Polar Plunge
Photograph: Aaron BergerPolar Plunge

Notable New Yorkers tell us how to beat the cold-weather blues

We asked some of our favorite musicians, performers, comedians and more—to tell us how they fight Seasonal Affective Disorder


You might not think so—or feel like it (thanks, SAD)—but there are plenty of things to do in the winter. From some of the best comedy shows to art exhibitions, dance classes for adults and more, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied this winter. Check our our list below from these notable New Yorkers on how they keep the winter blues at bay.

Beat the winter blues with these great activities!

Polar Bear Club

“Party with the Polar Bears in Coney Island! My routine is to take a sunrise stroll along the snowy boardwalk, get brunch at Tom’s and then watch them swim. When the wind blows through the closed amusement park rides, it creates this magical wintertime symphony.”
Lola Star creator, Lola Star Boutiques and Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Disco

Ah, the Polar Bears. These brave creatures of habit have been taking wintry swims in the Atlantic since 1903, making them the oldest cold-weather bathing team in the U.S. Want to take the plunge? Every Sunday from November to April, they meet at 12:30pm for a 1 o’clock swim. And while membership is closed for the current season, they do allow guest swimmers. (Email buell@rcn.com to get on the list and be assigned a swimming buddy.) Dippers claim the experience is rejuvenating, fun and one hell of a hangover cure. But if you’re still too skittish, do like Star and cocoon in a blanket while watching others freeze their asses off. Meet at the New York Aquarium Education Hall, the Coney Island Beach Boardwalk at W 8th St, Brooklyn (polarbearclub.org). Sun at 12:30pm; free.

  • Health and beauty
  • Saunas and baths
  • East Village
“In the winter, I spend more time steaming and scrubbing, especially at the Russian & Turkish Baths. I like people to throw hot and cold water buckets at me.”
Paola Antonelli senior curator, MoMA Department of Architecture and Design

Since 1892, New Yorkers have been sweating out toxins in this East Village staple. The facilities include a cherrywood sauna, a sweetly scented aromatherapy room and a traditional Russian sauna, which gets so steamy and hot from the 20,000 pounds of rocks baked overnight that you’ll feel desperate for a plunge in the 46°F, seemingly icy pool. Get those depressing winter vibes beaten out of you with the Platza Oak Leaf treatment ($40): Using a broom made of the leaves that are sopped in olive-oil soap, a staffer vigorously—and we mean vigorously—scrubs your body. Harsh, bro. But refreshing. $40.
  • Coffee shops
  • South Slope

“I need good coffee in the winter because I’m a flamboyant asshole. I walk six goddamn blocks out of my way to Roots Cafe because its coffee is worth the gargantuan inconvenience.”
Cole Escola comedian

Even if you’re nowhere near this South Slope, Brooklyn, café, it’s worth the trek. Sip ethically sourced coffee from the New York–based Forty Weight Coffee Roasters and snack on comfort food options like the Borderline melt ($8), which boasts gobs of black bean spread, bell peppers, cheddar cheese and avocado. Be warned: The comfy space has plenty of inviting charm—quirky instruments and paintings on the walls, strings of lights hanging from the ceiling—so it’s often completely full, especially when it hosts bands and poets.

  • Japanese
  • Kips Bay
  • price 1 of 4

“I love to get a hot pot at my favorite shabu-shabu place, Momokawa. The meat is well marbled, and it has the requisite ponzu and sesame dipping sauces. Plus, it’s on the second floor of a very discrete block, so only those in the know go there.”
Dominique Ansel owner and chef, Dominique Ansel Bakery, Dominique Ansel Kitchen

We’re inclined to trust the inventor of the Cronut when it comes to craveworthy eats, and there’s no doubt that on a frigid night, the savory Japanese fondue-like beef dish shabu-shabu will hit the spot. Secreted away in Kips Bay, several blocks east of the more well-known East Asian restaurants in midtown, Momokawa serves sharable authentic Kyoto dishes—duck in onion soy-sauce broth ($50), all-natural Miyazaki beef ($120)—in its warmly lit, intimate digs.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Midtown East
“I really don’t do it enough, but I love to go to Grand Central Terminal to get a boot shine. [The customers are] usually a bunch of guys in business suits, so doing it as a woman in knee-highs covered in salt is funny, but it’s like a pedicure for your boots. It’s a pampering experience, so I make a day of it and go to Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant afterward.”
Ivy Mix co-owner and head bartender, Leyenda

