Are you wondering what to wear in New York in Winter? You’re right to be thinking carefully about your New York winter clothing. It really is the difference between having a great winter trip or feeling as if you’ll never recover from the frozen chill in the air!
As a 25+ year NYC local, I’ve spent many a winter in New York crisscrossing the city on foot in cold weather and during some of the city’s snowiest and wettest days!
In this guide, you’ll see what to wear in New York in December, January, February, and all winter long based on my personal experiences as a New Yorker and my travel packing expertise.
What to Wear in New York in Winter
How can you walk around outside during the winter with all the cold weather or when it’s snowing?! It’s what my non-New York family and friends always ask when the thermometer dips below those comfy fall temperatures.
The answer is simple whether you’re a local like me or visiting to experience Christmas in New York. How to dress like a New Yorker in winter is all about warm layers and the right winter gear.
So, even if you’ve planned a trip to New York City before, visiting in winter takes a little bit of extra consideration to make sure you’re comfortable no matter what the weather brings.
The biggest mistake NYC visitors make is thinking it’s okay to dress the same as at home where many people run from their warm house to a warmed-up car to a heated indoor place, be it work, school, or a shopping mall. And what’s worse, falling victim to this mistake could make your NYC winter trip unbearable.
What to wear in New York in January and throughout the winter months is all about blending high performance against the cold with the chicest New York winter fashion!
Aside from the specific clothing recommendations listed below, what to wear in NYC in winter depends on the weather. Seems obvious, I know. But, will the days of your NYC itinerary be 48° F and sunny or 15° F with windy snow showers? The answer is important because you don’t want to feel cold or sweaty as you walk around New York City in winter.
The bottom line is the weather forecast matters more than the month on the calendar no matter when you visit New York City. You must dress for the weather and be prepared for big temperature swings from day to day.
Winter New York Packing List
When the weather is frigid, New York winter outfits need a base layer. The tic-tac-toe layout of the streets creates wind tunnels that cut through even the coziest of sweaters. And when those winds meet in a place like Times Square, the cold swirling air can leave you thinking that the wind chill must be colder than the weather report said!
Your what to pack for New York list should also take into account your own personal tolerance to the cold. So, if you’re sensitive to it, it’s better to be prepared with the right NYC winter clothes than let the chilly air leave you unable to enjoy all the Big Apple has to offer.
- Thermals can stop a chilly wind from getting to your skin. Even an Omni-heat top is better than just a basic long-sleeved tee when it comes to insulating yourself. Not to mention, they’re meant to lie flat so as not to add extra bulk under your clothes.
- Fleece-lined tights are perfect for those winter nights when you wear a skirt or dress. I’ve even worn them under jeans.
ProTip: Omni-heat tops are actually one of my biggest travel packing hacks whether I’m hiking or packing for a European trip! They can be paired with a flannel or long-sleeved shirt to add warmth on chilly days regardless of the season without adding bulk to your suitcase.
New York Winter Outfits:
For daytime sightseeing and walking, jeans (maybe with a base layer depending on the temperature), corduroys, and fleece-lined leggings work well.
Think of a darker pair of jeans like dark blue, black, gray, or even a color like olive green, or plum over lighter colors or anything in the tan/khaki family.
New York City is really good about removing snow from sidewalks. But, NYC always comes with a level of dirt that’s only magnified with all the sand and slush of winter. Lighter color bottoms will show anything and everything that splatters onto your legs as you walk which isn’t ideal when you’re hoping to potentially re-wear some of the clothes that you packed.
You also want to make sure you have warm sweaters and fleeces with layers underneath. That thin off-the-shoulder sweater might be perfect back home, but it just won’t cut it walking around NYC for hours in the cold.
- My favorite fleece is great as a fall and spring jacket and a perfect layer under a winter jacket if need be.
- Longer sweaters help keep your legs toasty. And, because these sweaters can be worn with both jeans and leggings, they are versatile and handy for packing fewer things.
- Another thing to keep in mind as you think about packing for New York is that many places (museums, Broadway shows, restaurants, shops) are overheated. For this reason, cardigan sweaters and other open-style sweaters make it easy to adjust your layers if you’re too warm inside.
ProTip: If you’re heading out at night, you lose any bit of warmth that comes with the daytime winter sun. So dress up with warmth and style in mind! These fleece-lined tights with a long-sleeve sweater dress and knee-high boots are perfect for a New York City winter night out.
Boots for a New York Winter:
What shoes to wear in New York for winter could be the most important item on your NYC packing list. New York winter shoes are warm, waterproof, and walkable with a good grip.
If it has snowed and the temperature has gone back and forth from below and above the freezing mark, there will be slushy puddles off the curb of most sidewalks and surprise patches of ice. Subway stairs may also be wet and slippery.
In these cases, NYC snow boots with sturdy gripping soles can make all the difference between staying on your feet and not. I have seen plenty of people slip and fall while walking in NYC because they chose the wrong shoes for the winter conditions.
Not to mention, if it does snow while you’re in NYC, you don’t want to miss walking through Central Park covered in white because you don’t have the right footwear!
Keep in mind though, shoes for NYC in winter are not always clunky snow boots. After all, they can be heavy to walk around in especially if you’re not used to doing that.
It’s important to check the weather for your trip and know that most snowfalls melt quickly on the warm city streets and/or are cleaned fairly quickly, especially in touristy areas. The best boots for a New York winter day depend on the temperature and precipitation.
