This post lists the top ten February activities as well as family-friendly events, things to do at night, and lots of free activities, updated for 2018. It’s the low tourist season, which means you won’t encounter too many lines to get into the popular attractions. If you are coming early or late in the month, check out our guides to January and March as well as our definitive Things to Do in NYC guide.
(1) CHINESE NEW YEAR LUNAR PARADE AND FESTIVAL(kid-friendly) February 25, 2018 at 1 pm
Come out to welcome the Year of the Dog! This is one of the most festive days of the year for all New Yorkers, regardless of heritage. As you can see in the video above the narrow streets of Chinatown will be filled with colorful floats, lion and dragon dancers, antique cars, marching bands, and other performers. Parade route: Mott & Canal to Chatham Square to East Broadway towards the Manhattan Bridge, completing on Eldridge and Forsyth Streets towards Grand Street next to Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Get more information here.
For those who love a big bang, come see and hear the New Year’s Day Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival on February 16, 2018, from 11 am to 3:30 pm in Sara Roosevelt Park. At noon, 600,000 firecrackers are fired to scare away evil spirits. There will also a festival with dancers, singers, and food vendors at Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Get more information here.
Click on this Chinatown map to orient yourself before heading to the Parade of the Firecracker Festival. For a more close-up look at Chinatown and learn about this very old neighborhood’s history, culture and food, try out our pay-what-you-likeChinatown Walking Tour or use our guide Things to See in Chinatown to discover this fascinating neighborhood of New York City.
(2) GO ICE SKATING DAY OR NIGHT! (kid-friendly)
In New York City you have many choices of where to skate, at varying prices and all different hours. Of course, there is the famed Rockefeller Center Rink. It’s one of the more expensive rinks, but no doubt an iconic NYC sight and you will surely want some photos here. Another very pretty rink that is free if you have your own skates is located in Bryant Park. (pictured on the right). With the back of the New York Public Library on one end, and with the Empire State Building within sight, skating here feels so very New York. Nothing brings out the fun of winter as a loop around a rink, or a fall on your behind under bright lights of the Big Apple.
Let other people do the ice skating for you and enjoy the wild ride of a fast-paced ice hockey game. New York City is home to TWO hockey teams: the New York Rangers, celebrating their 91st season at Madison Square Garden and the New York Islanders, whose new home is the fantastic new Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn. February 15th will be an especially heated game as the two New York teams come face to face on the ice.
TIP: If you decide to go to an Islanders match at the Barclays Center, consider exploring some Brooklyn neighborhoods before the game. We offer several pay-what-you-likeBrooklyn walking tours and also have self-guided tours as well.
(4) SEE NEW YORK CITY FROM ABOVE (kid-friendly)
Unless you are afraid of heights, we probably don’t need to convince you that you should visit one of the city’s three observatories: the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, and One World Observatory. Whether you go in the daytime or night, you will be blown away by the panoramic views. You are at a real advantage visiting in February because the lines will be much shorter. But since it will be colder, you might want to forgo the Empire State Building since it’s observatory deck is open. Talk about being blown away! That’s why we recommend that you choose between Top of The Rock and One World Observatory because they both have indoor and outdoor viewing areas. TIP: If you are getting a tourist pass, many of them include entrance to the observatory decks. If you aren’t sure if a tourist pass is right for you, see our post New York City Attraction Passes: Which One Is the Best to Buy?
(5) RESTAURANT WEEK January 22 – February 9, 2018
If you are here in early February, you are in luck! Enjoy a 5-star meal (lunch or dinner) at a top New York restaurant and pay 1/3rd of the regular cost! During Restaurant Week, more than 300 of New York City’s best restaurants offer a prix-fixe menu including 3 courses for a very low price, relative to their regular prices. Prices for 2018 are $29 Lunch and $42 Dinner. (per person, not including beverages, tax, and tip).
(6) VALENTINE’S DAY: LOVE IN TIMES SQUARE February 14, 2018 at 6 pm Free
One of the warmest days of the year, even though it’s February. Your heart will be warmed by the beauty of this yearly event. Love in Times Square is a mass ceremony where couples come to renew their vows at the crossroads of the world. If you want to participate, it’s best to register in advance so you can get a spot on the iconic red steps in Times Square. Walk-ups are welcome. It’s suggested you get there by 5:45 pm at the latest. Anyone can come and watch couples pledge themselves again to each other on the famous red steps at W. 46th Street & Broadway. Throughout the day, you will see couples getting married! You might even see some proposals. Times Square becomes a big love fest and will certainly warm you up!
