Many tourists avoid NYC in the winter months because they think it won’t be any fun in the cold.
But NYC is always a good time and there are a lot of benefits to visiting in February and March. Even if the temperatures are frigid, there is still plenty to do. Here are some ideas for your next winter trip!
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
It seems like the activity you would want to do least this season but winter is one of the best times to go to the Statue. It can be very cold but since there are way less people visiting each day, it is a breeze to get on and off Liberty Island. If you can find a clear winter morning during your trip, you will get some of the most amazing photos- with less people in the background too! It is always best to go in the morning, but most times of year you need to be there by 9:30 AM at the latest otherwise it turns into a zoo, but in the winter you could go a bit later and sleep in a little more. A few things to keep in mind for a smooth trip: the boats leave every forty minutes so try to be where you need to be a few minutes early, otherwise you run the risk of having to wait for the next one. Bundle up since it can be windy on the island but other than that you can have the place mostly to yourself. The Ellis Island Museum admission is included with your ticket and is indoors so it’s a great place to spend a chilly day. With much less people around the museum tends to be more impactful and you can see everything much faster.
2. Get lunch or dinner in Chinatown
Chinatown is a popular destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike. In the summer, wait times at popular Chinese restaurants like the Nam Wah Tea Parlor and Joe’s Shanghai can be very long. During the winter though, you can almost always get a table anywhere. The streets in Chinatown are old and very narrow in some spots, it fills up very quickly and it can be frustrating getting past all the people. In the winter it’s much easier to walk down the street. You will notice a lot less tourists and more locals. Also steaming hot noodles, egg drop soup, and dumplings just taste better when it’s cold out.
3. Visit a Museum
It seems obvious, but museums are a great place to spend a cold afternoon. If you have always wanted to see classic museums like the Museum and Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art it really is best to go in the off season. In the summer, people end up forfeiting tickets they purchased since the line to get in to redeem them is simply too long. It is still a good idea to avoid the weekends since many more people come out, especially the NYC families taking advantage of the slow season. Also consider going to one of NYC’s lesser known museums, there is one for every kind of person on your trip. The kids will love any of the 5 boroughs children’s museums (Staten Island has a really nice one if you feel like being really adventurous!). History buffs will love the New York Historical Society, NYC’s oldest museum. Of course there are plenty of art museums; consider the Guggenheim or the Museum of Modern Art if you have never been. Some other off-the-beaten-track options include the NY Transit Museum (for subway aficionados), The Morgan Library (great for art and architecture), or the Science Museum. No matter what you choose you will not be dissapointed!
4. Go to Central Park (especially if it is snowing!)
If you notice a snowstorm in the middle of your trip, fear not. NYC gets snow frequently but we typically do not get many inches at once. While it can be messy to get around and it is probably not the best day to go to Times Square or to the Statue of Liberty, it’s the best time to go to Central Park! The park is amazing and worth a visit any time, but it is magical walking around in the snow. Even if it’s cold you will see a lot of people out, but while lots of people in one place can be a recipe for frustration anywhere else in the city, Central Park is big enough for them all and it’s so fun to people watch. You can see kids and cute dogs playing in the snow. It is the only place that is any fun to walk in the snow!
5. Visit the New York Public Library
Visiting the library, a typical rainy day activity you can do at home turns into an adventure in NYC. Next to Bryant Park and very close to Times Square and Rockefeller Center the New York Public Library is easy to find. It is a massive building with two larger than life lions at the entrance. Inside you can find the real stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh. You can also find beautiful art and several rotating exhibits. You might even see some oddball artifacts like George Washington’s recipe for beer and Charles Dickens’s favorite letter opener! If you have never visited this amazing NYC landmark before, this winter could be the perfect time!
“Don’t be super concerned with the cold weather,” says Liz, a tour guide with Top Dog. “We keep moving, our stops are short and interesting, you won’t be standing there shivering while the guide drones on about history. Our groups are smaller as well and we can tailor the tour to what the guests are interested in. We often get some of our best feedback during the winter.”
“Visited Lady Liberty and Ellis Island on a cold, cloudy, rainy day. We really enjoyed the trip. Low crowds and no trouble seeing everything we wanted to. Liz helped us beat the lines, told us where to stand on the boat for great statue views, and taught us a lot about both sites. And she’s smart and fun. Happy we booked this tour.” – Eric L.
“Patrick our tour guide was welcoming, informative, and entertaining during our tour of the 3 New York neighborhoods. The history was interesting even with the wet and cold weather. We were introduced to “cronuts” and the delicious dumplings. Thank you Patrick – we definitely recommend your tour.”