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ice skating rink
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best things to do outside this winter in NYC

New Yorkers will all be outside more this winter than ever before, so we might as well make it fun!

By Time Out New York contributors
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New Yorkers aren't afraid of a little snow. Cold temperatures don't get us down. We just pull on our boots, grab our puffer coats and make the best of it. Aside from being one of the most beautiful places to be after a snowstorm, New York City has the best things to do outside in the winter. From sledding and ice-skating to incredible light displays and innovative ways to dine outdoors, here are our suggestions for making the most of a chilly day in the city.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in winter in NYC

Best things to do outside this winter in NYC

Winter Village
Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Colin Miller

1. Practice your axels

When the temperature drops, that means it’s time to go ice-skating. NYC is chock-full of outdoor rinks where you can strap on the blades and hit the slick stuff. We’ve ranked the top places to go, so whether you want to skate at Rockefeller Center or NYC parks like Central Park, you certainly have a multitude of options.

Tom Friedman Looking Up
Tom Friedman Looking Up
Photograph: Kat Harris, Courtesy Tom Friedman/Tishman Speyer

2. Check out the massive sculpture at Rockefeller Center

News Art

A 10-foot-tall sculpture now looms over NYC's Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens, gazing up at 30 Rock—a stance we've all taken at some point, whether as a tourist or a passerby. The stainless steel artwork by American artist Tom Friedman was just unveiled at the entrance to the gardens located on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets, and it'll be standing tall until March 19. Titled "Looking Up," the humanoid figure was created with crushed aluminum foil pans which, through a process of lost wax casting, retains the imprint of the original materials. The sculpture combines Friedman's interests in the supernatural and experiential, according to Rockefeller Center's developer Tishman Speyer. 

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Photograph: Courtesy 230 Fifth
Photograph: Courtesy 230 Fifth
Photograph: Courtesy 230 Fifth

3. Huddle inside a bubble for drinks

What was once a wintertime novelty in New York has now become the new normal: Festive bubble tents, heated yurts, and cozy outdoor dining structures erected so that cold-braving locals can enjoy a warm-and-toasty, socially-distanced meal outside during the winter. And since it seems there's a new space bubble popping up every day in NYC, we've started a handy Google Doc that highlights all of the restaurants and bars that have private outdoor dining setups, from bungalows to greenhouses and everything in between

Westlight
Westlight
Photograph: Courtesy Westlight at The William Vale.

4. Get cozy at the Winter Village at Westlight

News Eating

The William Vale’s new Winter Village at Westlight is a seasonal pop-up is located on the hotel's 23rd floor outdoor rooftop and features private heated chalets surrounding their rooftop ice skating rink, Vale Rink. It's perfect for a cozy night out. Each chalet is available to book for 90 minutes with a $45 fee for small chalets (parties of 2) and a $75 fee for large chalets (parties of 3–6). Inside, you can enjoy items from Westlight’s a la carte menu as well as an Alpine-style fondue with fingerling potatoes, sourdough bread, gherkins, apples and endives for $30. (Something else to enjoy? Those stunning views of the Manhattan skyline twinkling in the distance.) Seasonal cocktails from Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality are also served at the rinkside hideaways, including the Frostbite (Glenlivet, Lillet Blanc, Banana, Walnut, Honey) and the Snowbird (Mount Gay Black Barrel, Aperol, Lime, Coconut.)  To round out the hygge ambiance, the sky-high chalets come stocked with soft pillows, flameless candles and—in a truly inspired touch—a spritz of Santal 26 by Le Labo. Now that’s an off-menu item we can get behind.

 

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Light year projection dumbo
Light year projection dumbo
Photograph: Courtesy Tomas Eller

5. See a massive new light show in DUMBO

News Art

The Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo will light up with massive light projections for all to see through March. On the first Thursday of each month, LIGHT YEAR installations will be on view for the public, who can watch from nearby bars and restaurants with hot drinks in hand. The projections, which will be 65 by 40 feet, can be viewed from the Pearl Street Triangle from dusk to 10pm. The projections are set for the winter months, from now through March.

dining
dining
Photograph: Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corporation/Giada Paoloni

6. Rent a cozy cabin on Pier 17

News City Life

The Greens are officially coming back for winter. (Though this time around, they’ll look a lot less green.) The socially distanced dining destination, which made a splash this summer thanks to its Instagram-ready, reservable mini lawns, announced today that it will be transforming into a new experience for the colder months on Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport. With the mini lawns back in storage, the rooftop venue will be installing 28 individual 12’ by 10’ winterized dining cabins. Each cabin will be able to fit up to 10 guests and will be decorated with fun winter décor and amenities including virtual fireplaces, electric heating, cozy banquettes and, of course, jaw-dropping, floor-to-ceiling views of NYC from its prime location on the East River waterfront.