Afterwards, be sure to grab a light meal in the food hall serving classic New York foods and ethnic delights. Find out more about Grand Central Terminal by reading our post What to See and Do in Grand Central Station.
If you are here before February 11th, you will be able to catch the Train Show at Grand Central Terminal features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, travel all the way to the diorama of the North Pole. Get all the information here.
(8) NATIONAL PIZZA DAY February 9, 2018
You are in the right city to celebrate this annual holiday! In other cities, people will be eating chain-restaurant pizza like Dominos or Papa Johns while you will in the city where pizza first arrived in America! New Yorkers love pizza so much, some people will eat a slice for lunch every single day. New York City has hundreds of places that make great pizza pies. We’ve narrowed the list down considerably. Take a look at our mouth-watering post on The Best Pizza in New York City by Neighborhood.
Maybe you’d like to take a Pizza Tour? Our Greenwich Village Food Tour hits up two pizza joints, both considered among the best in the city! If you can’t make our tour, check out Scott ‘s Pizza Tours. They are really great and that’s why we got you a $2 discount on one of his tours. Just book at Scott’s Pizza Tours and enter promo code FreeByFoot.
(9) CELEBRATE PRESIDENT’S DAY February 19, 2018
Other than Washington D.C., no other city in the country has as many locations where our nation’s past and present presidents have been. Here are some ways to honor them, and in one case, get a picture with them!
Say hello to Presidents Trump, Obama, Lincoln and Washington at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Read our post about Madame Tussauds and how to get discount tickets.
Grab a pint of ale at McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest pubs in New York City. Make a toast to former patrons of McSorley’s, Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt, who once themselves grabbed a pint as well. (Read more about McSorley’s here).
New York attracts the most popular bands and performers from around the world. Some play in big venues like Madison Square Garden and others play at more intimate venues. There are dozens of big concerts and hundreds of musical performances going on in NYC every night of the week. To see who is playing while you are here, take a look at the extensive list from Stubhub. Here are our recommendations for February 2018.
Billy Joel – February 21st. (Ticket information here) Get ready for that “New York State of Mind” when the Piano Man performs at Madison Square Garden!
Robert Plant – February 14th. (Ticket information here). Show your Valentine’s Day love for Led Zeppelin’s former lead singer at the Beacon Theatre, a beautiful, historic venue with a 2,900 seat capacity.
Ace Frehley (of KISS) – February 2nd. (Ticket information here.) Head out to the historic St.George Theatre on Staten Island for a blast from the past. You can take the free Staten Island Ferry to get there. This is a great way to combine two super fun activities into one great night. For details read our post How to ride the Staten Island Ferry.
**BONUS** “Must-See” Week January 29–February 11, 2018
During these dates, get 2-for-one tickets to attractions, museums, tours and performing arts. Click here for more information.
Bus tours are a wonderful way to see the city in the winter months as you keep warm on a double-decker bus with enclosed glass roofs. You can take a start-to-finish tour of a certain part of town, such as a tour of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, or you can take a hop-on, hop-off tour and stop to see some popular attractions. Our post Best Bus Tours in New York City can help you decide which night bus tour is best for you.
2-FOR-1 TICKETS FOR AN OFF-BROADWAY SHOW February 12-25, 2018
You may have heard the term “Off-Broadway” but don’t quite know what that meant. The definition is pretty unexciting: theaters that have more than 499 seats are considered Broadway Theaters. Theaters with between 99 and 499 seats are Off-Broadway theaters. The exciting difference is that off-broadway shows are often superior to Broadway shows and charge less for tickets. In February, you can test out this theory by taking advantage of New York City’s Off-Broadway Week where you get 2-for-1 tickets for the price of one. Tickets go on sale January 29th.
A very famous Off-Broadway theater is included in our Greenwich Village Tour. The Cherry Lane Theatre (pictured on the right) is New York City’s oldest continuously running Off-Broadway theater. Since 1924, the theatre has hosted works of Eugene O’Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sam Shepard and David Mamet.
If you’d rather stick with classic Broadway shows, there are many ways to get discounted theater tickets and enjoy some of the best theater in the world without blowing your budget. See our post How to get discount Broadway theater tickets for all the tips and tricks. For other ways to find deals and discounts on Broadway shows, click here.
If you are traveling with kids, you can save even more on February 27, for Kids Night on Broadway when kids 18 and under can attend participating Broadway shows for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult.
EVENINGS AT A MUSEUM
Avoid the crowds and visit any of these New York museums during their night hours. Some are free, others have a small cost, but seeing Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night and then walking out of the museum into a New York City starry night is a magical moment.
