New York City – What to Wear in December

Are you planning a trip to New York in December and not sure about what to wear or what clothes to pack? In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know:

  • What to pack/which clothes to bring
  • What to wear
  • Weather insights

We’ve been living in the city for many years so we can provide you with the most helpful tips.

December in NYC is a magical time, with incredible holiday lights displays and shopping along Fifth Avenue, the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, ice skating in Central Park, and the spirit of holiday cheer.

It is cold during this month, and the weather can change fast, so being prepared is important. Knowing what to wear that’s both stylish and functional will help you enjoy your trip.

There is not a lot of snowfall during December in NYC. However, you still need to dress for colder temps, especially in the second half of the month.

If you’re traveling to New York City in December, dress in warm layers for the cold weather. Wear jeans, a sweater or hoodie over a light base layer, a winter hat such as a beanie, a winter coat, and comfortable, warm walking shoes like high-top sneakers or boots.

Find our detailed and helpful clothing tips below the weather overview. We cover everything you need to know:

  • December outfit tips for ladies
  • December outfit tips for men
  • A packing list with essential items
  • Things to do

Weather

The weather in New York City in December is crisp and cold, and it may snow a little. In our experience, the beginning of the month is chilly and mild. Later, it gets colder. It’s best to wear a warm coat and layers when exploring the city.

Here are the average high temperatures for December in NYC:

  • Early December: 49°F (10°C)
  • Mid-December: 46°F (8°C)
  • Late December: 42°F (5°C)

Good to know: Due to climate change, it’s not as cold in December as it was in the past. Now it gets freezing later in the winter and stays cold later into spring. The appropriate clothing also depends on whether you are in NYC in early or late December. That’s why we provide you with detailed tips later in the ‘What to Wear’ section below.

A Typical Day

A typical day in the city is cold and brisk, and it can be windy. In early December, the temperatures are usually in the low to mid-40s Fahrenheit (4°C to 8°C).

Note that temperatures can vary even within a day in NYC, as it is usually about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder at night in December. Wearing layers ensures that you can change with the weather, adding or taking away a layer to stay comfortable.

Daily temperature progression on a typical December day in New York City:

  • Early morning: 40°F (4°C)
  • Afternoon (2 PM): 47°F (8°C)
  • Evening (9 PM): 43°F (6°C)
Rain
Rain is more likely than snow.

If you’re visiting New York City in December, there is a chance it will rain. There are, on average 8 rainy days during the month, so it’s good to be prepared with rain gear.

Snow

Although it’s the holiday season, you most likely won’t see snow in New York City during this month. It snows an average of two days, so there is still a chance you can get lucky and see snow. In our experience, if it snows here in December, it’s a light snowfall.

Good to know: It rains more than it snows. In fact, it snows more in February and March. December is now what November used to feel like, so it is a transitional month from cool to cold.

What to Wear / What to Pack

Dress warm enough when visiting the Christmas Markets in New York City. This is one at the edge of Columbus Circle.

Wear layers as the temperatures drop, especially later in the month.

Our basic tips:

  • Jeans
  • Sweater or hoodie over a light base layer
  • Winter hat such as a beanie
  • Winter coat
  • Comfy and warm walking shoes

In early December, you most likely won’t need a base layer during the days. At night you will need layers to stay warm during any time of the month.

The weather is colder in mid to late December and at night-time, so you will need layers at those times.

💡 If you are visiting within the first half of the month, you will most likely need layers only at night but can forego them during the day. In the second half of the month, dress in layers during the day and night to stay warm.

Rain gear: It rains sporadically here in December, so bring an umbrella at the minimum, and if you have room, pack a waterproof jacket or poncho as well. There is a slim chance of snow throughout the month, and your winter coat and regular boots or high-top sneakers should be fine for light snowfall.

Wind protection: New York City is surrounded by water, and it often gets windy, especially in the winter months and at nighttime. We like to be prepared for the wind by wearing beanies. Bring a beanie or winter hat to keep your head warm when it’s windy, and wear a base layer long-sleeved shirt with a hoodie or sweater, topped with a winter coat.

Shoes: Pack a good pair of walking shoes so you can fully enjoy exploring New York City in December. It’s a walking city, so comfortable and warm walking shoes will help you see all the sights. Wear sneakers, high-tops, or comfortable boots for your trip.

