New York City is a major domestic and international tourist destination, as well as a world economic capital. This constant influx of people means tourism in the city doesn't limit itself to the usual summer and holiday high seasons.
Instead, all year is high season. At the times of year when corporate travel tapers off, tourist travel picks up. And travel providers also have to prepare for the influx of international tourists during the extended holidays of other countries. Because there is no low season, there's no best time to visit if you want to avoid crowds and high prices. Instead, you'll add the most value to your trip by avoiding the highest peak seasons and booking well in advance.
- high season: mid-March to December
- shoulder season: January to early March
Temperatures in New York do fluctuate drastically, both seasonally and between day and night.
Winter high temperatures tend to be in the upper 30s and low 40s, and annual snowfall averages about 29 inches. Springtime is mild, with temperatures in the mid- to upper-50s in April that work into the upper 70s by June. Summers are hot and humid. Sea breezes occasionally temper the heat, but the city's dense infrastructure often hinders the air flow. Autumn brings a return to more palatable weather, with temperatures ranging from the mid-70s in September to the low 50s in November. Precipitation amounts do not vary greatly from month to month.
Even without the tourists, New York City is a crowded city. Subways and sidewalks are packed during the morning and evening rush hours, and traffic on major streets and avenues is often stop-and-go.
Autumn, Christmas, and spring are the most popular, expensive, and crowded times of the year. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are especially busy, because in addition to the regular tourists, tri-state area residents make day trips into the city to shop and see the Christmas decorations and shows. During the holiday rush, hotels charge higher rates and book up early, and many require a minimum two- or three-night stay; restaurant reservations are almost impossible to get.
There is no real low season, but there is a slightly less lofty high season. While more tourists are beginning to catch on, New York City is still emptiest in summer, the time most New Yorkers head out of town on the weekends.
New York City never sleeps, and it never really shuts down either. Most visitor destinations are open year-round. Times Square is as bright in March as it is in July. The exception to this is outdoor tours, some of which may go on hiatus or operate on a reduced schedule during the cold winter months.
Seasonal schedules like this, however, occur on a case-by-case basis. The best thing you can do, no matter what time of year you're traveling, is check before you leave to make sure the tours and sights on your to-do list are open and operating when you want them to be.
When to Save
Visiting New York City isn't cheap, but there are ways to cut costs. Hotels sometimes offer discounts or deals when hotel occupancy and visitation are lower, typically in January and February.
When to Book
Not surprisingly, when to book depends on when you are arriving and where you are staying. If you want to spend Christmas at a hotel near Central Park, book as early as possible, at least six months in advance. If you're visiting in February and don't care where your hotel is, you can probably hold out longer for a deal. Just remember that, in addition to the tourists, New York City has a large business and convention travel population, which operates independently of leisure travel trends. Be flexible with your hotel choices and locations, and check the city's events calendar, as well as the Javitz Center schedule for any big conventions.
Information provided by NYC & Company.