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Bryant Park Winter Village
Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angela Cranford

7. Try iceless curling at Bryant Park's Winter Village

News City Life

There's a new Curling Café at the park with an iceless curling court. You can try your hand out at curling on a synthetic ice rink, which creates a realistic experience. Just rent a curling lane and accompanying tent for either one to four people or five to eight people on Wednesdays to Fridays: 3:30-9pm, (with extended weekend time slots including Saturdays & Sundays: 1:30pm-9pm). Renting a tent and curling lane ranges from $250 to $475 and comes with a carafe of hot chocolate, finger foods, and brownie pops. Note: All gaming equipment and tents are sanitized between each and every booking, and all customers must wear a face-covering when not seated inside your designated tent.

8. Sled like you’re a kid again

The highs and lows of Gotham become so much more extreme—and fun—when it gets cold with the best sledding hills in NYC. You don’t need to go head upstate for hours of down-hill fun, just hit a few of the best NYC parks where the slopes are full of local snow-lovers. Just grab your toboggan, or make-shift sledding vessel, and find a spot across the five boroughs.

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Central Park snow
Central Park snow
Roman Kruglov

9. Bask in the beauty of a snow-covered park

You can’t deny how inarguably beautiful NYC’s parks look once they’re covered in a blanket of pearly white snow. If you’re brave enough to brace the cold after the storm, we recommend taking a stroll through iconic attractions such as Central Park and Prospect Park, especially if you’re raring to go sledding.

Central Park in winter
Central Park in winter
Photography: Shutterstock

10. Bike through Central Park

When the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, take advantage of the occasion with a bike ride through Central Park. The cycling will warm you up even in frigid weather, and the snow-dusted vistas of the park make ideal Instagram material. $7 per hour

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More things to do this winter

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2013
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Best Christmas things to do in NYC

Things to do

It's almost the merriest time of year and there are so many Christmas things to do in NYC to put on your list of festivities. From uptown to downtown, the city boasts holiday offerings like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, light festivals, and the best holiday markets NYC has to offer. Whether you channel your inner grinch or cheery elf during NYC's most wonderful season, we've got you covered with activities.  

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in NYC

Check out our Winter Village video: 

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

Where to see stunning holiday lights in NYC

Things to do

New York City transforms into a magical wonderland with millions of holiday lights right after Thanksgiving, giving us over-the-top inflatable Santas and reindeer found at the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn to more iconic New York displays, such as in Central Park, Rockefeller Center and at Saks Fifth Avenue. More than ever, we're in need of some magic, so take it all in and get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” at these landmarks, holiday markets and neighborhoods that create the most picturesque holiday light displays during the holiday season.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in New York

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The rink at Rockefeller Center
Photograph: Courtesy Rockefeller Center

The best places to go ice-skating in NYC

Things to do

It's time to lace up your skates—the best ice skating rinks in NYC are waiting for you. As one of the most beloved cities to spend the holidays in, NYC has plenty of indoor and outdoor rinks where you can glide and practice your toe jumps. To help narrow down your options, we’ve ranked the top places to go, from the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center or lower-key rinks at NYC parks like Central Park. You can even make a full-day out of it when you shop at one of the city’s best holiday markets, followed by sipping hot chocolate and skating on The Rink at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. If you'd rather stay warm while on the ice, there are many all-weather indoor rinks, including spots that offer roller skating.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the winter in NYC

The 50 best things to do in NYC for locals and tourists

Things to do

November 2020: Looking for a winter like no other by hitting up the best things to do in NYC? Things are a bit precarious right now, but our beautiful city is pulling through with style. Our iconic museums, big attractions, and favorite restaurants are back (with new rules, of course), so there's more to do now than ever this year. As always in 2020, just make sure to double check with venues to make sure programming is still on before you head out. We will be updating this list more often than we did prior to lockdown to reflect New York City as it fights to stay open.

From its art museums (The Met and MoMA) to its attractions (The Bronx Zoo and Dyker Heights Holiday Lights), New York City is the best city in the world. Its dining and drinking scenes, which are undergoing major changes, are still unbeatable and boast killer bars (Dante) and restaurants (Lilia). Every day, we're discovering something new and wonderful about our city, whether it's one of the best cozy spots, some incredible views, must-see art, or hidden-gem stores. Take this winter to do some incredibly fun things in NYC.

Consider below your NYC Bible. 

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

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Winter at The Barn airbnb
Photograph: Courtesy Airbnb

10 cozy cabins near NYC that you can rent on Airbnb

Travel

Nothing is better than spending the colder months in a cozy cabin near NYC. It's the perfect winter getaway from NYC and is only made better with hot chocolate, a crackling fireplace, wool sweaters and a cozy cabin to cuddle up in. Whether you need lodging at ski resorts near NYC or somewhere rustic chic for a girls’ weekend, this list of cabins near NYC on Airbnb has got you covered. After just a few hours of driving, you could be snuggling in a chalet in the Pocono Mountains, relaxing in a geodesic dome in upstate New York or sipping a hot toddy in a trendy container cabin in the Catskills. No matter where you choose to go, escaping the city to a snow-covered wonderland has to be one of the top things to do in the winter.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to weekend getaways from NYC

Note: please check the latest travel guidance before booking your trip.

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