cold outside.

Holiday Window Displays

New York City's Most Famous Holiday Windows

The magnificent holiday window displays are a beloved New York City tradition. During the winter months, the windows of iconic department stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and Lord & Taylor are transformed into magical scenes that dazzle and delight both locals and visitors alike.

Macy’s Holiday Windows

Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street features over-the-top visual displays along nearly an entire city block. The team of Macy’s designers, engineers, and artists start planning the following year’s displays as soon as the current holiday season ends. For 2022, Macy’s windows bring to life the picture book “If Animals Celebrated Christmas” by Ann Whitford Paul with charming scenes of animals preparing for the holidays.   

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows

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The Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store on Fifth Avenue debuts new displays each year, delighting crowds with beautiful costumes, puppets, and theatrical sets. In 2022, Saks partnered with Disney to create windows inspired by classic films like The Nutcracker, The Lion King, Snow White, and more. Lively music plays as the story in each window unfolds.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows.

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The Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue is renowned for its elegant and artistic holiday window displays. Their 2022 theme “The Art of the Holiday” features Art Deco-inspired mannequins posing and dancing amid stunning backdrops. The windows almost appear to be moving artworks.

Families and locals make viewing the holiday windows an annual tradition. The cheerful displays help spread holiday cheer while showing off the stores’ most imaginative and creative sides.

The Rockefeller Center Tree

All About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

One of the most iconic symbols of the holiday season in New York City is the enormous Christmas tree that lights up Rockefeller Center each winter. The tradition of a towering evergreen tree on the plaza began in 1931, during the Great Depression, as a way to lift people’s spirits and spread holiday cheer. 

The first official tree lighting ceremony took place in 1933. That year, construction workers decorating Rockefeller Center erected a small 20-foot tree and decorated it with strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and a few strands of lights. Now the tree lighting draws gigantic crowds each December as onlookers watch the switch get flipped to illuminate over 25,000 multicolored LED lights draped carefully over a massive Norway Spruce.

The tree typically arrives in New York City in November after an extensive selection process that scouts out the perfect tree, often 50-100 feet tall and decades old. Once secured to its base in Rockefeller Center, it gets strung up with five miles of wiring holding the lights. A star covered in Swarovski crystals is placed at the top to complete the iconic look. 

Visiting the iconic Rockefeller Center tree is a quintessential New York winter activity. The lighting ceremony is broadcast nationally and features celebrity performances. Afterwards, crowds flock to see the tree lit up each evening, take photos in front of the sparkling icon, and enjoy time on the ice skating rink below. Visiting the tree and rink creates lasting memories, perfectly capturing the magical spirit of the season.

Holiday Markets

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New York City’s holiday markets are a great way to get into the festive spirit. Browse through dozens of vendors while enjoying hot chocolate, mulled wine, and delicious treats. Here are some of the top holiday markets to check out:

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

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Located at the southwest entrance to Central Park, this spacious market contains over 150 vendors spread out in little chalets. Find unique gift ideas like ornaments, accessories, gourmet foods, pet items, and more. Enjoy views of Central Park while listening to live music and performances. 

Union Square Holiday Market 


This popular market brings over 150 regional craft vendors to Union Square Park. Find jewelry, pottery, photography, ceramics, clothing, specialty foods and more. Sip on warm drinks from food vendors and take in the festive lights. The market runs from late November through Christmas Eve.

 Grand Central Holiday Fair

Inside the magnificent Grand Central Terminal, this holiday market features over 80 artisans, merchants, growers and chefs. Find food, wine, gifts, crafts, decor and more. Enjoy live music daily, as well as cooking demonstrations, book signings and other special events. The market runs from late November through Christmas Eve.

With twinkling lights, delicious treats, and beautiful displays, New York’s holiday markets are great places to soak in some festive cheer and find memorable gifts. Don’t miss these top markets during your winter NYC visit.

Seasonal Shows and Exhibits

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New York City comes alive with festive seasonal exhibits and shows during the winter months. Here are some of the best ones to check out:

 Radio City Christmas Spectacular

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This beloved show featuring the iconic Rockettes has been a holiday tradition since 1933. The Christmas Spectacular runs from November to early January at Radio City Music Hall. It’s a dazzling showcase filled with singing, dancing, and stage effects. Families will love seeing Santa, toy soldiers, and the Living Nativity on stage.

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden 

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show | NYC Tourism

Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden puts on an elaborate model train display each winter. Intricate buildings and scenes made from natural materials like bark populate the exhibit. It’s a must-see for train enthusiasts visiting NYC. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.

Santaland at Department Stores


For a truly immersive Santa experience, visit the Santalands at Macy’s Herald Square, Bloomingdale’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Each department store creates a winter wonderland filled with animatronic elves, candy canes, and photo ops with Santa. It’s a magical treat for kids of all ages.

