Manhattan’s Best Ice Skating Rinks
It is possible, I guess, that it will never really get cold again, that winter will indeed be a sham, and we'll do all of our ice skating in t-shirts. But at least we will be ice skating! The infrastructure is all in place, the crowds have shown up to enjoy the balmy December weather while gliding on the ice, and there's only been a couple of reports of rinks gone too slushy to actually use. Here then, is a quick guide to Manhattan's best outdoor ice skating rinks, all of which are now open for the duration of season, even though it's 60 degrees out.
The Rink at Bryant Park
I already discussed this year's Bryant Park winter highlights at length, so just a quick reminder: skating is free but there are lots of added charges if you're not careful; the whole Winter Village of holiday-gift shops will be up through January 3; there are lots of solid snacking options. Bryant Park ice skating is open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily through March 6, 2016.
Wollman Rink, Central Park
Wollman Rink, located at the southeast end of Central Park, is likely the largest Manhattan ice skating venue, and is also possibly the most crowded. You don't go here close to peak hours to practice your double axels, or for a leisurely (or a rapid) few laps; you go to Wollman Rink for the pretty, iconic experience (look: the Plaza!) or because your 10 year old needs to be taken to hang out with all of his or her friends. Prices are high (and it's CASH ONLY, presumably to rack up on-site ATM fees), lines are long (less so if you spring for the extremely expensive $72 per person VIP pass… which comes with other amenities, but still: you're here to skate, right?), but if you time it right, Wollman is still a beautiful rink. "Public Skating" hours vary; see the Wollman Rink website for more information.
Speaking of crowded, expensive, and iconic, taking some laps around the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink has been a holiday tradition for decades and, like everything else in this era of massive-amounts-of-tourists, it's only gotten more popular in recent years. But the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is spectacular as always, as are the window displays along Fifth Avenue, and as long as you know what you're getting yourself into–and at $32 for adults, plus $12 skate rental, you better know–this can be a wonderful Christmas-y experience. The Rink also has a VIP package, for $125 a person. For more details, see the Rink at Rockefeller Center website.
Lasker Rink, Central Park
Yes the double set of rinks that make up Lasker are both pretty small, and one of them is invariably being used by a hockey league or private event (we used to hold the annual PTA skate party there when my kids were in elementary school), but given its uptown location–you can see 110th Street from the ice–very few tourists think to come here to skate, and so it never seems to get TOO crowded. Lasker's still pretty cheap, too, at $7.50 for adults, with skate rentals for only $6.50. And the setting, while maybe not as "classic NYC" as Wollman's, is absolutely beautiful, with the Harlem Meer and, just to the west, one of most densely wooded sections of the whole park. Hours vary; more information can be found on the Lasker Rink website.
Three Small Local Rinks That Are a Lot of Fun
My favorite trio of pop-up NYC ice skating rinks are all back this year as well. These are tiny, relatively inexpensive, very-well suited to just having a goof with your kids or on date before proceeding to the eating and drinking part of the adventure (it really helps that all three are near plenty of quality spots for exactly that). Anyway, The Rink at The Standard, High Line (above); The Rink at Brookfield Place (in Battery Park City); and the South Street Seaport Rink are all open and making plenty of people happy.