26 Incredible Things to Do During New York City Winters


New York City's Sunset from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center

Even during the coldest months, there are incredible things to do during New York City winters—without freezing in the Big Apple! I have spent time in the city during early January for the last three years. See? It wasn’t so bad that I didn’t go back again! Of course, that first year, I called the airline and changed my return flight by three days to walk on the beach while 18 inches of snow blanketed NYC. I didn’t need Jim Cantori to tell me when to leave town!

I haven’t made it to NYC for the holiday season, but I may have to try that next winter. Late November might be the perfect time to enjoy the festivities. I love watching the ice skating, but I’ve missed seeing that gigantic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Is New York City Worth Visiting in the Winter?

One of the best winter activities is people-watching—especially if those people are ice skating. New Yorkers hurry by the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink daily on their way to busy jobs. Tourists, on the other hand, have time to stop and watch the graceful (and not so graceful) skaters as they slice the ice and make their way around the rink that is recognized around the world because of the backdrop of the golden Prometheus statue and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, an annual tradition since 1931. 

The Rink opened on Christmas Day, 1936, and was called the skating pond. The idea for the Rink may have been inspired by a Depression-era salesman who laced up and demonstrated his skates on the frozen Rockefeller Center Fountain.

Rockefeller Center Ice Rink in New York City surrounded by flags from every country
Rockefeller Center Ice Rink in downtown New York City surrounded by flags from every country

The iconic Wollman Ice Skating Rink is tucked into the southeast corner of Central Park and is open from late October until mid-March. The entrance nearest the rink is at 59th Street and 6th Avenue. Wollman Rink opens daily at 10 a.m., but closing times vary, so check the schedule. Lessons are available for every age, so if you’ve always wanted to skate, here’s your chance. Besides, can you imagine a more lovely winter wonderland than a frozen skating pond in a park? With any luck, you’ll catch a few snowflakes on your tongue. 

The Wollman Café beside the rink has a selection of delectable foods and drinks, from warm fresh food and vegan options to grab-and-go items, along with hot chocolate and a coffee bar, perfect for this time of year.

Bank of America establishes Bryant Park’s Winter Village every year. The focal point of Bank of America Winter Village is a 17,000-square-foot rink surrounded by skyscrapers in a beautiful midtown Manhattan setting. The rink gives free admission to ice skaters, free skating shows, and other events like bumper cars. A cup of hot chocolate is one of my favorite things on a cold winter day. There are several places to pick one up near this rink. Can you tell I’m making notes for next January?

Three bears bronze statue in Central Park
Three bears bronze statue in New York City’s Central Park

Central Park

While visiting the Wollman Rink in Central Park, you should also check out the Central Park Zoo. The animals get lonely, too, and those cold-weather lovers like penguins, sea lions, and Snow Leopards are out playing in what they consider perfect weather. And the bonus here is there aren’t crowds blocking your view. 

Another activity is bundling up and riding in a one-horse-open sleigh. Well, okay, in a horse-drawn carriage. I let my mind stray for a minute. But, seriously, taking a carriage ride through Central Park is a tradition everyone should experience at least once. NYC Horse Carriage Rides and their beautiful horses can make that happen.

Bronx Zoo

Then, there is the Bronx Zoo, thrilling children young and old for 125 years! Wish them a happy anniversary and view the 10,000 animals spread throughout 265 acres in the middle of New York City. And, you can enjoy the event that is a winter tradition, Holiday Lights. Picture the lights, animal lanterns, hot chocolate, and a Holiday Train. I’m ready to book my next wintertime trip, how about you?

Observation Decks Give a Unique Perspective of the Big Apple

One of the best ways to see this city is from the top of a tall building. The views are fantastic anytime, but the sunset is stunning, and you can linger until the lights blink on all over the city. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to view the most famous spots in New York. 

The Empire State Building is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Go and see why for yourself. Planned as the world’s first 100+ story building, construction on the Empire State Building started in 1930. It broke records when completed in only 410 days. In May 1931, President Hoover officially turned the lights on when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. 

