New York is an ideal city to explore on foot – except on rainy, snowy days. When the weather turns foul, umbrella-wielding pedestrians clog soggy sidewalks and the parks become a muddy mess. The Met Museum, MoMa, and Macys are certainly great choices to avoid the elements: unfortunately most people make that same choice and those destinations become very crowded. Here are some excellent, less-trafficked NYC attractions for wet or frigid days.
NYC museums –
The Frick Collection is one of the city’s finest art museums. Housed in a palatial mansion yet relatively intimate, the exquisite collection (which includes works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Renoir, and Van Gogh), can easily be enjoyed within a few hours.
The Morgan Library & Museum is another mansion and private collection of the uber-rich (in this case, J.P. Morgan) that became a museum. While the collection of precious manuscripts and objects is astounding, it may be Mr. Morgan’s spectacular library that leaves you gaping.
If you’d like to learn more about NYC and its complex history, The Museum of the City of New York and The New York Historical Society are excellent museums. The Historical Society has a vast collection of objects from NYC’s rich past, reaching all the way back to the earliest days.
If you’re intrigued by the subway (and who isn’t?) Brooklyn’s New York Transit Museum is a great option. Housed in a former subway station, the museum showcases NYC’s vast public transit network, including vintage buses and subway cars that kids (of all ages) can explore.
The Fraunces Tavern Museum – Fans of NYC and U.S. history will enjoy this intimate museum – where history was actually made. Artifacts from the city’s Revolutionary War era are exhibited, and you can visit the room where George Washington bade farewell to his troops. The period-style restaurant and bar are great spots to relax and warm up.
The tiny Skyscraper Museum presents the architecture and design of one of the city’s most distinctive features – its towering buildings.
The Paley Center for Media – Television and radio buffs will enjoy this midtown center with a public library of more than 150,000 TV and radio shows and commercials, daily screenings of classic television and media-focused films, and a roster of public programs.
Tenement Museum – This unique institution is not a traditional museum. Visitors are guided through restored tenement apartments to learn about the lives and struggles of Lower East Side immigrants during the late 19th / early 20th century. I recommend buying tour tickets in advance online (particularly on days with inclement weather).
These are just a few of the city’s superb, less-crowded museums. Here is a comprehensive list of NYC museums.
Explore NYC’s Great Buildings –
A few blocks west is another grand Beaux-Arts landmark – the New York Public Library. The stately marble lobby, magnificent Reading Room, and ornate Map Room are remarkable sights. The library also hosts interesting temporary exhibits.
NYC is home to two Gothic cathedrals – the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the colossal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, which is still a work in progress. Both house Gothic and modern devotional art and glorious stained-glass windows.
To continue your Art Deco immersion, next door to the GE Building is Radio City Music Hall, the enormous theater that is a masterpiece of Art Deco style and design. The theater is only open for performances or guided tours. For more information on both buildings and maps, see Rockefeller Center’s website.
Great Performances in NYC–
If your dreary day happens to be a weekend, consider a matinee performance of a Broadway show, off-Broadway, or at Lincoln Center (NYC Ballet, Metropolitan Opera, and NY Philharmonic). Same-day discount tickets for Broadway & off Broadway shows (up to 50% off) are available at the TKTS booths. TKTS also has a great mobile app, listing which shows are offered that day. Discount tickets can also be purchased in advance with codes via Broadway Box. The David Rubenstein Atrium, across the street from Lincoln Center, offers same-day discount tickets to Lincoln Center performances.
Wet Wednesdays are also a great time to catch a show, since Broadway and off-Broadway shows perform Wednesday matinees.
Many of the city’s great houses of worship (Trinity Church, Cathedral of St. John the Devine, St Bart’s, etc.) and museums offer inexpensive afternoon & evening classical and jazz concerts. Check Time Out NY’s Music Section or the NY Times Arts & Entertainment Guide for daily listings.
NYC’s “Underground” Art –
From the beginning, NYC’s subway system has included works of art to enhance its stations. In the 1980s the Metropolitan Transit Authority formed Arts for Transit, who continue the tradition by commissioning permanent and temporary art works throughout the system. The diverse works include photography, glass, sculpture, lighting, sound, poetry and, of course, mosaics. To design a tour of some of the works, check the Arts For Transit website, which details pieces by category, train line, or station. The Meridian app includes detailed information about the Arts for Transit works, which are searchable by subway line or artist.
NYC Food Delights for a Dreary Day–
NYC has no shortage of restaurants and cafes, but for maximum variety with minimal exposure to the weather, try the Food Court in Grand Central Terminal, the two miles of Concourse beneath Rockefeller Center, or bounteous Chelsea Market. Fans of Italian food will want to sample Eataly, with shops and eateries offering superior Italian cuisine.
Finally, if you’re in the Times Square area and need to escape the storm, the Times Square Museum & Visitors Center offers tourist information, exhibits and a short film on the history of the “Crossroads of the World,” a chance to see a replica of the glittering New Year’s Eve ball up close and in action, and visitors can write their New Year wish on confetti to be shot into the Square on New Year’s Eve. The center even features that rare NYC commodity: a clean public restroom.
What are your favorite spots in NYC to escape nasty weather? Leave us a comment and let us know.