The best things to do in New York this winter

Explore the best things to do in New York this holiday season, from ice skating and seasonal menus to landmark exhibitions

Words by Nicholas Papa
Last updated: December 14, 2023
The 12-foot grill at Ilis, Greenpoint
The 12-foot grill at Ilis, Greenpoint

Winter in New York offers a merry mash-up of activities for all to enjoy: buildings and store fronts are bedecked with sparkling lights, ice rinks rub shoulders with local landmarks, and holiday happenings sprinkle the city.

Away from the yuletide festivities, New York’s best galleries and museums present winter exhibitions, and new restaurants are creating a buzz in Manhattan and Brooklyn. These are the best things to do in New York this December.

Winter events in New York

Skate beneath the Brooklyn Bridge this December
Skate beneath the Brooklyn Bridge this December

Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park

When: Until 1 March 2024
Address: Emily Warren Roebling Plaza at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Price: Tickets starting at 15USD

New York has no shortage of ice rinks during December, from Rockefeller Centre to Wollman Rink by Central Park. Tucked beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, Glide is a 8,600 sq ft ice rink set against waterfront views of the Manhattan skyline. Book your 50-minute skating session in advance before heading to one of the neighbourhood’s best restaurants in Williamsburg or Greenpoint.

Ice skating at the Winter Village at Bryant Park
The Winter Village at Bryant Park

Bryant Park Winter Village

When: until 3 March 2024
Address: Between 40th and 42nd Streets, and Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Inspired by Europe’s famous Christmas markets, Bryant Park’s Bank of America Winter Village brings yuletide charm to Midtown Manhattan. Alongside a 17,000 sq ft ice rink (which is free to use for those who bring their own skates), there are more than 180 kiosks, selling artisanal gifts and a superlative street food line up, ranging from Korean hot dogs to apple cider donuts and warming seasonal drinks.

Henri Cartier-Bresson. Washington, D.C. 1957. Gelatin silver print, 6 3/4 × 10" (17.1 × 25.4 cm). Gift of John C. Waddell. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2023 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Washington, D.C. 1957. Gelatin silver print, 6 3/4 × 10" (17.1 × 25.4 cm). Gift of John C. Waddell. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2023 Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

The best exhibitions in New York

Spirit Movers by Grace Wales Bonner at the Museum of Modern Art

When: until 7 April 2024
Address: 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019.
Price: 28 USD for an adult ticket

As part of MoMa’s ongoing Artist’s Choice series, British fashion designer, curator and writer Grace Wales Bonner has curated an exhibition of approximately 50 works from the museum’s wide-ranging collection. Spirit Movers highlights “Black cultural and aesthetic practices inspired by the styles, experiences, forms, and sounds of the African diaspora”. Monumental works such as Lady with a Long Neck by Moustapha Dime and Terry Adkins’ Last Trumpet share space alongside powerful photographs by the likes of W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others.

Rei Kawakubo with models wearing Comme des Garçons, published in People (December 1983). Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art; photo: Takeyoshi Tanuma
Rei Kawakubo with models wearing Comme des Garçons, published in People (December 1983). Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art; photo: Takeyoshi Tanuma

Women Dressing Women at Metropolitan Museum of Art

When: until 3 March 2024
Address: 1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Price: 30 USD for an adult ticket

Drawing from The Met’s permanent collection, Women Dressing Women spotlights more than 70 influential female designers throughout history. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, creators range from fashion mainstay names such as Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Vivienne Westwood to present day designers including Collina Strada and Marine Serre. Spend a blustery afternoon among the beautiful garments and peruse the rest of the Met’s permanent collection while you’re there.

Portrait of Picasso at the Studio at 29, rue d'Astorg, Paris, winter 1935–36
Portrait of Picasso at the Studio at 29, rue d'Astorg, Paris, winter 1935–36

A Foreigner Called Picasso at Gagosian

When: until 10 February 2024
Where: 522 West 21st Street, New York, ny 10011
Price: free

A Foreigner Called Picasso reflects on the Spanish master’s career in France from 1900 through 1973. The exhibition has been curated by writer, biographer, and historian Annie Cohen-Solal alongside art historian Vérane Tasseau, and explores a lesser-known side of the painter’s life, charting his trajectory as an artist in a country that continued to reject his paintings. With many important works on view, the exhibit reframes the public’s perception of Picasso and focuses on his status as an outsider.

