Explore New York City

10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day in NYC

The best things to experience around the city when the weather outside is not cooperating.

Even if it’s raining out, there is a silver lining: we have a list of great things to do around New York City when the weather isn’t cooperating! Here are just 10 suggestions to keep you busy while you’re in town during bad weather.

Take in a Theatrical Performance

Last-minute tickets may not be available for every single show in town, but you can definitely get tickets to something a couple hours before a show is slated to start. For day-of tickets to Broadway shows, the best options are to visit the box office of the theater where the show you want to see is running, check out what tickets are available at the TKTS booths in Times Square, Lincoln Center, South Street Seaport and Downtown Brooklyn, or use the TodayTix app on your smartphone to see if there are any tickets left for that day’s show. TodayTix also lists some Off-Broadway, dance and orchestral performances, but contacting a box office in person or by phone the best way to inquire if there are any seats left for that day.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space
The Rose Center for Earth and Space (Courtesy the American Museum of Natural history)

Visit a Museum (or Museums…)

When you want to stay inside all day because of unbecoming weather, why not spend the day filling up on art? Museum-hop up Museum Mile—the stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th Street on the Upper East Side—and visit such marvels as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Jewish Museum and the Museum of the City of New York, among others. If you’d rather spend the whole day in one spot, head to one of the larger museums like the American Museum of Natural History, on Central Park West. While there, see the Titanosaur (a 122-foot-long dinosaur on display until 2020) and then go check out the famous giant blue whale in the Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. See priceless gems, dinosaur skeletons, cultures from around the world and mammals from near and far. In the Rose Center for Earth and Space, take in a show at the Hayden Planetarium and learn about the 13-billion-year history of the universe.

Some museums have free admittance during certain hours/days or have a pay-what-you-wish policy with suggested donation prices. Other museums in the city are always free, like the Bronx Museum of the Arts on Grand Concourse, the American Folk Art Museum near Lincoln Center, Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea and the National Museum of the American Indian in the Financial District!

iPic Theatre seats in New York City
Relax in cozy seats at iPic Theaters at Fulton Market Bulding while you watch a recent release. (Courtesy iPic Theaters)

Go to the Movies

While the Big Apple does has quite a few multiplexes to catch the latest blockbusters and limited release films—as NYC tends to have access to smaller, independent films before the rest of the country—this city also boasts some charming one-off cinema-watching establishments where you can cozy up for a couple hours. Check out The Paris Theatre across from The Plaza hotel in Midtown, a single-screen movie house with balcony seating in addition to seats on the main floor where you can catch a foreign or independent film, depending on what is showing that week. The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center screens a diverse selection of films at any given time, whether they are limited releases, foreign films or previously released movies that are part of a curated series being presented.

Film Forum is a nonprofit three-screen cinema in the South Village that shows classic films, as well as current foreign and independent cinema, documentaries, silent films and more. The Metrograph in the Lower East Side runs digital movies, as well as projects 35mm films at this movie theater that is meant to evoke the atmosphere of NYC theaters of the 1920s while also providing a similar air as Hollywood Studio back lots.

If you’re looking for the most modern movie house in NYC, check out the iPic Theaters at the Fulton Market Building at South Street Seaport. Showing the latest Hollywood hits, guests get reserved cushy seats with food and drinks available from the iPic Express grab and go area. Snag a Premium Plus ticket and also enjoy a pillow and blanket at your seat, popcorn and in-cinema food and beverage service.

Brookfield Place routunda in NYC
Shop in style at Brookfield Place, one of NYC's several luxury retail destinations. (Courtesy Brookfield Place)

Shop ‘Til the Rain Stops

Go on a shopping spree to dozens of high-end retail establishments without having to step foot outdoors between shops! New York City is home to several luxury shopping destinations that offer the best of the best when it comes to apparel, accessories, technology and self-care. The Shops at Columbus Circle offers breathtaking views of Central Park and has everything you need from Cole Haan, Hugo Boss, Sephora, Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, Swarovski, Bouchon Bakery and even an exclusive lounge for MasterCard holders. Upscale dining options at The Shops at Columbus Circle include Per Se and Landmarc.

The southern tip of Manhattan has two great indoor shopping centers. Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place has upscale apparel shops include Burberry, Hermes, Saks Fifth Avenue and others. Among restaurants like Parm, Mighty Quinn's Barbeque and Umami Burger, there is a Starbucks Reserve Bar and an authentic French marketplace called Le District. Nearby, Westfield World Trade Center is located inside the Oculus in the Financial District. This architectural wonder, new to the city in 2016, boasts an Apple Store, Eataly, John Varvatos, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Lady M Confections, Moleskine, Shake Shack and more.

Actually Enjoy Public Transportation

You can very much “Take the ‘A’ Train,” like the song made famous by the Duke Ellington orchestra. From one end of that line to the other (Inwood in northern Manhattan to Far Rockaway in Brooklyn), it takes about 90 minutes if there are no delays or disruptions. Another line that’s entertaining to take from start to finish is the 7 train—where you travel from Hudson Yards on the west side of Manhattan to Flushing in Queens. From the 7 train, you get great views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as an above-ground tour of Queens as the train passes by Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Citi Field (where the Mets play), the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (where the US Open is held) and more. Other great subway rides with views are the B, D, N and Q trains as you travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. These trains cross the East River via the Manhattan Bridge (as opposed to underground like trains between Manhattan and Queens), giving riders a chance to see the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline. The end of those lines in Brooklyn also end in coastal spots with scenic views—Brighton Beach (B train) and Coney Island (D, N and Q trains).

