What To Wear in New York in December ? Ultimate Guide

Getting to Know December in New York City

New York City is an incredible place to visit during the holiday season in December. The energy in the city is festive, with decorated trees lining the streets, elaborate holiday window displays at all the major department stores, and several massive Christmas trees at Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, and other key locations around the city. Iconic attractions like Radio City Music Hall host spectacular holiday-themed shows. There are also holiday markets where you can browse for unique locally made gifts and enjoy hot chocolate or mulled wine to warm up.

December is peak tourist season in New York since so many people want to experience the magical ambiance of the holidays in the Big Apple. The crowds can definitely be intense, but visiting during this special time of year is still totally worth it. The cold temperatures and chance of snow only add to the seasonal charm.

However, the winter weather that arrives in December means you must pack the proper attire if you want to comfortably experience all the wonderful indoor and outdoor activities New York City offers during the Christmas season.

What Weather to Expect in December in NYC

Average Temperature Statistics

The average high temperature in New York City during December is 43°F (6°C). The average low is 33°F (1°C). However, it’s important to note these are just averages. The actual daily temperatures can vary quite a bit.

Some warm winter days in December can reach up to 55°F (13°C). But when arctic winds sweep down through the city, frigid temperatures around 25°F (-4°C) or lower are not uncommon either.

The record low for NYC in December is 4°F (-16°C), so it certainly can get bitterly cold at times. The record high for December is 72°F (22°C), showing these winter warm ups also occur.

Weather Variations

Typically early December still feels like fall, with milder temperatures and a lower chance of snow. As winter gets into full swing, late December brings much more wintry conditions to New York.

During your December trip to New York, you may be lucky enough to experience sunny yet brisk days that are perfect for ice skating in Central Park. Other days, it can be absolutely frigid with bone-chilling winds and flurries of snow swirling through the streets of Manhattan.

The weather during December truly runs the gamut, which makes checking the forecast before your trip extremely helpful. This gives you an idea of how to effectively plan your wardrobe and activities.

While winter weather comes as no surprise to New Yorkers, properly preparing for the cold, wind, snow, and rain is key to enjoying the city during the holiday season as a visitor.

Essential Clothing Items to Pack for NYC in December

The key to dressing for New York City in December is layering. The outdoor temperature combined with strong winds can feel freezing. But you’ll also likely spend time indoors where venues blast the heat.

Having versatile layers you can easily shed or add as needed is crucial. This allows you to comfortably enjoy everything New York has to offer during your December trip.

Clothing Essentials for Women

a woman with long blonde hair wearing a hat and scarf

For women, recommended essential clothing items for a December visit to NYC include:

  • Heavy winter coat that is waterproof – this is your outer cold weather protection, so make sure it is suitably insulated with down or other warm lining. It should block wind and have a hood. Wool coats or quilted jackets work too.
  • Sweaters in both lightweight and chunky knits – great for layering under your coat and removing once indoors.
  • Long sleeve shirts and blouses – to wear under sweaters or on their own.
  • Jeans or leggings – both make excellent winter bottoms. Leggings can also be worn under pants or dresses for added warmth.
  • Warm winter boots – waterproof if snow or rain are possibilities. These keep your feet dry and warm for hours of outdoor sightseeing.
  • Cozy socks – thick wool socks add warmth and cushioning. Bring a few pairs in case your feet get wet.
  • Base layer tops and leggings – made from sweat-wicking performance fabrics, base layers add warmth without bulk.
  • Gloves, winter hat, and scarf – essential for protecting your head, neck, and hands from winter winds and chill.
  • Pajamas – pack warm sleepwear since hotels can be drafty.
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With these core winter clothing items, you’ll be set to bundle up and brave the freezing NYC temperatures in style.

