What to do in NYC when it’s cold. List of free winter events.

New Yorkers have a joke that in NYC there are only 2 seasons: freezing cold and humid hell. Well, we’ve entered the first phase and all of the familiar winter events immediately followed – transport is constantly delayed, streets are covered with black, wet sludge and the cold wind tunnels make you think you’re standing on a summit of a mountain with a piping hot coffee from Starbucks.

That said, it is not all that bad my friend! NYC is still a city that never sleeps and there’s plenty of entertainment happening across the Big Apple. As a fan of frugal fun (I should make FFF a real meetup), I put together a list of free to cheap events.

Free entry days to museums

Winter is definitely a perfect time to become more cultured. Full list of free/pay as you wish museum days is available here, but this is my curated list of places I’ve been to and can recommend:

Tuesday: 9/11 Memorial Museum

  • Free admission hours: 5-8PM
  • Why visit? Learn about the most traumatic event in New York City’s recent history.

Wednesday: New York Botanical Garden.

  • All day on Wednesday and from 9AM-10AM on Saturday
  • Why visit? Art-level plant arrangements. You can see lilacs, tulips, roses, peonies, orchids, daylilies, and chrysanthemum.

Thursday: International Center of Photography

  • Pay as you wish: 6-9PM
  • Why visit? Learn about photography as a catalyst to social change.

Friday: Whitney Museum of American Art

  • Free admission hours: 7-9:30PM
  • Why visit? See one of the world’s foremost collections of 20th-century American art.

Winter markets

One of New Yorkers favorite things to do in December is to roam through the famous winter markets with a cup of hot cocoa. A couple of the famous tourist markets include Columbus Circle Holiday Market and the indoor Grand Central Holiday Fair, but as a local my favorites are still these three below.

Smorgasburg + Brooklyn Flea
Saturday: 11AM-8PM
Sunday: 11AM-5PM
Why visit? AMAZING food options from all over the world under one roof. When you’re done eating, you can meander through Brooklyn’s largest flea market to find unique vintage antiques and collectibles.

Winter Village at Bryant Park
Any day of the week, until the first week of Jan
Why visit? The park transforms into a winter wonderland from November – January There’s food, hot chocolate, delicious treats and ice skating in the middle of the park. If you bring your own ice skates, rink entry is completely free.

Union Square Holiday Market
Any day of the week, until Dec 24
Why visit? European-style winter market with more than 150 local and national vendors. See an impressive selection of handcrafted gifts and artwork.

Coffee tastings

There’s nothing better than a cup of hot coffee on a cold day. Learn a little more about your favorite beverage and get a complimentary cup while you’re at it:

Option 1 at Stumptown NYC Training Lab
Location: 30 W 8th St, New York, NY 10021
When? 10-11AM. Many events throughout the winter; make sure you sign up here

Option 2 at Counter Culture Coffee New York Training Center
Location: 376 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013
When? Every Friday at 10AM. Meets every Friday, but make sure you register here.I

Btw, if you love coffee, check out my favorite coffee spots in NYC!

Times Square Ball Drop on Dec 31

FYI: No sane New Yorker has ever done this, but I feel compelled to include the event on the list, since it’s free and so popular among tourists!

One important tip is to line up in Times Square before 4PM (yes! that’s 8 hours of waiting in the cold…). The ball is actually surprisingly small, so you have to be close to see it – if you’re past 48th street, turn around because it’s not worth it. You will not be able to see the ball drop.  And, make sure to dress warm; it’s frigid cold in New York at the end of December!

2 Replies to “What to do in NYC when it’s cold. List of free winter events.”

  1. […] If you haven’t already, check out our guide for what to see in NYC!  Also, we recently wrote up a list of eat cheap (but delicious) meals in NYC and a list of free winter events. […]

  2. […] If you haven’t already, check out our guide for what to see in NYC! Also, we recently wrote up a list of eat cheap (but delicious) meals in NYC and a list of free winter events. […]

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