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winter activities nyc

10 Ways to Embrace Winter in NYC

By / October 31, 2018

There are many reasons to live in New York City, but winter is maybe (okay, almost definitely) not one of them. We all stay inside watching Netflix on the couch, ordering Seamless, and otherwise avoiding the best parts of the city because it’s just too freaking cold. Worst of all, most of us rely on the MTA, which is not reliable in even the nicest weather. But when it’s snowing and sleeting? Forget about it.

Still, NYC in the winter is lovely in its own right. Our city lights sparkle in the crisp, clear air, snow drifts down to quietly blanket our manicured parks and sidewalk benches, and the streets turn into something from a classic Hollywood movie.

Instead of resenting the coldest quarter of the year, why not embrace it? Just because it’s bitterly cold, doesn’t mean you have to be bitter about it. Here are 10 ways to have the greatest winter ever in New York City.

Go sledding

Sledding is one of the best parts of being a kid in the snow, so why not make it one of the best parts of your adult life, too? Our parks have a surprisingly large amount of hills, from gently gliding slopes to inclines that rival those in the mountains upstate. Join the fun at Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, enjoy the sloping hills of Inwood Hill Park uptown, or head to Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge for gorgeous views. As long as you’re properly bundled up, you really can’t lose.

Get some hot cocoa at your favorite spot

There’s something quaint, nostalgic, and cozy about this indulgent treat, making it the perfect drink for when the temperatures drop. The City Bakery’s ultra-luscious hot chocolate, topped with a homemade marshmallow, is a classic choice, or try the hot chocolate with a blooming marshmallow flower at Dominique Ansel for an interactive moment of joy in your chilly day. No matter where you go, trade in your afternoon cup of decaf for a cup of cocoa and see what happens.

Check out the holiday windows

Department stores and specialty retailers across Manhattan go all out with their windows for the holiday season, and checking out the coolest ones should totally be part of your annual winter traditions. Stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Ave, and Bloomingdale’s build mini crystal-covered worlds, animatronic displays, and interactive artist collaborations — turning their storefronts into art museums where you can go inside and shop. It’s one of those special things about Manhattan that brings a ton of joy to the city.

Go ice skating

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Central Park, or Prospect Park is unlike ice skating anywhere else. There’s something magical about a giant sheet of ice, shining brightly in the middle of all that concrete. So pull on those silver blades, take the hand of someone cute, and glide around that blindingly white ice while listening to the sounds of the city in the background.

Shop at a holiday market

Buying gifts from local artisans and craftspeople makes everybody happy. The makers are genuinely thankful for your business, you’re able to put your money back into the local economy, and someone you love is getting a truly unique present. From the classic spots like the Union Square Holiday Market and Winter Village at Bryant Park, to events like the feminist BUST Holiday Craftacular or the crafty Renegade Winter Fair, you can’t go wrong with these annual pop-up markets.

Do something good for your neighbors

If you’re fortunate enough to be cozy and warm this winter, why not take a moment to give something to those in your community who aren’t so lucky? Join New York Cares, our city’s largest volunteering network, for charity opportunities every day. Give a little bit of your time, money, or personal expertise (think tax preparation and tutoring) back to your community and everyone’s season will feel a little warmer.

Go on a quest for the best holiday light displays

It’s our darkest season, but it’s sort of our brightest, too. Stop by the tree at Rockefeller Center after work, check out the illuminated landscapes of New York Botanical Garden on a weekend evening, or stroll around Dyker Heights for some of the best holiday home decorations in the five boroughs. They won’t cure your seasonal depression, but they might help at least a little bit.

Take a day trip to somewhere snowy

Do you love a good blanket of pristine, glittery snow? There’s a lot of snow in the city, but you’ve gotta get above the grungy streets to make the most of it. Luckily, living in NYC means living close to some prime winter getaways. Hop on the Metro North or rent a car for a trip along the Hudson River, where you’ll find killer views, cozy resorts, and a whole bunch of snow.

Throw an awesome holiday party

Whether you get all fancy with cranberry-topped champagne flutes and canapés, or get wild in that same ugly Christmas sweater you wear every year, there’s nothing better than a good excuse for a party. Make a huge batch of spiked punch, hang your most colorful lights, and have some fun — just schedule it early so no one has an excuse to bail. We might not have rooftop bars this time of year, but at least we have rad house parties.

Get warm

Honestly, there’s nothing more “winter in New York” than enjoying the season by avoiding it for a few hours. Find a bar with a fireplace and snuggle up with a hot toddy. Get cozy at an indie movie screening with someone you like. Hell, just go to a day spa and sweat all your cares out. Winter in the city is cold, dark, and long, but enjoying all the warmth it has to offer is totally worth sticking around.

Want winter date ideas?
Check out these literally lit winter date ideas (to check out holiday lights!)


Quinne Myers is a writer, illustrator, apparel designer, and lingerie industry pundit living in Brooklyn. Loves sweaty concert dancing, eating dessert, feeling feelings, and petting every dog.

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