This winter, New York City offers plenty of fun events, free of charge.

5 Things to do in NYC in the Winter

Winter is a magical and festive time of year that hosts a variety of unique interactive and spirited activities and events. Whether you embrace the cold or prefer to take advantage of indoor happenings, there is plenty to do around the Big Apple once December arrives. Here’s our breakdown:

Ice Skating

You will find a plethora of ice skating opportunities to experience as you travel around New York City. From Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park to the new rink next to the tarmac at the TWA Hotel at JFK, get ready to get your glide on! Here are some highlights about each spot:

  • Rockefeller Center: Located in the heart of Midtown at 600 5th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, steps from Times Square and the Theater District, The Rink at Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s most celebrated attractions and traditions. Whether you’re looking for a classic NYC ice skating session or reservations for an exclusive wintertime experience, look forward to creating unique magical memories with your loved ones. In order to avoid waiting on-line during the busy holiday season and for an elevated experience any time, there is the opportunity to make advance reservations.
  • Bryant Park: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is Manhattan’s winter wonderland. Open through March 1st, enjoy New York City’s only free admission skating rink as well as its holiday shops, and the bar and food hall at The Lodge by Urbanspace. This year, you can now plan ahead and reserve your skate time online. The 17,000 square foot rink features high quality rental skates in addition to free skating.
  • TWA Hotel: If you’re flying into or out of JFK or if you’re just on the hunt to hit every outdoor skating rink in NYC, then you need to visit the new Runway Rink next to the TWA Hotel. This one-of-a-kind ice skating experience allows visitors and guests to take a spin on the tarmac around the hotel's 1958 Lockheed Constellation Connie airplane (now a cocktail lounge!). The custom 56-by-44-foot Runway Rink (made with good old frozen NYC tap water) will operate seven days a week through the end of February. Although advance purchase tickets are not available, they do offer packages for groups and kids’ parties.

Visit a Museum

On the hunt for the best museum in New York City? The winter months provide a prime opportunity for taking advantage of all of the unique galleries and foundations that the Big Apple proudly boasts. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and beyond, here’s more on what to check out:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art: This holiday season at The Met enjoy jubilant performances, festive displays, holiday shopping, and more in the warmth of the museum’s galleries. Since it was founded in 1870, The Met has always aspired to make art come alive in its galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures. With over 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy, The Met lives in three iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer, and The Met Cloisters.
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: A landmark building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is committed to collecting, preserving, and interpreting modern and contemporary art, and exploring ideas across cultures through dynamic curatorial and educational initiatives and collaborations. Boasting unique art, programs and distinct gift, the Guggenheim is an ideal holiday destination.
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Ripley’s will awe you with amazing displays of eccentric art, meticulously detailed sculptures constructed from used car parts as well as many extraordinary animals that greet you as you walk through the Ripley’s courtyard. If you’re traveling with children this winter, it’s a must-see located right in the heart of Times Square.

Attend a Festival

Coming to town to experience one of NYC’s infamous celebrations? From food and booze to theater, music and more, here are some winter festival highlights:

  • Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival: Are you a beer, bourbon or BBQ aficionado? How about all three? Head to the Brooklyn Expo Center in mid-January for one hellacious day of beer sippin’, bourbon tastin’, music listenin’, cigar smokin’, and barbeque eatin’. Your admission buys you a sampling glass so you can enjoy an ALL-YOU-CARE-TO-TASTE sampling of beer and bourbon.
  • Under the Radar: Held at The Public Theater and a number of partner venues each January and widely recognized as a premier launching pad for new and cutting-edge performance from the U.S. and abroad, Under the Radar features artists who provide a snapshot of contemporary theater: richly distinct in terms of perspectives, aesthetics, and social practice, and pointing to the future of the art form.
  • Winter JazzFest: A beacon of the New York City jazz scene gathering leading musicians from around the world, Winter JazzFest has cemented a reputation as a hotbed of cultural discovery, presenting new and exciting sounds and scenes throughout New York. The festival takes place in various venues and will run from January 9th through January 18th. 

Holiday Events

Holiday time in New York City achieves magic on a whole new level. From the Holiday Train Show and the Nutcracker to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and more, here are the can’t-miss, must-see holiday events that you should add to your winter bucket list and book or plan for in advance:

  • Holiday Train Show: Until Sunday January 26th, you can experience one of New York’s favorite holiday traditions. The Holiday Train Show is a unique event that highlights model trains as they zip through more than 175 iconic Big Apple landmarks, including: the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge and many others. Even more fascinating? Each landmark is recreated through the use of items like acorns, birch bark, and cinnamon sticks. The 2019 winter wonderland showcases Central Park and its architectural treasures, including the Belvedere Castle. Located adjacent to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, look forward to enjoying crafts, carolers, seasonal treats, and a visit from Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker: The New York City Ballet’s 65th annual performance of this classic will be running through January 5th at the David H Koch Theater. The Nutcracker promises to transport you to a magical place where you can enjoy breathtaking costumes, elaborate stage elements, and intricate lighting - amazing stimulation to satisfy your festive imagination.
  • Radio City Christmas Spectacular: The annual musical holiday stage show by Doug Wright and Mark Waldrop will be running through January 5th. Starring the Radio City Rockettes, the 90-minute Radio City Christmas Spectacular features more than 140 performers, an original musical score, and a combination of singing, dancing and humor.

Holiday Light Displays

New York City is synonymous with being lit up and electric any day of the week but around the holidays, this phenomenon is further amplified. It should come as no surprise that there are various prominent and awe-inspiring seasonal light displays to check out during the latter months of the year. Here’s a roundup of where to view some of the Big Apple’s world famous holiday light displays and views:

  • Fifth Avenue: Up for the ultimate NYC holiday window walking tour? Through New Year’s, you can make your way to Fifth Avenue for a retail experience unlike any other as you journey between 59th and 39th Streets. Check out enchanting and glittery display windows from iconic names like Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s - a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. From the Who-filled windows of Bloomingdale’s to the snowy adventure scenes at Macy’s, get into and stay into the spirit with these inspiring holiday displays.
  • Luminaries at Brookfield Place’s Winter Garden: A Lower Manhattan staple, Luminaries is a holiday attraction that features a canopy of colorful lights that emanates from an array of suspended lanterns. It’s an interactive exhibit that offers a touch-activated element resulting in a magical display of color and light. You can check out this festive tradition through the beginning of January.
  • Dyker Heights in Brooklyn: If you’re into over-the-top and outlandish, then put the Kings County neighborhood in Brooklyn on your map and check out the Dyker Heights Christmas light display. Life-size Santas, snowmen, and sleighs abound between 11th and 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets. For a guided Slice of Brooklyn tour, you can purchase tickets ahead of time.
  • American Museum of Natural History: The AMNH is best known for its “only in New York” Origami Holiday Tree, an annual tradition for more than 40 years. The tree is decorated with over 800 hand-folded paper models by local, national, and international origami artists. For children and adults who are into dinosaurs, take the opportunity to check out the illuminated dinosaur topiary sculptures, too.

What are some other iconic NYC winter activities or events that have led to incredible memories for you and your family?

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