While fall is the best season overall in New York, winter can still be magical in Manhattan. If winter only lasted a few weeks, it probably would win, but the brutal winds and gross snow puddles all season long start to take a toll on you. Plus the huge crowds around the holidays tend to make it difficult for New Yorkers to enjoy some of the sights serenely.
But as the air gets a little frosty, the holiday decorations light up the city even more than usual, and warm and cozy food and drinks pop up around the city, it’s hard not to find winter temporarily delightful.
Although Thanksgiving has yet to arrive and you can still find pumpkin beers to enjoy, if you want to get a head start on winter before it starts to get oversaturated (and before it’s technically winter, which is part of why fall is the best), here are a few places to check out:
Manhattan’s famous department store window displays are starting to appear along 5th, such as at Saks Fifth Avenue, pictured above, even though they’re not completely finished. The bright colors and innovative designs that change every year provide so much excitement…and foot traffic. You won’t see the avenue in all its glory before Thanksgiving, but you can get a sneak peek without it being too crowded. And if you hop over an avenue to 6th, you can see Macy’s always fun display, which will be unveiled Friday, according to NBC 4 New York.
Although you can see the Rockefeller Center tree along 5th Ave., it’s worth popping into the plaza for a minute to see it up close. Like 5th Ave., the plaza gets insanely crowded around the holidays, but you can get a sneak peek before the official lighting takes place on November 30. Speaking of which, unless you have a VIP pass that gets you in position to see the performances, don’t bother going to the lighting as you probably won’t have much of a view. If you want to see the tree in all its glory, just go the following night. Or if you don’t really care about the lights but want to see a really tall tree, you can go now and then say to yourself, “Wow, that is a really tall tree.”
Sure, it’s touristy, and other holiday markets like the one in Union Square are nicer, but the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is the perfect combination of a market and ice rink with gorgeous surrounding architecture (looking at you, New York Public Library). Not only is the ice skating free (is this really Manhattan?), it also opens super early in the year — October 29 this year — so you can get that frosty feeling without actually losing feeling in your toes.
If you ever wondered what it’s like to hang out inside of a Christmas tree, go to Rolf’s in Gramercy. Like many places in Manhattan, it gets super crowded around the holidays, but the decorations are already up so if you go soon, you might be able to get in quickly. Bonus tip: go after the holidays, as the decorations are up til May. Even if you don’t want to have a full meal there, they have fun (aka expensive) festive drinks like mulled wine and eggnog.
What’s winter without sweet treats and warm beverages? If you’re not constantly experiencing the highs and lows of sugar during the month of December, there’s a good chance you’re the Grinch. While there’s no shortage of delicious eateries to try in New York, one of the best is an old-school Italian bakery in the West Village called Pasticceria Rocco (or Rocco’s for those who’d rather spend more time eating than spell-checking and looking at pronunciation guides). Not only is this place adorable, the pastries and coffee selections are as delicious as they are varied. While they still have their fall specialty lattes for now, there’s something about the place that seems like it should be in a Christmas movie even this early in the year, especially if you’re sipping on a warm beverage and biting into an oversized cookie.
So get on out there and experience winter while it’s still fall. Because when winter really does arrive, watching movies in sweatpants is gonna seem a lot more appealing than trekking through the city.