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New York City NYC Moving Guide

6 Best Things to Do in NYC in the Winter

Cold weather has returned, and more chilly air is apt to arrive in the coming months. In New York City, frigid days and nights are the norm between December 21 and March 21, which is when spring technically begins. The average high in January is just 36 degrees with the low hovering around 23, and that doesn't include the wind chill factor. Even if you're not a snow bunny, with a little planning you can prepare yourself for the frosty days that come every year, and even look forward to all the things to do in NYC in the winter.

Snowy Winter in NYC

1. Dress properly.

A pea coat or biker jacket? It’s time to get the heavy-weight wintry clothes out of your NYC storage unit. Fashionable outerwear sounds attractive, but nothing will keep you warmer than down feathers. In fact, a down coat and a pair of waterproof boots will be your best friends during the New York winter months. I suggest a lighter-weight version and a heavy, parka-like coat. And you won't be alone in your snowman jacket as you meander around town. You'll see New Yorkers sporting down beginning as early as October and as late as April, depending on when spring arrives.

Along with the right coat and boots, you'll need a few warm hats, scarves, and several pairs of gloves, too. And while you're at it, throw a flannel shirt and cardigan sweater into the wintry mix.

2. Ride the subway.

There's nothing worse than standing outside on an icy day to wait for a bus. Ten minutes can seem like 30 during wintertime in New York, and you won't feel your fingers and toes by the time you board. The subway, however, is underground in most of Manhattan and even some of the boroughs, so the temperature will always be warmer on the platform than it is on the street. On January days when the real feel is in the single digits, that could mean double digits underground.

Since the subway works best for uptown and downtown routes (north and south) in most instances, and buses work best for crosstown commutes (east and west), save your pennies for taxis, car services, and rideshare programs on these abominable days when waiting for a bus is out of the question. Winter car storage is wise for those chilly months, and I'd leave Citi Bike for the spring, summer and fall.

Cold Sidewalks in NYC Winter

3. Entertain.

Winter nights are the perfect time to invite friends over for cocktails or a casual dinner. Get creative and try a winter-themed menu. Start with a hearty butternut squash soup, followed by a pumpkin, sausage and sage pasta. Finish with a potluck dessert selection courtesy of your guests. Not much of a cook? Order pizza and do a wine tasting instead. Or, go for a menu as laid-back as wings and beer. Your friends will be there for a good time and great conversation, so the food can play a secondary role.

4. Embrace it.

I can't tell you how many times I've noticed New Yorkers cross-country skiing in Central Park. Yes, as much as we complain about the cold, we do get out there on occasion and embrace the season. From ice-skating to group runs, and building snowmen to sledding, NYC's most adventurous denizens will traipse through a polar vortex and embrace the insanely cold temperatures. So I guess the adage works in this instance: "If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em."

NYC Winter Skyline

5. Stay in.

Netflix! Use January and February to binge watch your favorite television series, such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or Master of None. Read a bestseller. Cook a gourmet meal. Get some extra sleep. Work on home improvement projects, such as repainting a room or house cleaning. Take an online course. The list goes on. There is a host of activities you can discover or catch up on during winter months, thus keeping you toasty and busy at the same time.

6. Take a weekend trip from NYC.

New Yorkers like taking weekend trips from NYC—or even weeklong trips, for that matter—during February, because even a brief break from the arctic tundra can provide enough sunshine and vitamin C to make it through the final weeks of winter. Consider escaping the New York winter for a tropical destination like Puerto Rico, Martinique, or Costa Rica. You'll not only regroup and de-stress, but warm your bones and elevate your mood as well.

About the author

Tracy Kaler

Tracy Kaler is a ballet dancer turned interior designer turned lifestyle and travel writer who blogs at tracysnewyorklife.com. A former Atlantan, you can now find her byline in The Telegraph, IN New York Magazine, TravelMag, National Geographic, Mabuhay Magazine, am New York and others. When she's not glued to her laptop, you'll find her wandering the streets of New York City or off discovering another part of the planet.

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