Deciding When to Go to New York
Because New York offers such a wide variety of attractions and sights, people visit the city year-round, regardless of the weather. In addition to giving you the lowdown on New York life during each season, this article includes some events if you’d like to plan your visit around a particular activity.
Revealing the secrets of the seasons
Summer or winter, rain or shine, great stuff is always going on in New York City, so there isn’t really a “best” time to see New York. Regardless, here are some pros and cons, season by season.
Winter: With the exception of the first few weeks in December, winter is a great time to come to New York if you’re searching for bargains. Hotel rates are at their lowest, tickets to top shows are attainable, and reservations at the best restaurants are very manageable. But if your idea of a vacation doesn’t involve walking around bundled in layers of protective clothing to insulate you from the biting cold (in a city where the skyscrapers function as wind tunnels), then don’t come during a New York winter.
Spring: This is the wettest time of year, but in between the showers, the flowers in the park bloom and the temperatures are more pedestrian-friendly. As a result, the tourists make their way back to the city and hotel rates begin to rise, especially in late spring.
Summer: The city is sticky, streets begin to radiate a pungent stench, and tempers can be testy. Why then, do New Yorkers love the summer so much? Because they’ve got so many free outdoor events, like concerts and plays, to choose from. Restaurants are less crowded, museums and other attractions are more manageable, you can picnic in Central Park, and you can walk around in shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt.
Fall: With mild temperatures and dry days, fall is New York’s best weather season. But it’s also the busiest time of year in the city. Everyone is back to school or work; street fairs continue through the early fall; and reservations at restaurants and hotels are tougher to snag. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find bargains during this period.
Year-round New York
Regardless of when you plan to visit New York, you can find events that draw people to the Big Apple by the millions. Here are some highlights, month by month.
Winter Restaurant Week. Participating fine-dining restaurants offer two- or three-course fixed-price lunches for a price that corresponds to the year ($20.03 in 2003, $20.04 in 2004, and so on). For a list of restaurants and exact dates, go to the Website.
Chinese New Year, Chinatown. The famous dragon parade and fireworks highlight this two-week celebration.
Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Madison Square Garden. More than 2,500 dogs and their owners compete for the top prize in mid-February.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Madison Square Garden. Don’t miss the parade from Twelfth Avenue and 34th Street to the Garden the morning before the show opens.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Fifth Avenue between 44th and 86th streets. Make sure to wear green to this parade of 150,000 marchers showing their love of all things Irish.
Greater New York International Auto Show, Javits Convention Center. This car show, featuring classics, futuristic models, and everything in between, is the largest in the United States.
The Easter Parade, Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th streets. Silly hats abound; the New York Times recently featured a picture of a ferret attending the parade in an Easter bonnet.
Fleet Week, Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. A plethora of ships and thousands of crew members visit New York during Fleet Week; activities include flyovers, ship tours, 21-gun salutes, and more. Check out the Websitefor more information.
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, 37th to 57th streets. Food, entertainment, and music come together to make this 20-block fair a must-see.
The Puerto Rican Day Parade and Lesbian and Gay Pride Week and March, Fifth Avenue.Both parades are in June. The Puerto Rican Day Parade is the third week of June while the Lesbian and Gay Pride March is the last week in June.
Museum Mile Festival, Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 104th streets. Free admission to the nine museums of the famous mile-long stretch of Fifth Avenue plus live music and street performers make this a mile of fun.
Restaurant Week. Participating restaurants around the city offer two- or three-course lunches for $20.04 in 2004 (it’ll cost one cent more in 2005!). (See the entry for “Winter Restaurant Week” under January events.)
SummerStage, Central Park at 72nd Street. Free afternoon concerts feature a wide range of contemporary groups and often some big-name performers. The concerts run through August.
Fourth of July fireworks. Get to as high a vantage point as you can to watch any of the several fireworks shows that light up the skyline. Usually, the fireworks are set off from barges in the East River.
Midsummer Night’s Swing, Lincoln Center Fountain. Dance under the summer skies to a live band.
Mostly Mozart, Avery Fisher Hall, and Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center. The former is an important appointment for classical music fans, while enthusiasts of dance, opera, ballet, and theater enjoy the latter. Call @@tel 212-875-5030 (Avery Fisher Hall) and @@tel 212-546-2656 (Lincoln Center) for information. July and
Shakespeare in the Park, Central Park. The Public Theater stages a free play by the Bard each summer at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Shows often feature top stars. Call @@tel 212-861-2777 or 212-539-8750, or visit www.publictheater.org for information. Throughout July and August.
Harlem Week, Harlem and other public areas around the city, including City Hall, Gracie Mansion, Columbia University, and the Schomburg Center. This week-long celebration features theater, symposia, art, sport, and the famous Harlem Jazz and Music Festival. Visit their Website for more information.
U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Flushing Meadows, Queens. The world’s best tennis players gather for the final Grand Slam tournament of the year. Visit their Website for information.
New York Film Festival, sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. This two-week festival has seen many important premieres over the years. Get your tickets in advance. September through October.
Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, West Village/Chelsea. Not your average group of trick-or-treaters, this parade — the nation’s largest public Halloween parade — features outrageous costumes and people (soon to be outnumbered by boring floats advertising radio stations and the like).
Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music. Enjoy experimental dance, theater, and music. October through December.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Central Park West/Broadway. Some people think that watching the balloon inflation the night before is even more fun than the parade itself.
New York City Marathon, ends in Central Park. Join this race, which runs through all five boroughs, or stand at the sidelines to cheer on the thousands of competitors.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, Rockefeller Center. Prepare to join thousands of others to watch the lighting of the huge tree, which remains on display through the New Year.
New Year’s Eve, Times Square. Okay, if freezing your buns off amongst thousands of intoxicated people from everywhere but New York is what you’ve wanted to do all your life, than this is the place for you. You won’t find many New Yorkers there. But arrive early or you’ll get a better view of the ball dropping from your hotel room television set.