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The Joy of Going in Circles

With two new venues opening this winter, New York has more options than ever. Ten rinks assessed.

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Ice, yet not ice; the plastic rink at the American Museum of Natural History.  

The Polar Rink at the American Museum of Natural History
79th St. at Columbus Ave.; 212-769-5100
ADULT ADMISSION: $8 members, $10 non-members
KID'S ADMISSION: $6 members, $8 non-members
SKATE RENTAL: Free

Open: Mon. through Thurs. noon to 8 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Scene: With the Rose Center for Earth and Space looming above like an ice castle, the new-this-season Polar Rink couldn’t be more beautiful. Its artificial-ice surface bears no resemblance to real ice, though, being neither cold nor particularly slippery. The Polar Rink Café is open only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.
Note: Don’t bring valuables or a change of clothes. There are no lockers.
Verdict: A good training ground for little kids, but who wants to skate on plastic?

Seaport Ice
Pier 17, South St. and Fulton St.; 212-661-6640
ADULT ADMISSION: $5
KID'S ADMISSION: $5
SKATE RENTAL: $7

Open: Daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Scene: Not yet open—the date has been pushed back several times since November, but when it happens, this should be the city’s most beautiful rink. Set smack in the middle of South Street Seaport’s Pier 17, it is designed as a breezy outdoor pavilion in the style of the Pond at Bryant Park, surrounded by views of the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, and tall ships of the South Street Seaport Museum.
Note: Unfortunately, floating pier plus heavy ice has equaled unforeseen technical difficulties that have yet to be resolved. At press time, Seaport officials couldn’t commit to an opening date.
Verdict: Not yet rated.

The Pond at Bryant Park
42nd St. at Sixth Ave.; 212-661-6640
ADULT ADMISSION: Free
KID'S ADMISSION: Free
SKATE RENTAL: $12

Open: Sun. through Thurs. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 8 a.m. to midnight; fifteen-minute Zamboni breaks every 95 minutes.
The Scene: At 17,000 square feet, the Pond is a little more than half the size of Central Park’s Trump Wollman Rink, but it’s much classier, and totally free, as long as you bring your own skates (which you should; the rentals are cheap molded plastic). On weekdays, it’s very roomy. There’s lots of seating around the rink.
Note: Lines are long on weekends.
Verdict: Elegant, beautiful, romantic at night.

Trump Wollman Rink
Central Park S., enter at 59th St. at Sixth Ave. (follow the footpath); 212-439-6900
ADULT ADMISSION: $10 M.–Th.; $14 F.–Sun.
KID'S ADMISSION: $5.25 M.–Th.; $5.50 F.–Sun.
SKATE RENTAL: $6

Open: Daily (hours vary).
The Scene: How lovely from the outside, surrounded by weeping willows! Inside, however, it smells distinctly of wet feet. Crowds are chaotic even on weekdays, which makes the skate-rental system harrowing. Shoe storage is a Byzantine arrangement involving special locks and a cash deposit. The rink is redeemed only by its enormity (30,800 square feet!) and snacks: luscious hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream, and delicious chili-cheese fries.
Note: You’re not allowed to leave and come back in, and the staff will be unsympathetic if you try. The rink is cash only.
Verdict: Oh, who cares about the crowds and the smell. It’s the most spectacular setting in the city, especially at night.

Rockefeller Center
Fifth Ave. at 50th St.; 212-332-7654
ADULT ADMISSION: $19
KID'S ADMISSION: $12.50
SKATE RENTAL: $9

Open: Daily 8:30 a.m. to midnight.
The Scene: Wait time can be an hour or more, but the skate-rental desk operates like clockwork even with heavy crowds. Tons of tourists, of course—and prepare to swerve around on-ice marriage proposals. Though the rink is small, the ice is kept in near-perfect condition. It’s an excellent place to learn to skate: The number of skaters is capped at 150, you can stay as long as you want, and if you take a spill, one of the omnipresent rink monitors will appear at your side like Superman, ready to pick you up.
Note: High prices, long lines, lots of tourists.
Verdict: Even with the drawbacks, it’s an impeccable skating experience, if only once every few years.


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