No matter what season you find yourself in New York City, the old adage rings true: this is the city that never sleeps—and that includes during hibernation season. Whether you take a stroll through Central Park or see the bright lights in Times Square, NYC is filled with attractions to see and things to do. From the ice rink of the Rockefeller Plaza to the Broadway shows to sledding in a park, New York City is the perfect winter city. Grab your most stylish peacoat, pour a piping hot cup full of your favorite cold-weather beverage, and read on to learn more about the best things to do in NY in the winter.
1. Get in the holiday spirit
There are a smattering of sites like Rockefeller Center and Saks Fifth Avenue that are world-renowned for their holiday regalia, famous Christmas tree, and window displays, but they tend to be swamped with tourists during the holidays.
Instead of the usual suspects, we recommend rounding up your roommates and getting in the swing of the season at these less-traveled New York neighborhoods:
- Dyker Heights, Brooklyn – Deep in South Brooklyn, Dyker Heights has been hosting the major Christmas Lights Festival of NYC since the 1980s. Residents here go all-out on their décor for the whole month of December, and the neighborhood gets our vote for the best holiday displays over Macy’s every time.1
- Greenpoint, Brooklyn – Way up at the other end of Brooklyn is the idyllic neighborhood of Greenpoint, a long-time enclave for Polish immigrants and buildings dating back to the 1800s. While it’s not as well-known as Dyker Heights, Greenpoint Lights is a holiday spectacular all its own. For the best displays in the neighborhood, veer towards the East River and meander the streets between Manhattan and Franklin Avenues.
- Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn – The mid-Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant gets a medal for the most spirited residential holiday displays in the city. Unlike Dyker Heights and Greenpoint, this neighborhood starts gearing up at Halloween to warm you up for the winter holiday.
Moral of the story: stoking the holiday spirit in NYC doesn’t require a hefty commercial budget to shine. The best of the seasonal décor comes courtesy of your fellow New Yorkers.
You don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to enjoy the welcoming ambiance of jazz in New York, and while the scene is thrumming all year round, there’s something extra cozy about taking refuge in a local jazz club when the weather outside is frightful. A few of our favorite haunts are:
- Smalls – In this ultra-casual, unfussy clubhouse in the West Village, you can enjoy the smooth musings of musicians up close and personal.
- Village Vanguard – Another Greenwich Village bulwark, the Vanguard’s iconic red doors have ushered in Manhattan’s jazz prodigies since the 1930s, making it the oldest in-operation jazz club in the city.
- Bill’s Place – This Harlem speakeasy is privately owned and emceed by saxophone legend Bill Saxton and has played host to icons like Billie Holiday.2
If you are in town during January, you can check out the Winter Jazzfest, celebrating the history and culture of jazz in the city.
3. Celebrate Mardi Gras
After they recover from the holidays, New Yorkers are hot on the trails of any kind of festivities that can hold them over until the warm weather hits again—and whether or not you plan on observing Lent this year, Fat Tuesday will do just fine.
For fully-fledged Mardi Gras ribaldry, you’ll have to do a little digging of your own. For now, here are two noteworthy establishments that are there to celebrate with you:
- Mona’s – This unassuming joint in Alphabet City is just off the L train, making it a popular watering hole for LES-dwellers and Brooklyn stowaways. Year-round, the bar offers a jukebox, billiards, and skeeball—but come Fat Tuesday, Mona’s gets packed. Pre-Lent, you’ll find live music, complimentary eats, and celebrants who are masked, boa’d, and buoyantly beveraged up.
- Claw Daddy’s – The best place to get Louisiana-style cajun and creole food is Claw Daddy’s. You’ll need at least 4 people to make a reservation at this restaurant, which serves up crabs, lobster, and gumbo family-style: by dumping the riches of the sea (2 lbs. per person) right onto your table.
When the February chill bites back, toss a string of plastic beads around your neck and raise a glass of spirits to celebrate New Orleans’ favorite holiday right in the bitter heart of NYC.
4. Go sledding
Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center are go-to’s for wintertime diversions, but, alas, the unremitting crowds can make you feel like you’re ice standing, rather than ice skating.
If you’re looking for more active things to do in NYC winter, we recommend skipping Wollman Rink and hitting the slopes with your toboggan (or a piece of cardboard from your latest Prime order). A few of our favorite spots include:
- Riverside Park in Morningside Heights
- Inwood in Upper Manhattan/The Bronx
- Lookout Hill in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Follow your frostbitten nose and look to the city’s bundled-up children for wintertime inspiration—they’ll lead you to some of the best-kept secrets in all five boroughs to get your sledding on.
5. Head to the spa
There comes a time, usually in March, when your bucket list of things to do in New York isn’t quite enough to keep your spirits lifted until springtime. Just when you think you can’t wait a minute more for the cherry blossoms to bloom, it’s time to dip a toe into one of NYC’s iconic spas and bathhouses. Our top two candidates include:
- Spa Castle – This College Point establishment in Queens is effectively a waterpark for grown-ups, but instead of flume rides, you’ll enjoy hydrotherapy, hot tubs, and affordable spa packages if you feel like treating yourself.
- Russian & Turkish Baths – Lower Manhattan’s classic bathhouse where you can allay the windchill with saunas, traditional massages, and spirited conversations with LES locals who have been coming here for decades.
Pass the time warming your bones at these establishments, and you’ll be catching the balmy winds of springtime in New York in no time.
If you’re still looking to do the touristy things of New York City, skating the ice rink at Bryant Park and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square are a must. You can also catch window decorations at 5th Avenue, and shop at the Union Square Christmas Market. Lastly, you must see the New York Botanical Garden’s train show during the holidays.
Ring in the Best of NYC Winters with Common
If New York City is the perfect answer when asking yourself, “what city should I live in?”, then you’ve come to the right place. When it comes to living in NYC, it’s vital to have a home base where you can get snug and cozy in an apartment that feels like home. Common offers renters attainable, beautiful coliving suites warmly furnished with all the essentials you need to nest in a new city. Some of our most inclusive properties include:
- Fully-furnished private bedroom
- Common suite for lounging, dining, and quality time
- Communal amenities like seating, glassware, and cleaning supplies
- On-site laundry and regular cleanings of shared spaces
- Vetted roommates to share your space
Common homes are all-inclusive and wired with WiFi, utilities, and central HVAC at no extra fee. For a new NYC apartment where the housewarming is part of the package deal, check out Common’s roster of NYC apartments and apply today.
- Time Out. The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 2021 guide. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/dyker-heights-christmas-lights
- Bill’s Place. History. http://billsplaceharlem.com/