What to Pack for New York (2021)
If you’re visiting New York City over the holidays or anytime in winter, you’ll want to bundle up!
New York gets pretty cold in the winter time, especially around January and February, when certain large streets like Broadway become wind tunnels, where the wind seems to blow you away with every step and every breath you take (Sting reference for the win).
New Yorkers are famous for wearing black, black and more black so if you’re puzzled on what to wear in Manhattan… think dark neutrals in variations of grey, black and navy.
I’ve included all the essentials for what to pack for New York in the winter below!
NYC Winter Packing List: The Essentials
You’ll want to wear thick comfy sweaters, jeans and lots of layers for a a winter time visit to New York City.
City slickers love a head-to-toe outfit in black, so black denim, a cozy sweater, and black puffer with blank ankle boots will have you fitting right in!
1. Down Jacket
Definitely bring an extra thick winter jacket filled with plush, super warm down.
As we mentioned, streets like Broadway or any of the north-south Avenues are wind tunnels! I recommend bringing a “nicer” wool jacket for any night time events like going to a Broadway show or a nice dinner out but for sightseeing, you’ll be so much more comfortable in a puffy down jacket.
I swear by my Canada Goose Expedition – it’s an investment but one that’s been paid many times over in New York’s coldest months.
I’ve had mine for 10 years, and it still looks good as new. Plus, it’s so toasty that if I wear it for a long subway ride, I start to overheat!
And finally, wear comfortable clothes. Universal Standard makes classic staple pieces and they’re size inclusive!
2. Cold Weather Boots
If you really want to blend in and dress like a New Yorker, boots are what everyone wears in the winter. Ankle boots, shearling booties, thigh high boots, over the knee boots – any kind of boot will do! I highly recommend adding these shearling shoe inserts to your boots to make them extra cozy, like UGGs.
If it’s snowing, snow boots by Sorel are a good option. White snow turns quickly to black mush on NYC streets so you’ll definitely want to keep your toes warm and dry.
It doesn’t snow too often here (maybe once or twice a year in January and February) so you can also get by with regular Hunter boots and thick socks.
3. Comfortable Sneakers
Let’s face it. New York is a pedestrian city, so chances are you will be walking a lot! I suggest comfortable sneakers for sightseeing days:
- Clarks makes classic retro sneakers
- Golden Goose is a pretty popular designer option
- Everlane has an extra cushy unisex style
- Thousand Fell makes classic white sneakers that will match any outfit.
Read more: The Best White Sneakers that Match Any Outfit
4. Hats, Gloves & Scarves
Winter accessories may seem like gratuitous expenses, but try telling that to your extremities when they are freezing in the bitter New York cold!
You’ll definitely want a cozy beanie or earmuffs to protect your ears. It gets cold in the city!
Scarves are also a must have – the thicker and longer, the better.
I absolutely love Club Monaco’s cashmere scarfs for something luxurious and classic that you’ll wear forever.
For more everyday, affordable options Nordstrom has a huge range of colorful options.
Chances are, you’ll pull out your phone often to check directions or keep in touch with your group. Leather gloves are sleek but pack touch screen gloves that will work with phones!
I swear by the North Face Etip gloves which are thin enough to not feel bulky, and all the glove fingers are touchscreen compatible.
5. Crossbody Bag
Most museums in the city do not allow backpacks and will require you to check them in. Plus, on the subway, you don’t want to be keeping valuables behind your back!
If you absolutely must carry a backpack, I recommend taking it off when getting in the subway and holding it in front of you. This creates more room for other passengers and also wards off quick-fingered pick-pockets.Read more: The Best Museums in New York City
6. Helpful Accessories
Insulated Water Tumbler
Travel is often really dehydrating, so bring along a water bottle to make sure you can enjoy your trip to New York!
Plus, tumblers like these are much more environmentally friendly (and cost-effective) than buying plastic water bottles.
I’m obsessed with Takeya stainless steel tumblers – they come in every possible design and keep drinks hot for 8 hours or cold for 24!
I swear by packing cubes to keep my suitcase organized throughout my trips! I like to group clothing by color or function and pack each group of items snugly in their own cube!
This set is under $20 and includes multiple sizes to fit all your things, even shoes!
I love this super sleek hard case from Delsey luggage which is incredibly durable yet still looks stylish. It’s one of the lightest suitcases on the market, weighing only 4.7 pounds when empty!
