We visited New York City for New Year’s in 2017. Temperatures were down to -12°C (10.4°F), with warnings of the governor to stay indoors as much as possible. The perfect excuse to explore some of the most fun indoor things to do in New York City on a rainy day.
Included: tips on how to skip the line so you don’t have to wait in the rain.
Psst, rain isn’t a requirement to do these things, we won’t judge if you do some of them on a sunny day!
Visit some museums
The classic indoor activity for a cold and rainy day is visiting a museum, and New York City has plenty of those.
9/11 Memorial & Museum
If there’s one museum you should visit in New York City, it’s the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. I won’t call it the most fun thing to do in New York City on a rainy day, but 9/11 was a significant day in the history of the city we can’t ignore.
With exhibits illustrating the physical and emotional destruction New York City experienced on 9/11, this will be a confronting museum visit. Read more about the 9/11 Memorial & Museum here.
American Museum of Natural History
Another very popular museum in New York City is the American Museum of Natural History. It’s one of the biggest museums in the world and very old, but not at all boring.
With permanent exhibitions ranging from dinosaur skeletons to meteorites and temporary exhibitions about present-day topics, the American Museum of Natural History has something for everyone. Read more about this museum here.
Challenge: find the exhibits that make an appearance in the movie “Night at the Museum”.
Museum of Modern Art
Although lots of indoor activities cost money, there are also some free things to do in New York City on a rainy day. One of those things is the Museum of Modern Art.
In the MoMA you’ll find contemporary art in the form of architecture, paintings, photographs, design, sculptures, film, and music. Read more about the Museum of Modern Art here.
Tip: If you’re looking for the famous paintings from Warhol, Dali and Pollock (among others), head to floor 5.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Some New York City museums are paid, some are free, but at the Metropolitan Museum of Art you can pay whatever you want. Situated at the eastern edge of Central Park, the Met is the largest art museum in the United States.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has all kinds of art on display in a seemingly endless maze of galleries. From ancient Egypt to modern America, the art collection of the Met spans over 5,000 years and the entire world.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Can’t get enough of art museums? Here’s another one: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, better known simply as the Guggenheim. Located just up the road from the Met, this architecturally distinct museum is hard to miss.
The Guggenheim Museum displays modern and contemporary art of different private collections. You can attend lectures, performances and film screenings here as well.
Go gaming at VR World
We like a museum every once in a while, but VR World is without a doubt our favourite thing to do in New York City on a rainy day. As the name of the place suggests, it’s an arcade hall with virtual reality games.
We could have easily spent the entire afternoon there, but we only bought a 2 hour pass. If you’re there at opening time (12:00), you’ll beat the crowds and waiting times will be more or less non-existent for the first hour or so.
Play an escape room
Another fun and interactive thing to do in New York City on a rainy day is an escape room. You basically get locked in a room and have to find clues that will help you escape. If you’re a team player that likes to solve riddles, this real-life puzzle game is right up your alley. We certainly love it!
New York City is bursting with all kinds of interesting shops, selling anything you can image. Big department stores are great to get lost in while escaping the rain. Here are some suggestions.
Note that the markers mark the location of the flagship stores. Most of these shops have more store locations throughout New York City and the world.
Century 21 is a huge department store selling fashion items (including top designers) and housewares. Their slogan: 65% off, 100% of the time. Definitely worth a visit.
Bergdorf Goodman and Barney's on the other hand are luxury goods department stores, selling the latest designs from Prada, Jimmy Choo and Gucci among others. The difference between these two? The first one has just one store, the second one is a chain.
However, the most popular luxury department store is probably Saks Fifth Avenue, right across from Rockefeller Center. Its iconic shop windows are a (tourist) attraction on their own, and during holiday season, the facade of the building is lit up by a magical light show.
If you prefer homeware over clothes, you should take your time to wander around the different floors of ABC Carpet & Home. They sell awesome and unique pieces, created with sustainability and fair labor standards in mind. Prices are rather high, but we loved wandering around, looking for inspiration for our own home.
Wander around some indoor markets
If you’re like me, you enjoy admiring the big luxury department stores where you can only watch, not buy, but you prefer small markets with unique, often handmade stuff. Luckily those markets aren’t all outdoors in New York City.
Artists & Fleas
While walking around New York City we stumbled upon Artists & Fleas Williamsburg. It was love at first sight! This lovely indoor market brings together hip merchants selling all kinds of unique crafts and designs. I love that you get to meet the designer or maker behind the stuff you buy as well.
Indoor markets can be about food too, like Chelsea Market. There’s an Artists & Fleas here as well, but most of the resident vendors at Chelsea Market sell food. From Italian sandwiches to bite-size donuts and some great coffee, you can find it all beneath one roof!
Catch a Broadway Show
If there’s one thing you must do in New York City on a rainy day (or a sunny day for that matter), it’s catching a Broadway Show. Whether you prefer a matinee or evening show, there are tons of productions to choose from.
During our 2 visits to New York City we’ve seen 3 different musicals: Matilda, Kinky Boots, and The Waitress. All amazing!
Grab a movie
If you’re not that into musicals, or your budget doesn’t allow for more than one Broadway Show, you can always spend the afternoon in a movie theatre. We watched “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at an AMC Theatre. Brecht bought tickets beforehand on the AMC website, but there was hardly anyone else there. Honestly, who goes to the movies on the first of January?!
We were pleasantly surprised by the comfort of the chairs at AMC. We’re not used to soft reclining chairs like that in Belgium! Do note that popcorn is usually served salted with a buttery topping in New York City. I was expecting sweet popcorn, but accidentally ordered a huge bucket of salted popcorn. You’re warned!
Go to a comedy show
Although they usually don’t do comedy shows in the afternoon, it still is a great way to spend a rainy evening in New York City. Gotham Comedy Club has shows nearly daily and you can buy tickets beforehand through their website. We certainly enjoyed a funny New Year’s Eve there!
All of the above are indoor things to do in New York City on a rainy day, but we won’t judge if you decide to do them on a sunny day. They can be great to escape the heat as well. And some are just too fun to skip, like VR World, an escape room and a Broadway Musical!
Did we miss any cool things to do in New York City on a rainy day? We’d love to read about your experiences in the comments!
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