The city draws over 5 million people in the winter time. We find New York becomes its most majestic during this season, especially during the Christmas holidays which begin the day after Thanksgiving. The snow blankets the streets, buildings light up and the city becomes its most alive at the coldest time of the year. As you know, people pack the streets for the ball drop in Times Square for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
But that’s not all that's left to do.
It’s our favourite time of year in NYC and we will explain why.
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square
Join the masses in Times Square for the biggest celebration of the year. Millions swamp the streets to watch Ryan Seacrest and many live performers as everyone prepares for the ball to drop. Watch the Waterford Crystal Sphere countdown to midnight and greet the New Year with the nicest tradition. Arrive early in the afternoon if you even want a glimpse of the ball, or else the spectators fill the streets up to Central Park. The Times Square ball is viewable atop the building year-round.
Fun fact: Amazingly enough by 8 a.m. on New Year's Day, the streets are clean of all debris from the celebration.
The stunning tree towers over at Rockefeller Center and with good reason. There are over 50,000 dazzling lights illuminating the square and drawing large crowds every minute of the day. The massive tree has been around since the 1930s and it's quite a spectacle. Everybody wants a picture under the tree and so should you. The tree is lit on November 30th until January 7th. Therefore, it’s never too late to view the tree even after the holidays.
One of the funnest outdoor activities in the winter has to be ice skating. Well, it’s definitely one of our favourite winter activities. We recommend heading to one of the three big rinks – Rockefeller Center, Wollman Rink in Central Park and Bryant Park. Rent skates, pay your admission and enjoy your time. Hopefully it’s not too cold, but dress warm. Just note that the Rockefeller admission is a bit steep and can get overcrowded.
For more info:
Rockefeller Center - https://therinkatrockcenter.com/
Central Park - http://www.centralpark.com/guide/sports/central-park-ice-skating.html
Bryant Park - http://wintervillage.org/skate/overview
Winter Village at Bryant Park
We particularly fell in love with Bryant Park and it’s a must visit during the winter holidays. First, there’s a skating rink which is free if you bring your own skates. Lessons are offered for beginner skaters too. You can also enjoy the large Christmas market filled with shops and food kiosks that surround the park. The vendors offer plenty of hand-crafted items such as scarves, jewelry and Christmas ornaments. The food and drink stands are exactly what you need to warm up with plenty of seating arrangements. Wafels & Dinges is a great option!
Shop down the Holiday Walk (Fifth avenue)
Start from Macy’s on 34th street all the way to Sak’s Fifth Avenue. There’s nothing like window shopping the many department stores. They're all lit up on the outside and they try to top each other from the year before. If you’re not there to shop and prefer avoiding the chaos indoors, the many department stores provide some exceptional displays for everyone to see. Like Saks Fifth Avenue has a wonderful light show projected on the facade of the building. People stop and stare at the wonderful show. It definitely gets you into the holiday spirit!
Walk down Central Park and enjoy a little bit of nature. The park is so beautiful in the winter as the snow blankets the trails and trees. There's plenty to do such as ice skating, the zoo (open year-round) to visit, many festivals and horse-drawn carriage rides. The more adventurous types can also go sledding at Pilgrim Hill’s steep slopes. Be sure to dress up!
Brooklyn Bridge Park - Pier 1's Granite Park
One of our favourite spots in all of New York is actually found in the Brooklyn borough. Brooklyn Bridge Park is large and beautiful. It's a lot less busy in the winter but don't let the cold stop you from going to this wonderful location. We absolutely fell in love with Pier 1's Granite Park with Christmas lights glowing off the trees and the glorious view of the NYC skyline. Take a break and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Watch a show
Do you want to watch the Nutcracker on Broadway or a concert at Carnegie Hall? Or what about the Rockettes Christmas spectacular show at Radio City Hall? We recommend a stop to one of these fabulous shows. We will repeat this again and again, make sure you get your tickets in advance! This is New York after all.
Coney Island’s Polar Bear Swim – January 1st
Thousands gather half-naked to the Boardwalk and prepare to jump into the chilly Atlantic Ocean waters. If you dare, you can run down the beach and take a cold plunge. Everybody does it and it’s a big party atmosphere. What a way to start the New Year!