King Kong's huge hand grabs author Jo Clark through a window of the Empire State Building
King Kong grabs author Jo Clark through the window of the Empire State Building © Jo Clark

King Kong captured the Empire State Building, a plane, and America’s imagination in 1933. The skyscraper has enthralled us ever since. The exhibition space has kept up with the times and added Instagram-ready displays for visitors to the Observatory. Plus, CityPASS includes tickets to the Empire State Building.

Getting to know the Empire State building workmen, writer Jo Clark sits on a stack of lumber with workers during lunch break for a photo op.
Getting to know Ney York’s Empire State Building workmen over lunch © Jo Clark

Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center’s 70th-floor indoor and outdoor observation areas give three viewing levels. The clear safety glass surrounding the outside deck provides unobstructed city views. The Top of the Rock is where that now-famous photo of ironworkers eating lunch, sitting on a beam suspended above New York, was taken. You can now recreate that photo (with safety belts and suspended safely) with an additional pass when you arrange for your tickets. Tickets to the Top are part of the CityPASS package.

Sunset from the Top of the Rock, the observatory at Rockefeller Center, with the Hudson River in the background.
Sunset from the Top of the Rock, the observatory at Rockefeller Center, with the New York City skyscrapers and Hudson River in the background. © Jo Clark

One World Observatory is the tallest building in this hemisphere and the strongest building in the world. Forty-seven seconds in the elevator, and you’ll reach the main Observatory, 102 floors above the sidewalk—the highest point in New York City. You can enjoy a 360° view in climate-controlled comfort. There is a restaurant, too, on the floor below the Observatory, so you can plan to sit and enjoy more than the view.

Tip:  As stated earlier, go in the late afternoon to enjoy the view, the sunset, and the city lights after dark. This way, you get the best of both worlds.

Broadway Shows

Broadway shows are categorized into On Broadway, off-Broadway, and off-off Broadway. There are more than 25 productions on Broadway and many more off-Broadway. The designations have more to do with the size of the theaters than the quality of the shows, so don’t be deterred by the terms.

Twice yearly, in late January and September, discounted tickets are available through NYC Tourism or using a unique code with first-party ticket sellers. You can find the code online—as I always say, “Google is your friend.” Broadway Week is a partnership between New York City Tourism & Conventions and The Broadway League. These special events allow you to purchase two-for-one tickets to many Broadway shows. Broadway Week occurs twice yearly, from late January to early February and again in September.

Discount-priced tickets are available “day of” at theater box offices and the TKTS kiosks in Times Square, South Street Seaport, or Lincoln Center. Also, like they say, “There’s an app for that.” And, sure enough, there is. The app I found is TodayTix. It made it quite simple to purchase tickets online, keeping you from standing in a line in the cold or rain or when you’d rather be on the Staten Island Ferry!

If you go to a matinee, stroll down to Times Square when your show ends to find the perfect dinner spot (depending on how close you are). Otherwise, you may need to take a short cab ride.

Live Music Heats Up New York City Winters

New York is synonymous with music and the world’s nightlife capital. There are live performances anytime, any day. You can enjoy live music at brunch, a dinner performance, a midnight show, or rock until dawn. They are right when they say New York is a city that never sleeps.

The Anderson Brothers and Band performing at Birdland Jazz Club
The Anderson Brothers and Band performing at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City © Jo Clark

Birdland Jazz Club and Theater have shows seven days a week. The original Birdland opened on Broadway in December 1949, and Charlie “Yardbird” Parker was the headliner. Birdland was a shortened form of his nickname. With jazz playing in two separate rooms and as many as three shows a night, it is little wonder that back in the 50s, in its first five years, 1.4 million patrons paid the $1.50 admission to hear jazz greats. I’m sure you will find music you like in either (or both!) the Jazz Club or the Birdland Theater. 

Will and Peter Anderson performing at Birdland Jazz
Will and Peter Anderson performing at Birdland Jazz © Jo Clark

Seating is first-come, so arrive early to claim your spot and have dinner before the show. The food is delicious, especially the Birdland Sliders! A bottle of your favorite wine will arrive in an ice bucket so that you can enjoy a glass with dinner and another drink during the show. We were fortunate to be in town to hear twin brothers playing another set of brothers’ music – Peter and Will Anderson, who played Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s music. What an extrordinary show!

