When ice skating in New York City comes to mind, we’re willing to bet you $5 we can paint the rest of the picture you’re seeing. An impossibly-tall, elaborately adorned Christmas tree looming above? Flags from every country you can name hanging around the square? 30 Rock rising behind you? While ice skating at Rockefeller Center is a wonderfully iconic experience (and one we’ll show you how to do the right way below), there’s plenty more out there. Do your skates a favor and let them try out some new terrain—we promise, it’s worth it.
The VIP Treatment: Trump Wollman Central Park
Hours vary, check website for details
Known to us as “the other iconic skating experience,” there’s nothing quite like gliding around in the middle of the world’s most beautiful park, with trees and skyscrapers surrounding. VIP reservations are the only way to avoid lines at here. Skip the long line, get escorted into a heated tent with reserved tables and snack on cookies, cocoa and other complimentary goodies while an assistant grabs your rentals. For $72, you’ll have unlimited access to the skating rink, and up to three hours access to the private tent and snack buffet.
The Classic Experience: Rockefeller plaza
Open through April 2016. Mon–Sun 8:30am–midnight. website
Even if the sidewalks are overrun, you’ll still have ample room to skate at the city’s most iconic rink; only 150 people are allowed on the ice at once. Unfortunately, that also means that you should prepare for long lines—on a typical day, expect a one- to two-hour wait. To avoid this, be an early bird for the day: reservations for the first skate of the day (7am) can be made online ahead of time. If the crack of dawn isn’t appealing, try the other end of the stick—new this year, groups can reserve a spot and stay up late for a Starlight Skate during the final session of the day (10:30pm–midnight).
In The Neighborhood: Rink at Brookfield place
Mon–Sun 10am–10pm, weather permitting (website)
A pleasant stroll from Duane Street, this rink is your best bet for staying local. Located on the plaza in front of the Brookfield Place Winter Garden, the rink brings a much-needed cold-weather option to the seasonally popular outdoor spot overlooking the North Cove Marina. At 7,350 square feet, it’s even bigger than the Rink at Rockefeller Plaza. New this season, the guests can enjoy “Learn to Skate” classes with Olympic medal–winning husband-and-wife team, Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. The ice-dancing pros will lead Intro to Basics classes throughout the season. Ice-hockey lessons are on offer too.
Multi-season, Plus a View!: Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
Hours vary, check website for full schedule
There’s no need to wait until winter for your family to glide across NHL-size rinks—they’re open year-round for free skating as well as hockey and figure skating. If you’re a skating enthusiast or you love winter, Chelsea Piers is your spot. Added bonus? Unlike most indoor ice arenas, this one doesn’t feel like a cave. Ample windows let in natural light, and sweeping views of the Hudson River.