I love the two interior pockets that come with zipped dividers (so your stuff doesn’t shift too much in transit) and Delsey even includes some laundry and shoe packing bags, which I think is a nice touch.
Read more: The Best Carry-on Suitcases, Reviewed
Although more of NYC is starting to offer public Wi-Fi, unfortunately we’re still a little behind!
You can typically catch Wi-Fi in subway stations and by electronic information stands. It’s not the best though, as service will cut in and out frequently.
I definitely recommend packing a couple portable charges to keep your phone charged. Download an offline map of New York City on Google Maps before your trip, too.
I always bring Anker’s portable chargers – they’re small, sleek and have enough battery life to fully charge an iPhone…twice!
Electric Converter & Adapter
If you are visiting from abroad, you’ll need a US converter.
Once I used a travel sized power strip for the first time, it was a game changer. These let you charge multiple devices in one go, so even if the hotel room only has 1 well placed outlet, no one will fight over who gets to charge first!
SPF Lip Balm
My lips are always chapped in the winter so a hydrating lip balm is an absolute must have when coming to New York City.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb or inexpensive hotel, don’t forget to bring your own toiletries and shampoo & conditioner.
Shop Warm Clothes for New York
Where to Stay in New York
Most first time visitors base themselves in Times Square. I understand the appeal, but personally I think you’ll have a much nicer experience if you stay in SoHo, Chelsea or even Brooklyn!
1 | The NoMo Soho if you want a chic, downtown location. The on site restaurant is beautiful and also the perfect brunch spot!
2 | The Boro Hotel if you don’t mind being slightly farther in Long Island City, Queens, one of the city’s hottest new neighborhoods. LIC has a subway, so getting around is still quite easy. Best of all? Great views of the Manhattan skyline!
3 | The Mandarin Oriental for classic luxury. If there’s one place to splurge in New York, I love the Mandarin. Their restaurant, Asiate, is also incredibly good!
4 | The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn for hipster chic. They’re located in Williamsburg and have beautiful rooms as well as a great brunch restaurant on the ground floor.
You can check current NYC hotel deals via Booking.com – I book with them since they have a great cancellation policy and guarantee the lowest rates.
New York City Winter Bucket List
While you’re visiting, check off some of these New York City winter activities. While it will definitely be cold, there’s still plenty of fun things to do in New York winter.
The Rockettes are a NYC institution.
Celebrate Christmas in full festivity at Radio City to see Santa, the dance of the tin soldiers and plenty of high kicks. Don’t worry – even if one person in your group has been before, the show changes it up every year!
My favorite annual winter tradition is seeing The Nutcracker. There’s a couple different variations of the winter classic, but I always love George Balanchine’s traditional ballet at Lincoln Center.
Or, for something different, check out the avant garde retelling at BAM, or the cabaret twist, Nutcracker Rouge.
Shop at the Holiday Markets
By mid November, holiday markets pop up all over the city.
Our personal favorite? The Bryant Park Winter Village! Not only does it have plenty of food stalls and artisan shops, it also has a small ice skating rink! So there’s plenty to keep everyone occupied for at least a couple of hours. Wear an ugly Christmas sweater to get especially festive!Read more: The Best Ugly Sweaters to Wear this Holiday Season
Visit a Pop Up Holiday Bar
It gets really cold, so warm up at a kitschy holiday bedazzled bar to end the night. Need some recommendations?
- Rolf’s in Gramercy Park is a cult favorite
- Bierra at Eataly is a high end winter chalet
- Boilermarker’s traditional tiki theme becomes a “Sippin’ Santa” holiday bar
Best Souvenirs from New York City
New York City has lots of typical souvenir stands and tons of visitors like to visit Fifth Avenue, SoHo and Chelsea for great shopping. For unique finds, you can check out Brooklyn’s flea markets.
There’s also a unique vintage NYC holiday train that you can ride!
It runs on the regular F line route, but the transit authority pulls out vintage subway cars (complete with ads from the 50s and 60s inside!) during the holiday months. We saw lots of families having fun with it.
Fun Day Tours in New York
Best Camera & Photography Equipment for NYC
A 50mm will be great for all your food shots while the wide angle can best capture Central Park in all its glory! Or, a 24-70mm zoom lens is versatile enough to capture both.
I bring a professional DSLR camera and a couple lenses to shoot all the photos you see on this blog. I also bring my spare battery, battery charger and extra SD cards.
To keep everything organized, I use a memory card case and a travel accessories case so the wires, chargers and small things don’t get lost. You can find all my gear here.
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