What to Wear in New York in Winter From a Local

If you’re wondering what to wear in New York in winter, I’ve got all the secrets.

Growing up in New York, I loved winter. The snow, the sleet, the cold mornings where I waited inside while my dad’s car defrosted which meant I’d inevitably be late for school.

I loved bundling up in all the different layers only to remove said layers as soon as I got back inside from the cold. 

As I got older though, I liked those winters less and less. And now I spend most of my year south of the border enjoying very mild Mexico City winters instead.

However, I still go back to New York several times a year to visit family and friends and enjoy the city. 

These are all of the things I recommend when putting together a New York packing list for your winter trip to the city (and the surrounding upstate area if you get the chance!).

Weather in New York in Winter

Travel in New York in winter is wonderful. It’s when you see the holidays windows at the department stores, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller. 

The weather in New York in winter can be fickle. Some days it’s mild, sunny, and the skies are clear. On other days, it’s grey, rainy, and freezing cold. 

It snows quite regularly in winter in New York, so you’ll definitely want to plan for that. However,  the streets and sidewalks are cleared very quickly, so if you think you’re going to be building snowmen, I’d plan for a trip somewhere further outside of the city.

You can expect temperatures of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit on a sunny day (about 18C). However, you’re more likely to experience temperatures in the mid to low-50a Fahrenheit, especially in January and February (about 10-15C). 

At night, the temperatures can drop dramatically, regularly dipping below freezing. It’s not uncommon to be strolling along the street after dark in New York in winter and experiencing temperatures that could freeze your little fingers. Expect evening averages of about 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit (4-6C).

January is definitely the coldest month to visit New York. You’ll find most temperatures hovering around freezing temperatures, even when the sun is out.

Read: What to Wear in Paris in Winter

rockafeller christmas tree in new york city
One of the main reasons to head to New York in winter is to enjoy New York at Christmas!

What to Wear in New York in Winter

1. Good Waterproof Boots

There is nothing that makes you feel like you need to head back to your hotel quicker than cold, wet feet.

I promise you that if you don’t pack a pair of waterproof shoes, that’s exactly the problem that you’re going to have when galavanting around New York.

While the snow doesn’t tend to pile up much (the city clear it very quickly), you will find puddles of melted snow and piles of nasty, dirty sleet and melted ice to climb through.

New York during winter is not exactly a snowing wonderland. It’s more like all the soot from the dirty streets mixing with ice and rain and snow and producing what can only be described as cold black mud.

I highly recommend investing in a good pair of waterproof, knee-high leather boots or Lands’ End duck boots.

The leather option is a good choice because you can go from tourist sightseeing to a cute and stylish dinner outfit without much effort. The Lands’ End duck boots will keep your feet toasty and dry, but I probably wouldn’t walk into a SoHo restaurant in them.

woman wondering what to wear in new york in winter
Keeping warm in New York in winter requires a lot of warm and waterproof outerwear

2. A Warm Coat that Covers Your Thighs

I have this J.Crew coat which I bought several years ago and still love to wear. It is seriously warm. While it’s not the cheapest coat, it was an investment and a coat that I know will last me for many more years to come.

A popular coat that you see a lot of native New York women wearing is this The North Face coat

Whatever coat you choose to pack for your winter trip to New York, just make sure it’s warm and it’s long enough. You want to not just cover your stomach and arms, but also your butt and thighs. If you really feel the cold, you better get yourself one that covers your knees, too.

The longer the coat, the more of your body that will be protected against that wind that whips through the streets of New York in winter.

3. Wool Pants

Jeans are not what to wear in New York in winter. Especially in really cold winters, jeans are not your friend.

Unless of course, you layer a pair of silk long underwear underneath!

Don’t get me wrong, jeans will be mostly fine in November and December and even during the day most of the time in January and February.

But if you plan to do anything at night, well, that New York City wind will cut through that denim and make you feel like you’re wearing no pants at all.

I prefer to wear wool pants with a nice soft lining. My favorite winter pants come from J.Crew. I just love the preppy style and really great fit through the butt. However, you can find more reasonably priced versions (perhaps not wool, but will do for the winter trip) from places like H&M or Zara.

I usually pair them with a thin sweater (and lots of outdoor layers on top).

If I know I’m going to be inside most of the day, I’ll pair it with a cute white t-shirt that I can tuck into the trousers. It makes them feel less casual and way more my style.

4. Wool Socks and Thick Tights

If you’re going to be wearing skirts or dresses, you’ll definitely want to get yourself some warm socks and tights. 

