Stay Safe and Have Fun with these NYC Winter Activities
Winter in NYC: It conjures up so many fun images, so many movies use this winter wonderland as its backdrop. But now during Covid, NYC seems darker, bleaker, less exciting. So many places are closed and the ones that are open don’t feel the same—it can be difficult to find a hot chocolate, a restaurant to warm up in, even bathrooms are not in use. So what do families who live in the city do to entertain their children and themselves during these difficult times? I have compiled a few of our favorite family NYC winter activities tried and tested that make NYC feel like old times. Yes, we were masks while we ice skate and we do not eat indoors but NYC will forever have a vibe like nowhere else. So don’t let Covid stop you from enjoying everything the city still offers.
1. Ice Skating
Ice skating is a favorite past-time for New Yorkers. Who hasn’t seen the beautiful wintery pictures of people skating under the dazzling city lights at Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, or Central Park? My kids and I have always been big fans of this winter activity and being life-long New Yorkers, we know where to find the best ice skating rinks!
Bryant Park is a favorite for many. This small but well-known park in the heart of New York turns into a winter wonderland during the colder months. If you haven’t been to the Bryant Park Holiday Market, you are truly missing out on a wonderful winter tradition! The holiday market boasts a whole variety of booths selling one-of-a-kind finds, from candies and chocolates to warm drinks, to artwork, Christmas decorations, and clothes! But the real attraction is the ice skating rink right in the center of the market. Admission is free and the rink is open every day. Most years you can just stop in and reserve a time slot, but due to covid, Bryant Park is taking extra precautions and asking skaters to reserve their spot online.
We have also visited Wollman’s Rink on countless occasions. This is the famous rink on Central Park’s southern end, not too far from the Central Park Zoo. Situated near 59th Street and 6th Avenue, skaters get a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline as they glide across the ice. Wollman’s Rink is also taking extra precautions to keep its guests safe, and an outdoor activity such as ice skating is truly an amazing way to have some fun while also being outside and safely distanced. Face masks are required at all times, but during the chilly and windy New York winters, we are happy to have the extra protection from the cold!
2. Kaufman Music Center Musical Storefront
Situated just off of Broadway on 67th Street sits the Kaufman Music Center, a performing arts center and concert hall. The music center has decided to liven up the NYC streets by establishing a musical storefront. New Yorkers who walk by will be greeted with musical artists of all kinds performing in the storefront’s large windows. Watch and listen to some amazing talent, which includes over 100 of the city’s greatest musicians and performers, chamber musicians, soloists, and even some stars from Broadway’s Hamilton! This exhibit will be going on until March 31st, 2021, and the performers for the day are announced every morning at the storefront’s window. This is such a unique find and quite a pick-me-up after the difficult year New York has had. It reminds us of just how wonderful New York is, and how will you always find unique surprises on its streets!
3. The American Museum of Natural History
Just about ten blocks up from the Kaufman Music Center, you will find the famous American Museum of Natural History, or as we New Yorkers refer to it, the Natural History Museum. This museum is a must-see for anyone visiting New York, especially with children. Kids of all ages, and even adults, will be amazed by all the fascinating and diverse exhibits within this massive museum. Visiting the Natural History Museum should really be planned as an entire day trip because of how much there is to see, and no matter how many times we go, we always find something new. Some of its most iconic features are the tall dinosaur skeletons and the massive to-scale blue whale replica—it’s impossible not to be amazed by the size of these creatures, and kids especially will love it! This is an excellent way to keep kids learning and allow them to have some in-person experiences while most kids are still stuck inside doing online learning. This is a great way to let them have fun and be excited about learning while also keeping them safe!
4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another famous New York landmark and a must-see for New Yorkers and visitors alike. The Met sits directly across from the Natural History Museum, sits on the opposite side of Central Park, on famed 5th avenue. Being New Yorkers, my family and I have visited the Met many times, and just like the Natural History Museum, there are new surprises and historical finds every time you go. This time, my family and I went to visit the About Time: Fashion and Duration exhibit going on at the Met this winter. This limited-time exhibit is all about fashion and how styles have developed throughout history. Here, you will find gorgeous outfits that span all the way from the 1800s to present day. The clothing items, all in black and white, include sophisticated dresses from the 19th century in perfect condition, with large ornate sleeves and bustles, elegant riding jackets from turn of the century France, American flapper dresses, chic styles from the 1980s and 90s, and much more. As a lover of clothes with two girls who also love fashion, this was a real treat to see. If you are a fellow fashionista, we certainly recommend visiting before the exhibition closes!
5. Bowlmor Lanes Bowling
Another classic for both kids and families: bowling! NYC may not be known for its bowling, and some may even be surprised to know we have many hidden bowling alleys throughout the city, but just like everything New York does, even its bowling alleys are a one of a kind experience! Bowlmor Lanes, located on 44th street, right in Times Square, is one of the best bowling alleys New York has to offer. With 48 bowling lanes, including blacklight bowling, an arcade, and even a sports bar for dining, Bowlmor Lanes is fun for my whole family. It’s nice to get out of the cold New York air and spend some time doing a fun activity that the kids especially love. The staff are doing their hardest to keep all games, bowling balls, and surfaces clean and sanitized, which is a great reassurance, so we can just focus on forgetting the stress of the world, work, and school, and have some fun as a family.
6. Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore
New York has countless bookstores—it’s one of my favorite things about the city. There are so many unique booksellers in the city that all have their own charm. My kids and I stopped into Shakespeare & Co. one day to escape the cold winter air while out on the town, and we loved it! Shakespeare & Co. has two locations in New York, one on Lexington and 69th street, and the other off of Broadway and 69th street. As an author, I love to read and I understand the importance of books, so I am happy to stop into a bookstore with my kids whenever we have the chance. We stopped here for a while and perused the shelves as we hid from the cold. Shakespeare & Co. even has a café within the store, so we were happy to get some yummy hot chocolate to help warm us up. It was such a pleasant and relaxing little trip with my family that we definitely needed as a break from the hectic and cold streets of New York in the winter.
7. Central Park and Riverside Park
Manhattan may be known as the concrete jungle, but what many don’t know is that we also have plenty of parks and playgrounds. My kids have always loved going to the park or playing on the playground as they’ve grown up, and our favorites to visit have always been Central Park and Riverside Park. We have been to Central Park plenty of times, and the kids love to play on the many playgrounds it offers. We even go sledding there! Riverside Park runs along Manhattan’s west side, along the Hudson River. It boasts many expansive and historic playgrounds, and my kids have always loved it! All the excitement of playing and running around warms you right up—you won’t even notice how cold it is!
Atara Twersky is a TODAY Show Style Icon, and an attorney in Manhattan where she lives with her husband and three kids. She is also author of the popular Curlee Girlee book series, inspired by her youngest daughter. She is the host of two podcasts, Changing the Course and Pension Trends Plus.