One of the few joys of bundling up in the winter for many New Yorkers is having more layers to wear fashionably. That amazing pair of boots you spent a small fortune on, though, won’t make it through even a tiny bit of a winter in the city without some tender, loving care. Take a seat in one of the comfortable chairs at the Leather Spa’s Grand Central stand and open a newspaper as the expert cleans the shoe, applying polish and brushing vigorously for a good-as-new shine. Then walk those snazzy kicks to the opulent early-20th-century Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant to devour Bloody Mary oyster shooters ($7.95) or a caviar sandwich ($12.95) as you sit under the storied vaulted ceiling. 42nd St at Park Ave, Lower Level Concourse (212-661-0307, leatherspa.com) · 89 E 42nd St (212-490-6650, oysterbarny.com)
  • Performing arts space
  • Hell's Kitchen
“Something that keeps me warm during the winter is Maguette Camara’s West African class. It’s an incredible experience, guaranteed to move your spirit.”
Jeroboam Bozeman company member, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Shake off winter while shakin’ your whole body at choreographer Maguette Camara’s open-level class. You may be standing in a lovely Ailey Extension dance studio, but Camara, who emigrated from Senegal, transports his class as he teaches the significance and meaning behind the dances. Try your damnedest to do the traditional movements he patiently demonstrates, which include joyous sweeping gestures and fast steps found in ceremonial dances from regions in Senegal, Mali, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. The infectious energy of the live drum helps even the least coordinated step to the beat. Fri at 6:30pm; $20/class.
  • French
  • West Village

“I love to go to Tartine when it’s cold outside, and I always bring a bottle of red wine with me. My first visit to New York was a decade ago in January, and my parents and I went there together, so it’s sentimental.”
TORRES (Mackenzie Scott) singer-songwriter

Come the frosty season, New Yorkers are always searching for that cozy-as-hell spot that has a BYOB policy. And one that doesn’t have a corkage fee? Now we’re talking. Enter this small West Village corner French café, which has kept visitors returning, despite the long wait times and characteristically surly waiters, with its tasty, fair-priced Gallic offerings, like French onion soup, beef mignonette and
steak au poivre, for more than two decades. Tchin-tchin!

  • Nightlife
  • Tribeca
“Dream House is a lovely place to step out of the cold noise of the city and into a meditative, warm and light environment.”
Steve Gunn singer-songwriter

Want to trip out to get your mind off the arctic outdoors? Wednesdays through Saturdays, you can duck into the aptly named Dream House, a collaboration between avant-garde composer La Monte Young and artist Marian Zazeela that matches sine-wave-fueled synth sounds with light projections on moving art pieces. The installation is bathed in a rich hue of deep purple, while the deep-drone bass of Young’s compositions penetrates your ears and body for a mesmerizing, relaxing effect. You’ll feel like you’re in the Summer of Love in no time. Wed–Sat 2pm–midnight; suggested donation $9. Through June 18.
  • Comedy
  • Stand-up
Night Train with Wyatt Cenac
Night Train with Wyatt Cenac
“Night Train at Littlefield is the kind of show that always has energy. Comics are down to venture into the weirdest, craziest, smartest comedy a mind can come up with.”
Seaton Smith comedian

Hosted by former Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac, this weekly showcase of local stand-ups is always a bright light on even the darkest of Monday nights. Cenac’s thoughtful curiosity and insight into cultural and sociopolitical topics make him one of the most interesting comics in Brooklyn. And his guests aren’t too shabby either. Expect up-and-comers such as Nick Turner, Nimesh Patel and Erin Jackson, as well as big names like Eugene Mirman, David Cross and Jen Kirkman.
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Midtown West
“I’m really excited for “All That Jack (Cole)” at the Museum of Modern Art. I studied under one of his disciples, Matt Mattox, and Cole’s work influenced me to start my dance company.”
Dr. Nikki Feirt Atkins artistic director, American Dance Machine for the 21st Century

There’s rarely a better rainy—or, as the case may be, snowy—day activity than curling up in front of a movie, and what better film genre to snuff out your stress than musical? Choreographer Jack Cole was one of the most influential dance figures in the 20th century because of his part in the formation of theatrical jazz—the style commonly used in Broadway productions—and through February 4, MoMA will screen several of the films he choreographed. If tapping your toes to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or the title track of Les Girls doesn’t snap you out of your foul mood, nothing will.
  • Cocktail bars
  • Murray Hill
“I love to drink cocktails at the William’s Raines Law Room bar. The atmosphere is very dimly lit and Old World Order, but the cocktails are New World Order: innovative and creative.”
Cindy Gallop founder, Make Love Not Porn

With alluringly low lighting, created by the perfect balance of candles and chandeliers for the optimal late-night rendezvous, Raines Law Room has the feel of a lounge designed for the ’20s social elite. Sit back as mixologists concoct tipples like the American Trilogy (apple brandy, rye whiskey, bitters and a sugar cube), the Bramble (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and muddled blackberries) or something new just for you. (Pick your poison, and the bartenders will make something on the spot. How’s that for service?) To get closer to your date, snuggle up on one of the plush couches and take advantage of your call button to request a server.
  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Upper West Side
American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
“When you have two boys under age five, they need to be outside no matter what the weather. The American Museum of Natural History is definitely a regular destination, but there’s nothing better than staying home in the dead of winter and watching a Jets playoff game. Oh, how I long for that day.”
Scott M. Stringer New York City comptroller