New York exhibitions: Henry Taylor, I'm Yours, 2015
Henry Taylor, I'm Yours, 2015, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Henry Taylor: B Side at the Whitney Museum of American Art

When: until 28 January 2024
Address: Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York
Price: 30 USD per person; book in advance to avoid waiting

A new exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art (one of New York’s greatest galleries and museums) honours influential African-American artist Henry Taylor, noted for his figurative paintings and sculpture. His subjects vary between family members and strangers, politicians and musicians, often with a focus on marginalised groups. The exhibition, which is the largest of its kind to date, encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. Alongside famed works, it includes rarely seen early drawings from his time at Camarillo State Hospital, where he worked while studying at the California Institute of the Arts in the early 1990s.

Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon in She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon in She’s Gotta Have It (1986), courtesy of David C. Lee

Spike Lee: Creative Sources at Brooklyn Museum

When: until 4 February 2024
Address: Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
How much: 25 USD per person; buy online in advance

Born in Atlanta and raised in Brooklyn, Spike Lee is arguably one of the most influential contemporary American filmmakers and directors. An immersive installation at the Brooklyn Museum presents more than 350 objects, instruments, photographs and more from Lee’s personal collection to allow a deep understanding of his creative output. The curation showcases the connections among people, places and ideology that has fuelled Lee’s iconic storytelling. Book your timed slot in advance online.

The best food and drink happenings in New York

Jean’s

Address: 415 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003
Price: Mains from 21 USD

Jean’s is NoHo’s new restaurant du jour, specialising in ‘farm-to-bistro’ fare in a relaxed setting. The owners – Max Chodorow (the son of renowned restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow), Bernardo Metsch, and Ashwin Deshmukh – spent the past year hosting parties out of the elusive space on Lafayette Street for those in the know (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Snoop Dog have both performed) before opening the restaurant. Ingredients are sourced from Chodorow’s farms in New Hope, Pennsylvania and menu highlights include the bistro burger, a half chicken with fries and local fluke with wok-fried kale. Thursday through Saturday, the intimate space turns into a sceney cocktail lounge in the evening. Currently, the restaurant is walk-ins only but try your luck via email ([email protected]) to snag a table that week.

The best restaurants in Williamsburg, NY | A signature slice at L'Industrie
A signature slice at L'Industrie

L’Industrie West Village

Address: 04 Christopher St, New York, NY 10014
Price: Pies from 28 USD

Williamsburg’s L’industrie has long been considered one of the best slice shops in Brooklyn, noted for its light-as-air crust and diverse toppings. The neighbourhood favourite has expanded to the West Village, with a new location at 104 Christopher Street, near Bleecker Street. Try the signature Burrata Pie (33 USD) or the New Yorker Pie, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, and ricotta (33 USD). Keep an eye on Instagram for its outrageous Wednesday sandwich specials, too.

Bar Nena in the West Village, bathed in an orange glow
Bar Nena in the West Village, bathed in an orange glow

Bar Nena

Address: 63 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014
Price:: Drinks starting from 16 USD

Bar Nena is a new venture from the team behind Mexican restaurant Jajaja in the West Village. Located below the plant-based restaurant, the focus of this subterranean hideaway is a low-ABV fermented juice programme featuring a trio of Mexican recipes: Pulque, which is made from the sap of agave; Tepache, typically concocted from pineapple, and Tejuino, which originates from Jalisco and traditionally consumed to counteract the effects of alcohol. For something stronger, there is a cocktail menu of refreshing flavours, such as a gin-based medley of beets, cinnamon, piloncillo, lime, tepache and prickly pear.

The industrial brick interiors at Ilis, a new restaurant from Mads Refslund
Revered chef Mads Refslund is launching Ilis, a new culinary concept in Greenpoint

Ilis

Where: 150 Green St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Price: the Market Menu is priced at 195 USD per guest; the 12-course Field Guide Menu is priced at 395 USD per guest

Mads Refslund, a founding chef of Copenhagen’s famed Noma, has opened a unique dining concept in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Housed in a former industrial warehouse, the restaurant is anchored by a large open kitchen with a 12-ft grill. In addition to seafood and plant-based dishes, the menu encompasses North American game, and everything is served raw or cooked over the open hearth. A five-course a la carte menu is served Wednesday to Saturday, while Sunday focuses on family-style feasting. There is also a 14-seat bar reserved for walk-in customers, with snacks and bites available from roaming carts.