Clothing Essentials for Men

For men, must-have clothing for a December trip to the Big Apple includes:

  • Insulated winter coat – this outer layer protects against cold, wind, snow, and rain. Popular options are heavy down coats, wool overcoats, or long quilted jackets.
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts – great for layering underneath your jacket. Crew neck sweaters or thick hoodies work well.
  • Long sleeve button-down shirts – flannel and corduroy are warm fabrics for winter.
  • Jeans or casual pants – dark wash denim or corduroys make excellent winter legwear. Bring a few pairs.
  • Boots or high-top sneakers – boots with grippy soles are best for snow and ice. Leather high-tops also give ankle support and warmth.
  • Warm socks – wool or thick cotton socks to keep your feet toasty. Rotate pairs if they get wet.
  • Base layer tops and bottoms – long underwear made from moisture-wicking fabric adds warmth without bulk.
  • Gloves and winter hat – essential for keeping your hands and head/ears warm when outdoors.

Having these key items in your suitcase will allow you to beat the NYC cold while still looking stylish. Plus it makes it easy to adjust your layers as needed when transitioning between indoor and outdoor activities.

Ideal Accessories for Winter in NYC

In addition to your coat, boots, and layers, accessories are key. The right accessories keep you comfortable and safe during your December trip to New York. They also allow you to add personality and polish off your cold weather ensemble.

a woman in a red hat is standing in the street

Essential Accessories for Keeping Warm

Some accessories that are necessities for keeping you warm and protected in wintery NYC include:

  • Scarf – look for oversized, thick scarves to wrap around your neck and cover your face from freezing winds.
  • Hat – beanies, knit hats, and ear warmers all help keep your head and ears toasty.
  • Gloves – pack touchscreen compatible gloves so you can still use your phone without exposing bare hands to the cold.
  • Earmuffs – provide an extra layer to shield your ears from frigid winds.
  • Thermal socks – worn under regular socks, these add cushioning and warmth.
  • Hand warmers – these single use packets provide up to 10 hours of heat to keep hands and pockets warm.
  • Lip balm – hydrating lip balm protects your lips from painful windburn and cracking.
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Having these winter gear accessories is crucial for your comfort during long days spent outdoors sightseeing or waiting in line for holiday attractions.

Functional and Fashionable Accessories

Beyond just the accessories needed for warmth and safety, you can also incorporate some more fashionable and functional accessories into your NYC winter outfits.

Some stylish yet useful accessories to consider bringing include:

  • Crossbody purse or small backpack – carry your daily essentials in a bag that won’t slip off your shoulder while bundled in a coat.
  • Sunglasses – bright sun glaring off fresh snow can be painful without sunglasses. Pick lenses suited for winter sun glaring off snow.
  • Small foldable umbrella – pop up umbrellas are handy for sudden snow or rain showers.
  • Portable phone charger – charge your phone on the go since you’ll be using it frequently for navigation and pictures.
  • Camera – capture all the magical holiday moments. Extra batteries and SD cards allow you to take tons of photos.
  • Reusable water bottle – stay hydrated without needing to buy bottles of water everywhere.
  • Packable down jacket – brings extra warmth without taking up space for easy layering.

Choose stylish yet practical accessories that complement your outfits while making your December visit easier.

Pro Tips for New York City Winter Fashion

Looking fashionable during winter in New York City is all about creativity, functionality, and embracing the seasonal trends. Here are some tips for looking stylish and staying warm:

Layering Techniques for Warmth and Style

Mastering the art of layering is key for keeping warm while looking put together. Some layering techniques include:

  • Choose fitted long underwear or base layer pieces that don’t add bulk underneath your main layers
  • Add an extra insulating layer like a vest over your base layer before putting on your coat
  • Experiment with thinner sweaters or long sleeve shirts under chunky knit sweaters
  • Use a lightweight puffer jacket under your heavy winter coat for extra warmth without feeling bulky
  • Wear leggings or thermals under pants or jeans
  • Use scarves, gloves, and hats as final layers to finish off your bundled look

Properly layering up allows you to shed pieces once you go indoors so you don’t get overheated. Following the “onion principle” by starting with thin moisture-wicking layers, adding bulkier insulation layers, and finishing with a protective outer shell creates a comfortable winter outfit.

