New York City is an incredible destination to visit, with world-class museums, shows on Broadway, amazing restaurants, and countless things to see and do. However, the crowds and prices fluctuate depending on the time of year you visit. If you’re looking to avoid the most hectic, expensive, and uncomfortable time to visit NYC, here’s what you need to know.
Summer is generally the worst time for visiting New York City for a few reasons:
- Summer is peak tourism season, when NYC gets flooded with visitors. Lines at attractions, museums, restaurants get very long.
- Sidewalks, subways, stores are jam-packed. Hard to navigate the streets or get a seat on the subway.
- Times Square is exceptionally crowded in summer. Prepare for shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and slow walking.
Heat and Humidity
- Temperatures in NYC can reach up into the 90s Fahrenheit with very high humidity.
- The urban landscape traps heat and can make it feel 10 degrees hotter.
- Subways feel like saunas without much air circulation.
- Hotels raise their prices significantly in summer. Rooms often go for 2X their normal rate.
- Airbnbs also see summer rate hikes. Less inventory available too.
- Broadway shows do not offer discounts in summer. Full-price tickets only.
Discounts and Free Activities Limited
- Many free events like outdoor concerts, movies, or performances do not run in summer.
- Museums and attractions drop their off-season discounts in summer.
Holidays and Special Events
NYC gets extremely crowded and expensive around major holidays and special events. Here are some to watch out for:
- Christmas / New Year’s week – crowds flock to see the holiday decor and Times Square ball drop. Airfares and hotel rates skyrocket.
- Thanksgiving Day Parade – hotels book up months in advance and raise rates for the Macy’s parade.
- United Nations General Assembly (mid-Sept) – hotels get booked by diplomats and security increases.
- NYC Marathon (early November) – city has road closures and attracts huge runner crowds.
- Major conventions like Comic-Con take over the Javits Center and surrounding area.
FAQ about Visiting NYC
January-March offer the lowest hotel rates and airfares on average. Broadway tickets and tourist sites also offer more discounts and deals.
September and October have mild temperatures in the 60s-70s Fahrenheit along with beautiful fall foliage in Central Park. May and June are pleasant too before the summer heat arrives.
Book Broadway tickets for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday evenings when shows offer discounts or rush tickets. Avoid Friday and Saturday peak nights.
Subways and walking are the most affordable and efficient ways to explore. Purchase a MetroCard for unlimited subway and bus rides. Grab a taxi for quick crosstown trips.
Most people find you need 4-6 full days to experience the highlights at a relaxed pace. Give yourself 8+ days to dig deeper into museums, shows, neighborhoods.
Tips for Visiting NYC
- Plan sightseeing for Tuesday through Friday for lighter crowds.
- Book hotels 3-4 months in advance for best rates and availability.
- Pack comfortable walking shoes and make reservations for top restaurants.
- Consider a CityPass or Explorer Pass for admission to multiple attractions.
- Download the NYC Transit and Museum apps to help navigate the subways and attractions.
By avoiding the peak summer months, holidays, and special events, you can beat the worst crowds and prices in New York City. With some advance planning, you can find great deals on flights, hotels, Broadway, and more to experience the best of the Big Apple!