Seeing a show, strolling through a holiday market, or riding the subway can transport you into a nostalgic winter wonderland in New York City. These seasonal attractions make the perfect outing for you and your loved ones.

Museums and Galleries

New York City’s world-class museums and galleries offer a warm escape from the winter cold outside. The holiday season brings special exhibits and decorations that make them even more worth a visit. 

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) unveils its annual holiday exhibit, featuring imaginative, and often interactive, installations from contemporary artists. Past favorites have included burning timber logs, an evergreen forest, and a giant Christmas tree ornament. Beyond the special seasonal displays, MoMA’s incredible permanent collection provides endless inspiration. 

The American Museum of Natural History also gets into the spirit with Origami Holiday Tree, where hundreds of hand-folded paper sculptures adorn a 13-foot Christmas tree. And the museum’s famed 94-foot blue whale exhibit and Fossil Halls never cease to amaze, no matter the season. From the Big Bang to giant dinosaurs, this museum brings science and nature to life through immersive exhibits.

With world-class art, science, history, and culture, New York’s museums let you travel the world without ever leaving the city. The holiday season makes them even more magical.

Winter Restaurant Week

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One of the best things about visiting New York City in the winter is taking advantage of Winter Restaurant Week. This bi-annual tradition runs for two weeks starting in January and again starting in July each year. Hundreds of restaurants across all five boroughs participate, offering special fixed price lunch and dinner menus.

Winter Restaurant Week 2023 will take place from January 16-February 10. You’ll find options ranging from upscale Manhattan hot spots to cozy Brooklyn bistros. Reservations book up quickly, so plan ahead if you want to take advantage. 

Some of the best restaurants to try during Winter Restaurant Week include:

Gramercy Tavern – Refined New American cuisine in a historic tavern setting. Their prix fixe menu is an excellent value for high-end dining.

The Modern – Located in the Museum of Modern Art, this two Michelin-starred restaurant offers views of the Manhattan skyline. Book a window table overlooking the sculpture garden. 

Obao – This pan-Asian hotspot offers a diverse prix fixe with Thai, Vietnamese, and Filipino dishes. Go for the ube purple yam margarita. 

Casa Enrique – Celebrate the rich, bold flavors of Mexican cuisine at this cozy, critically acclaimed spot in Long Island City. 

Chez Napoleon – Old-world Belgian brasserie dishes like mussels and frites, plus an extensive beer list. The winter prix fixe is affordable and delicious.

Winter Restaurant Week is the perfect chance to experience some of New York’s best dining at a great value. Make reservations ahead of your trip to ensure you can visit top choices like Gramercy Tavern and The Modern.

New Year's Eve in Times Square

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New Year’s Eve in Times Square is one of the most famous New Year’s celebrations globally. Over 1 million revelers pack into the streets around Times Square each year to watch the iconic ball drop at midnight on December 31st. 

The festivities kick off early in the afternoon with live musical performances on multiple stages set up around Times Square. There are also activities and entertainment for families and kids earlier in the day. As it gets closer to midnight, excitement and energy builds as people stake out their spots with the best views of the ball drop. Massive security measures are in place, with streets closed off, bags checked, and police stationed throughout the area. 

The main event is watching the brightly lit ball descend down the flagpole atop One Times Square in the final 60 seconds leading up to midnight. The crowd counts down together as the ball drops, marking the start of the New Year with confetti, cheers, hugs and kisses. After the ball drop, the celebrations continue into the early morning hours. 

The best viewing spots are as close to One Times Square as possible. Be prepared to arrive very early to get a front row view. Dress extremely warmly as you’ll be outside for many hours. Using the subway is recommended as streets start closing early in the day. It’s an unforgettable, bucket-list experience to ring in the New Year in Times Square!


New York City truly comes alive in the winter, with endless opportunities to experience the magic of the season. From admiring the towering Norway spruce at Rockefeller Center to ice skating in Central Park, there are countless ways to make the most of winter in the Big Apple. 

The elaborate holiday window displays along Fifth Avenue offer a glimpse into the creativity and artistry of the world’s top designers. The aroma of roasted nuts and hot chocolate fills bustling holiday markets, perfect for picking up unique handmade gifts. Broadway debuts new shows to dazzle audiences, while world-class museums unveil compelling new exhibits.  

The city pulls out all the stops on New Year’s Eve, with celebrations centered around the famous ball drop in Times Square. As the glowing orb descends, cheers erupt as people count down the final seconds welcoming in the New Year full of hope and optimism.  

New York City in winter exudes a certain magic. The cool air, festive lights, and excitement of the season come together to create memorable moments. Wintertime brings out the best of New York, giving visitors the chance to experience the city in a whole new light.

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