New York is magical in the winter. The state's iconic mountains and valleys are blanketed in snow, its lakes and rivers sparkle with ice, and its cities come alive with holiday revelry. And the dropping temperatures don't slow things down—far from it. Whether you want to zoom down a mountain, race through one of the nation's most fun museums, or just chill out by the pool, New York has you covered this winter.
If the approaching Winter Olympics is inspiring you to try some high-octane cold weather sports, you’re in luck: Lake Placid—home of the winter games in 1932 and 1980—offers you the opportunity to try out bobsledding! With the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience, riders can zoom at speeds up to 55 miles per hour along a track featuring thrilling turns and a speed-gathering straightaway.
2. Ride an Ice Bike at Canalside
If you’re looking to hit the ice this winter, but you’re not the steadiest skater, Ice Bikes of Buffalo is just the thing for you. Pedal and steer your way around Canalside’s rink without the risk of wiping out. As they say: it's just like riding a bike.
3. Take a family escape to Rocking Horse Ranch
For the ultimate family vacation, look no further than the all-inclusive 500-acre Hudson Valley funplex, Rocking Horse Ranch. Kids will love the indoor water park, nightly entertainment, ski lessons, tubing, sleigh rides, and much more. Parents will love the supervised kids programs—which means mom and dad can sneak off to the spa, go horseback riding, or just take some well-deserved downtime.
4. Cheer for the Utica Comets
Take in all the fun at the historic Adirondack Bank Center (known as the Aud to locals) when the Utica Comets hit the ice for explosive American Hockey League action all winter long.
5. Get in the holiday spirit at the Winter Village at the Chautauqua Institution
The Chautauqua Institution is beloved for its annual summer season of world-class cultural and educational events. This winter, the grounds open to the public weekends through the end of the year with a marketplace, tree lightings, horse-drawn carriage rides, wine tastings, and more. You’ll also be able to check out the Institution’s famous spas, shops, and restaurants. Fridays through Sundays, November 24 - December 31
6. Ride a Dog Sled on Mirror Lake
Get a taste of life in the Arctic Circle when you race across frozen Mirror Lake on a sled pulled by dogs! Kids and adults alike won’t forget this truly unique winter thrill.
7. See New York City like you've never seen it at the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
Model trains zip through a massive, immersive collection of New York landmarks, all constructed out of natural materials like bark, leaves, and twigs. Kids will love following the trains through the display; adults will marvel at the awe-inspiring botanical architecture. Through January 15
8. Stock up on holiday gifts at Tanger Outlets
Whoever’s on your holiday shopping list, you’re sure to find something for them at either of Long Island’s two Tanger Outlet locations, in Deer Park and Riverhead. Both locations are packed with shops selling discounted high-end clothing, electronics, accessories, food and more. And you’ll save enough money that you won’t feel bad picking up a little something for yourself while you’re at it.
9. Burn off some steam indoors at the Strong National Museum of Play
This massive Rochester museum is packed with interactive exhibitions, including a gallery of playable pinball machines, a year-round butterfly garden, and the Toys Hall of Fame. Kids will be entertained here from start to finish. They might even learn a few things—but you don't need to tell them that part.
10. Experience a midwinter icon at the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
This annual festival dates back to 1897, and this year it serves up 10 days of games, performances, delicious treats, performances, fireworks, and much more. It all unfolds around the eye-popping (and highly photogenic) Ice Palace, which is constructed of ice harvested from the nearby Lake Flower. February 2 - 11
11. Be dazzled by Capital Holiday Lights in the Park
Take in a shimmering al-fresco light show from the comfort of your car at this sprawling annual installation. You’ll see holiday scenes rendered in twinkling bulbs, and drive through colorful tunnels of light. At the end of the drive, stop by the lake house for snacks, crafts, and a chance to hang out with Santa. Through January 2; Santa through December 23
12. See Niagara Falls shrouded in ice
Bundle up for one of New York’s most awe-inspiring off-season spectacles. In winter, the iconic Niagara Falls transforms into an otherworldly zone of ice, mist and snow. Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds tours have concluded for the season, but you can still check out the new and improved year-round World Changed Here Pavilion, featuring interactive exhibits about the Falls.
13. Go snow-tubing at Hunter Mountain
Hunter is good for thrills and chills year round—you can even ride the famous zip line in the winter! One seasonal activity that’s sure to appeal to all ages is snow-tubing. Tubers can shoot down groomed lanes that are nearly 1,000 feet long, followed by a trip to the snack bar and some relaxation at the nearby fire pit.
14. Go winter fishing at Salmon River
Photograph: Courtesy of Oswego County Tourism
Head to Oswego County for some of the finest winter fishing New York has to offer. Salmon River, which stretches from 17 miles from the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir to Lake Ontario, is filled with steelhead in the winter. You can catch your dinner, but even if you don’t get a nibble the scenery is worth the trip.
15. See the Eternal Flame Falls at Chestnut Ridge
Tucked away inside this Western New York park is an extremely rare combination of fire, water, and ice, The so-called Eternal Flame Falls features a gas-powered “eternal” (it occasionally has to be re-lit) fire tucked behind a waterfall. Once you’re done Instagramming it, check out the park’s other winter offerings, like cross-country skiing and toboggan shoots!
16. Warm up at the Cascades Indoor Water Park at Greek Peak
Greek Peak in the Finger Lakes region might be best known for its ski slopes in the winter, but this mountain resort is also home to the Cascades Indoor Water Park. Several slides, pools, and splashy play areas offer the whole family a chance to act like it's summer, no matter what Mother Nature is serving up outside.
17. Get Nostalgic at the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum
Fun fact: In addition to being the birthplace of the women's suffrage movement, Seneca Falls is widely believed to be the the inspiration for the fictional Bedford Falls, the setting of Frank Capra's Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life. Today the town is home to this quaint museum packed with film artifacts and ephemera (some of it donated by the cast and crew), as well as information about the movie and its stars. There's no better time than the holiday season to visit.
18. Ski (and more) at Holiday Valley Mountain Resort
New York is packed with ski areas—we have more than any other state!—and Holiday Valley Resort is one of the most popular, with 58 slopes spread across four faces, a 750-foot vertical drop and 13 lifts to keep things moving. But even non-skiers will have a blast. The resort also offers snowshoeing, tubing, and mountain coaster rides, among other outdoor activities. And there are several lodges for when it's time to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate.
19. Try ice wine at Casa Larga
Ice wine is made from grapes that have frozen while still on the vine, which makes for a deliciously sweet vino. Casa Larga in the Finger Lakes has ice wine on offer all year, but they devote a whole festival to the stuff on February 24, complete with carriage rides, a wine-infused menu, and a chance to meet the hearty souls who harvest the frozen grapes.
20. Stay at a cozy cabin in the Catskills
Whether you're looking for a base for exploring New York's gorgeous Catskills in the winter, or you just want to curl up and hide out for the weekend, a cozy cabin is a perfect way to experience the region. Bring a book (or three), and be prepared for maximum relaxation.