NYC Winter Guide: What to Wear and Pack For New York City Winter
Wondering what to wear in New York City in the winter (so you can pack for your NYC winter trip)? This NYC winter guide shows you how cold NYC gets in December, January and February and what New Yorkers wear in the winter so you can be prepared to visit NYC this winter!
New York City is the perfect city to visit in the winter. Yes winter is cold in New York but winter is also the most festive and cozy time to visit the Big Apple. You will not see how lively and festive New York is during any other time of the year and there is a reason why a lot of Hollywood movies take place during New York winter.
So if you have already decided to venture out to New York in the winter, you may wonder what to wear in NYC in the winter, especially when it snows! Or you might just be curious what New Yorkers wear in December.
As someone who has lived in New York for almost a decade, I can show you how to dress in NYC from December to February to stay warm and fashionable (and how to look like a New Yorker). I will even tell you what’s the best winter boots for NYC and what else you might need for your winter New York packing list.
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Check out all my other articles on winter activities!
If you are visiting NYC in December, you would love all my New York City winter blogs!
These articles include the best photo spots in NYC during Christmas, best holiday markets, most festive pop up Christmas bars and restaurants and many many more!
What months are winter in New York?
New York City’s winter is technically from December to February but winter feels a lot longer in New York.
During the month of November it already feels very cold and certain days could even be colder than December.
March is technically spring in New York but March can still feel quite cold. From what I can remember, there was always one blizzard or large snow storm in March ever since I moved to New York many years ago.
So in short, New York winter can feel pretty long and the cold weather lasts from November to March before things start to get warmer.
New York City Winter Temperature
New York City is known to have cold and snowy winter (you probably imagine a white Christmas in New York from all the movies and TV shows but it’s not entirely true).
Starting in November, temperature starts dipping and by the end of December you can expect temperature near freezing or sub-freezing.
January and February are the coldest months in New York City with lows below freezing and highs barely above freezing on most days. Unlike places like London where it rains a lot in the winter, New York is actually very dry during the winter.
During the years I have lived in New York, there also has been a couple of “polar vortex” or “bomb cyclone” on the east coast (I don’t know how they come up with these names but they are getting more intense-sounding every year).
But at the same time there have been really warm winters in New York City. So honestly you just never know how cold (or warm) New York City is in December, January or February. And to make things worse, it could be very warm for one week and then blizzard the following week, making it super hard to pack for NYC.
So all I’m trying to say is nobody can tell you exactly what the temperature will be like in NYC in December (or January or February), and your best bet is to check the weather forecast (even Apple weather will do) a week before your trip.
When does it snow in NYC? How much does it snow in NYC?
New York doesn’t actually see too much snow until January or February so white Christmas is not very common despite what you see in the movies (sorry!). Out of all the years I have lived in New York City, I have never seen a white Christmas here, not even once!
Even though it does snow in New York City between January and March, snow is not an everyday thing. New York City winter can be very sunny and bright but just freezing cold and windy.
It can be very exciting to see the first snowstorm in New York (especially if you are coming from a place where there is no snow). But trust me that excitement dies off hellaaaaa fast.
After the first day or two, snow becomes dirty and slushy and piles up along the side walk, making the magical snow experience almost non-existent. If there is no store or residential building, snow on the pavement probably will not be plowed for a while, making it dangerous and slippery to walk on.
In addition it can get pretty windy during the winter in NYC, and wind chill is a real thing. It doesn’t help that there are so many tall buildings in Manhattan, forming the perfect wind tunnel on an already cold day.
So the next time you check temperature in NYC, be sure to look at wind speed and “feel like” temperature because it can feel a lot colder with the wind chill.
What do New Yorkers wear in the winter?
Wondering what New Yorkers wear in the winter so you can figure out your NYC winter packing list? You have come to the right place!
