Winter in New York is a special time of the year for anyone, but I think it is especially something amazing for Australian travellers. The weather, the atmosphere and the joy the Christmas season brings culminate in a scene that Australians have yearning for. Even for first time travellers to New York in winter there is an eerie familiarity to it all, whether it be from the scenes in movies or our favourite TV shows, New York in winter brings a sense of contentment to any Australian visiting the Big Apple from December through until February.
If it is your first time visiting or planning to visit New York in the northern winter, VisitingNewYork.com.au has put together a New York Winter Bucket-list of places, shows and things to see and do if you are visiting the greatest city in the world between December and February.
10. See the New York Ballet perform the Nutcracker
The New York Ballet is world renowned as one of the best performing arts companies in the world and the Nutcracker is one of their most famous performances. Set to the music of Tschaikovsky the entire production company dedicates itself to performing their famous routine from late November through until 3rd January 2016.
From December 3rd the New York Ballet performs daily at the David H. Koch Theatre at the Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side (with the exception of December 7th and 25th). Tickets to the Nutcracker start from just $75
9. Window Shopping on 5th Ave
As the saying goes – it doesn’t cost anything to look, and no where is that more apt than along New York’s 5th Avenue. Home to the flagship stores some of the worlds biggest department stores, and most expensive luxury brands, these household names get in the festive spirit by creating some amazing window displays to celebrate the season. Months and months of planning go into each display with boutique stores and large department stores go all out to try and claim the seasons best window display.
Of particular interest are the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Lord & Taylor.
8. Take a stroll through SoHo and Greenwich Village
If you want to see how local New Yorkers are preparing for the holidays take a walk down 6th Avenue through Greenwich Village and SoHo and you’ll see where the Christmas Trees are being sold, holiday lights going up in front of the Brownstones and locals enjoying an evening out with friends celebrating with festive joy.
7. Visit the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park
One of the quintessential things to do when visiting New York in winter is to head to Central Park and watch the crowds make their way around the Wollman rink. Enter the park through the gates at Grand Army Plaza and make your way down past The Pond, look back up to the Plaza Hotel and then make your way around to the Wollman Rink. Get a warm drink from the kiosk on the upper level and sit back, relax and enjoy the view below or just gaze at the wonder of the Midtown Manhattan skyline.
For the more adventurous you can always hire a pair of skates and be apart of the action rather than just watching it. Prices for skating start from $11.25 per adult & $6 for children, skates can be rented for $8 a pair. Note that weekend and holiday prices are in effect from late November.
6. Stop by the Holiday Shops at Union Square
Looking for the perfect Christmas souvenir from your New York adventure for those stuck at home in 35C+ temperatures. Head down to Union Square Park and browse through the Christmas shops which take up residence at the Union Square (southern) end of Union Square Park. In addition to Christmas and holiday themed stalls the Union Square shops also offers visitors a great range of food and drinks to enjoy the atmosphere of this unique shopping experience.
The shops at Union Square are open from November 19th to December 24th (closed on Thanksgiving November 26th). Monday to Friday 11am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 8pm and Sunday’s from 11am – 7pm.
5. Immerse yourself into the action of the Winter Village at Bryant Park
The Winter Village at Bryant Park is a European inspired oasis in the heart of Midtown Manhattan located directly behind the New York Public Library at Bryant Park. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park has everything from a free Ice Skating rink, over 125 Christmas and Holiday themed shops and stalls and 8 restaurants and cafes plus multiple food stalls throughout the shops.
The Winter Village is now open and will remain open (weather permitting) through until early March 2016. For more information check out our in-depth guide: Have you visited New York’s own winter wonderland.
4. Watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Years Eve
The most famous crystal ball in the world heralds in the dawn of a new year, each December 31 as it drops from a top One Times Square. If you are brave enough to withstand the freezing temperatures you can join up to 1million other New Years Eve revellers in Times Square to attend on of the truly unique ways to welcome the new year. Anyone can watch the countdown and ball drop in Times Square and it is free to attend, but be warned – it starts to get very busy from early in the day and the NYPD will not allow anyone to enter with any bags. Musical acts and performances will keep the crowd entertained until the main event.
VisitingNewYork.com.au has put together a comprehensive list of things that Australian tourists can do if they are lucky enough to be spending New Years Eve in the Big Apple.
3. See the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall
The Rockettes Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular is synonymous with Christmas in New York. Since 1933 The Rockettes have been performing what has become an annual tradition for a number of New Yorkers who head to Radio City Music Hall to watch over 140 performers sing, dance and act in a show that leaves the audience in awe of the talent of the performers year after year.
The first show of the 2015 season starts on November 20th and continues through until January 3rd. Tickets can be purchased through their official website with prices starting from just $51.
2. A horse and carriage ride in Central Park
There are few more romantic ways to spend a morning, afternoon or evening than a carriage ride through the majestic Central Park. Even if you are not after a romantic way to spend an evening but still want to see more of the park on a tight schedule a Central Park horse and carriage ride is a fantastic way to spend an hour. It is quintessentially touristy but at the same time for many it would be a once in a lifetime chance to see Central Park in a way that many Australians have seen in countless movies and TV shows.
Horse and carriage rides can be hired from multiple locations around Central Park including:
Grand Army Plaza (South eastern corner)
Center Drive (Corner of 6th Ave and 59th Street)
Columbus Circle (South western corner)
Terrace Drive (Entrance at 72nd Street on the Upper West Side)
If you are lucky enough to be in New York after a snow storm you will see a side to Central Park that most have only seen in pictures of a blanket of white covering the spectacular rolling hills of the park.
1. Visit to Rockefeller Center
The one thing that every Australian tourist just has to do when visiting New York in winter is to go to Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center has something for everyone and every budget. It is perfectly located in the heart of everything that New York has to offer and it is there 24/7 rain, hail, snow or shine.
Visitors can do anything from visiting the Top of the Rock and get amazing views of Manhattan and greater New York, go Ice Skating, take the NBC Experience Studio Tour, watch and be a part of the NBC Today Show, dine in one of the many restaurants, enjoy the amazing architecture and gaze upon one of the world’s largest Christmas Trees.
Personally winter in New York is my favourite time of the year. It’s a little cheaper, the crowds (outside of Christmas) are thinner but most importantly growing up in North Queensland and later in Sydney, it is the prospect of waking up one morning to snow covered streets and snow accumulating on your window sill that just make the aura of New York grow stronger each passing winter.
If you have any of your own New York winter recommendations or stories share them with us below or on our Facebook page.