December in New York City Weather and Event Guide

New York City is a great place to experience the holidays and New Year's Eve

Illuminated christmas trees at the ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Center, Manhattan, New York City, USA, America
Franz Marc Frei/LOOK-foto/Getty Images

December is a wonderful (and popular) time to visit New York City. Visitors flock to New York City to do their holiday shopping, to experience the city's amazing sights and shows (the Rockettes, anyone?) and to experience first hand the stunning decorations that turn New York City into a holiday wonderland, from the tree at Rock Center to the decorations in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Of course, the month ends with the New Year's Eve countdown and ball drop in Times Square. With proper preparation, it can be a memorable and magical time to visit.

Average December Weather

Don't let the cold weather keep you from seeing all of New York City's great December sights. As long as you dress appropriately, it's not usually freezing cold in December and the season's festivities and lights bring an energy to the city that is particularly memorable.

  • Average High: 44°F (7°C)
  • Average Low: 32°F (0°C)

What to Wear

Dressing for the weather is essential to having a pleasant time in New York City during the winter. Although you might not consider it an outdoor destination, in order to see most of the sights and to experience the city, you're going to find yourself spending more time outside and perhaps more time walking than you might expect. Being comfortably dressed for the weather, including wearing layers that can help you adjust to the variation in temperatures you will experience between being outside, being on the subway and during visits to museums and attractions, will play a key role in allowing you to maximize your enjoyment during your visit.

  • Sweaters
  • A warm, windproof jacket
  • Long pants
  • Closed-toe shoes or boots, comfortable for walking and water-resistant, if possible
  • Gloves or mittens, a hat, and scarf to keep warm

Pros and Cons of Visiting in December 

New York City is a great place to do your holiday shopping. The city's many holiday markets are great places to buy interesting gifts for just about anyone on your holiday shopping list -- and they've become well curated over the years so there are lots of local and handmade goods available. More can't miss sights are the holiday window displays and the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

On the flip side, hotel prices and airfares are high, as this is peak travel time to the city. And while you can get lucky, the truth is the weather is unpredictable -- while you can experience milder weather, the weather can be quite cold.

Good to Know

  • It's a bit cliche, but if you don't celebrate Christmas, it's a good time to head to Chinatown for a meal on Christmas Day or even catch a movie at one of New York City's special movie theaters -- it's what many Jewish families living in New York City do if they haven't left the city for the holidays. 
  • A great way to commemorate your December visit to NYC is a photo with Santa -- The Plaza Santa is highly recommended if you want a good-spirited choice that won't care if you have kids or not.