20 Of The Very Best Indoor Activities in NYC (From a Local)

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Whether you’re looking to escape the cold or heat of New York City, you’ll be happy to learn there are a ton of great indoor activities in NYC to enjoy! As a New York local, I can attest that New York can have brutally hot summers and freezing winters. From museums and markets to spas and observation decks, there is an indoor activity that will fit everyone’s needs!

In this guide, I am covering fun and unique experiences in NYC to enjoy indoors that are not just to go eat!

Indoor activities in NYC - Summit One

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Best Fun Indoor Activities to Do in NYC

1. NYC Museums (The Best Indoor Activity in NYC)

One of the best indoor activities in NYC, hands down, goes to museums. Not only does New York have some of the most incredible museums in the world, but they are also a great place to either warm up or cool down, depending on the season!

Some of the most popular Museums include:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa)
  • The 9/11 Museum
  • The American Museum of Natural History
  • Guggenheim Museum

Some equally great but less visited museums include:

  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • New Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Museum of Broadway
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Tenement Museum
  • New York Transit Museum

As you can see, you’re really spoiled for choice, and depending on the day, visiting may even be free. Generally speaking, it is also one of the best free things to do in NYC that’s indoors.

Visiting the Met is one of the best indoor activities in NYC

2. Incredible NYC Observation Decks

Currently, all 5 NYC observation decks have an indoor experience to them. Therefore, they are a great choice for an indoor activity in NYC. From iconic observation decks like the Empire State Building to the very new and unique Summit One Vanderbilt, you can expect incredible views of Manhattan, as long as it’s not too cloudy. Even in a rainstorm, seeing the lighting from above can be a cool experience within itself.

Not sure which observation deck to choose? I’ve ranked the best NYC Observation Decks here.

One Summit Vanderbilt Mirror Rooms
Summit One Observation

3. Explore Grand Central Terminal

While the main function of Grand Central is to be a train hub, it is so much more than that, and it makes for a great indoor activity in NYC. Besides admiring the incredible painted ceiling, Grand Central has a lot of history and other unique features. Explore the Whispering Walls, hit the farmers market inside, or eat at one of the many incredible restaurants. If you’re visiting NYC during the Christmas time, you can even attend their NYC Christmas Markets. There is even a tour dedicated to showing of Grand Central.

Grand Central Terminal NYC
Grand Central Terminal

4. Walk Through Chelsea Market

Beloved by locals and tourists alike, the Chelsea Market is another one of the best indoor activities in NYC to enjoy. Whether you want to grab a bite to eat, meander through local shops, or just escape the extreme NYC weather, you will be welcome here. They often have nice decorations for the holidays, and if you enjoy doing things that feel more local, the Chelsea Market is undoubtedly it. I always love stopping by while walking the High Line, which runs right above the market.

Visiting NYC on Vacation? Here are the Best Hotels in NYC by Neighborhood.

Chelsea Market in NYC - indoor activities in NYC
photo gioiak2/depositphotos

5. Escape to The Spa

New York knows how to spa, let me tell you! With dozens of spas across the city, you will not have any trouble finding a place. However, if you want to make a day out of it, I would suggest checking out World Spa in Brooklyn (a new local favorite), Aire Ancient Baths New York, and QC NY Spa on Governors Island.

Read: 25 NYC Travel Tips You Need to Know!

6. Explore a Beautiful Bookstore

Book enthusiasts rejoice because NYC has some pretty cool bookstores for you to escape the weather! One of the most popular independent bookstores to visit has to be Strand Book Store, but other great bookstores include Albertine Books, McNally Jackson Books, and Housing Works Bookstore.

Stand Bookstore in NYC -indoor activities in NYC
photo pio3/depositphotos

7. Reminiscence at the Friend’s Experience

If you’re a fan of the hit series Friend’s, you probably already know you can snag tickets to relive the series through this fun exhibit, but just in case you didn’t, now you do! Inside, you will find iconic photo ops, props, and more. So, if you’re a fan, you will want to make sure to add this to your indoor activities list for NYC.

Friend's Experience NYC
photo credit Feverup

8. Visit Trinity Church

You will often see Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on most NYC lists, but as a local, I am always surprised I never see Trinity Church since it is really beautiful. Located in the financial district, you could easily plan a stop here and escape from the hot, cold, snowy, or rainy weather! The Trinity Church and Churchyard is open daily to the public.

This church is even considered a National Historic Landmark, so after you finish touring the Oculus, visiting the One World Trade Observatory, or the 9/11 museum, make sure to stop here!

Read: Even More Indoor Ideas for Things to Do on a Rainy Day in NYC

9. Enjoy a Rooftop Bar

I said this indoor activity list wouldn’t be all about food, but I said nothing about drinks! Plus, this is one of the best indoor activities to do for your 21+ group. Drinks, snacks, and skyline views- what more could you ask for?

Some of the best rooftop bars that have an indoor option include Ophelia Lounge NYC, Panorama Room, Mr. Purple, and Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge.

If you happen to be visiting NYC in December and looking to escape the cold, you also should add 230 5th igloos and The Greens on The Rooftop at Pier 17 winter cabins to your indoor rooftop list.

10. Hit the Department Stores

We can’t forget NYC is a shopping capital! Therefore, you can find some of the best shopping in New York, and in my humble opinion, it is one of the best indoor activities to enjoy in NYC!

I’ve worked in both Macy’s Herald Square and Bloomingdale’s SoHo, both of which have an excellent selection of designers. But, the Bloomingdales on 59th Street is a little more fancy – oh, college days! We also have shopping at the Hudson Yards, inside the Oculus, and if you really want to hit up the designers, just make your way down 5th Avenue for some of the most desirable luxury stores.

