The backdrop of countless movie moments and the inspiration of every other love song ever written, it’s obvious why New York City is a top tier holiday destination for many. But whether you’re looking to channel your inner Alicia Keys and chase your dreams in the concrete jungle, or you simply want to recreate that piano scene in ‘Big’, there’s an overwhelming amount of things to see and do in New York City.
So you’ve set your heart on a trip to the Big Apple - but now you’re faced with the colossal decision of choosing the best time to visit. With five boroughs to explore, hundreds of iconic landmarks to see, a year-round calendar of cultural events and, of course, fluctuating weather to consider, planning a New York itinerary can be a little daunting.
With so much hustle and bustle going on, it begs the question, when does one choose to holiday in the city that really never sleeps? Well, if you ask our expert team here at Good Trip Marketplace, the best time to visit New York City can be drilled down to two key seasons: winter and spring.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best times to visit New York…
Winter: November - March
There’s nowhere in the world that does the Christmas season quite like New York City. From the very moment that the last crisp leaf has fallen, the streets are decked with dazzling displays, ice skating rinks pop up out of nowhere, and Christmas carols can be heard bouncing between every block, meaning only one thing: the holidays have arrived.
Whether it’s because of the annual tradition of the Thanksgiving Day parade that sets in a sense of nostalgia or the legendary Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting up the city skyline, it’s during the frosty winter months in the city that there’s an indescribable magic in the air, turning even the most intimidating New Yorkers into gooey, sentimental sightseers.
With so much holiday cheer and an abundance of festivities to partake in, it’s clear to see why so many choose to visit New York for the holiday season.
Best things to do in the winter:
Ready to unleash your inner child? If it’s gingerbread and jingle bells that you’re in the mood for, then the winter season is the one for you. Here are the best activities to do in New York City at this time of year:
- Ever wanted to see a 50 foot Baby Yoda floating through the sky? Well, you’re in luck. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an event like no other, with thousands gathering to the streets of Manhattan every year to catch sight of the balloon spectacle.
- Feeling festive? The Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree is a must-see if you’re spending the holidays in the city. And if you want to time it just right, the ceremonial lighting of the tree happens every year on the first Wednesday following Thanksgiving.
- Shop ‘til you drop - If you’re in need of a little retail therapy, then you’ve come to the right place. From the endless designer stores sprinkled along 5th Avenue, to world-famous toy shops like FAO Schwarz, your Christmas shopping will be done and dusted. And wrapped up in a perfect red ribbon too.
- Get your skates on! There are hundreds of outdoor ice rinks to get practicing your pirouettes. From the iconic Rockefeller rink as seen in the movie Elf, to the Bryant Park Winter Village, where you can warm up afterwards with a cup of hot cocoa as you take in the beautiful park views.
- Jazzhands at the ready - If there’s one thing that will get you in the festive spirit, it’s the all-singing, all-dancing, Rockettes show at Radio City. This 90-minute Christmas spectacular is definitely one for the NYC bucket list.
- Too cold outside? Fear not. There’s a plethora of museums and galleries for you to spend an afternoon soaking up some culture. Check out The Met or MoMA if it’s brushstrokes you’re after, or head to the American Museum of Natural History if dinosaurs are more your thing.
Spring: April - June
Or, if winter isn’t your bag, the best time to visit New York might just be in the springtime. From roughly April to June, New York City blossoms into a spring-like sanctuary. The sun beats down on the sidewalk, greenery begins to outline Central Park, and the city comes alive with optimism.
Why is spring better than summer you may ask? Well, don’t forget that the concrete jungle is no beach destination. And it gets hot in the summer months - really hot. Exploring the city in 30 plus degree heat can be rather demanding. But in spring, the weather is fairer, it’s less crowded and you can still make the most of all that New York City has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to recharge with a leisurely brunch in one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants or outdoor cafes, admire the beauty of the Botanical Garden in the Bronx, or simply take a stroll through one of the city’s 1,700 parks (yes, there’s not just Central Park!) there are so many ways to embrace the city in spring.
Best things to do in the spring:
If sightseeing, park lounging and outdoor food festivals are your thing, then the spring season is the one for you. Here are the best activities to do in New York City at this time of year:
- They say the best way to really see New York is from up above. At 102 stories tall, the Empire State Building observation deck presents the most breathtaking view that the city has to offer; impressive both in the daytime and at night.
- In need of a little fresh air? Central Park, the lush, green epicenter of the city is the perfect place for a little refuge from the bustling streets of the city. Spend an afternoon strolling around the 843 acres. Follow walking trails, take in the sculptures, catch a concert or visit the Central Park Zoo - there’s much to do in this playground for all.
- All aboard! Why not see the city from an entirely different angle and embark on a cruise. Hudson River Cruises offer passengers the chance to set sail up and down the historic shoreline, for a guided tour like no other. Or, why not pay a visit to Lady Liberty herself on Liberty Island, situated on Upper New York Bay.
- Play ball! Do as the locals do and watch a Yankees game. And if you really want to get in on the action, you could even do the Yankee Stadium Tour, to get all the BTS shots.
- Hop over to another borough - NYC isn’t just about Manhattan. If you have time, make sure to visit all five boroughs. Take Brooklyn for example, home to some of the coolest music makers, artists and foodies in the city, and not to forget, the joyful Coney Island, Brooklyn has lots to boast about.
So whether you’re opting for a festive frenzy or a sunny sabbatical, there really are endless ways to enjoy the Big Apple in all its glory. For the best time to visit, our advice would be to figure out what kind of holiday you’re after first, and then make a list of all of the activities that you want to pack into your trip. After that, all that’s left to do is book your flights and start spreading the news…