54 Below is a Broadway Supper Club where you can dine in an elegant setting and see Broadway professionals perform. The club accommodates 140 people for as many as three nightly shows, and the tables are within 24 feet of the stage, so every patron has a great seat. We had other dinner plans, but the drinks at 54 Below were tasty and imaginative, along the lines of a speakeasy. The Blackberry Mule was refreshing, but that Apple Cider Margarita rimmed with brown sugar really went down easy. The drink menu changes seasonally, but whatever they put on the cocktail list will be spectacular.

Singer Lianne Dobbs holds the audience in the palm of her hand at 54 Below
Singer Lianne Dobbs holds the audience in the palm of her hand at 54 Below © Jo Clark

Scott Siegel’s 54 Sings Broadway’s Greatest Hits was an incredible production, showcasing Great White Way classics everyone loves. It seemed that each performer was more impressive than the one before—after every song, Audrey and I looked at each other and said, “Wow! Just. WOW!” The talent on that stage was astounding (looking at you, Lianne Dobbs, and the Kenyan Moipei triplets!) It is so astounding that Ron Forman of Cabaret Scenes Magazine said (of the consistently sold-out show), “…it is among the most successful series of cabaret shows of the 21st century.” 

Moipei triplets performing at 54 Below
Moipei triplets performing at 54 Below © Jo Clark

Radio City Music Hall is probably best known as the venue for the Rockettes. No holiday season would be complete without seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, complete with the Rockettes’ performance of the Dance of the Wooden Soldiers. The Rockette Kickline sprang into action when financial problems threatened to close Radio City Music Hall in the 1970s. They saved the day, leading the crusade to declare Radio City a New York City landmark.

Can You Walk in NYC During the Winter?

There are nice days, even during winter’s cold weather. So make the most of those sunny days and get out and walk. New York is more walkable than most people realize. There are long stretches of sidewalks along the river and The High Line, a fantastic 1.5-mile green space that allows you to see the city while you get fresh air and exercise.

The High Line goes by the Vessel and above streets through Manhattan and Chelsea
The High Line goes by the Vessel and above streets through Manhattan and Chelsea © Jo Clark

Trains ran on this line for nearly a hundred years, from the late 1800s until 1980. They even passed right through factories like the National Biscuit Company, now the location of the Chelsea Market. The Friends of the High Line and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation partnered to save the area.

Today, the High Line is a public park created on top of a historic freight train line over Manhattan’s West Side streets. Walking, you will see nature, native plants, trees, and art.

New York City Bridges Pedestrians Can Walk

You can enjoy 11 Pedestrian Bridge Walks with the best views of New York, many on historic bridges. Use Google to learn about the possibilities. I’ll tell you about the 1.1-mile walk over the East River on the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

We took advice from a host of Instagram friends and took a cab to the “Dumbo” area in Brooklyn to start our walk. In Dumbo, you have shops, restaurants, and galleries to peruse. Beginning your walk from Dumbo on the 1869 suspension bridge’s wooden promenade will give you the best views of the elaborate Gothic towers and graceful spiderweb-like lines of the bridge cables. The bridge has several overlooks where you can enjoy the sights of the New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and the nearby Manhattan Bridge.

Iconic View of the Manhattan Bridge from the Dumbo area of Brooklyn
Iconic View of the Manhattan Bridge © Jo Clark

Tip: Pack your longjohns. If you can dress in multiple layers, then any day can be a “nice day.”

How to Survive New York City Winters

The museum list in NYC makes me muse about a favorite quote, “So many books, so little time.” The same is certainly true of the many museums in New York. The good news is museums are open year-round, so you can go anytime and avoid the cold, nasty weather for the day. If you lived in NYC, you could eventually visit them all, but, well, my top six or ten will have to be a starting point. Then they rotate their exhibits, and you have to go again. *sigh*

At the Intrepid Museum, you will swell with pride at the Americans who rocketed into space, dive-bombed enemies, crewed a submarine that carried nuclear weapons, and landed a plane on a rocking ship. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is here, dwarfing all who gaze up in amazement. Inside and outside are displays that include 28 restored aircraft like a supersonic spy plane and the Growler, a nuclear weapon-carrying sub. Military veterans volunteer their time to guide tours and explain the exhibits you see. There are also immersive exhibits for additional fees not covered by your CityPASS admission.

