As the weather gets colder and the days shorter in New York a common question we get asked at VisitingNewYork.com.au is what is the best way to dress for the cold and still enjoy a winter in New York. The first thing I often advise clients is that they need to need to prepare themselves mentally for the cold and the knock on effects that is causes. In Australia we don’t really have a type of cold that is comparable. The closest thing would be Canberra in the depth of their winter, and even then that doesn’t compare to the icy cold that New York experiences in January and February.
The average temperature of a New York winter ranges from between 4C and 13C in early December to between -3C and 4C in mid January and this does not take into account the wind chill factor. New York is often referred to as a concrete jungle, and rightly so, unfortunately it is this wonderful architecture that adds to the city’s charm also makes for an even more uncomfortable winter. The wind that comes racing off the Atlantic and can take a (relatively) comfortable day in late December from around 6C and turn it into an absolute nightmare when the temperature on the street feels more like -5C.
Layering is the most effective way to keep warm and it will also allow you to easily adjust for rapid changes in temperature.
VisitingNewYork.com.au has experienced multiple New York winters including this most recent winter where one of the lowest ever temperatures was recorded in Central Park in February of this year (2015) of -15C. Even walking through Times Square became a chore and I couldn’t go more than a couple of blocks without seeking refuge inside, normally inside a Starbucks and ordering the largest hot chocolate possible!
How to enjoy a New York Winter
7. Prepare yourself mentally
As mentioned get your head around being in a cold environment. This means it is going to take longer to get ready to go out, people will be walking slower and generally everyone in New York seems a bit grumpier when the cold sets in.
6. Allow plenty of indoor time
It seems simple but make sure that when you are planning your day you make sure you include a decent amount of time set aside for indoor activities, whether it is visiting a museum, going shopping or just stopping by one of New York’s great café’s to stop and enjoy the moment – your hands, feet and face will thank you for it.
5. Beanies, gloves & scarves are essential
If you are visiting New York from mid December through until the end of February a beanie (or warm hat), gloves and a scarf are essentials. These will make your day that much more enjoyable and will allow you to easily adjust your attire as the temperature of the day changes. If you do happen to forget , or found that your old gloves or sporting scarf don’t seem up to standard Macy’s at Herald Square offer a great range at very reasonable prices. VisitingNewYork.com.au recommends avoiding some of the souvenir shops around Times Square that are selling beanies, gloves and scarves as you will end up needing to replace them before your stay is finished.
4. Get yourself a great coat
Unless you are travelling from North Queensland or the Northern Territory everyone should have at least one good quality jacket or coat in their closet. A good jacket for a New York winter includes being wind and waterproof with sealed zippers, and a generous amount of pockets which are easily accessible. If you have a ski jacket that has an internal jumper / shell this is a great option when the days are really cold and the wind factor threatens to make it unbearable.
3. Take warm clothes in your carry-on luggage
If you are flying straight from Australia to New York, VisitingNewYork.com.au cannot recommend highly enough how important it is to make sure that in addition to carrying your jacket with you that you also have additional clothes including a jumper and your beanie / hat in your carry-on luggage.
On multiple trips to New York in winter VisitingNewYork.com.au has seen first hand the look of hopelessness of travellers faces when they are waiting for their luggage and the cold of New York is already biting and the wait for their bags to arrive seems like an eternity. There is nothing worse than leaving an Australian summer of over 30C and getting into New York where the temperature is hovering around 6C and you are waiting for your bags in t-shirt, jeans and thongs!
2. Layers, Layers, Layers
Anyone who has visited New York will tell you that the key to staying warm during even the most frigid days is to make sure you layers of clothes on. Now this doesn’t mean trying to waddle out of your hotel because you are wearing 4 jumpers and 3 pairs of jeans similar to the scene in Cool Runnings where the Jamaican bobsled team experience winter for the first time. It is more about being smart about what you wear under your warm coat or jacket.
From a personal experience when I am out and about in New York during the day and I know the wind-chill will be a significant factor I will have on a singlet, a long-sleeve t-shirt, a zip-up jumper with a hood and my jacket. If I know the day will be an especially cold one I will also include a pair of long thermal underwear to ensure my legs are nice and warm as well.
Layering is so effective because as well as trapping air between the layers and thus keeping you warm it will also allow you to easily adjust for rapid changes in temperature. This is critical if your day is scheduled with a lot of indoor stops – the worst thing that you can do is after spending time out in the elements and have a chance to enjoy the warmth of a shop or café, if you are unable to quickly take off layers. Inevitably you will either get uncomfortably hot or worse when you come to go outside again you will not be able to effectively your body will not be able to adjust to the rapid drop in temperature and you will quickly become miserable (and this is speaking from experience!)
1. Express tickets and front of line passes
On average most Australians plan to spend between 6 – 10 days in New York on holiday, when visiting during winter it is important to remember that things generally take a lot longer, and the winter days are shorter. To maximise your time in the greatest city in the world if your budget can stretch VisitingNewYork.com.au highly recommends purchasing Express tickets or front of line passes that will allow you to skip lines at popular attractions, museums and events. An added benefit is that it may limit the amount of time you have to spend queuing up outside exposed to the New York weather.
Winter in New York is a spectacular time of year, from the Christmas and Holiday traditions and decorations, to the prospect of a white Christmas, New York in winter is a magical place. If you are visiting for the first time and you follow our advice you will enjoy it even more.