Winter Wish List: New York City’s Best Seasonal Activities

Photo by NYC Parks


Central Park has two well-known sledding spots—Pilgrim Hill and Cedar Hill. The former is very popular but the latter might be better, especially for beginning sled riders. Pilgrim Hill is just north of 72nd Street and Cedar Hill is between 76th and 79th Streets—enter on the East side for easiest access.

If you’re willing to take a trip, Inwood Hill Park is a great place for sledding in Upper Manhattan. It is a beautiful spot year-round and the terrain is great for sledding.

Rather not take an hour-long train ride to the tip of Manhattan? Stay downtown at East River Park. Located along the FDR Drive between Montgomery and 12th Streets, there is a beautiful view of the river and Brooklyn for parents to enjoy while the kids play the snow.

Enjoy sledding with a dash of history at Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. There are four different hills, each of a differing difficulty for riders. The first official park in Brooklyn, Fort Greene is a great day out for the whole family.

Upper West Side residents love Riverside Park all year, but it can be especially fun covered in snow. Some parts can be pretty steep, so older kids will love it. Make sure you bundle up—being just off the Hudson River means the winds can get pretty cold!

For residents of northern Manhattan, a great sledding option is Morningside Park. Located between 110th and 123rd Street on the west side, the park has everything—you might even see dogs playing the snow, too! St. Nicholas Park is another choice on 135th Street.



Two NHL-sized rinks are the big draw for the Aviator Sports and Events Center on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Bring a lock so you can store bags for free, and if your family loves skating, come back all year—it is open 365 days a year!

Another year-round rink, World Ice Arena in Flushing has tons of great programming aimed at kids and families, along with public skating seven days a week. They also offer special camps during school vacation times.

Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers has everything a skating fan could want. It is open year round with two rinks, so crowds aren’t an issue, they offer hockey and figure skating programs from adults and kids, and the massive Chelsea Piers complex offers every other sport you can imagine.

City Ice Pavilion offers a great skating experience without hurting your wallet. Just across the East River in Long Island City, Queens, this rink has open as well as instructional skating. Free parking is just the cherry on top!


You can’t talk about New York City ice skating without mentioning the Rink at Rockefeller Center. The famous rink in Midtown limits the number of people on the ice at one time, so if you want to come back, sign up for season passes. Of course, Rockefeller Center is easily accessible from anywhere in the city.

Located in the southern end of Central Park, Trump-Wollman Rink is a New York City classic. Enjoy a skate surrounded by the greenery of the park, while skyscrapers offer a brilliant background. When you’re done skating, take a ride on the nearby Friedsam Memorial Carousel!

For a great skating experience with an even better view, head to the Rink at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan. There are 90 minute public periods throughout the afternoon and evening every day, with additional morning times on weekends and holidays. New this year is an introduction to hockey for youngsters.

On the other end of Central Park is Lasker Rink—which offers a slightly cheaper skating option with the same lush surrounding environs. Kids who want some competition can sign up for their youth hockey leagues.

The LeFrak Center in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park offers skating lessons and classes for kids of all ages. They even have curling lessons! After skating, stop by the Bluestone Café for hot chocolate for the kids and coffee and tea for the adults.

Photo by Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Winter Festivals

From January 14-28, head to Vermont for the Stowe Winter Carnival! The 43rd year of the Carnival has the theme of StowOasis! Enjoy fun winter sports, ice carving competitions, a beer garden and new Broomball tournament!

If your family loves winter sports like snowboarding and skiing, make sure you don’t miss the Winter Jam, on January 28. From 11am to 3pm, there will snowshoeing, kicksledding and more! You can rent equipment for free, or bring your own. All ages are welcome, and whether you are a snow bunny on the slopes or you’re just hitting the powder for the first time, it is sure to be a blast! Bandshell Area in Central Park, enter at 72nd street.

Anyone heading to visit friends in Canada this winter will definitely want to stop in Quebec City for the Carnaval de Quebec. Taking place from January 27 to February 12, the party is packed with fantastic activities for young and old. Make sure to visit the Ice Palace, watch the famous Canoe Race, and don’t miss the parades!

For the third year, the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park will host a Winter Carnival. Taking place in January, this annual festival is right in the middle of midtown, just behind the famous lions of the New York Public Library. Last year’s festivities included ping pong tables, an ice castle, silent disco, and frozen juggling!

If you’re looking to take a trip with the family at the end of winter, head up to Newport, Rhode Island for the Newport Winter Festival. This year’s festival is taking place from February 17-29. Last year’s festivities included a children’s fair, music for the whole family, and a chicken wing cook-off. Don’t miss the skating rink, too!

Tasty Teas & Hot Cocoas

Two new chocolate workshops have been introduced at Voila Chocolat, which are sure to entice your children this season: Chocolate Story time (ages 2-6 years) and Le Petit Chocolatier (ages 6-15+ years). Sip on gourmet hot chocolate while enjoying a fun chocolate making afternoon at this Upper West Side gem.

A cozy cacao bar in SoHo, MarieBelle reminds you of the cafes in Paris and Budapest. Enjoy their wide variety of chocolate beverages (Their milk hot chocolate with freshly ground hazelnuts is a delight) and fine teas (varieties include chocolate rose tea and lychee tea).

Stop by at the L.A. Burdick café in SoHo to enjoy a cup of rich, indulgent hot chocolate on a snowy afternoon. Made from blends of chocolate produced with South America and Caribbean beans, varieties include Burdick Blend Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, and White Chocolate in addition to their “single source” specialties (chocolate made from one variety of cacao harvested in one region).

With a whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” theme, Alice’s Tea Cup is a magical place to take your kids to. The teahouse, which has three NYC locations, serves a wide variety of scones, sandwiches, and pastries along with a fine selection of teas.