The National 9/11 Memorial & Museum sounds like a quick stop to pay respects to 2,983 men, women, and children killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 WTC bombing. Not! Shops and food trucks surround the place for a reason. If you take it all in, you will be there most of the day. The 9/11 Memorial fountains and other outdoor exhibits are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Once you enter the museum, you wander through room after room and floor after floor of 60,000 artifacts on exhibit. This is also a CityPASS destination.

I was drawn here to search for a former student’s father, a firefighter lost that day. I wanted to touch the letters of his name, to tell him what a fine man his son was becoming. I was moved beyond words to ask a volunteer to help find the panel where his etched name appeared on one of the outside fountain walls. She gently took me by the hand and led me into a special room with walls covered in photos of every American hero lost. They pulled up a history of this man and his fire station through the computer system.

The American Museum of Natural History is another spot to get lost in for a day. I read a guideline that said you should allow one and a half to three hours to see the Natural History Museum. I just snorted my tea. They must be walking the perimeter. This museum is the. largest. natural history museum in the world. 

Founded in 1869, it has 25 connected buildings that cover four city blocks. Over 100 dinosaur specimens are on the fourth floor. In addition, there is a planetarium. It would take more than three hours to walk every floor of every building without looking at anything. I’m just saying that snacks and lunch will be involved when you visit the Natural History Museum. The main building was built in 1906, so you will find yourself staring at the architecture as much as the exhibits.

The museum has permanent exhibits and others that periodically change. The permanent exhibitions include gems and minerals, insects, dinosaurs, artifacts from Pacific Northwest Indigenous cultures, zoology specimens, and a 94-foot blue whale model. Animals are displayed in scenes that depict their natural habitat. They appear so real that I spotted a young boy on a safari watching a wild African game with his binoculars. Too cute! The Natural History Museum is another location ticketed on the CityPASS, but be aware that some sections require an additional payment.

They also have live exhibits—the Vivarium has hundreds of butterflies of over 80 species to amaze you as they flutter between tropical plants.

You can’t enter with a regular-size backpack, but you can leave it in the coat check. There is a food court with pizza, salads, and burgers.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870. Affectionately known as The Met, it is often called the best museum in New York City. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was started in Paris, France (yes, really) in 1866 by a group of Americans led by John Jay. The group agreed to create this “national institution and gallery of art.” The building is also art; the initial 1880 Ruskinian Gothic structure is still visible despite the numerous additions as The Met grew.

The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is free to enter, or if you have limited time, just stop by to see the iconic marble lions on guard out front since 1911. There is a coat-check area and daily guided tours. 

Public Library with carved marble Lions on Guard
New York City Public Library with carved marble Lions on Guard © Jo Clark

The Morgan Library & Museum is the home of J. Pierpont Morgan’s library. In 1890, Morgan began filling his collection with rare books, manuscripts from the Middle Ages, prints, and drawings, including Michelangelo and Rembrandt originals. What would become known as Mr. Morgan’s Library was constructed between 1902 and 1906 and has special displays every few months.

When I visited, there were Bibles, including the Gutenberg, and Bibles with lovely hand-painted illustrations and a display of Medieval and Renaissance money and items relating to merchants. Since I have an MBA, the historical presentation about money and finance was especially interesting. The Annex was built in 1928 and holds the ever-expanding collections. Snacks and beverages are available in the Morgan Café, where we enjoyed a generous lunch to feed two hungry tourists.

The Morgan Garden, surrounding the library and museum, was designed by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. Described as one of the most elegant greenspaces in New York City, the Garden is closed during the winter months.

Wander the Streets and Eat

When the day is sunny but perhaps still frigid and windy, I enjoy walking in the sunshine until the cold worms its way in, then ducking inside a bakery, café, or restaurant for a bite. Once warmed, I repeat the process. It is a great way to explore a neighborhood and find new-to-you spots filled with tasty treats. Some recent finds have won my heart, and on my next NYC visit, I’ll make a bee-line for them.

