New York is a dazzling city that is on everyone’s bucket lists - but is there a best time to visit?
New York - the city that famously never sleeps. Bright lights, busy streets, bars and restaurants staying open until the early hours of the morning, there’s always something going on in the Big Apple.
Thankfully, there isn’t really a ‘perfect time’ to visit New York. Being such a large and diverse city, there are hundreds of events every month to satisfy every interest. From the magical marvel that is Christmas at the Rockerfeller, to strolling through Central Park when Spring finally awakens - New York is a good idea whatever the time of year.
To help make your decision somewhat easier and to assist in planning your holiday, we’ve broken down the hottest events happening in each season in the area.
Winter (December to February)
Rockerfeller Center Tree Lighting - This usually takes place early in December, on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving, and iconically marks the start of the Christmas season in New York City. Huge crowds gather to witness the giant tree light up in all its glory, in a ceremony that dates back to the 1930’s and includes tons of live entertainment for all the family to enjoy. Can’t make the opening? Don’t worry, the tree remains lit all the way until the first week of the new year.
Pop-up Holiday Shops
- New York is famed for its shopping
, and during December hundreds of local merchants open their pop-up Christmas shops around the City. Expect a variety of delights, including clothing, trinkets, food and many other gifts. The most popular and biggest ones are at Columbus Circle, Bryant Park, Grand Central, and Union Square, but there are always tons of new ones appearing every season.
Time Square New Year’s Eve
- Watch the famous crystal ball drop at New York’s arguably most famous location, Times Square. This is a hugely popular event, with many people camping out to get a prime viewing spot. Arrive early to secure your space and join in with the night-long celebrations.
Winter Jazzfest - January sees the return of the Winter Jazzfest, a respected music festival that celebrates all things Jazz. Discover new artists and fall back in love with older voices in this fun-filled, lively event.
New York Restaurant WeekⓇ
- This event actually takes place in January and
July, so there are two chances to get your fix of New York’s best foodie options
and culinary experiences. Nearly 400 of New York City’s best restaurants offer the chance for guests to dine on two-course prix-fixe lunches and three-course set dinners, all cooked by some of the City’s top chefs.
Lunar New Year Parade & Festival - Taking place in none other than Manhattan’s Chinatown, as well as in Flushing (Queens) and Sunset Park (Brooklyn), the annual event which rings in the Lunar New Year in January has become a popular celebration for people of all cultural backgrounds. Crowds flock to see elaborate floats, marching bands, martial artists, Asian musicians, acrobats and processions.
New York Fashion Week - one for all the fashionistas, New York Fashion Week showcases all the newest styles for the upcoming Fall season. In February, Expect to see world-class designers, models and celebrities, all brushing shoulders and dressed in the latest trends.
Spring (March to May)
St. Patrick's Day Parade
- The Irish community in New York is large and mighty, making the City an exciting place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in March. The parade starts at 11am, running along the iconic Fifth Avenue between 44th and 79th streets. Immerse yourself in Irish culture and discover more about the Catholic faith in this vibrant event.
Big East Tournament - Watching a basketball game in Madison Square Gardens is no doubt on every sports fan’s bucket-list, so attending the Big East Men’s Basketball Championship in March would be a great way to tick this off. The sporting event has been taking place at MSG for over 30 years, and sees 10 schools compete for a title.
Asia Week New York - New York is a fantastic place to experience a wonderful variety of cultures and identities including those in faraway Asia. For just over a week in March, Asian art and culture takes over New York City’s galleries and cultural institutions, showcasing works from the continent.
Macy’s Flower Show - See beautiful blooms from all around the world in this annual event, from the rare and exotic to the simple and understated. The show features specially created garden environments and guided tours too.
Mets and Yankees Season Openers
- Enjoy the outdoors and engage in one of America’s best-known pastimes - watching a baseball game
. April is when the season kicks off again, so hop on over to Queens or the Bronx (or both!) and practice your best hotdog eating face.
Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival - There’s no shortage of parades in New York, and this one is no exception when it comes to delivering family-filled fun and wonderful attractions. Easter falls anywhere from late March to late April, and each year, New Yorkers showcase their best bonnets along Fifth Avenue.
Tribeca Film Festival - This now world-renowned film festival was founded shortly after 9/11, in order to help revitalise Lower Manhattan in the wake of such a tragedy. This April event transforms the downtown into a wonderful mix of film, music and culture. Over 100 films from around the world are screened and free screenings are offered too.
Cherry Blossom Festival - See the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in all its glory when the Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in April. Japanese culture is also celebrated, through J-Pop concerts, traditional music and dance, taiko drumming, martial arts, tea ceremonies, manga art, and much more.
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival - In May, a huge 15-block gastronomic experience takes place in New York City. Expect exceptional cuisine from all around the world, with music and dancing to match.