Exploring Bold Colors and Textures

Many tend to just wear basic black coats, pants, and other winter clothing. But don’t be afraid to showcase your personal style and embrace this season’s hottest winter fashion trends when visiting New York City, including:

  • Bright colored or printed scarves that pop against dark coats
  • Oversized sweaters with boldPatterns like fair isle or Nordic prints
  • Metallic pleather leggings or pants
  • Faux fur and shearling coats that add eye-catching texture
  • Chunky knit hats and gloves
  • Iridescent snow boots
  • Plaid coats or skirts
  • Sweaters with extra long side slits
  • Cable knit details on tops, dresses, tights, and more

Have fun with winter fashion in NYC by trying edgier silhouettes, fresh colors, and interesting fabrics like velvet, corduroy, tweed, and faux fur. The cold weather lets you get creative with exciting layers.

Packing Checklist for December New York Visit

Use this packing checklist to ensure you have all the proper cold weather gear for a December vacation in New York City:

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Must-have Clothing Pieces

  • Waterproof winter boots – snow, slush, and icy sidewalks are inevitabilities
  • Warm socks – multiple pairs to rotate as needed
  • Jeans or casual pants
  • Leggings and thermals
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts
  • Button-down shirts or long sleeve tees
  • Heavy winter coat that covers your legs
  • Beanie or knit hat
  • Scarf and gloves
  • Warm pajamas

Critical Accessories

  • Crossbody purse or small backpack
  • Portable phone charger and battery pack
  • Lip balm and hand cream
  • Foldable umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Hand warmers
  • Travel tissues

Top December Attractions and What to Wear

The top things to do in December in New York range from outdoor winter activities to indoor holiday events. Here are suggestions on what to wear to make the most of each:

Outdoor NYC Activities in December

  • Ice skating at Rockefeller Center, Central Park, or Bryant Park – Winter coat, extra layers, hat, waterproof gloves, thick socks, scarf
  • Holiday markets – Winter coat, extra layers, boots, hat, waterproof gloves, hand warmers for long stints outdoors
  • Apple picking – Winter coat, jeans, boots, hat, gloves
  • New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show – Winter coat, sweater, jeans, boots, hat, gloves, scarf
  • Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge – Winter coat, jeans, sneakers or boots, hat, gloves, scarf
  • Horse and carriage ride – Heavy winter coat, sweater, hat, waterproof boots, gloves

Bundle up in plenty of layers for any extended time spent outdoors in the NYC winter chill. Having the right winter gear lets you fully embrace beloved outdoor December activities.

Indoor NYC Activities in December

You can get away with fewer or lighter layers when heading indoors. Recommended attire for top indoor activities includes:

  • Holiday shows like the Nutcracker or Radio City Christmas Spectacular – Cocktail dress with tights and heels or blazer with dress pants
  • Visiting museums – Sweater with jeans, boots, and stylish jacket
  • Seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree – Jeans, boots, sweater, winter coat, hat, gloves
  • Shopping the holiday windows on 5th Ave – Jeans, boots, sweater, stylish winter coat, scarf
  • Taking photos at hotel holiday light displays – Cocktail dress and heels or dress pants with blazer
  • Eating at nice restaurants – Sweater dress with tights, ankle boots, and leather jacket

For indoor activities, you can likely remove your heavy outerwear once inside. Opt for stylish layers you can shed if you get too warm.


Visiting New York City during the magical holiday season in December is truly special. However, the cold winter weather means you must plan your wardrobe carefully.

The key is dressing in warm layers that provide insulation yet don’t restrict movement. Waterproof boots, winter coat, hat, gloves, and scarf are winter must-haves. Thermals, sweaters, and base layers allow you to adjust your level of warmth.

Don’t forget fashionable accessories that also serve a purpose like crossbody bags, portable chargers, and sunglasses. Experiment with fun colors, trends, and textures while remaining functional. Proper preparation is key to experiencing New York City to the fullest during the winter.

With creativity and practicality, you can conquer both the winter chill and the holiday bustle of New York like a pro. So get ready to bundle up and have the magical December of your dreams in this iconic city!

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