Food gives you an excellent reason to visit the city during the winter season—restaurant week! Hundreds of New York’s best restaurants participate in the twice-a-year event, offering special prix-fixe meals and giving diners a chance for some of the best deals around. And, even better, Restaurant Week is nearly a month long! It falls when I’m in the city for my conferences (lucky me!) If you can’t manage a January visit, go between late July and early August, when you can enjoy the second week.

I asked American Natural History Museum employees to recommend a nearby restaurant they especially liked. Tarallucci e Vino was at the top of their list, and only a short walk from the museum. I was delighted to learn the restaurant was participating in restaurant week with a prix-fixe menu.

On nasty days when you have cabin fever, go to some indoor area like Chelsea Market or Pier 54. 

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market breathes life into the historic National Biscuit Company factory. Today, the marketplace houses butchers, fishmongers, fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, Italian dry goods, a bakery, a gelato shop, restaurants, and a bookstore. Annually, six million visitors and locals flood Chelsea Market to shop, eat, or happily wander the two floors of merchants. You may spend a day here but won’t spend it hungry!

Lunch was noodles. But not just any noodles. These Chinese noodles were handmade to order, and we sat and watched as Nemanja slapped balls of dough on the counter and then pulled them apart into long, delicate noodles. I told him he has more fun at work than anyone should be allowed! He just laughed and slapped the counter again. The Very Fresh Noodles shop has been in Chelsea Market for six years but has moved three times into increasingly larger locations. 

Man pulling Chinese noodles apart to create my bowl of lamb and noodles.
Man pulling Chinese noodles apart to create my bowl of lamb and noodles © Jo Clark

Every order requires two dough balls magically turned into noodles, and they receive an order every two minutes. I’ll do the math for you – about 250 orders daily, so 500 slaps on that counter. My mouth was watering when I spotted Tingly & Spicy Cumin Lamb, but I’m a wimp, so I had to order it mild, which meant it arrived as a soup instead of dry. It was good to the last drop! Washed down with the Hibiscus Lemonade, lunch was labeled a success. The Very Fresh Noodles bar is correctly named. I dare you to find fresher noodles anywhere!

At Alf Bakery, we found the best croissants in the city, so proclaimed by an adorable two-year-old in a stroller (they are the only ones she will eat, according to her Dad.). Naturally, we had to find out for ourselves. The kid has great taste! The same bakery makes a Lemon Sugar Brioche that I still daydream about and drool! The owner and head baker is Amadou Ly. He creates the bakery delights the rest of us dream of on the lower level of Chelsea Market, tucked in a kitchen on the left side. Tell him I said “Hi!”

On my next visit, I plan to stop in the Corkbuzz Wine Bar, the Cull & Pistol Oyster Bar, or Big Tings, a Jerk Chicken and Rum Bar. Oh, my! There are so many delicious choices and so little time!

Pier 57

Built in 1907 as a shipping terminal, the pier was reconstructed in 1952 and is a marvel of engineering. It used hollow caissons of concrete to support the structure. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and opened as a retail space in 2023. 

Pier 57 is right on the water and vibrates with restaurants, a winery, a brewery, and a market hall curated by the James Beard Foundation. As if that wasn’t enough, they used the roof too and created a 2-acre park with views of Manhattan and the harbor. Think of those sunset picnics. 

New York City Skyline viewed at night from City Winery
New York City Skyline viewed at night from City Winery © Jo Clark

City Winery, creators of some delicious New York wines, has ample space up front that stretches along the Hudson River waterfront on the back side. The area has two stages: live music and comedy acts seven nights a week. Wine tastings at the bar are available until 3 p.m., and flights are on the menu afterward.

Wine taps in the back dining area at City Winery
Wine taps in the back dining area at City Winery © Jo Clark

Their menu is paired with wines and looks like a family tree, you just follow the line! We enjoyed Duck Tacos, filled with Duck confit, drizzled with molasses, and topped with pomegranate seeds, and goat cheese. They were perfectly complimented by City Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon—those blackberry notes were a real hit! We also shared a plate of Saffron Lobster Risotto. The lobster was mixed into a creamy risotto with English Peas and Roasted leeks. Sublime with their floral cherry Pinot Noir!