The Russian Tea Room in Midtown provides an elegant high tea experience for your family. The children’s menu includes a wide selection of desserts, sandwiches, and blinis (Russian pancakes). Tea varieties include Raspberry Zinger, South African Red Bush with Indian spices, and Lotus Green.

Artistic Amusements

The “Exploreum Interactive Hall” at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, offers 13,000 square feet of interactive exhibition space, designed for kids of all ages. The museum runs family-friendly workshops and storytelling activities all year round. The “Operation Slumber” program lets you and your family sleep overnight aboard the Intrepid, a legendary aircraft carrier.

Favorite exhibits enjoyed by children at the Metropolitan Museum of Art include “Musical Fantasy, A French Family at Home,” “Mysterious Mask, An Egyptian Temple,” and “Elephant God.” Stop by the Met for its weekly fun and interactive programs; “Sunday Studio” focuses on a different art form each session, and features family-friendly activities led by an artist. “Toddler Story Time” sessions are also conducted on a regular basis.

A museum designed just for kids, Children’s Museum of New York conducts educational and entertaining workshops all year long. Drop-in art and music classes are held each week. Their workshops include Fine Arts, Clay Bar, WEE Arts Studio, and Media Lab.

Inspired by their exhibitions, Rubin Museum’s family learning programs conduct gallery explorations, open-ended discussions, interpretive arts, crafts, and individual and collaborative projects. Drop-in art making classes are held every Sunday.

The National Museum of the American Indian is located within the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions explore the diversity of the Native people of the Americas. Join the “Taíno Music with Irka” session each Wednesday where children as young as 2 are taught about Taíno culture through stories, songs, movement, and hands-on activities. Entrance to museum is free.

Photo by Viola Chocolat

Indoor Sports & Play

Located on the scenic Hudson River, Chelsea Piers has a wide range of drop-in activities that include: batting cages, bowling, ice skating, gymnastics, trampoline, foam pit, rock climbing, dance, soccer, basketball, and a toddler gym.

The Art Farm is an eco-friendly facility that teaches children about nature and animals.  They are a USDA licensed indoor petting zoo, and offer open playtime Monday through Thursday. “Fun Fridays” are drop-in classes, and activities include baking, arts and crafts, music, singing, and plenty of cuddling time with the animals.

Fly High is NYC’s first indoor trampoline park located in Staten Island. Bring your kids here to experience the weightlessness of bouncing, flipping, and landing in a pit filled with hundreds of foam cubes.

Located in Midtown, Frames Bowling Lounge features 35,000 square feet of amusement. Family packages are available Monday-Saturday until 5pm, and all day Sunday.

Twinkle boasts of a 4,500-square-ft play space with innovative custom-made exhibits, catering specifically to children under 6. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Twinkle hosts open play sessions seven days a week.

A Dose of Culture

The New Year’s Day Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival takes place on January 28, the first day of the Year of the Rooster on the lunar calendar. The festival starts at 11am at Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the LES, with the fireworks scheduled for noon. Prepare to cover your ears, feel the energetic atmosphere, and celebrate the New Year with a lively crowd!

The Lunar New Year Parade & Festival will celebrate the Year of the Rooster on February 5 on the busy streets of Chinatown! The annual parade will go through East Houston Street to Canal Street so you can enjoy the traditional dragon and lion dances and the colorful floats. Have a taste of some of the most delicious and authentic Asian street food. You won’t want to miss the liveliest day of the year in Chinatown!

The 26th edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival on January 11-24 will showcase groundbreaking that explore the diversity of the Jewish experience around the world. This year’s festival has a powerful lineup of films including world and US premieres. Don’t miss the chance to meet and enjoy in-person appearances by directors to present their films and share their experiences at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim opens on February 10 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The exhibition at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will feature more than 170 modern objects from the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Enjoy the most iconic works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Vincent Van Gogh.

The 2017 Zlatne Uste Golden Festival will allow you to enjoy two nights of Balkan music, dance, and celebration. The festival takes places at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall on January 13-14. It will showcases more than 50 bands and acts. Come enjoy some Balkan finger food, “meze,” and Balkan arts vendors, as well as beautiful Balkan textiles on display.

Healthyville Mini Exhibit, created by Stepping Stones Museum, will showcase at the Museum of Chinese in America from January 5 through March 26. The mini version of the exhibit is inspired by an award-winning, nationally touring exhibit. Your kids will learn about nutrition, exercise, and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through fun activities such as using an interactive scale and practice brushing and flossing with a big model of mouth!

Winter Wildlife

Join naturalist and educator Gabriel Willow at Wave Hill on January 21 at Hibernators Walk and Talk to explore survival techniques that plants and animals at Wave Hill used during the chilly winter months. Here’s your chance to discover active and dormant plants and animals!

The Orchid Show: Thailand will take place on February 18 through April 9 to celebrate its 15th year at the New York Botanical Garden. Thailand is a leading exporter of cultivated tropical orchids in the world, and this year’s exhibition will bring visitors to explore a large collection of blooming orchids in a traditional Thai pavilion. Visitors can learn more about the colorful flowers from orchid care demonstrations, expert Q&As, and more.

The Lunar New Year Plants Tour will get you ready for the Lunar New Year. Just in time for the Year of the Rooster, the tour welcomes you to celebrate the New Year on January 21. Through the Steinhardt Conservatory at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you will discover Asian fruits and plants such as citrus, bamboo, ginger, and much more!

Living with White-tailed Deer invites you to learn more about the deer ecology and behavior. Join the Urban Park Rangers at Blue Heron Park on Staten Island on February 19 in search for deer, and learn about the impacts of deer in an urban environment.