29 Things to Do in NYC When It’s Cold to Beat the Winter Blues

From indoor activities to outdoor pursuits

things-to-do-in-nyc-when-its-cold - A photo of two people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge covered in a light blanket of snow. The sun is rising in the distance.
Nico De Pasquale Photography/Getty Images

The cold weather blues are a real thing, friends—namely because winter is long and, well, often pretty boring. New Yorkers (or folks who are visiting) don’t have to hibernate for the whole season, though, because the Big Apple is still buzzing with activities when the temperatures start to drop. Best of all, many of them are indoors, so you don’t even have to brave the frigid weather. Presenting our roundup of the best things to do in NYC when it’s cold, from indoor pursuits (like going to the movies or a museum) to outdoor activities (ice skating, anyone?). 

63 Winter Activities to Banish the Cold Weather Blues

1. Enjoy Some Indoor Recreation at Chelsea Piers

Bowling and rock climbing are among the drop-in activities you can enjoy with a visit to Chelsea Piers, both of which are perfect choices if you’re looking to have some fun on a dreary winter day. Plus, this popular NYC destination boasts numerous restaurants where you can drink and dine when you’re done.

2. Grab a Bite to Eat at the Plaza Hotel

Feeling fancy? Put on your most stylish ensemble (there’s a dress code) and head to this iconic 5-star hotel to indulge in afternoon tea and light bites at the famous Palm Court restaurant. Once you’ve finished, you can keep the high society fun going by enjoying a glass of bubbly at the hotel’s Champagne bar. If the tea and wine combination has left you feeling sufficiently toasty, you might even be ready to brave the cold and take a stroll through Central Park.

3. Catch a Movie at an Independent Theater

When the weather outside is frightful, watching a movie is kind of a no-brainer. But the experience is far more enjoyable if you force yourself off the couch and head to a cool independent theater instead. Film Forum and Angelika are two of our favorites. Film Forum is great for classic films, while Angelika is better for foreign films, but you can catch a cool indie flick at either.

things to do in nyc when it’s cold - People gather in a pool at the spa on Governor's Island at night while watching a woman dressed in a costume do a fire display while dancing. You can see the NYC skyline behind her.
Governors Island

4. Enjoy Nighttime Entertainment on Governors Island

Governors Island is a popular destination for bike riding, grilling, drinking beers and chowing down on tasty food truck fare under the summer sun, but it’s actually a very appealing place to visit in the winter this year as well. QC New York, a spa located on Governors Island, is hosting QCirque of Wonders, an immersive experience in which visitors can watch a spectacular show of fire artists, light performers, stilt walkers and more, all while bathing in the spa’s luxurious, heated pools. Heated lounges, indoor fire pits, heated walkways and tunnels, and unparalleled views of the city skyline are all on the menu as well.

5. Go to the Russian and Turkish Bath House

The Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th street is a beloved East Village establishment that has been treating New Yorkers to an affordable spa experience since 1892, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to warm up on a cold winter night. There are intensely hot saunas where you can sweat it out, a pool where you can refresh yourself with a cold plunge, massage therapists who don’t mess around and a cafe that serves up authentic Russian eats and cold beers. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind (and blessedly budget-friendly) wellness experience, the banya fits the bill.

6. …Or Dine at the Iconic Russian Tea Room

Just a stone’s throw away from Carnegie Hall, you’ll find yet another iconic NYC destination with high society vibes. You might recognize the opulent Russian Tea Room from TV and movies (Gossip Girl, When Harry Met Sally and Manhattan, to name a few), but its art deco interior and decadent menu are even more fabulous in real life—provided you have enough pocket money to afford the pricy fare, that is.

7. Browse the Chelsea Market

Conveniently located near Chelsea Piers (you know, because you just went bowling or rock climbing), the Chelsea Market is a perfect place to warm up on a winter day. The marketplace is filled with boutiques, as well as food shops and restaurants serving up every kind of gourmet fare under the sun. In other words, if you have a food craving to satisfy or a desire to escape the cold and do some window shopping, this is the place to go.

