New York in winter is exactly like the Christmas movies you have been watching and there are always a ton of things to do. Even though the weather can be cold and wet, it is said that this is one of the best times to visit NYC as you get to experience the magical holiday season.
Winter and December in New York City mean loads of good looking Christmas trees, fabulous light displays, and fun-filled holiday markets. It also means ice skating under the twinkling sky, staring at glamorous window displays along Fifth Avenue, and ringing in the New Year along with millions of people from around the world in Times Square (hopefully this happens in 2020 seeing as the coronavirus pandemic shut the wold down).
Here are the things you can do in New York this winter…
Go ice skating
Empire ‘Skate’ Plaza – Credit: Instagram | @plazaevents
One way to enjoy the ice during winter is to go ice skating. There are tons of ice skating rinks to choose from. The most iconic ice rink is at Rockefeller Center, though it is expensive and sure gets crowded. However, if you are on a budget, then head on to Bryant Park where the ice skating is free if you bring your own skates. Other ice rinks can be found at Central Park (Wollman Rink), Brookfield Place (in Downtown Manhattan), and the Standard Hotel by the High Line.
Shop on Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue – Credit: brettcarlsen.com
It doesn’t matter if you are actually shopping or window shopping, Fifth Avenue is the place to be. With all the shops here, a walk down Fifth Avenue in December will sure make you feel the holiday spirit. Department stores always put on a big show to reveal their elaborately designed windows. Each storefront is beautifully decorated with stunning lights, garlands, and more.
See the New Year in Times Square
You don’t have to be in New York to have heard about Times Square as it is a constant spectacle. However, during the winter and most importantly in December, the place lights up. This contributes to the holiday magic while putting passersby in a festive mood. This is also the site for the world-famous New Year’s Eve ball drop with over 1 million people watching. This makes it one of the best free things to do in New York City during winter.
Note that the ball drop will most likely not happen in 2020 due to social distancing rules brought upon us by the coronavirus pandemic.
Visit a frozen waterfall
Frozen Niagara falls – Credit: Instagram | @srf.florin
New York is said to be home to over 600 waterfalls with most people visiting these waterfalls in the summer. However, you are missing out on the beauty of these waterfalls if you are yet to see them in the winter. Seeing the falls frozen adds to their mystique and majesty. Furthermore, it will make you feel like you walked into a scene from Frozen. You can visit Niagara Falls, the Ice Volcano, Hector falls, buttermilk falls, Salmon river falls, Watkins glen, Kaaterskill falls, Chittenango falls, and more.
Whiteface Mountain Resort – Credit: Instagram | @whiteface_mt
New York has the most ski resorts of any state, offering high peaks, scenic trails, and fresh powder for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Why not take advantage of this and go on a day skiing tour or a ski vacation? According to iloveny.com, ski resorts can reopen with 50 percent indoor capacity. Strict health and safety protocols will be followed under state-issued guidance starting Friday, November 6. Also, remember to keep six feet apart from others not in your party, and wear a mask or face covering at all times. We want you to have fun and not end up catching the virus!
Visit a museum
American Museum of Natural History – Credit: Instagram | @amnh
For the art lovers, what is winter in New York if the museum is not visited at least once? If you also love being indoors, then visiting museums should be at the top of your list. This is because it keeps you inside. New York City definitely has plenty of museums with some of them being the best in the world. A few of the museums to visit are the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MOMA, the National September 11th Museum, the Tenament Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum.
Marvel at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
Credit: Diane Bondareff | AP Images for Tishman Speyer
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a must-see! The tree, traditionally a Norway Spruce, is said to stand tall at 94-feet and is 56-feet wide. It is illuminated by 30,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights on five miles of wire, and crowned by a Swarovski crystal star. Visiting the tree at the Rockefeller Centre is an annual New York Christmas tradition that started in the 1930s. It is undoubtedly something to gawk at. Tens of thousands gather to watch the tree lighting ceremony which is also broadcast live across the globe.
This tree lighting ceremony usually takes place on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving. For 2020, this will happen on December 2. After January 11th, the tree will be donated to Habitat For Humanity. New York in Winter.
Due to COVID-19, changes had to be made for this year’s tree lighting ceremony. The ceremony will not be open to the public, but it will be televised nationally as part of NBC’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center, which is scheduled to air live on December 2 from 7 p.m to 10 p.m. EST.