New York: 10 Reasons to Visit in Winter

Winter is one of the best times to visit the Big Apple. The air is crisper, the lights twinkle brighter and everything is just a little bit more affordable. 

Bernard O’Riordan

Few cities are as beautiful as New York in winter when the air is crisp, the ground is blanketed in snow and the sky unfailingly turns a deep electric blue.

Sure, the Big Apple in the depths of winter can also be bone-chillingly cold, especially for first time visitors, but it really is the most magical – and most affordable – time to visit New York.

Deep winter – January and February – means cheap deals on hotel room rates and great deals on dining, shopping and Broadway shows.

The city also tends to thin out after Christmas and New Year, so it’s much less busy, with shorter queues at major attractions and tables surprisingly easy to come by at many popular restaurants.

And there’s no place quite like Gotham when the snow starts tumbling down, blanketing the streets and parks in a heavy dusting of white powder just like you’ve only ever seen in the movies.

For visitors to New York City, the snow can actually work in your favour because it’s a time when many locals bunker down and don’t leave home.

That means museums will be far less crowded, restaurants will welcome you with open arms and you can hit the department store sales without a lot of the usual pushing and shoving.

Here are 10 reasons to visit New York in winter.

Hotels Are Cheaper

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Hotels usually drop their rooms rates in January and February, making it the one time of year you are almost guaranteed a bargain. You could actually save up to 50 per cent compared to other times of the year.

Check out Hotel Week NYC – an initiative every January that offers cut price deals on hotel rooms during the winter slowdown. From January 4-14 some of the city’s most sought after hotels will be on sale with rooms for $100 and $200 per night.

If your trip is last minute, try some of the last minute hotel booking sites like Hotel Tonight and even Booking.com and always try to book with free cancellation.

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Department Stores Are On Sale

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The winter sales at department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Century 21, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Ave will not only save you money, but they’re a great way to stay warm when it’s cold outside.

With the holiday madness over, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday a distant memory, most major department stores launch big sales in January to get rid of leftover stock and make way for new inventory.

Nordstrom Rack (which has two locations, one in Union Square and another close to Herald Square) has its massive “clear the rack” sale every January.

The sales keep coming in February, with the President’s Day Sale and Valentine’s Day Sale.Screenshot at Nov 26 11-25-58

If you’re visiting from overseas, be sure to collect your Visitor Savings Pass which gives international visitors 10% off marked prices at Macy’s for a set 30 day period.

However, the markdown rarely applies during major sale periods when items are already heavily discounted.

At Macy’s Herald Square-34th St, the official NYC Information Center is on the first floor. Just take your passport along for verification.

You Can Catch An Ice Hockey Game 

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New Yorkers love their sport whether it’s the Yankees in baseball, the Knicks in basketball or, come winter, the New York Rangers NHL team.

If you like your sport rough and ready, head along to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden while you’re in town. The repetitive organ music, crowd chants and high-volume snippets of metal songs throughout the game, make for a memorable New York sporting experience.

You can buy tickets in advance through Ticketmaster or at Madison Square Garden online. If you’re already in New York, try to get to the box office at Madison Square Garden a day before the game for last minute tickets.

And remember, it’s usually freezing in there, so be sure to take a jacket.

Broadway Tickets Are 2-for-1 

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Gone are the days when the only way to get cheap last-minute Broadway tickets was by standing in a long queue on a freezing cold day in Times Square.

Visit Today Tix, or download their app, for heavily discounted tickets for award-winning plays or musicals both on and off Broadway.

You can also get 2-for-1 tickets to various Broadway shows during NYC Broadway Week – which actually runs from the middle of January to mid-February. The dates change every year.

It’s also worthing checking with the theatres where shows are playing and see what their rush policy is. Often, if you arrive early, you can enter a draw for discounted seats.

If you plan to get tickets to long-running and highly sought after shows like Hamilton or The Book of Mormon,  it’s best to try to buy well in advance.

You Can Go Sledding 

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It might be known as at the concrete jungle, but come snow season one of the most popular things to do is to go sledding in one of New York’s many hillside parks.