Buy A Pass

Lady Liberty photographed from the Circle Line City Cruise
Lady Liberty from the Circle Line City Cruise © Jo Clark

Use a pass to skip the line and save money. CityPASS gives you access to the top things to do in New York City and offers three packages: the C3, CityPASS, and C-All. If you will be in town for about a week, the CityPASS is a great way to access five landmarks. The C-All allows touring ten locations; for me, at least, each site is an all-day affair. Let me tell you about some of my favorite tours through CityPASS. You can do your research on individual business websites, but you must book through their webpage or app.

Take a Circle Line City Cruise. Even when cold, you can comfortably cruise the Hudson River inside a temperature-controlled cabin. View the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and iconic New York City sights from the harbor as you glide along the shoreline. The tour guides onboard are knowledgeable and happily answer questions in between their descriptions of landmarks. Time outside on the deck gives you an excellent opportunity for skyline photos. Bonus: the boats have a café and bar if you miss lunch.

Another great tour of the water and New York islands is the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Statue City Cruises is the authorized concessioner for the National Park Service. The ferry departs from Battery Park in lower Manhattan or New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. It stops at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. All you need to do is pick the place and time! The ferry returns about every hour, so you have as long as you need with Lady Liberty and to wander through the museum (where you can see the original 3,600-pound copper torch). Then, you hop back on the ferry and zip to Ellis Island, where you continue your tour.

On Ellis Island, you can walk the path that 12 million immigrants walked on their journey to United States citizenship. Maybe one of them was yours! Forty percent of the U S population can trace at least one ancestor here. The French Renaissance-style building will amaze you, as will the exhibits throughout the museum.

Bonus:  In the winter, the sun is setting by the time the last ferry leaves Ellis Island, so this is one of the best places to get a nighttime city view, not to mention a fabulous sight of Lady Liberty with the glow of sunset in her torch.

Why Visit During New York City Winters

Price! Seriously, most tourists don’t visit the city in winter months, so hotel prices are lower. Or, perhaps you attend conferences held during colder months—probably for the same reason. I’m sure that the trade shows filling the Javits Center are getting price breaks, and all the vendors and attendees are offered discount prices on hotel stays.


Investigate the calendar of events at the Javits Center when you are in New York. Many fun things happen at Javits, and most shows are open to the public for an entry fee. This year, I attended a Meet the Breeds show sponsored by the American Kennel Club, which encouraged people interested in dogs to meet representatives of the breeds. At this event, there are mock show ring events and individual booths filled with owners and dogs from A to Z. Well, there isn’t a “Z” breed (yet), but there is an “X”! The Xoloitzcuintli is bred to be alert, loyal, and calm. See how much I learned?

Komondor Breed at AKC Meet the Breeds
Komondor Breed at AKC Meet the Breeds © Jo Clark

One of my favorite breeds was the Komondor from Hungary. The dog is large and looks like a sheep from a distance. Imagine the surprise of the wolf attacking that herd of sheep! Every breed has a purpose; some dovetail nicely with indoor family living. But others, not so much. The savvy shopper will attend events like this before falling in love with that cuddly bundle of furry energy born to chase and attack wolves.


Then, I attended the Travel and Adventure Show. These shows are open to the public, and you can meet people from hundreds of locations and travel companies. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning, going from display to display and seeing all the places Jo could Go! In addition to exhibitions, you can hear your favorite travel celebrities dish on travel. Rick Steves, Phil Rosenthal, Pauline Frommer, and many others were on stage. There are so many programs that the show has four stages—and believe me, they stay busy!

More Shows

There was also a Boat Show in progress and a clothing show. So, in just one weekend, you could pick out a wardrobe, buy a boat, find a water-loving pup, and plan your next vacation. How’s that for staying warm in New York City on a cold day in January?

Deck the Halls

Between late November and the end of February, the New York Transit Museum displays its Holiday Train Show in Grand Central Station. The antique Lionel miniature electric trains run through two levels of a 34-foot-long display of some of New York’s best-loved landmarks. Of course, the trains depart from a tiny Grand Central Terminal and make their way to the North Pole. 