There is no one “rule” that everyone follows to survive winter in New York. One great thing about New York is that nobody cares what you wear especially in the winter. But if you are looking for general rules on how New Yorkers dress in the winter, here are some examples:
- New Yorkers wear a lot of black, also ivory, navy and gray in the winter
- Everyone has a warm coat in New York and may it be a Canada Goose parka or a Banana Republic wool coat
- You will see a lot of snow boots and waterproof boots during New York winter
- New Yorkers layer to stay warm (both top and bottom)
- Not everyone wears hats, gloves or scarves actually
- Some people still dress glamorously even on the coldest winter days
What to wear in New York in the winter?
One thing to keep in mind is that you have to walk outside a lot in New York City!
If you are coming from somewhere that requires driving everywhere, it may a huge adjustment for you to visit New York and be exposed to the elements. Subways can be quite warm but once you are outside it can be freezing cold, so you should take that in mind when you decide what to wear in New York in the winter.
Best winter coat for New York winter
Outwear is probably the most important piece of clothing for New York winter. If there is one thing you need to invest in for your NYC packing list, it is a warm (and windproof) winter coat!
The top 3 types of winter coat for NYC include parkers (with a harder/ wind proofing shell, a bomber with a softer shell or a thick wool coat).
Depending on your personal preference, you may like the bombers look, but for me they are too short. I prefer parkas that can cover all the way down to my knee!
Layers after layers
Since you will be in and out of subways and indoor spaces in NYC, you will inevitably need to layer so you can take things off/ put things on easily. Just a FYI, the heaters are super strong indoors in the US (if you are from outside of the US), so be ready to hold your coat and scarf in your hands.
In general you need a thin layer under a sweater or a thicker layer. My philosophy is you can always take things off if it gets too hot, but you can’t add layers if you are freezing!
Thick sweater to keep you cozy
Depending on your cold tolerance level and what type of outwear you choose, it really determines what you should wear underneath (or if it’s like 10F outside, then you should just put everything on).
I know people who only wear a t shirt under their Canada Goose parka. But there are others who choose to wear a thicker coat or jacket, but layer it with a nice thick sweater.
Fleece Lined Tights and Leggings
These translucent tights are all the rage in NYC in recent years since they allow women to look more stylish without freezing their legs off.
Winter Skirt or Sweater Dress
Like the tights look and wondering what to wear with it? Walking around New York in the winter and you will see women in all sorts of skirts (yes people wear skirts and dresses in the winter).
Jeans never go out of style
Winter Accessories: Hat, Ear Muffs, Gloves, Scarf
Winter accessories should be a no brainer if you are visiting New York in the winter.
Although personally I do not wear any of this anymore because I just use the hood on my parka and put my hands in my pockets, but I used to be wrapped up from head to toe when I first moved to New York from California.
You will see that not everyone in New York wear scarfs or hats since you just get used to the cold after a while. But as a tourist you probably should wear these since you will be outside for much longer than the average New Yorker.
What shoes to wear in NYC in the winter?
Shoes are one of the most things you need to get right when you visit New York in the winter. Why? If you are visiting New York in January to March, most likely there will be some rain or snow on the ground. Without proper footwear, you risk your feet getting wet or slip on ice and fall.
Most New Yorkers have several different types of shoes for winter, since each can serve a different purpose.
New York is infamous for “black ice” on the road, where you can’t see the ice when you are walking, causing many accidents. And of course there are regular ice on the streets as well.
Sorel, L.L. Bean and Hunter are perhaps the most popular brands of winter shoe-wear you will see on the streets of New York.
Can you wear sneakers in NYC winter? I personally do not recommend wearing sneakers during New York winter if you plan to be outdoors for a long time. Sneakers are generally not waterproof and doesn’t protect your leg so you feet and legs may get wet and cold after a while.
Other things to pack for New York in the winter
Now that you know how to dress for NYC winter, let’s talk about your New York packing list for the winter. I am listing below some essential things to bring to New York during the winter months.
Umbrella can be useful when it’s raining in NYC in the winter. But umbrellas are pretty useless when there is a blizzard (you should just stay indoors if there is one!)
