4 03 2008

Cheesy? A little. Touristy? Most definitely. But also one of the best things about cold weather and New York City: Ice Skating. And, being from California, I’ve decided that I get license to indulge in cold weather rarities such as the outdoor ice skating rink. Sure, San Francisco has an outdoor holiday rink (named after Bay Area skating star Kristi Yamaguchi no less), but that only lasts through January 1. Besides, somehow outdoor ice skating just doesn’t feel as authentic when you don’t need a heavy coat.

That brings me back to chilly New York, with its whopping five outdoor skating rinks. Everyone knows, of course, about Rockefeller Center, and most people know about Central Park’s Wollman Rink, but what are these others? And how to decide? An ice skating rink breakdown from a New Yorker whose native warm blood entitles her to geek out on the glories of outdoor skating (even though, let’s be honest, she’s a terrible skater, and not overly fond of it after the novelty has worn off, otherwise known as the first half hour).

  1. Rockefeller Center definitely wins the award for rink with the most kitsch value. But something about that glowing fountain and the flags overhead, not to mention the heady feeling of Rockefeller Center itself makes it the most famous, and perhaps the most popular. A tourist destination it is, however. Though you might see a few die hards out there with their own skates on, most New York skaters stay away from the tiny, usually crowded, rink. It’s until 10:30 p.m. Mon-Thurs, midnight Fri-Sat, and 10 p.m. Sun, and adult rates are $10 (per two hour session) Mon-Thurs and $14 on weekends and holidays. Skate rentals are $8.
  2. Wollman Rink is perhaps the second best known. Movie lovers know it for its cameos in such sappy romantic comedies as Serendipity, but the movie’s directors were on to something. Sunken below street level in the park, the woody rink gives skaters a pristine view of some of Manhattan’s loveliest high rises, which, after dark, give off a very serendipitous glow. The rink opens at 10 a.m. daily and remains open until 10 p.m Wed-Thurs, 11 p.m. Fri-Sat and 9 p.m. Sun. Daily rates for adults are $9.50 on weekdays and $12 Fri-Sun. Skate rentals are $5. Bring your own lock to save the $3.50 rental fee.
  3. The Pond at Bryant Park is a regular winter wonderland, but unfortunately only through the holiday season. From late-October through mid-January, however, the skaters descend on midtown. Non-skaters will love this one: cheer the active on while you stuff yourselves with drinks and snacks at Celius, the cheeky rinkside restaurant. (Now that’s my kind of winter revelry.) Plus, through December 30, the park gets into the holiday spirit with kisoks selling unique gifts and crafts.
  4. Lasker Rink is Wollman’s sister rink. A little higher up the park (between 106th and 108th streets), lower rates ($4.50 adults, $4.75 skate rental), and a little less ambiance. The hours are a little shorter as well, and vary from day to day. For a hardcore ice skater, this may be the place to come, but tourists looking for the ice skating experience should probably stick to the afore mentioned options.
  5. The Kate Wollman Rink in Brooklyn is a local hangout, but a good break from Manhattan, and in beautiful Prospect Park. Unfortunately, night skating is only a Friday and Saturday night event here, but for daytime fun it’s worth a spin around the rink. Adults pay $5 and skate rentals are $6. Check the website above for hours.