Sorry, Mr. Stringer, you and the rest of New York have to wait another year (at least!) for the Jets to make the playoffs, but the American Museum of Natural History is a good bet for intriguing even the most jaded local at any time of the year. In this expansive wonderland, you can explore, like, everything, whether it’s the final frontier in the Dark Universe space show at the Hayden Planetarium, the evolution of dinos, such as the towering Tyrannosaurus rex, on the fourth floor or the inner workings of the gunk in our bodies in the exhibit “Secret World Inside You.” Knowledge. It’s fun stuff, people.
  • Beer bars
  • Gowanus
“Why go to a bar when you can go to a brewery? My favorite, Threes, has an amazing craft beer selection, plus the upstairs coffeeshop—offering the best espresso in the ’hood—becomes a lovely performance space at night, with live music and comedy. Check out Soft Spot: A Comedy Show Hosted by Claudia Cogan & Brendan McLaughlin.”
Ophira Eisenberg writer, comedian and host, WNYC’s Ask Me Another

This surprisingly homey former warehouse in Gowanus can help you weather nearly any state of mind. Need a midmorning pick-me-up? Enjoy a hot Ninth Street Espresso coffee and a flaky Balthazar croissant under the massive skylight in the café. Want to unwind with some friends? Grab a craft brew or cocktail, and take a seat at a long table. If you want to laugh your ass off, then go when stand-up comedians Claudia Cogan (I Love the 2000s) and Brendan McLaughlin (Nikki & Sara Live) host other local favorites like Michelle Wolf and Jo Firestone.
  • Shopping
  • Arts, crafts & hobbies
  • Forest Hills

“Winter is the best time to stay inside and do projects, so I like to go to Michaels on 99th and Columbus to get art and baking supplies and then invite friends over to make stuff together.”
Frankie Cosmos (Greta Kline) singer-songwriter

We all know that hiding in your pad can sometimes be the best medicine for shaking the wintertime blues—that is, only if your pals stop by. Follow Cosmos’s lead and have a DIY night after stocking up on crafts at megachain Michaels. If you really want to impress ’em, take a class on knitting, jewelry making, drawing or cake decorating at the shop and then show off your expertise during your shindig. Oh, and the Upper West Side location is conveniently located a couple doors down from the Whole Foods Market wine store, which is important information if you’re into CWI (crafting while intoxicated). Various locations (michaels.com)

  • Cocktail bars
  • Hell's Kitchen
“I love to go to Monét X Change’s shows. Afterward, I check in with her parole officer to say, she’s good. She’s on the straight and narrow now.”
Bob the Drag Queen performer

Want to get all hot and bothered? It’s freezing out; of course you do. Therapy has your number on Thursday nights with the ongoing boylesque show Big Top. Monét X Change is the hilarious ringmaster the last two Thursdays of every month, when she as the host brings her quick Brooklyn wit and the occasional Jennifer Hudson impersonation to the rotating cast of talented—and often scantily clad—lads who perform circus tricks and other sordid acts.
  • Pubs
  • Chelsea
“At the for-real Irish bar the Peter McManus Café, some of the regulars seem like they’ve been there since day one. When it’s unbearably freezing and you wind up in McManus on a weeknight when there’s only a handful of others there, it feels like you are living inside a music video by the Pogues. The best.”
Chris Gethard comedian and host, Fusion’s The Chris Gethard Show

As the oldest family-run bar in town, this Chelsea watering hole proudly wears its 1932 original features like the worn floors, long mahogany-wood bar and a Tiffany’s stained-glass cabinet behind the bar. (You guessed it—the bullet hole in the glass came years later.) It’s been used as a setting for various films and television series, including Seinfeld and Radio Days, and its whiskey—there’s an impressive selection of Irish, American and Scotch varieties—should prompt you to toast old New York in no time, safe from the bone-chilling winds outside.
  • Contemporary American
  • Harlem
“Vinateria is one of the most delicious hot spots in Harlem. A great wine menu, fresh ingredients and house-made pasta—it’s a trip that will warm you up through the winter months.”
Dandy Wellington producer, host and jazz singer

Harlem may be best known as a soul-food destination, but Vinateria’s Spanish- and Italian-inspired tapas make a case for forgoing the hush puppies. The restaurant’s commitment to changing the menu each season means that during frigid temperatures, you’re sure to find dishes to counter the cold, like rosemary pappardelle with lamb ragù ($19) or black spaghetti with octopus ($18).
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