New York is a great place to be at any time of the year, but there is something truly magical about the Big Apple in winter. One of the world’s greatest cities is made just that little bit more special under a dusting of snow, and the Christmas spirit makes the city come alive.
New York is not just beautiful during the winter months, it is buzzing too. The festive celebrations here are larger-than-life, and throughout December every theatre, concert hall, venue and bar is putting on a show.
So despite the sub-zero temperatures, December might just be the perfect time to plan your first visit to New York. Buy a big coat, wrap up warm, and take advantage of the budget-friendly fares around at this time of the year. Remember, even if the cold seems like it might be too much, you can always fit in a visit to the city before setting off on an exciting cruise from New York to somewhere a bit warmer!
Read on for our guide to some of the best things to do, the most beautiful sights to see, and the best ways to experience the full joy and wonder of a New York winter.
You are almost guaranteed some snowfall in New York in December, and snow-lined streets and crisp white parks make the city look like a beautiful festive greetings card. A simple stroll through the quiet streets of Manhattan, wrapped up warm, can be quite a treat, and for the more adventurous there is always Central Park. The three and a half square miles of this gorgeous urban park becomes a winter wonderland, with snow-covered hills perfect for tobogganing, frozen lakes and picturesque twinkling lights.
New York knows how to throw a party at any time of the year, but when it comes to the festive season the city really pulls out all the stops. Holidays in New York are larger than life, and there are so many different celebrations to get involved in. Huge street festivals like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, the 100ft Rockefeller Christmas tree, or the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square – whatever you are in the mood for, New York will provide.
New York has some absolutely wonderful ice rinks around the city in December, and there’s nothing like strapping on some skates and sipping a cup of hot mulled wine to get the festive cheer flowing. The most iconic is obviously the rink at the Rockefeller Centre, in the shade of its enormous tree. Skating here offers amazing Manhattan views and a true taste of holiday season New York. But there are other spots as well, particularly if you want to get away from the Midtown crush. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park offers the chance to skate and shop all at once, while the scenery at the Wollman Rink in Central Park is priceless.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been a New York City tradition since the 1930s, and it remains as dazzling and impressive as ever. Housed in the iconic setting of Radio City, the show is 90 minutes of Christmas themed singing and dancing, with high-kicking performances from the legendary Rockettes, featuring a selection of the best singers and dancers from across the USA.
When winter hits, New York’s shop windows light up like a birthday cake, and Fifth Avenue becomes a feast of opulent, luxurious displays, each one more elegant and grander than the last. While Fifth Avenue in December can get pretty crowded, these sumptuous displays are well worth braving the crowds of tourists and shoppers for. The best thing of all is that you don’t even have to brave the packed shops themselves – the very definition of window shopping!
If you do want to partake in a little retail therapy, however, the offerings in December are spectacular. New York is a paradise for shoppers year-round, and doubly so in the winter. Some of the best shopping experiences to be had will be found at one of the many winter markets that pop up around the city. Brooklyn is full of eccentric, alternative market spaces, with the Brooklyn Flea Market offering one of the best experiences and most impressive arts and crafts. Union Square Holiday Market is a New York institution, while Columbus Circle offers a touch of elegance and beauty that attracts many international tourists and has been running for fifteen years.
New York is the perfect spot for an enchanting winter break, and offers an incredible variety of sights and experiences for visitors over the festive period. We hope our guide will help you discover the wonders of the Big Apple in the snow, and bring you some holiday joy!