Whitney Museum of American Art Friday and Saturday nights open until 10 pm. On Friday evenings they have a pay-what-you-wish admission policy from 7 pm to 9:30 pm. The Whitney is located at the start of the High Line Park which you should definitely check out. Find out more about the High Line here.
American Museum of Natural History This museum known for its dinosaur collection occasionally hosts after hour parties in the exhibit halls! This February 1, 2018 at 7 pm, it’s Dinos After Dark.It’s a prehistoric party in dinosaur decor! Book early, this unique experience sells out fast. The price is quite good for a night out in NYC. $35 (two drinks included). 21+ with ID.
Rubin Museum of Art Friday nights until 10 pm for their K2 parties where you can view East Asian art, have a few drinks, nibble on some food and hear live music. A night well-spent, especially since admission, is free. (Food & Drinks are not)
Brooklyn Museum First Saturdays series. On the first Saturday of every month, the Museum offers a free house-party of sorts, Roam the museum, boogie on a dance floor, watch specially chosen films and participate in arts and crafts activities.
Guggenheim Museum Occasional Friday nights open until midnight for their posh ‘Art After Dark’ series. Alcohol served.
New Museum Thursday nights until 9 pm. A great alternative to MoMA, located on the Lower East Side, which is a fascinating – and delicious – neighborhood. That’s why we have pay-what-you-like Food Tour of the Lower East Side.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of free things you can do in New York City in February and year round. Check our jam-packed post, Free Things to Do in NYC. And any of the events in the Top Ten above are free too!
CHECK OUT A MUSEUM FOR FREE
Not everyone is cut out to wander a museum in the evening, as we listed above. You may already be planning to see some of these museums but did you know that some of them are always free?!? Or that many of them offer free days or free hours? You can save a bundle if you know this information. Here are the pay-what-you-wish admission times for the major museums in NYC.
** The Metropolitan Museum of ArtSuggested donation/pay-what-you-wish admission. Make this a priority visit! Because starting March 1, 2018, the Met will charge a mandatory $25 for those without proof of New York residency. It is, indeed, the end of an era. Take advantage before it’s too late!
TIP: See our post on free museums in New York for a list of dozens more of museums that are always free or that have free hours/days.
SEE A FREE COMEDY SHOW
You can find comedy all over New York City, at all hours and prices. But we think free is a pretty good price for a whole lot of laughs. Here are some of the best venues to see free comedy or improvisation.
The Irish Exit Tuesday 8 pm You never know who is going to drop by. Previous lineups have included Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman and Michael Che and Pete Davidson, both performers from Saturday Night Live.
Poco Wednesday at 8 pm Missy Baker and Tom Delgado host a variety of some of the best comedians in New York. Past line-ups have included performers from Comedy Central, NBC, IFC, Adult Swim, and others.
The Douglass Wednesdays at 8:30 pm “The Fancy Boys” deliver a fantastic free night of stand-up comedy featuring some of the best comedians from New York and across the country. Regularly features performers from NBC, HBO, and everywhere in-between. FYI: The Douglass is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Check out our self-guided walking tour before heading over to the show.
CENTRAL PARK ICE FESTIVAL February 11, 2018, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm Free (kid-friendly)
At this annual Ice Festival at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, you can see carvers make intricate statues with chisels and power tools. Ice-carving artists turn 6,000 pounds of ice into replicas of Central Park’s statues. If you want to see the real statues, join us for a pay-what-you-wishCentral Park tour, or take our self-guided tour.
Kids’ Night on Broadway is just one way to save on seeing a Broadway show. On February 27, children 18 and under can attend participating Broadway shows for free when accompanied by a full-paying adult. Tickets go on sale in December. Find out more at Kids’ Night on Broadway. To save money on Broadway tickets all year long, see our post How to get discount Broadway theater tickets for all the tips and tricks. For other ways to find deals and discounts on Broadway shows, click here.
GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW all of February, multiple dates and times
This longtime favorite performance is a “dazzling display of bubbles, with artistry & lasers!” This show is the creation of the Yang family members who are experts in transforming soap bubbles into something spectacular. They are known around the world and have 16 Guinness World Records. This is a show perfect for kids and grown-ups. So bring the whole family and find a day and time, There are plenty to choose from. Find out more about the show from their website.
SESAME STREET LIVE! February 9-19, 2018
This interactive show is perfect for the little kids in your group. Be part of the fun as the residents of Sesame Street find out just how hard it is to pick a party theme. Once they do, there will be sing-alongs with Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster. The kids can build a snowman with Elmo, flap their ‘wings’ with Big Bird and marvel at Super Grover! To find out how to get to Sesame Street, check their website.