Winter Wonderland: Culture Desk Dishes Their Favorite New York City Winter Activities

When the weather outside is frightful, the Culture Desk finds these activities delightful.


Wollman Rink in Central Park is a popular skating spot for New Yorkers. (Via Wikimedia Tomás Fano)

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Hot chocolate from Serendipity 3. The Union Square Holiday Market. “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and “Elf”. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Californian students buying their very first winter coat. Winter is arguably New York City’s iconic season, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate before the picturesque snowflakes turn to slush. 

City Strolls

The one thing that makes New York winters bearable to me is how festive Manhattan becomes as soon as the last piece of Thanksgiving turkey is eaten. As cheesy as it sounds, my favorite winter activity in the city is simply walking through the streets and seeing all of the holiday decorations, whether they be lights on lampposts and trees or the ridiculously elaborate store window displays. No matter how stressed I am, no matter how late I leave Bobst, just being able to look up and see the twinkly lights and the sparkly tinsel makes me smile. — Carol

Wollman’s Skating Rink

Just because it’s probably the most cliche winter activity one could possibly partake in in New York City doesn’t mean it won’t spark joy and feelings of holiday festivity. Ice skating in Central Park is something I look forward to every year and so far, I’ve never been disappointed. Wollman Rink is my skating venue of choice due to its proximity to the edge of the park, and while $29 for a ticket and skate rentals isn’t necessarily cheap, I’ve found it’s worth it to splurge. The walk from the subway station to the park means appreciating storefront Christmas decorations while bundled up in layers upon layers — a picturesque New York Christmas moment. Call me cheesy, but I thoroughly enjoy skating around with my friends, buying overpriced pretzels and hot chocolate and listening to the same Christmas songs over and over again. But also, I’d being lying if I didn’t find it humorous to watch inexperienced skaters bite the dust. Maybe it’s because I’m from Southern California and white Christmases along with all of the winter activities they present still blow my mind, but I love ice skating outdoors — especially in Central Park. — Calais

Window Shopping On Fifth Avenue

Normally, I avoid anywhere above 14th Street like the plague, but I make an exception for the holidays. I like to bundle up in my warmest (and most stylish) winter ‘fit, order a hot chai latte or London Fog to go and head uptown to admire the beautifully decorated store windows along Fifth Avenue, like Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bergdorf’s (RIP). While I’d love to live out my Blair Waldorf fantasies and buy every Diane Von Furstenburg blouse and Marc Jacobs cape coat in sight, I can still enjoy the painstakingly ornamented shops without spending a penny. Until I marry a hedge fund manager, a girl can only dream. — Lauren

Real Shopping

I love giving gifts. I love helping people think about what gift to get someone and I love shopping for gifts. I have a really bad habit of going all out for someone’s birthday/graduation/Christmas/just because gift. But is that really a bad habit if you and that person are going to enjoy it? That being said, when the holidays roll around, of course my favorite thing to do is shop for others. And in New York? Of course I’m going to stop at the holiday markets around the city, especially the Union Square Holiday Market. Sometimes I even have to avoid it because I know if I walk through it I’m going to end up buying something. I make it a point to get all my holiday shopping done in the city before break, and we can all admit the holiday magic is in the air practically everywhere you go. — Bella