8. Go to an Art Museum

NYC is home to some of the best art museums in the world and the frigid winter months are an ideal time to explore them. Check out the extensive modern art collection at MoMA, take in 5000 years’ worth of art from around the world at The Met or browse the European paintings and artifacts at the Getty; whichever museum you choose, you’re sure to get a fascinating dose of culture.

9. Visit the Aquarium

The New York Aquarium—the oldest aquarium in the United States—is a low-key and relaxing place to spend a cold winter day. It also boasts over 500 species of marine life and 18 different species of sharks and rays, so there’s no shortage of things to see and learn. Oh, and its location on Coney Island is just a short boardwalk stroll away from Nathan’s Famous, so you can finish off your visit with one (or maybe two) of the best hot dogs around.

10. Get Cuddly at a Cat Cafe

Is there anything cozier than cuddling with dozens of soft and fluffy kitties? We think not. Good news: You can do exactly that at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe, the only non-profit cat cafe in New York. This beloved safe haven for cats has rescued more than 7,000 felines since its founding in 2007 and we’re guessing many more cat-lovers have passed through the cafe doors to snuggle the friendly rescues that roam around within.

11. Go Ice Skating

Central Park, Rockefeller Center and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park are all excellent places to go if you want to embrace the cold with a couple hours of ice skating. Just be sure to bundle up…and consider treating yourself to a steaming cup of hot cocoa once you head off the ice and hang up your skates.

12. Go on a Century 21 Shopping Spree

Here, a department store that fell from heaven and landed in Battery Park to bestow upon every budget-conscious fashionista the gift of steeply discounted designer styles. If you’ve never experienced the magic of Century 21, the time is now. Just be warned—the markdowns on top-notch attire are so alluring, you actually can go broke there if you’re not careful.

things to do in nyc when it’s cold - An interior shot of the SPY HQ in NYC featuring dozens of security screens and people walking around the room that they are featured in.

13. Have an Immersive Spy Experience at SPYSCAPE

There are lots of novelty museums popping up as of late, but they aren’t all created equal—particularly not if you consider a museum to be a place where you actually learn something. Fortunately, SPYSCAPE lives up to its promise to provide guests with an immersive experience that’s also genuinely educational. As for the details, you can expect a self-guided tour featuring numerous exhilarating challenges (read: interactive games) that cover every aspect of espionage and impart plenty of historical information for context. You will also be given a personalized spy profile based on how you handled said challenges. (Psst: they can actually be repeated as many times as you want if you’re not pleased with your performance or just want to kill some more time.)

14. Go Gallery Hopping

If you’re interested in doing an art gallery crawl, we recommend heading to Chelsea and the Lower East Side. Bring a pal so you can exchange opinions on the fresh and exciting art you find and definitely say yes to any free wine or hors d'oeuvres that might be on offer.

things to do in nyc when it’s cold - A woman in a tan coat wanders through the Astra Lumina Moment lined with trees and colorful lights.
Queens Botanical Garden

15. Take an Enchanted Botanical Night Walk

The Queens Botanical Garden is currently putting on an impressive event called Astra Lumina, in which the beautiful outdoor landscape of the gardens transform into an colorful and starlit mile-long night walk that’s something of a stairway to heaven (minus the stairs). Indeed, the experience is kind of like the lovechild of a planetarium and botanical garden and it’s 100 percent magical. Best of all, it’s well-suited to both families and couples who are looking for a new winter date night idea.

16. Enjoy a Scandinavian Spa Day

Another winter date night idea for couples who are tired of being cooped up—this seasonal spa at William Vale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a Scandinavian-inspired rooftop sanctuary featuring barrel saunas and cedar hot tubs where guests can unwind and warm up all winter long. (We’re feeling romantic already…and also grateful our temps don’t drop as low as they do in Norway.)

17. Dine in an Igloo

Born of COVID-inspired creativity, these heated bubbles provide refuge from the cold, as well as an intimate and Insta-worthy dining experience for couples and friends. And yes, they exist all over the city. (You can find a roundup of the best places for igloo dining here.)