Shakespeare in the Park - A New York institution which starts in May but continues through to August, Shakespeare in the Park is a fantastic thing to attend, even if you’re not a massive fan of the Bard. See free outdoor productions of some of Shakespeare’s best plays, often starring well-known actors.
Bronx Week - Engage in a tradition that dates back to the 1970’s, and celebrate the diversity and culture of one of New York’s most distinctive suburbs during May. Expect a parade, live music, a trolley tour, and the reveal of the newest addition to the Bronx Walk of Fame.
Summer (June - August)
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks - This is a staple American experience that needs to be celebrated if you’re in the City for the Fourth. They’ll be loads of events happening all over the area, but one of the best is the spectacular Macy’s Fireworks display. There are a number of prime waterfront viewing locations to watch the scene from.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party - Taste authentic, American BBQ from some of the City and country’s best barbecue pitmasters, including specialists from Texas, Missouri and Tennessee. Takes place in June, and expect a range of music and (of course) beer, in addition to all that food.
Pride Week - Pride Week is a fantastic celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in New York, ending with a vibrant, colourful parade down Fifth Avenue on the last Sunday in June. Everyone from around the boroughs comes together and reflects on the progress made since the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in this action-packed week.
NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks - During a weeklong tour across all five boroughs in June, the New York Philharmonic brings free music to the open spaces of New York. A musically wonderful experience that is not to be missed.
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest - Yes, you read that right - a hot dog eating contest! Is there anything more New York than that? See a select group of brave individuals eat as many hot dogs as they can for 10 minutes straight, pausing for no one and nothing.
- Despite the name, Harlem
Week actually lasts for nearly the whole of July. This event aims to capture the history and culture of this vibrant neighbourhood - and all of the festivities are free too.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival - Witness 200 dragon boat teams convene on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to compete in one of America’s largest dragon boat festivals in August, to celebrate the fifth month of the lunar calendar. Enjoy music, martial arts, dance and food too.
US Open Tennis - This classic sporting event is rivaled only by the Masters, the World Series and the Super Bowl - it really is that important. Tennis seasons are made or broken during this Grand Slam tournament, taking place in August (through to September).
Autumn (September to November)
Feast of San Gennaro - Little Italy in Manhattan is a popular place for tourists all year round, but during September a festival celebrating the patron saint of Naples makes the area even more authentic and bustling. 11 days of parades, entertainment, and Italian food await visitors. There’s even a cannoli-eating contest…
- Remember and honour the victims of the attacks that took place during September 11th, 2001
, during various memorial events. Fundraisers continue through the whole month, and churches, temples and synagogues host special events for those affected by the tragedy.
New York Film Festival - Since 1963, the New York Film Festival has been showcasing inventive cinema to the City every September, often screening cutting-edge films before they become popular. In the past, work from Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Almodovar and Martin Scorsese have been shown at the festival.
New Yorker Festival - this three-day festival in October brings together the top minds from politics, the arts, journalism, television, and much more. The line-up for their panels and special guest appearances is revealed in September.
New York Comic Con - Geek out at the New York Comic Con in October, which is always a colourful and exciting affair. Even if you don’t attend the festival’s many booths, panels and screenings, there’s still plenty to gawk at - cosplayers go all out on their costumes!
Outdoor Ice-Skating Rinks Open - Ice-skating in New York is a classic image of City, and in October, the rinks open, offering that first glimpse into the holiday season. The most famous is the Rink at Rockerfeller Center, but the Bank of America at Winter Village at Bryant Parks is another fantastic option.
Rangers and Islander Openers - October is the start of ice hockey season, and there’s nothing more exciting and intense than seeing the Blueshirts (Rangers) take on their intercity rivals, the Islanders. A huge sport in America but something that isn’t as widely celebrated in the UK, attending an ice hockey game is a must-do if you’re visiting during the season.
Knicks and Nets Openers - Spot a courtside celebrity when the Knicks (Manthanntan’s NBA team) return to Madison Square Garden in October. The Nets, who had their first season in 2012, are an up and coming team to keep your eye on too.
New York Comedy Festival - See big names of comedy take to the stage during November, at the New York Comedy Festival, when it takes over the city. As well as the large-scale events in Madison Square Garden and Town Hall, smaller venues are also home to improv nights, and those wishing to make their name in the comedy world.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular - This is a New York institution, which dates all the way back to 1933, starting in November and continuing through December. Over time, the event has been modernised and adapted to include, original scenes alongside flying snowflakes and animated projections. Traditional parts of the show (and firm crowd favourites) include “The Living Nativity” and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, all taking place at Radio City Music Hall.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade - A huge event that is now broadcast all over the world, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade has become well-known for showcasing elaborate floats and dazzling costumes along the 2.5 mile route. The colourful balloons often overshadow the many celebrities and performers which also bring excitement to the parade.