ProTip: When checking the weather for your trip, look at the weather NYC has had just before your visit. If it has been rainy or snowy, it’s fair to imagine the sidewalks and street crossings could be slushy or icy.
- I walk around in these waterproof boots or these boots for the winter in New York days that are slushy and snowy. They’re both great for cold and wintry city conditions like snow, slushy puddles, and ice. These Columbia boots are also warriors in super wintry conditions.
- Other best shoes that I’ve loved to pair with my NYC winter outfits are these Sperry’s and more recently these Sorel’s. Both are known for their comfort and weather toughness and will keep your feet dry whether you’re dealing with a cold rain or happen to step in a slush puddle. Pair them with wool socks and your feet will never suspect the time of year and that you’re out walking in the cold!
- Sneakers aren’t warm enough for full days out and about in the New York City winter. Not to mention, they won’t keep your feet dry in the rain, sleet, and snow. But, I love these cozy shoes or these stylish winter shoes as a nice compromise, especially if you have sunny and crisp winter days in NYC.
- Tall, riding-style boots with low or flat heels are a great way to look more dressed up and add another layer of warmth and protection for your legs. These types of fashionable high boots, though, tend not to be waterproof so it’s a good idea to add a waterproofing treatment before walking around NYC in the winter if it will be wet during your trip.
To simplify, the best footwear for New York in December is likely to be warm, waterproof, comfortable walking shoes like these or these with a cozy merino wool pair of socks. Of course, the weather is hard to predict, but most of the snow that typically falls in NYC and the city’s coldest month and temperatures happen after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Best Winter Coats for NYC:
When thinking about how to dress in New York for the winter, the coat you choose makes a huge difference in managing the cold and not. And of course, cute winter jackets that combine performance and go with your look are preferable!
Many New Yorkers wear longer coats versus a winter jacket that stops at the waist. Your outer layer must have wind protection, as well as be a heavy enough coat that can keep you warm and dry. I also highly recommend your winter coat have a hood.
While I do have and love my longer pea coat, I wear my hooded, insulated winter coat much more often. And unless you wind up with temperatures more like spring or fall, leave your unlined trench coat or leather jacket at home. They aren’t going to keep you warm for hours walking around New York in winter.
- Columbia Jackets and winter gear are some of my favorite everyday and travel wear. Their Omni-heat technology is great for keeping you warm and keeping down the bulk of a typical puffer coat. You can even find high-performance coats for those non-frigid days that will be lighter-weight but still great on cold days with the right layers underneath.
- This North Face jacket can handle it all, rain, snow, sleet, and wind. You’ll be cozy and smiling in all of your NYC photos! Not to mention with 5 pockets, there’s plenty of space to hold your phone and other essentials.
- And remember jackets for a New York winter don’t sacrifice fashion for function, either. These bestselling winter coats can be a great way to compare styles and have you looking your best.
- And if you’re trying to save space and wondering how to pack winter coats (because let’s face it, winter clothes are so bulky!), this warm coat packs into its own pocket. I have this exact coat for traveling and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made, combining warmth and packability. (I can compress it into the tinest of stuff sacks.)
Winter Outerwear for New York City:
And, of course, your New York essentials have to include something to protect your ears, hands, neck, and face. No New York winter packing list would be complete with them!
- NYC dos and don’ts alert! Don’t be one of those NYC visitors with bright red ears shivering while trying to enjoy the holiday department store windows along Fifth Avenue or the Rockefeller Center tree. Wear a hat like this or like that or a fleece ear band, whichever you like most. But, make sure you’re ears and head are warm.
- Pockets are good. But, gloves and mittens are even better when you’re holding a warm cup of hot chocolate at one of the holiday markets like in Bryant Park or ice skating in Central Park.
- Scarves block the chill from getting to your neck and into your winter coat and are super helpful when the wind blows and you need to cover your face. I don’t go a single day in the winter without wearing a scarf!
ProTip: Chapstick and mini packs of tissues are also great to have in your pocket or day bag for winter in New York. There is nothing worse (except maybe unstoppable lip licking from forgetting your chapstick!) than constant sniffling while you’re trying to enjoy the festive holiday decorations in December or simply waiting in line at TKTS for discounted Broadway tickets.
So, What New York Winter Clothes Should You Pack?
With the winter season comes colder days. But the million-dollar question is, what will the weather conditions be during your New York City winter trip? From frigid to only mildly frosty, plan for the winter weather with lots of layers from warm sweaters to thermal leggings.
Clothes for a New York winter blend warmth, functionality, and fashion. Your warm sweater and jeans should be paired with a complementary middle layer and tights or leggings to add extra warmth if need be. You’ll be prepared with warm clothing but you’ll also have the option to shed or skip a layer if you’re lucky enough to visit on some of the winter’s warmer days.
ProTip: To manage the amount of space bulkier winter clothes take up in a suitcase, use these compression packing cubes. They are a travel packing must for me on all of my trips and the reason why I can travel with just a carry-on suitcase.
What to Wear in New York in Winter Bottom Line
New York City sparkles in winter, especially during the December holiday season. Luckily, your New York winter style can be just as radiant while still keeping you warm!
Avoid making one of the biggest NYC Christmas and winter season mistakes by not dressing warm and comfortable enough for the weather. It would be such a shame to miss out on all the amazing things to do in NYC because of the cold or to have to cut short your neighborhood walk of Greenwich Village or Chinatown because you were not dressed right.
Dressing for New York in winter may take a little bit of planning but comes with the upside of an unforgettable NYC trip for all the right reasons!
So, what’s on your NYC winter travel packing list?
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