Whether you refer to it as the Big Apple, the center of the universe, or the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s no denying that New York City has something undeniably special about it.
There is no shortage of excuses to visit the sprawling metropolis, and as a result, it’s one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, sitting atop many a bucket list. The crowds swoop in to see the sights in summer, and more often than not, leave before the chilly winter sets it. That's definitely to their own detriment! The colder winter months are when this concrete jungle really comes out to play, so don’t forego a visit simply because you can’t handle a bit of windchill. Here are 10 reasons to visit New York City in the winter.
10 The crowds aren't overwhelming
With close to 60 million annual tourists, the concrete jungle that is New York City is not only the most popular tourist destinations in the USA by a long way, but one of the most visited cities worldwide. The majority of those tourists flock in the warmer months, and as a result, places like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and Broadway are packed to the rim with selfie-happy tourists rocking matching I <3 NY t-shirts.
If you want to see this monolithic city without having to barge through groups of tourists gawking at the skyscrapers (and avoid three-hour long lines for everything that’s worth seeing) then winter, the low season for tourism, is nothing short of ideal.
9 The winter fashion comes out to play
Across the USA there are few cities who boast such reputation for high-class fashion as New York. When it starts to get a little chilly outside, out come the $1000 faux fur coats, silk-lined full-lengths, and chic knee-high boots. Especially across the more affluent areas like the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side, winter spells fashion in the Big Apple.
If you can pop in during New York Fashion Week (which is held twice annually, once in September and once in February), then you’ll be able to witness the creme de la creme of the iconic New York fashion industry.
8 The ice skating opportunities
As we’ve seen in the movies over the years, there’s nothing quite as romantic as a late-evening skating session accompanied by cheesy Christmas music. Whether it’s in the incredibly picturesque Central Park, in Midtown beside Bryant Park’s adorable pop-up winter village, or nestled in the eye of the storm in THE Rockefeller Center, there is no shortage of elite rink choices.
By far the three most popular locations, those ice skating venues cater to tourists who couldn’t fit their skates in their overstuffed carry-on by providing the option for skate rental, as well as some comforting hot chocolate to warm up the bones.
7 The magnificent Broadway shows
If you didn’t check out a hit show on Broadway, did you really even visit New York? While there is never a poor time to see a show in the Big Apple, with award-winning productions spanning year-round across the many historic Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres, it’s a little easier to get tickets when it’s chilly out. It ties in with our earlier point of being a low season for tourists, meaning that there’s less competition to secure a couple of front row seats.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find any production that will disappoint, but among the standouts are The Book of Mormon, the classic Lion King, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
6 Central Park under a blanket of white
Sandwiched in between Harlem, Midtown, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side, New York’s infamous Central Park is beautiful no matter the season. But while the wildlife might be scampering around in the summertime and the colorful leaves piling up on the grass in the fall, there’s truly nothing as captivating as seeing Central Park covered head to toe with a layer of fresh, white snow.
By the time winter rolls around the crowds will have dissipated, allowing nature lovers to stroll through the park at their own pace, admiring the stark contrast between big city and untouched nature.
5 A unique look at Times Square
As officially the most visited tourist attraction across the country (Central Park sits at number two, and Washington's Union Station at number three), there is nothing that screams large crowds and hustle and bustle more than Times Square. In fact, the majority of locals take whatever means necessary to avoid the tourist trap.
If you have the opportunity to check it out in the winter, however, particularly in the late hours of the night or early morning, it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The massive electronic billboards light up the empty square in what is truly a unique look at a usually jam-packed tourist attraction.
4 The adorable Christmas markets
Whether it’s Michael Buble bellowing Jingle Bells or Mariah Carey’s rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You, winter just isn’t complete without some classic Christmas music and holiday festivities.
In the heart of Midtown at the Rockefeller Center, a festive Christmas market and a romantic ice skating rink are set up for locals and tourists alike to get into the holiday spirit. If it gets a little too chilly, there are always stands serving up steamy hot chocolate. There are also pop-up bars where you can take the edge off with a vodka cranberry, sitting underneath the overhead heaters. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
3 The post-Christmas sales
We all crave a bit of a shopping spree now and then, but it’s hard to justify that shiny new pair of boots at full price. If you can resist the urge until after Christmas Day, stores across New York slash their prices astronomically in order to flush out all the excess stock that was supposed to be Christmas presents.
Manhattan’s shopping opportunities are endless, with the world’s largest department store, Macey’s, offering 10.5 levels of the fashion and bargains, only the beginning. For something a little more boutique, SOHO is the place to check out, and if you have access to a car, there are a plethora of outlets not too far away.
2 It's cheaper!
Assuming that you book flights and accommodation early, there's no reason why a trip to New York in the winter can't save you a handful of cold, hard cash. Tying in with the earlier point regarding smaller crowds, it will be easier to find great hotel deals and cheaper tickets to the most desired Broadway shows (even better, try your luck at the Broadway lottery to score them for free).
If you don't mind flying on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, or New Year's Day, then there's a high chance for a dip in airfares as well. Most people want to be with their family or already at their destination on these days, but if you don't mind being in the air instead, your wallet will thank you.
1 The atmosphere at the hockey
America is mad about sports -- we’re not here to question that. While the NBA and the NFL usually draw the biggest crowds and sit at the forefront in terms of international focus, hockey deserves its time in the spotlight too. There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden for a New York Rangers versus New Jersey Devils grudge match, with thousands of diehard fans repping their squads and cheering at the top of their lungs.
The hockey season usually runs from October to April of the following year, so there’s plenty of opportunities to spend an evening politely encouraging (read: angrily yelling) at the NHL pros on the ice.