Women’s Outfit Tips

For ladies visiting New York City in December, bring layers, a stylish winter coat, and some good walking shoes. Although December is not as cold as January and February, the city still stays pretty chilly, and it can get especially cold and windy after the sun goes down during the second half of the month.

Layering

To stay warm during your city adventures, wear a long-sleeve base layer and top it with an oversized sweater (via Amazon) or hoodie so you’re comfortable and stylish.

Coat

A warm and fashionable women’s coat is a must when you’re packing for your December trip. In New York, we like to wear puffer coats (via Amazon) or parkas for a functional and stylish coat option. Black is a great color choice when you’re packing, as it won’t show dirt and evokes a classic city vibe.

Jeans

Pack jeans for a staple wardrobe item during your trip. Women’s jeans (via Amazon) are versatile and can be dressed up or down while keeping you warm in the city throughout December.

Accessories

Since you’ll be walking a lot, bring a bag (we recommend this anti-theft messenger bag) or large purse to carry around. You’ll also want to pack a beanie or winter hat to keep your head warm when it’s windy and when the sun goes down (which is early in December – sunset is before 5 pm). It’s also a good idea to bring a pair of gloves for colder days and nights.

Shoes

When you’re packing, don’t forget comfortable walking shoes. New York is a walking city so bring comfortable sneakers. Since the weather can get cold and windy, it’s a good idea to bring a comfortable pair of casual boots as well.

Good to know: Don’t expect all-white sneakers to stay very white, as our streets can be grimy.

Men Outfit Tips

For men visiting New York City in December, bring layers and comfortable walking shoes. A winter coat, jeans, sweater or hoodie, base layer, beanie, and some high-top sneakers or boots will keep you warm and comfortable on your trip.

Layering

Wear a fitted long-sleeved shirt as a base layer and top it with a hoodie (via Amazon) or sweater to stay warm as you explore the city. With layers, you can take off your top layer on mild days and put it back on in the evening or if the temperature drops suddenly.

Coat

Pack a winter coat to stay warm during your winter trip to New York City. We like to wear puffer jackets to stay toasty, and a black puffer jacket is especially versatile for city life. Make sure your coat has pockets and a hood for extra protection from the wind.

Jeans

Add jeans to your suitcase when packing. Jeans are comfortable and warm, and you can add a sweater for more dressed-up situations or pull on a hoodie for a casual look.

Winter Gear

Put a winter hat and gloves in your bag, so you’re prepared for chilly December days and nights. A beanie is a popular hat for New Yorkers in the winter, as it keeps your head warm, and you can also make a style statement with it.

Shoes

High-top sneakers and a pair of boots will get you through your December trip in comfort and style. Just make sure your boots are good for walking.

Packing Checklist

  • Jeans
  • Sneakers
  • Boots
  • Winter coat
  • Base layer – long-sleeved shirts
  • Sweaters and hoodies
  • Beanie or winter hat
  • Gloves
  • Umbrella
  • Poncho
  • Toiletries

Things To Do

December is the most wonderful time of the year for holiday festivities in NYC. Go winter shopping along Fifth Avenue to see over-the-top light displays, visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, go ice skating in Central Park, and enjoy the holiday markets around Manhattan.

The most popular holiday markets are Union Square (at 14th Street in downtown Manhattan), Columbus Circle (Columbus Circle and Central Park West), and Bryant Park (between 40th and 42nd streets between 5th and 6th avenues).

Some ideas for the December holidays include:

  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and ice skating
  • Radio City Rockettes Christmas Show
  • Holiday markets
  • Broadway shows
  • Ice skating at Central Park
  • Shopping in Soho
  • Lights displays along Fifth Avenue (from 49th Street to 60th Street)
  • Eating New York-style pizza

Must-Visit Attractions

December can be a busy time to visit New York City due to the holiday season, but it is also an exciting time. If you want to see popular attractions like the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock), get your tickets well in advance. Empire State Building tickets via GetYourGuide. However, you are free to try buying tickets later, of course.

Have fun ringing in the holidays in NYC and check out the holiday lights, holiday markets, and ice skating at Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Bryant Park.