Some people say New York is the center of the Universe, and that all good things run through this city, and it alone. Even if you don’t buy that at all, it’s one of the finest destination choices you can possibly make, thanks to a food scene which needs no introduction, jaw dropping views from any vantage point and ever changing neighbourhoods with character unlike anywhere else in the world – including the cabbies that will inevitably yell at you. With temperatures ranging from 110F to -30F, when you go is everything though.
There are times of year, where much like European capitols, the only people who are actually in New York City are tourists, people who make money from tourists and people without enough vacation time to escape the city. As a life long New Yorker, here are the best times to visit New York, and what you can expect in each distinct season.
You think you know extreme weather, and then you go to New York. Outside of arctic circles, or Chicago, few places on earth rip through your layers and leave a bone tingling chill the way New York does in peak winter. In summer, it’s the same on the opposite end of the spectrum. The temperature may not be as warm as Dubai statistically, but with humidity near 100%, it sure can feel worse.
If you don’t mind the chill, you can justify heading to New York in the lead up to December holidays, from November through December for ice skating, post Thanksgiving sales, Home Alone romance and all that good stuff, but that’s only if you’re ready to tough out the cold. If you do, go in early December when flights are cheapest.
If you don’t mind the extreme heat, early June or late August can often be ok, but that’s by no means a guarantee, and you can expect flight and hotel prices to surge, since most US schools will be on break during these times. July… that’s when people head to the countryside, like the Jersey Shore, Montauk, the Hamptons and beyond in hopes of escaping the brutal heat.
If there’s ever a time to just stare at the Manhattan skyline from Williamsburg waterfront and say “damn, that’s a beautiful sunset”, it’s usually late September or October. When you say “let’s rent some bikes and go for a jolly through Central Park”, it’s usually late March, April or May.
And there you have it. In my opinion, there’s no better time to visit New York City than: March, April, May or September, October. Here’s a case for each one…
March – you may find yourself in between, or if you’re unlucky – still in mid winter. But this is often when the city begins to peek its head out from hibernation and you can enjoy an incredibly pleasant atmosphere. To avoid winter weather, the later the safer. You’ll probably still need a coat, but for walking around without sweating, this is when it all begins.
April – the month of April does often bring showers, as the adage goes, but it can be one of the most glorious times of year in New York. Think t-shirts during the day, sweaters at night and spring in bloom across Central Park, botanical gardens and more.
May – it’s safe to say that May is often one of the two finest months to be in New York. Winter has officially unshackled its menacing grip, the humidity of summer hasn’t yet arrived, and neither have the mass market tourists. Hotel and flight prices are often fantastic in May, and coupled with great pre summer sales and better availability at restaurants, you really can’t beat it.
September – in September, the chaos of New York heat and peak summer begins to fade, and so do the crowds, with most schools back in session. But that doesn’t mean the fun is fading. September is the time of US Open Tennis, Fashion Week and countless other celebrations. Even with that stuff going on, flights are often very reasonable, and the weather is still legitimately warm, but much less humid.
October – if you asked me my genuine favourite month to be in New York, it’s gotta be October, and that’s particularly true for the early side. Sure, temperatures start to drop, but in most years they are still gorgeous during the day. Whether you’ll get a tan is borderline, but comfortable – totally. At night, things cool off for amazing walks.
Since October is the shoulder season before Thanksgiving travel and after summer, it can be the best time of year to score great deals on just about everything. And as far as sunsets go, it’s the very best time of year to head up to a place like Top Of The Standard and watch the sun set over this amazing city from an elevated perch.