What’s that? A little snow on the ground? Don’t let cold temperatures and slick sidewalks keep you from enjoying the best things to do outside this winter. In fact, one of the most beautiful places to be after a snow storm is at one of the best NYC parks. From parades and annual alfresco events to sledding and ice-skating, here are our suggestions for making the most of a chilly day in the city. Oh, but when the weather is absolutely frigid, make sure check out our list of amazing indoor activities to keep you toasty-warm and entertained.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in winter in NYC
Best things to do outside this winter in NYC
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.
One of the best and most amusing city-wide pranks is the No Pants Subway Ride created by Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd. Thousands of New Yorkers participate in the funny tradition on subway cars across Gotham, so don your winter clothes, rip off your pants and join your fellow straphangers to achieve one goal: confuse bystanders.
Celebrate the Year of the Rooster at two key neighborhood fetes organized by the Better Chinatown Society. During the New Year’s Day Firecracker Ceremony (Jan 28), hundreds of thousands of the sparkly explosives will be set off to ward off bad spirits for the year, then a cultural festival—with dance performances, Chinese food and more—takes over Sara D. Roosevelt Park. The Lunar new year parade (Feb 5) is also a can’t-miss event.
You don’t have to go on a ski trip outside of the city to hit the slopes—just attend Central Park’s Winter Jam, a free winter festival chock-full of events for New Yorkers of all ages. Whether rain or shine, upstate ski destination Gore Mountain will blow fresh snow into the heart of Central Park, where festivalgoers can go snowshoeing, kicksledding and more. There will also be skiing and snowboarding lessons provided by Lake Placid.
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
The 250 acres of greenery at the New York Botanical Garden look just as stunning in the snow. Too chilly for you? Step inside the greenhouse to watch the annual holiday train show, on display through January 16. Feast your eyes on iconic New York attractions (think the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty) made entirely out of natural materials. $20 per person
New Yorkers love to do some sunbathing and stargazing on The High Line during the warmer months, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had when temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Friends of the High Line host a lovely (and free!) winter tour called “From Freight to Flowers,” where volunteer guides teach you all about the park’s history, landscape and design. And there’s a good chance that the landmark will be free of crowds when you go, which means you’ll have more space to take in the spectacular views. Pro tip? Just make sure to bundle up.
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.
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.