The city assumes a magical appearance when decked out in Christmas lights. Then there are the fantastic Christmas markets filled with one-of-a-kind handmade gifts amid twinkling light displays. The Union Square Holiday Market, open from mid-November until Christmas Eve, holds more than 150 vendors. Make your shopping trip an all-day event; besides vendors, Union Square has award-winning restaurants and live performances in entertainment venues. I’m confident you can find the perfect gift for me there!

Best Unique Thing to Do in NYC

One of the best things to do in the city is sign up for a cooking class. When I looked on Groupon, an online discounted price for many things, I found a variety of classes to take, from pasta to sushi. There is even a NYC Yacht party ticket. While cooking class times didn’t work out for me, it is definitely in my plan for the next trip. It is something to do anywhere; have a great time, learn something new and fun, and eat what you make!

Best Hotels in NYC

There are over 500 hotels in New York City. Any number of websites rate hotels, so research is easy to do. You can also ask friends for recommendations. And it would be best if you investigated the hotel as well as the area the hotel is in. You will want to know that you can safely walk in the area. Stay in a known hotel and make friends with the staff. You will have better service, and they will gladly give you restaurant and tourist information.

Hyatt staff send off writer Jo Clark for a dinner in New York City © Jo Clark
Hyatt staff send off writer Jo Clark for a dinner in New York City © Jo Clark

I have stayed in “brand name” hotels when visiting the city, within walking distance of Javits Center, where I attended meetings. I’ve stayed at the Hyatt Place Times Square for two years. The rooms are clean and quiet, the staff is helpful and friendly, there is a daily breakfast buffet, and the bar has happy hour prices on various drinks, wine, and appetizers.

Hyatt Hotel Bedroom and view of other buildings
Hyatt Hotel New York City – a room with a view © Jo Clark

Another bonus to getting to know the staff is that you get great tips about personal favorite restaurants. When we bid Rosa good night and told her where we were heading for dinner, she quickly said, “Oh, no, Miss Jo! Go to Nittis!” Once again, the New Yorker was right.

Eat Great Italian Food in New York City

Nittis Italian Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen was a block from the hotel. It was good. It was really good. We ate there two nights that week—does that tell you anything? Owner Will, and general manager Andreas, took good care of us. We shared so we could try more dishes, like Fried Calamari, Fagottini Al Porcini, Eggplant Rollatini, and Mango Crab Cakes. On our second visit, Will had the chef prepare his favorite family dish of Walnut Spaghetti. If you can’t decide between Tiramisu and Creme Brulee, order both—we  did!

Tip:  Talk to people. It makes travel more fun, and in lots of cases, more delicious!

Summertime is Perfect for Garden Visits

Winter is not the time for touring northern botanical gardens, so I look forward to a return trip during warmer weather. High on my must-see list is the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, known as the greenest borough. The NYBG’s 250 acres have opened the gates to visitors for over 130 years. They provide gardens to explore, immersive botanical experiences, art, and music to enjoy.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is also on my list. In 1897, the New York legislators set aside 39 acres for a botanic garden, and in 1910, the Garden opened. Today, it covers 52 acres. People anxiously await the announcement that the Cherry Trees planted in the Japanese Garden are in bloom. 

Besides the Japanese Garden, there are fourteen other gardens, from the Herb Garden to the Fragrance Garden to a Shakespeare Garden. Additionally, there are six conservatories displaying aquatic, bonsai, and desert plants, among others.

The more time you spend in New York, the more you understand those “I Love New York” posters. I love to visit, but coming home to my beach is better.

Final Tip:  Arrive early at each place and check in at the information desk. Ask about any special events, tours, or audio tours that you could join. I missed out on some unique things because I didn’t know about them in time to request admission.

Plan Your Next Trip!

For more exciting vacations, try these locations!! Plan a trip to South Carolina’s Georgetown, or a cruise on the Discovery Princess, or jet off to the beautiful Azores Islands! You know, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip!


  1. Mary Mcewan

    Jo has given us a clear and concise method for having the best experience possible for our visit. This article is so helpful. I live an hour from Manhattan and I didn’t know half the items mentioned in the article. The next time I visit I am definitely using it as my guide to get more out of my visit. She is an experienced traveler who can assist with a full range of needs.

    • Jo Clark

      What a wonderful thing to say, Mary! I hope you enjoy my hidden gems as much as I did!


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