New York City, one of the most famous US destinations and a city that never sleeps is a year-round top choice for travelers from across the world. Tourists bring a buzz to the city every season, as events and experiences provide endless opportunities to explore.
With such a lively city culture and being the global entertainment centre of the world, it can be tricky to know when’s the best time to visit New York. In this expert guide, we’ll break down what NYC has to offer across each season to help you plan your next adventure to the Big Apple!
Summer Season: June – August
New York in the summer is fun, chaotic and hot. The city is bustling with even more tourists from across the US as well as globally, so you’ll be in for lengthy queues at most attractions. However, the weather makes up for it with the glorious summer temperatures that can reach as high as 30-40 degrees and warm nights making outdoor events a specular choice.
The summer season brings NYC music and film culture alive through festivals and concerts, as well as Gay Pride and the American Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations which includes the Macy’s firework display. Sports lovers can also attend the US Open in August.
With guaranteed sun bringing high hotel prices, New York is not a cheap destination but Summer is also American residents’ time off, so accommodation prices will be at their highest. It’s best to either book a trip well in advance that includes a discount or opt for a last-minute deal.
Shoulder Season: March – May & September – October
March-May brings the bloom of flowers and a semi-relaxed atmosphere as the city prepares for summer but tourist numbers are low, and during weekdays the tourist attractions have shorter queue times. In March NYC celebrates St Patrick’s Day with their annual celebration parade up Fifth Avenue, but June is the month for foodies with the International Food Festival held in Hell’s Kitchen.
September – October is the reverse, as the city winds down from summer with a chill in the air and browning leaves. New York Fashion Week takes over in September as the city also remembers those who lost their lives during 9/11 through various memorials. October has the height of the Halloween spirit and also hosts New York Comic Con, a quirky event for dedicated TV and film fanatics.
The shoulder season months are quite moderately priced for accommodation. Prices can hike around US National holidays and key celebrations, but visits to the city around these dates can be picked up quite cheaply. As it’s a lower tourist season there’s slightly less queuing involved so more activities can be packed into a day, but the weather is fast changing.
I visited in April and got sun burnt whilst walking through Central Park during the day, then soaked from the rain on an open top bus tour in the evening.
Winter Season: November – February
Snow storms are the new normal for late winter in New York, and sometimes they can make travel difficult, but they can’t be predicted and the winter months are some of the most amazing months to visit the city as it celebrates the festive season.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade takes place in November and then immediately the city switches to Christmas during December, with lights, decorated storefronts, markets and Christmas trees lining most of the main avenues. Ice Skating on the Rockefeller Plaza is one of the most iconic attractions during the winter and is open from mid-November to early January. If you stay over Christmas and New Year, you’ll have the opportunity to join in the NYE celebration ball drop which usually attracts 1 Million visitors!
January is the lull of the winter season, decorations start coming down, and festivities are over, but it’s generally the cheapest month out of the whole year to visit so if budget travel is your main focus, this would be the time to go.
The best months to visit New York City for different types of travelers
There’s a lot to see, do and experience in New York throughout the year as we’ve explored above. To summarise here are the best times to visit NYC based on what type of traveler you are:
- Best for sightseeing: April – June & September – October
- Best for backpackers: September – October & January – March
- Best for couples: April – June & September – October
- Best for events/festival goers: April, July & November – December
Unless you’re visiting New York City for a specific event, I would recommend taking a trip to the city in April. What I liked about this time of year is that it wasn’t too packed with tourists, you weren’t rushed through attractions, and the weather is pretty reasonable so you’re able to travel with t-shirts and light jackets.
You don’t understand just how true the ‘City that never sleeps’ motto is until you visit New York. During my visit, I was staying in a hotel opposite Madison Square Garden, only a few blocks from Times Square. I took a solo walk to Times Square at midnight, and the place was bustling with life as if it was the daytime in London. It was such a surreal, bizarre and incredible experience.
Depending on hotel star rating, accommodation deals vary in price but can range between £600 – £900 for a four-night stay (including flights) if booking with major travel companies. In my opinion, four nights is the minimum to see as many attractions as possible. If you can stay for longer then great, but doing a two or three-night stay is not going to give you enough time to see all the sights.
If you’re like me and have New York at Christmas on your bucket list, then this is probably the most important season worth paying the extra for. I would love nothing more than to visit NYC in December, and it’s something I hope to do within the next five years!