Bloomingdales NYC - Indoor activities in NYC

11. Take a Helicopter Ride Over NYC

So, if it’s raining in NYC, count this activity out, but if you’re looking for something exciting on a hot or cold day, nothing beats a helicopter ride over Manhattan! I am personally just slightly afraid to get into a helicopter, so I won’t judge you if you don’t want to do this, but I really want to muster up the courage to do this in the future! So, if you’re brave, definitely consider a NYC helicopter ride!

Views from One World Trade Observatory

12. Go Behind the Scenes at a Famous Landmark

Did you know that some of the most iconic NYC landmarks offer behind-the-scenes tours? Neither did I until more recently, and honestly, I think it is really neat! These unique tours can all be booked directly on each landmark’s official website, and I can definitely tell you that most tourists and even locals don’t know about these unique tours! So consider yourself an insider when visiting BTS at Radio City Music Hall, NBC, Lincoln Center, and Madison Square Garden.

Radio City Music Hall in December in NYC

13. Sip through the Evening at High Tea (or Afternoon Tea)

Maybe it’s raining, maybe it’s cold, or maybe you just feel like being fancy and sipping on tea in true English fashion. Who am I to judge you, because it is another fun and unique way to spend some time indoors. If you want to go all out, hands down, the Plaza Hotel is the best. If you want more of a French vibe, Ladurée is where it’s at.

My last recommendation for tea comes in the form of a bus, so hear me out! One of the newest ways NYC has embraced afternoon tea is tour bus style. The bus is decked out in pink and serves all the high tea treats you would expect, along with a guide pointing out some of the best NYC Landmarks. I mean, how cool, right?

Afternoon tea indoor activity
photo fotek/depositphotos

14. Be One in the Crowd at a Live Taping

You see the shows on TV, but have you ever thought about being in the crowd? Well, it is totally possible when you visit NYC! In fact, many times, it’s free to be a part of it, you just need to know where to look; that’s what I am here for. The two main places to get yourself in a crowd are at 1iota and NBC. Don’t forget to tell your friends to tune in and look for you!

15. Visit the New York Public Library

Visiting the New York Public Library is too iconic not to list it! Do you love libraries or historic buildings? Then this is easily one of the best indoor activities in NYC. If it’s cold or rainy weather you’re escaping, you will find comfort in the feeling of being cozied up in a book.

Or, maybe it’s blazing hot summer day and you’ve finished exploring Bryant Park. The blast of the air conditioning will give you life! Plus, they have just redone their visitors center and have their first exhibit: Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures.

NYC Public Library is free to visit and a must-see

16. Hang Out at a Cafe

Whether you want tea or coffee, it doesn’t matter because NYC has you covered. It’s such a local thing to say, but hey, I’m New York proud (most of the time). If you are spending the summer in NYC, go for all the iced deliciousness. If you’re toughing out a brutal winter in NYC, it is an absolute must! For some excellent cafes, you should add Felix Roasting Co., Maman, and Cha Cha Matcha to your list.

Psst! Here are the most Instagrammable Cafes in NYC.

Maman Cafe NYC table
Maman Cafe – Cute French cafe in NYC

17. Attend a NYC Show

I’ve left this heading broad because, unlike the other NYC lists that want it to seem like they have more indoor activities to do in NYC, there really is no need for it. Therefore, I’m keeping it simple. There are a lot of different shows you can attend in NYC, but the most obvious (and famous) will be an on Broadway Show or an Off-Broadway show. What’s the difference? Nothing really, as they are all excellent. The bigger productions are usually on Broadway. Get tickets directly on their website or at a TKTS Booth.

Other shows include the arts at Lincoln Center, Jazz Shows in the Bronx, and seasonal shows like the Rockettes and the Nutcracker. There are so many great shows, and it truly is one of the best indoor activities in NYC.

Seeing a Broadway Show is a great rainy day activity in NYC
Lion King on Broadway

18. Swing A Golf Club Indoors

You have seen it in movies, and now you can visit the Chelsea Piers driving range in real life to swing a club in an indoor setting or in a temperature-controlled bay. If you’re looking for something non-touristy, this will definitely fit the bill, just make sure to make a reservation ahead of time.

Consider yourself more of a mini-golf aficionado? Then head to Swingers Mini Golf, where they have designed an adult-only mini golf experience. Meaning there’s booze and good treats. Just make sure to book this in advance as they sell out quickly—Swingers website.

19. Catch an Indoor Sporting Event

We New Yorkers love our sports, which is why we have so many sports teams…at least, that’s my guess. So, if you want to feel like a local, there is no better way to do it than by rooting on our basketball or Hockey teams, which both happen to play indoors.

But, if you’re visiting when only Football or Baseball is happening, then I urge you to join in at one of the sports bars around the city; it gets lively! If you’re rooting against New York, I would just say do it quietly =).

Basketball Game at Madison Square Garden
Basketball Game at Madison Square Garden

20. Bonus: Food in NYC

As promised, I did not fill this NYC indoor activities list with food, but I know you didn’t come to NYC not to indulge a little bit, so I am just going to leave you with two links if you want to delve deeper into the food category! You also always have the option of a food tour or cooking class, just saying!

Delmar Pizza Slice in NY

Best Indoor Activities in NYC Wrap-up

There you have it, the very best indoor activities in NYC for any extreme weather this city throws your way.

Have any questions about these fun indoor activities in NYC or feel like I missed a good one? Let me know in the comments below!

Did you find these Indoor Activities in NYC Helpful? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

indoor activities in NYC
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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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