18. Catch a Broadway Show

This classic NYC experience is often enjoyed by tourists and neglected by Big Apple residents—but whichever category you belong to, a cold day or night in the city is the perfect occasion to catch a show on Broadway. Go solo, grab a friend or bring a date for a memorable theater experience. Not sure what to see? Six is reportedly amazing and PureWow’s editor-in-chief thoroughly enjoyed Sweeney Todd.

19. Warm Up with a Bowl of Ramen

Ramen is one of the most comforting and satisfying things you can eat on a cold winter day and you can get your fix in any borough. Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan, Wanpaku in Brooklyn and HinoMaru in Queens are among our favorite places to warm up with a nourishing bowl of this Japanese noodle soup.

20. Head to a Comedy Club

If you’re one of the many who suffer from mild seasonal depression—you know, because winter is cold and gloomy, and all your friends have gone into hibernation—it might be time to seek out some levity and laughter with a night out at a comedy club. Fortunately, NYC is replete with up-and-coming comedic talent and you can find a list of notable venues here.

21. Explore Grand Central Terminal

In addition to being a beautiful NYC landmark, this bustling transit hub is home to a boatload of shops, fine dining restaurants and casual eateries with crave-worthy fare. Go to admire the exquisite architecture and stay until you’ve finished a fantastic lunch and had your fill of people-watching. 

22. Catch a ‘Sleep No More’ Performance

‘Sleep No More’ is an award-winning theatrical Shakespearean performance that features amazing acrobatic choreography and an immersive, interactive experience for the audience. And after years of dazzling its viewers, the show is closing the curtains for good in March of 2024—so if you haven’t seen it yet, you better score some tickets fast. (Just keep in mind that there’s ample nudity in this avant-garde interpretation of Macbeth and that’s not an invitation to touch.)

23. Stroll Through Bryant Park’s Winter Village

Folks who are still feeling festive after the end of the winter holidays can always head to Bryant Park for free ice skating, bumper cars on ice, festive cocktails and plenty of good eats. Alas, the holiday market has been closed for the season but the holiday spirit is still going strong in the rest of the village until March 3, 2024.

24. Visit the Hall des Lumieres

A trip to NYC’s permanent digital arts center, Hall des Lumieres, is a veritable feast for the eyes. The main exhibition features the work of Marc Chagall and it’s an immersive, multi-sensory experience that will make any art lover swoon. There is also a free smaller exhibit dedicated to the work of Russia’s famed abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky. If you find ordinary art museums a little snoozy, this is a cold weather cultural outing that won’t disappoint.

25. Browse the Chelsea Flea

There’s something rather romantic about browsing through the prized antiques, handmade baubles, vintage clothing and tchotchkes on offer at any flea market—and the iconic Chelsea Flea has all that and more. Just be aware that this beloved flea market is held outdoors, so you’ll need to bundle up if you want to thoroughly browse all the goods.

26. Catch a Burlesque Show

Head to Brooklyn for a sexy and dazzling date night at XIV—a venue that puts on lavish burlesque performances inspired by the court of Louis XIV. There are tickets available for a burlesque take on the Nutcracker, as well as the exceedingly popular Cocktail Magique performance, and tickets to the latest show, Queen of Hearts, are already on pre-sale.

27. Go to House of Yes

House of Yes is a funky multi-room performing arts venue and nightclub in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn and the vibe is all about self-expression (and also dance parties). Costumes are encouraged but not required and many of the acts invite audience participation. Head here if you’re looking for a fun night out featuring more creativity than your standard nightclub scene.

28. Go to the New York Public Library

Fans of Sex and the City might be familiar with this NYC spot as the site where Carrie got stood up on her wedding day, but you don’t need to be a fan of the show to appreciate the beauty of the monumental main branch of the city’s public library system. Browsing the stacks here is also a pretty dreamy and very romantic way to spend a frigid winter day.

29. Learn Something New at the Brooklyn Brainery

The Brooklyn Brainery is a learning center in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Park Slope that offers a wide range of in-person classes for adults, including everything from book binding and embroidery to coding. Whether you’re hoping to find a new hobby or just looking to acquire some practical information on, say, buying your first home, Brooklyn Brainery has got you covered. Best of all, the classes are budget-friendly, so it’s a great way to learn something new without breaking the bank.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...