Chefs in a busy kitchen
Enjoy a freshly prepared meal at one of NYC's many upscale restaurants. (Courtesy Michael Browning)

Savor a Great, Long Meal

One of the more delicious ways to kill time indoors with a group when it’s raining out is by indulging in a several-course tasting menu at a nice restaurant. Some of the more well known dining establishments in the city (Daniel on the Upper East Side, Le Bernardin in the Theater District, Eleven Madison Park in the Flatiron District, among others) require reservations in advance to experience the tasting menus, but there are a handful of other great places that do accept walk-ins. It is still encouraged that you make a reservation, especially on popular nights out like Friday and Saturday, but Degustation in the East Village, Annisa in the West Village, Per Se in Hell's Kitchen and The Eddy in the East Village will accommodate walk-ins whenever possible. The entire party will likely be required to participate, meaning each person in the group will have to order the tasting menu.

Degustation’s seven-course Chef’s Tasting Menu includes dishes of Iberian, French and American influence. Annisa has inventive American cuisine offered in five- and seven-course Chef’s Tasting Menus. Per Se has two nine-course tasting menus per day (a chef’s menu and a vegetable menu) where no ingredient is used twice for parties that make reservations, but there is also a five-course chef’s tasting menu available for walk-in guests seated in the salon. The Eddy melds flavors from around the world in its five-course tasting menu that varies nightly.

Visit a Spa

You may not even have to leave your hotel to escape bad weather by enjoying some quality indoor time at a spa! For example, the exclusive Peninsula Spa at The Peninsula New York in Midtown West offers clients who book two hours of treatments access to a gym, indoor pool and sun terrace. Check with the front desk at your hotel to see if there are spa opportunities at your hotel and if they take same-day reservations.

There are also stand-alone spas throughout the city, most requiring booked appointments, so be sure to call ahead or go online in advance. Eve in Greenwich Village has nail service, custom facials, waxing and electrolysis. Kiehl’s Spa 1851 on the Upper East Side offers body treatments and healthy skin services, including signature brows, lashes and waxing.

Bite Beauty's Lip Lab in SoHo
Customize your own lipstick at Bite Beauty's Lip Lab in SoHo (Courtesy BITE Beauty)

Get Crafty in New York City

Arts and crafts are not just for kids, though Baked in Brooklyn is family-friendly. At this pottery studio in Williamsburg, guests can paint pretty much anything—bowls, mugs, plates, piggybanks and more! As pieces take a week to be pick up after painting (they need to be glazed and fired), Baked in Brooklyn is a good stop for folks who will be in town for an extended vacation. Makeup fanatics can customize their own lipsticks at the Bite Beauty Lip Lab in SoHo. Choose a shade from around 200 exclusive Bite Beauty pigments, glossy or matte finish and an all-natural scent to create a lipstick just for you. Take the process one step further with the help of a Lip Lab artist to create a unique lipstick shade.

If being artsy while enjoying a drink sounds like a good time, sign up online for one of Paint & Sip Studio’s classes on the Upper West Side. Great for beginners and more experienced artists, this is a fun way to paint something pretty while imbibing on your favorite drink of choice—as this is a BYOB establishment—and the result is a piece of artwork to remember the experience.

Ice cream machines from above
Make—and eat—your own ice cream! (Courtesy CoolMess)

Make Something Tasty

Hands-on activities that you get to eat afterward are a tasty way to have fun indoors and there are several spots around town where you can walk-in and make great desserts that you can enjoy right then and there.

Voilà-Chocolat on the Upper West Side offers a variety of experiences where people can create truffles, chocolate dipped treats, chocolate bars, chocolate bark and more out of dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate and other seasonal ingredients. At CoolMess on the Upper East Side, guests can make their own chocolate or vanilla ice cream that is organic, gluten-free, egg-free and nut-free right at the table and then add in mix-ins from a generous list of candies, nuts, sauces, fruit and more.

Dessert places like Milk Bar (Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) and Butter Lane (East Village) have baking classes that are fun to take, but need to be signed up for in advance on their respective websites, which have the most up-to-date schedules. Classes are not offered every day, but there are usually multiple classes a week.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, one of NYPL's most famous buildings
Visit the most famous of the New York Public Library's branches on Fifth Avenue, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (Courtesy NYPL)

Go to the Library and Check Out Events (Instead of Books)

The New York Public Library hosts over 90,000 programs a year among its 92 locations, with around 67,000 of those programs being free of cost. Some events are first come, first serve, while others require tickets (free or otherwise). It is best to check the library’s events page on the website for the most up-to-date list of what activities are going on across the city on any given day. Some examples of events are docent-led tours and author talks in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in Midtown, music concerts and film screenings at the Library for the Performing Arts (Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center) at Lincoln Center, in addition to panel discussions and poetry readings at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.