Summer or winter, rain or shine, there’s always great stuff going on in New York City, so when you’re planning a trip to New York City, there’s no real “best” or “worst” time to go.
Culture hounds might come in fall, winter, and early spring, when the theater and performing-arts seasons reach their heights. During summer, many of the top cultural institutions, especially Lincoln Center, offer free, alfresco entertainment. Those who want to see the biggest hits on Broadway usually have the best luck getting tickets in the slower months of January and February.
Gourmands might find it easiest to land the best tables during July and August, when New Yorkers escape the city on weekends. If you prefer to walk every city block to take in the sights, spring and fall usually offer the mildest and most pleasant weather.
New York is a nonstop holiday party from early December through the start of the New Year. Celebrations of the season abound in festive holiday windows and events such as the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular—not to mention those terrific seasonal sales that make New York a holiday shopping bonanza.
However, keep in mind that hotel prices go sky high, and the crowds are almost intolerable. If you’d rather have more of the city to yourself—better chances at restaurant reservations and shows, and easier access to museums and other attractions—choose another time of year to visit.
Hotel prices are always fairly high in New York, though the current economic troubles have softened the market considerably; still, you might want to follow these rough seasonal guidelines.
Bargain hunters might want to visit in winter, between the first of the year and early April. Sure, you might have to bear some cold weather, but that’s when hotels are suffering from the post-holiday blues, and rooms often go for a relative song — a song in this case may mean a room with a private bathroom for as little as $150, or even less. AAA cardholders can do even better in many cases (around 10% savings at certain hotels). However, be aware that the occasional convention or event, such as February’s annual Fashion Week, can sometimes throw a wrench in your winter savings plans. Spring and fall are traditionally the busiest and most expensive seasons after holiday time. Don’t expect hotels to be handing you deals, but you may be able to negotiate a decent rate.
The city is drawing more families these days, and they usually visit in the summer. Still, the prospect of heat and humidity keeps some people away, making July and the first half of August a cheaper time to visit than later in the year; good hotel deals are often available.
During the Christmas season, expect to pay top dollar for everything. The first 2 weeks of December—the shopping weeks—are the worst when it comes to scoring an affordable hotel room; that’s when shoppers from around the world converge on the town to catch the holiday spirit and spend, spend, spend. But Thanksgiving can be a great time to come, believe it or not: Business travelers have gone home, and the holiday shoppers haven’t yet arrived. It’s a little-known secret that most hotels away from the Thanksgiving Day Parade route have empty rooms, and they’re usually willing to make great deals to fill them.
Many consider that long week or 10 days that arrive each summer between mid-July and mid-August, when temperatures can go up to as high as 100°F (38°C) with 90% humidity, as New York’s worst weather. Don’t get put off by this—summer has its compensations, such as wonderful free open-air concerts and other events, as mentioned—but bear it in mind. If you are at all temperature sensitive, your odds of getting comfortable weather are better in June or September.
Another period when you might not like to stroll around the city is during January or February, when temperatures are commonly in the 20s (below 0°C) and those concrete canyons turn into wind tunnels. The city looks gorgeous for about a day after a snowfall, but the streets soon become a slushy mess. Again, you never know—temperatures have regularly been in the 30s and mild 40s (single digits Celsius) during the past few global-warmed winters. If you hit the weather jackpot, you could have a bargain bonanza (see “Money Matters,” above).
Fall and spring are the best times in New York. From April to June and September to November, temperatures are mild and pleasant, and the light is beautiful. With the leaves changing in Central Park and just the hint of crispness in the air, October is a fabulous time to be here—but expect to pay for the privilege.
If you want to know what to pack just before you go, check the Weather Channel’s online 10-day forecast at www.weather.com; I like to balance it against CNN’s online 8-day forecast at www.cnn.com/weather. You can also get the local weather by calling tel. 212/976-1212 or the National Weather Service at tel. 631/924-0517.
Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums are closed on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), the third Monday in January (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the third Monday in February (Presidents’ Day), the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), the first Monday in September (Labor Day), the second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans Day/Armistice Day), the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day), and December 25 (Christmas). The Tuesday after the first Monday in November is Election Day, a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (held every 4 years, and next in 2012).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.