While I wish so very much that I could go bare-legged when planning what to wear in New York in winter, you simply cannot. 

I usually stock up on thick soft tights from Nordstrom whenever I’m back from the US. This is one of my favorite pairs since you can buy it in tons of different colors and the control top is so comfortable. 

They even have these amazing opaque black tights that have a fleece lining. It doesn’t get much better than that.

If you are going to be wearing trousers or jeans, I highly recommend investing in some warm wool boot socks.

I often buy men’s socks for winter because for whatever reason they tend to be better quality for a lower price, but I love these Ralph Lauren cable knit socks. They’re affordable and keep my fee super warm. I usually pair them with ankle boots.

These can look really stylish poking out of the top of your boots and will keep your toes from falling off when you are standing outside in line for a delicious sandwich or slice of pizza.

standing in central park in winter
Standing in central park basically breaking all the rules for what to wear in New York in winter. I was FREEZING which is how I know that I needed a longer coat and gloves and where the heck is my scarf?!

5. A Thick Warm Wool Sweater

There is nothing more important for your New York winter wardrobe than a good warm sweater. Whatever material you prefer, whether it’s wool, cashmere or a cotton blend (please just avoid straight-up cotton, it won’t keep you warm). 

My absolute favorite timeless winter sweater is one I picked up from a Ralph Lauren outlet store (be sure to check out Woodbury Commons while you’re in New York!). 

It’s a cream sweater, about one size too big and I love how slouchy it is. It looks great with a skirt or a pair of jeans. It literally goes with everything. This one is the most similar that I could find.

6. Thin Layers on Top

Underneath your warm wool, you’ll want to layer.

The thing about what to wear in New York in winter is that you need to consider how often you’ll be going inside a store or restaurant, then back outside into the tundra. 

I usually plan for very thick outerwear, but nice thin layers underneath so that when I sit down in a steaming hot bar, I can still be comfortable.

This means lots of t-shirts that look cute underneath sweaters or thin sweaters and tissue-like long sleeve shirts. Unsurprisingly, I pick up most of these staples from J.Crew. I probably have this t-shirt in 6 or 7 colors.

They always have beautifully thin long-sleeve shirts and ultra-thin sweaters that look great tucked into skirts or dungarees.

how to travel cheaper
I was much better prepared for winter in Copenhagen with my super warm hat, a long wool coat and thin layers underneath (it’s SO warm inside homes and restaurants in Copenhagen!).

7. Hat, Scarf, and Gloves

No winter wardrobe could be complete without the trifecta. You will definitely want to have a hat, scarf and gloves with you when you visit New York this winter.

I really love picking up these sort of things when I travel, but Nordstrom is also a great place to find the essentials for a reasonable price.

If you want to shop while you’re in New York, I highly recommend checking out the winter market at Bryant Park.

I have impulse bought many a scarf and hat (and ear warmers and mittens) from the different stalls here. It usually runs from late November until early January. There are also some stalls inside Grand Central Station.

What Else to Pack for Winter in New York

There are a few other essentials that you won’t want to forget when planning your trip to New York this winter.

1. Chapstick or Lip Balm

One of the worst things about winter, especially in New York, is how dry your skin can get. 

I use extra lotions and more hydrating soaps when I’m back in New York at winter time. When you are out in the cold and then headed inside to the over-heated rooms and restaurants around the city, your skin is bound to take a hit, especially your lips.

My favorite lip balm is the Fresh Sugar lip treatment. It is truly magical and even after winter it’s amazing. I use it when I head on beach vacations because it has an SPF in it. It also comes in tinted versions if you want to add a pop of color while protecting those lips.

snowy streets of New York City
You may also need those sunglasses for the glare off all the white snow!

2. Sunglasses

The sun does sometimes come out in New York during the cloudy winter months. And thanks to all the puddles and piles of snow, you’ll want to protect your eyes from being blinded.

I am a huge Ray-Ban fan because they are stylish, quite affordable, and have UV protection. You can never go wrong with the classic Wayfarers, they match with everything.

3. A Nice Thick Lotion

Like I mentioned above, protecting your skin in the harsh New York winters is crucial. You don’t want to head back home after a fun and fashion-filled vacation only to have itchy dry legs and elbows.

My favorite lotion that I always put into a travel-sized bottle is Nivea body milk. I live at altitude when I’m in Mexico City, so the air is very dry.

Whether I’m packing for a trip to New York in winter or for summer in Mexico, I always have a bottle of this to nourish my skin.

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