8 Best Winter Adventures In and Around New York City

Enjoying winter in New York City doesn’t mean staying inside. While cold weather may tempt you to seek out the warmth of a cozy fireside bar or find cultural refuge at one of any number of museums, winter days spent outside can be equally delightful and even more exhilarating. Bundle up and check out these eight cold-weather adventures in and around the Big Apple.

In the City

There’s nothing like a crisp winter day in New York City. The air feels fresher, the sky is bluer, and the skyline pops with an unmatched brilliance. Make the most of these glorious days without venturing outside the city proper.

1. Cruise the Harbor

Being on the water may not sound like the ideal way to pass a winter afternoon, but when you’re bundled up on the deck of the Staten Island Ferry, you’ll warm up quickly to the majestic views of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, and the skyline of lower Manhattan as you cruise New York Harbor.

This free service is provided by the City of New York, and the 5-mile, 25-minute ride between St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island and the Whitehall Ferry Terminal in Manhattan has been called by one guidebook, “One of the world’s greatest (and shortest) water voyages.” And if it gets too cold on deck, you can always head inside to the ship’s heated cabin.

2. Take a Walk on the High Line

Packed with tourists and locals alike during the summer months, the High Line isn’t the first place people think to visit in the dead of winter. But dismissing this trendy park when the temperature drops is a missed opportunity. With more elbow room during cold-weather months, you’ll have time and space to appreciate the delicate beauty of the High Line’s winter garden. This is also the perfect season for bird watching, as the garden’s seed heads and berries provide a virtual buffet for the High Line’s fine feathered residents all winter long.

3. Take a Spin on the Ice

Many a first smooch has happened on the world’s most famous frozen oval at Rockefeller Center, and every year, hundreds of couples become engaged under the gilded gaze of Prometheus. But the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink isn’t the only spot to lace up your skates for a romantic twirl in New York City. Wollman Rink in Central Park enjoys a particularly scenic location, surrounded by trees with a dramatic backdrop of skyscrapers. It offers a wide selection of skating options including group and private lessons, as well as hockey. Bryant Park is the city’s only admission-free rink (though you’ll need to pay for skate rentals if you don’t have your own), and during the holiday season it transforms into a winter wonderland featuring holiday shops, a rinkside bar, and food hall.

Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle? Head to the Riverbank State Park Ice Skating Rink in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood for budget-friendly skating programs overlooking the Hudson River.

4. Sledding in Brooklyn

When the white stuff falls, grab a sled and head to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for a fun-filled afternoon of snowy nostalgia. Both through nature and by design, Prospect Park’s landscape is dotted with rolling hills, making it prime sledding territory. Spread over 562 acres, the park has a number of popular sledding spots, including Long Meadow, which is the longest stretch of uninterrupted meadow in any urban park in the nation, and Lookout Hill, the highest point in the park. A treeless swatch on the hill’s southwest side is steep enough to satisfy any sledder’s need for speed.

Outside the City

If the city feels too confining and you’re in need of a more direct connection with nature, New York’s environs provide a surprising number of outdoor adventures to enjoy even on the frostiest days.

5. Cross-Country Skiing

What better way to savor winter’s beauty than gliding across a snow-covered meadow. Within just a couple of hours of the Big Apple, you’ll find several spots to enjoy the Nordic pursuits of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Fahnestock Winter Park, which opens in early December, is an inexpensive option in the hamlet of Carmel, two hours north of the city. It boasts expansive cross-country terrain, snowshoeing, and a small sledding hill to break up your day.

In the Hudson Valley, just 50 miles north of the city, Bear Mountain State Park is a convenient wintertime destination, with cross-country ski trails and other cold-weather activities such as tobogganing.

6. Skiing

Downhill and snowboarding enthusiasts who don’t have time for one of the big New England resorts will discover plenty of powder not far from New York City, including Camelback Mountain Resort, 90 minutes west in Pennsylvania’s Poconos. Camelback has 34 trails with nighttime hours for those willing to embrace the chill. First-timers can take advantage of their learn-to-ski packages and feel at ease on the mountain’s plentiful beginner runs, while snowboarders will love the 20-acre terrain park with a giant airbag for soft landings.

Only an hour north of the city in Patterson is the family-owned Thunder Ridge Ski Area, where you’ll find gentle slopes for newbies and advanced trails for the more daring. Take a break at the slopeside lodge with a cafeteria, pub, and panoramic views.

One of the easiest trips for good skiing is New Jersey’s Mountain Creek, 50 miles from Manhattan. It boasts a wide selection of trails, but the biggest draw is the 65-acre terrain park, considered one of the best in the U.S.

7. Snow Tubing

If your desire for frosty thrills is more playful in nature, snow tubing might be your ticket. Most of the ski areas mentioned earlier also offer tubing; in fact, Camelback Mountain, with 42 tubing lanes, is the largest and considered one of the best snow tubing parks in the U.S. Add to your list Windham Mountain Adventure Park in the Catskills. Two and half hours from the Big Apple, this six-lane park stays open late on weekends and features a conveyor lift so tubers can rocket down 650 feet of snow-covered slope. You’ll also find a wide variety of other winter activities, including ice-skating, cross-country skiing, and even snowmobiling for the little ones.

8. Ice Climbing and Hiking

For extreme thrill seekers who won’t let frigid temps keep them from living life on the edge, there’s ice climbing. December through March, Alpine Endeavors offers guided excursions in the Catskills just two hours from the city. From lower-angle ice flows to overhanging walls and multi-pitch cascading waterfalls, the Catskills delivers challenges for all climbing levels. If you’re eager for outdoor adventure, but scaling a wall of ice isn’t quite what you bargained for, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a nice compromise. With 25 miles of footpaths and 35 miles of well-maintained carriage roads, the park is known for its lakes and waterfalls that turn into dramatic icescapes when the temperature plummets.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you stay comfortable when outside while wearing a base layer featuring 37.5 Technology, which helps your body control its core temperature. The Merino 120 long-sleeve top from Rab, for men and women, is an excellent choice to both keep you warm and provide flexibility for any outdoor activity. For serious skiers, Rossignol offers the Poursuite Collection of jackets, pants, tops, and tights featuring 37.5 Technology. The pieces are all designed for maximum athletic performance, but they will also keep you comfortable on the slopes.

Written by Karen Bakar for RootsRated Media in partnership with 37.5.

Featured image provided by Nan Palmero