Pilgrim Hill and Cedar Hill in Central Park are among the most popular locations for sledding after a heavy downfall.

Other notable hot spots are Riverside Park between 92nd and 103rd Streets; Prospect Park in Brooklyn; and Ewen Park in the Bronx. Just grab a big piece of cardboard and head for the hills.

The Queues Are Shorter

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Winter in New York is the perfect time to hit the galleries, visit the Met, head to Top of the Rock or climb the Empire State Building, because the queues are often much shorter than at other times of the year.

In fact, visiting any top attraction in New York should be a lot less painful that it would be during the peak summer season, when queues can be torturous.

Do yourself a favour and pre-book tickets online to save waiting. If you are going to Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building or One World Observatory and it’s raining or snowing, they’ll usually let you come back another day when the weather clears up. Just ask.

You Can Have Coney Island To Yourself

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At the height of summer you’re lucky to find a spare square of sand on Coney Island’s three mile-long beach facing the Atlantic. Come January though it’s a different story, with Brooklyn’s most famous tourist attraction looking more like a sleepy fishing village.

The human tide has long receded, Deno’s Wonder Wheel has stopped spinning and Luna Park looks more like a ghost town.

Believe it or not, winter is a magical time to rug up and wander the Riegelmann Boardwalk, as the seagulls swoop and the wind nips at your heels.

From Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs to the deserted beachfront and amusement precinct, it’s eerily wonderful at this time of year.

The Dumplings Taste Better

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No one really needs an excuse for Dim Sum (or yum cha as we call it in Australia), but when the weather heads south in New York, few things are more comforting than a bamboo steamer full of dumplings or a bowl of noodles.

My two favourite dumplings houses are Golden Unicorn, a few blocks south of Canal Street on the fringe of Chinatown, and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the city’s oldest surviving dim sum joint. It first opened its doors at Doyers Street in 1920, and now has other restaurants at New York’s Nolita and Philadelphia.

At Golden Unicorn on East Broadway, you’ll often find crowd milling in the foyer waiting impatiently for their number to be called.

But once you’re summoned and make your way upstairs to the dining room, the sight of steaming carts laden with translucent shrimp dumplings, pork siu mai and wonderful custard-filled steamed buns with piggy faces (pictured) quickly calms the nerves and warms the soul.

Deep in the heart of Chinatown at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, dim sum is more of a culinary art, with each metal steamer made to order and brought to your table. Soothing tea is poured into mismatched cups, a collection dating back a half-century.

The shrimp and snow-pea-leaf dumplings go down a treat, while the egg roll is wrapped in an egg crepe and then battered, which keeps the filling moist while it is deep fried.

Perhaps most of all, I love Nom Wah Tea Parlor for its storied past, its authentically rich history and its always welcoming atmosphere.

Many Bars Have Fireplaces

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Even the most stoic New Yorker can’t resist a roaring log fire in the middle of winter, and there are dozens of cosy bars across the city that provide the perfect escape from the wet and the cold.

When the temperature tumbles, grab a strong drink, a leather armchair and a blazing fire at one of the many warm – but oh so cool – bars throughout Manhattan or Brooklyn.

The Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel (pictured) is an East Village favourite with its velvet couches, persian rugs and over-sized fireplace, while the Drunken Horse is the perfect place to warm up after a day on the High Line.

Cibar Lounge near Union Square has multiple fireplaces while Molly’s Irish Pub in Gramercy still has the original wood-burning fire place from when it was built in 1895.

Despite the often arctic temperatures, rooftop weather is year-round at New York’s Refinery Rooftop thanks to a crackling fireplace.

You can find a full roundup of bars with fireplaces on the NYC GO website.

You Can Wear Warm Scarves and Overcoats

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It’s rare for Aussies to even own a scarf or an overcoat as it’s never cold enough. So a trip to New York is the perfect excuse to rug up in all those winter woolies.

Of course, New York winters take the meaning of cold to a whole new level, so invariably many Aussie travellers arrive in the Big Apple totally unprepared.

That can be a great excuse to hit the winter sales and buy a fashionable new coat, a weatherproof jacket, a scarf and beanie or even some much needed thermal underwear.

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