These are the best times to visit New York City

Nov 12, 2019

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The Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps, Gotham — whatever you call it, New York City is alluring all year round. We might be biased, given the location of our headquarters, but we think it’s one of the greatest cities in the country. Between the museums, the parks, the red-hot restaurant scene and the incredible nightlife, there are so many things to do here you can never get bored.

Want more advice for planning a trip to New York City? Visit our new destination hub, and check back throughout the week for hotel guides, restaurant recommendations and more!

Of course, planning a trip to New York requires some strategy. Is your priority visiting museums like the Met, Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim? Getting tickets to a concert or Broadway play? Are you hoping to score a table at the city’s hard-to-get-into Michelin-starred restaurants? Are you willing to go in the off-season to avoid the crowds or are you dreaming of a New York Christmas?

We tapped data analysts to find out the cheapest times to visit New York City and compiled information on the best events and festivals worth flying for so you can determine the best time time to plan your trip to New York City.

Photo courtesy of Walter Wlodarczyk / NYC & Company
Photo courtesy of Walter Wlodarczyk / NYC & Company

The cheapest times to visit New York City

New York City is notoriously expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some good deals. In fact, according to flight and hotel price forecasting app Hopper, round-trip domestic airfare to New York is down 8.2% this year compared to 2018, with fares averaging $239. The key is to avoid peak season, which in New York is May through August and the holiday period from November until the end of the year.

Analysts at Hopper and Skyscanner both determined that you can find the best deals on domestic flights to New York City right after the holidays, with prices in January and February the cheapest you can get all year. Hopper found that during these months, domestic airfare costs an average of $198 round trip. September also offers relatively good deals, with round trip tickets averaging $224. In order to score the best deals, Hopper says you should plan to book your tickets one to two months in advance. Skyscanner also recommends booking at least a month in advance.

You can expect hotel rates to fluctuate as well, though demand tends to be high throughout the year because New York gets so many business travelers. According to Booking.com, the best deals on hotel rates are available in February, when you can expect to pay 50% less than in October, which is the most expensive month of the year.

According to Hopper, Sundays are generally the least expensive day to check into a hotel in New York. Planning to spend a weekend in the city? You can expect to pay an 18% premium at hotels. Hopper recommends booking your hotel just one to two weeks in advance, when prices begin to drop, but warns that there will be less availability, so you might not get the exact room or hotel you want.

Photo courtesy of Brittany Petronella / NYC & Company
Photo courtesy of Brittany Petronella / NYC & Company

The best seasons to visit New York City

Thanks to the global climate crisis, the weather in New York seems to be getting more unpredictable every year. Generally, however, you can expect frigid temperatures in winter (December through March) and sweltering heat in the summer, especially July and August. For good weather, your best bet is to visit the city in the spring (April and May) or fall (September through November), when you can enjoy the fall foliage.

In terms of cultural events and happenings, October through May tend to have the busiest calendars. That’s when major museums mount blockbuster exhibitions, new Broadway shows debut and the opera, ballet and concert seasons are in full swing. Cultural institutions tend to have less programming in the summer, when many New Yorkers escape the city on weekends, but there are street fairs, outdoor concerts and film screenings, as well as Shakespeare in the Park and other events.

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When to visit New York City for events and festivals

This is the City that Never Sleeps, so you can expect to find festivals and events worth traveling for all year long. New Yorkers tend to go all-out for holidays such as Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. There are also tons of niche festivals, parties and events throughout the year.

Winter events

New York can be quite magical over the holiday season, when the streets are decked out in lights and garlands and department stores put up their most elaborate window displays. This year, the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center will take place on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC. And every New Year’s Eve, the Ball Drop draws approximately one million people to Times Square.

From November through January, the Rockettes perform their Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and the New York City Ballet performs The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. There are winter markets with vendors selling gifts and seasonal specialties at Bryant Park, Union Square, Columbus Circle and even inside Grand Central Station. Many hotels, restaurants and bars deck their halls for the holidays and offer seasonal specialties, too.

Photo courtesy of Julienne Schaer / NYC & Company
Photo courtesy of Julienne Schaer / NYC & Company

Spring events

After a long, cold winter, New Yorkers tend to come out of hibernation in the spring and many outdoor bars and restaurants reopen for the season. Every April, the Tribeca Film Festival draws actors, directors and their fans to the city for a series of film premieres, red carpet events and parties. The first Monday in May brings the biggest star-studded event of the season: the Met Gala, whose theme coincides with the exhibit at the Met’s Costume Institute. Memorial Day at the end of May unofficially marks the beginning of the summer season even though summer doesn’t technically start until June.

Summer events

June is Pride Month in New York City, with events and festivals taking place almost every day and culminating in the world’s largest Pride Parade. In July, New York puts on one of the best Independence Day celebrations in the country, with a spectacular fireworks show and parties across the city.

There are lots of fun seasonal activities too, like the annual Summer Streets celebration, Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacourt Theater in Central Park, outdoor concerts and film screenings at Bryant Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and other green spaces. You’ll also find plenty of food trucks and festivals such as Smorgasburg — a series of open-air food markets with specialties from local vendors in Brooklyn and beyond — on the weekends.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Postlewaite / NYC & Company
Photo courtesy of Christopher Postlewaite / NYC & Company

Fall events

Fall not only brings some of the best weather, but also some of the best holidays and events. Archtober is celebrated over the entire month of October, with hundreds of architecture-focused tours, exhibits, talks and events like Open House New York, which throws open the doors to some of the city’s most incredible off-limits sites. October also brings Halloween, which is a big deal in New York City. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade draws New Yorkers of all stripes to march through the streets in elaborate costumes.

Every November, it seems like the whole city comes out to cheer on more than 50,000 runners who participate in the New York City Marathon. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the world’s largest parades and is broadcast all over the country.

There are plenty of other, more niche events, like New York Fashion Week, Pickle Day (a Lower East Side tradition), the Brooklyn Book Festival, the New Yorker Festival, the New York Comedy Festival and the Festival of San Gennaro.

Bottom line

There really is no “best” time to go to New York City, but generally speaking it’s a good idea to go in the spring or fall. January and February offer the best deals, but those are also the coldest months, so you have to decide if the trade-off is worth it.

The best day to check into a hotel is on a Sunday and, if you’re flexible about where you want to stay, you’re more likely to get a good deal on a room if you wait to book until a week or two ahead of time. Just be sure to book your flight at least a month in advance.

Featured photo by Christopher Postlewaite / NYC & Company

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