Visiting New York in the winter

New York is a dream winter destination. However, visiting New York in the winter is a whole different game to visiting in the Spring or Autumn. Having visited for New Year last year, I wanted to share my tips on how to survive visiting New York in the winter.

Tip 1: Pack layers

I knew it was going to be cold, I was ready for this, I packed for it and I am good with cold. I love winter. But it was COLD. I’ve been to Beijing in January and sat on countless frozen chair lifts while skiing but I don’t think I have ever actually felt that cold.

The entire time I had that line from the Pogues Christmas song in my head ‘but the wind goes right through you…’. How true.

So first tip – pack layers. Pack everything you need. And then add some more. I was walking around and couldn’t understand why I had left my ski thermals and gloves at home. To give you an idea here is what I was wearing on a daily basis:

  • Jeans
  • tights under my jeans
  • socks
  • vest top
  • long sleeved cotton top
  • jumper
  • down gilet
  • coat
  • two scarves over my face
  • hat
  • two pairs of gloves
  • topped with two hoods pulled tight over my head.

I wasn’t warm.

image of Where Charlie Wanders visiting New York in Winter

Pack all the layers. All the thermal layers.

Tip 2: Take advantage of the subway

The subway was a godsend in two ways. Firstly this was the first time I had got to grips with it and meant I could explore so much more of the city. New York is a very walkable city. However when you visiting New York in the winter, it is sometimes just too cold to walk anymore. The subway meant I could get around, without freezing to death.

image of New York Subway

Secondly – it has free WiFi. Get off the street for a second and check a map on your phone. Gets you out of the wind and saves you walking in the wrong direction.

Tip 3: Purchase a map, but not just any map.

On the theme of directions, I had been given this amazing Crumpled City map for Christmas. It was fantastic. Get yours HERE.

It’s made of material that is water proof and doesn’t tear. I could whip it out if my pocket and stuff it back in, all without having to take my gloves off! Just to make sure I wasn’t going too far off course. I didn’t have to try and find a subway to get wifi, and it was perfect for getting around.

Tip 4: Plan your day carefully

In winter it gets dark in New York fairly early. We had decided we wanted to walk over Brooklyn Bridge. However, we spent too long in a bar warming up. When we finally emerged it was dark, which meant there was no point walking back over the bridge, as we wanted to see the view in the day light.

image of view of Brooklyn Bridge

If there is something you want to do in the daylight, for example Central Park, plan it earlier in the day. That way you firstly, won’t be too cold and secondly you will actually get to see it.

Tip 5: Take lots of respite

Lots of respite is needed, mainly to warm up. Multiple Starbucks trips and bar stops were required. I know Starbucks isn’t the most adventurous of choices, but I sure am a sucker for their chai lattes.

If you are looking for somewhere a bit more ‘New York’ try Magnolia Bakery, as made famous by Sex and the City.

We also planned lots of places to eat and drink in. This is advised as the last thing you want to be doing is wandering around trying to find somewhere you want to eat lunch in.

Tip 6: Take advantage of the beautiful festive things New York has to offer in the winter

As I said before, New York is the most amazing winter destination. Take advantage of the ice skating rinks. I would recommend visiting the one in Central Park rather than the Rockefeller. This one is small and crowded, often with huge queues.

Make sure you also see the Christmas tree in the centre of the lake in Central Park.

image of central park lake at Christmas

Plus you need to go and take in the Christmas displays in the shop windows. Check out Bloomingdales, Saks and Macy’s.

And finally the tree in front of the Rockefeller is a sight to behold. The first time I was there, they were installing it. So I didn’t get to see it in all it’s glory. I was so pleased to finally get a chance to see it on my most recent trip.

image of Christmas tree in front of Rockefeller

Tip 7: Do not bother with Times Square on New Year’s Eve

In order to get a good spot, you have to be there hours and hours before midnight. Once you are in, you are in. No way of getting food or going to the loo. In fact when I was there last year, they were advising people not to go, as it was just too cold.

We saw new year in, in a fabulous speakeasy instead. I could not have thought of a better way to do it!

Finally thoughts on visiting New York in the winter?

Above all New York is beautiful in the winter. I saw some amazing sunsets and clear blue sky’s. It also snowed when I was there, which I was so excited about. Nothing like the pictures and stories of the cyclone bomb that has since emerged, however it was still enough to please me!

image of East Village in the snow

Central Park in the snow was a dream come true! New York does Christmas better than anywhere!

So I would definitely recommend visiting New York in winter, it will remain one of my favourite trips forever, how go prepared!


Interested in visiting New York? My other posts will definitely help!

Visiting New York for the first time – a first timers guide

5 Days in New York.

Food of New York.


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