Electric converter & adapter: if you are coming from outside of the US, bring converts and adapters even though some hotels may offer USB charging stations
Cross body bag (women): cross body bags are extremely useful in New York, especially in the winter when you need to carry a lot of things.
Backpack (men): nothing needs to be said here, except to remember to take off your backpack if you are on a crowded subway (leave it between your legs, so more people can fit in the train)
Visiting New York City with kids in the winter
If you are visiting NYC with kids then this section is for you! It is not easy to have your kids with you when there is a blizzard outside (but don’t worry if you are coming in December there is no blizzard).
Here are a few tips for you if you are traveling with kids to NYC this winter, especially if they are young kids.
- If you use a stroller/ pram, bring a lightweight and foldable one since not all subway stations have elevators.
- If you are planning to take taxi, I recommend taking yellow cab in the city, as they legally do not require a car seat. Ubers/ Lyfts actually need a car seat although some people don’t follow that rule.
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Museum of Mathematics
- Children Museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn
- Hall of Science or Liberty Science Center
- Experience the magic at Harry Potter Store
New York City winter travel tips
Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas day while everything else is closed, just keep that in mind if you are hungry on Christmas day!
Blizzards can prompt panic buy, early market closure (if they open at all), and restaurant closure. Be sure to have some food and snack with you if you see a blizzard in the forecast.
Take a trip to Central Park right after it snows, before the snow gets dirty and brown (usually 1-2 days later).
Best Places to Eat in New York City in the Winter
Winter is the coziest time of the year in New York City so let’s eat something cozy!
- Grab hot chocolate at Mah-Ze-Dahr in the villages or MarieBelle in Soho.
- Grab a drink at one of the Christmas bars such as Papillon or Oscar Wilde
- Admire the Christmas decorations at Rolf’s (but food is not good)
- Get some authentic Italian food at L’Artusi in the West Village
- Cozy up with hot pot at The Dolar Shop in the East Village (or Flushing if you want to go for some cheaper options!)
- Pretend you are in the French alps with some delicious fondue from Taureau or Cafe Select
- Get a cup of hot Japanese matcha tea with Japanese desserts at Cha An or Patisserie Fouet
Is it worth visiting NYC in the winter?
Don’t be turned away by the snowy cold weather of New York winter! New York City can still be very worthwhile to visit in the winter, depending on when and what you want to do.
Snowy New York is beautiful right after a snowstorm. If you want to experience New York like in the movies, step into Central Park on a snowy day and you will be blown away (maybe literally) by the winter wonderland. You will see kids sledding down the slopes and huskies and samoyed taking a stroll near the frozen lake.
Flights and hotels are cheaper in New York in January to March and there are also less tourists, making your visit more pleasant. If you are thinking about getting broadway show tickets or eat at popular restaurants, winter is your best bet to get that ticket or reservation but avoid the holidays!
You can dine in Igloos when the temperature drops. Ever since the pandemic restaurants have found creative ways to set up outdoor dining and as a result there are a lot of igloos and winter cabinet type of arrangement that popped up all over the city in the winter. If you are lucky you can even get private igloo all to yourself.
Skate at world famous outdoor rinks in the winter in NYC! Ever wanted to skate in front of Rockefeller Center or at Bryant Park? You can do that only in the winter in New York. Get your skates ready and have some fun on the rinks.
If you are looking for a festive and cozy winter, then New York in the winter is absolutely worth it for you. However, you should not visit New York in the winter if you hate the cold, enjoys rooftop bars, wants to party all night (I can’t imagine wearing a dress waiting in line for a Club when it’s snowing) or looking for outdoor concerts or anything like that. Then summer may be the right season for you to visit NYC.
Read My Other New York City Blogs
If you are planning a New York City winter trip, you should definitely check out all my New York City blogs. I have some detailed itineraries, including where to stay and where to eat in New York City as well as many winter post. Lastly, don’t miss my Christmas in NYC post and New York Bucket List!
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