The Local Gem:
The Rink at Brookfield Place
The setting: Located right on the Hudson, across the West Side Highway from the World Trade Center, this open-air rink accommodating about 250 skaters might be one of the city’s most scenic venues, with views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It has the quiet feel of a secret neighborhood rink, drawing skaters from the surrounding apartment and office buildings within the rapidly expanding Battery Park City. Plus the riverside location means this might also be the closest you come to the feeling of skating on the Hudson to a soundtrack that veers between early-nineties favorites and Top-40 hits.
The crowd: AmEx employees blowing off steam outside the World Financial Center; aspiring figure skaters taking advantage of quiet ice; dads in cords and cable knits opting for the rink over the gym; tweens babysitting little brothers in the neighborhood.
Know before you go: Pack extra hats and hand-warmers before heading to this outdoor rink—spectacular Hudson vistas also mean bitter river winds. Check back for special events surrounding the 2014 Olympics.
Après-skate: Pop into PJ Clarke’s (250 Vesey St., nr. West St.; 212-285-1500) for spiked apple cider, or head up to Danny Meyer’s North End Grill (104 North End Ave., nr. Murray St.; 646-747-1600) for comfort food like chicken soup and charcoal-fired halibut.
Where: 250 Vesey St., nr. North End Ave.; 646-656-1384
Open: Daily 10 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
Entrance fee: $15; skate rentals for $5
Private lessons: From $35 per half-hour
Size: 7,350 square feet
The Architectural Marvel:
LeFrak Center at Lakeside
The setting: The $74 million, 26-acre LeFrak Center at Lakeside replaces Prospect Park’s musty Kate Wollman Rink—originally opened in 1961 by Robert Moses—with a shiny public-private monument to Bloomberg’s new Brooklyn. The complex features two rinks—one covered and one open—that are linked together, allowing more than 900 skaters to pass over the L-shaped ice. Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have spared no expense (a sore point for some). The rink’s pavilions are dressed in Laurentian Green granite imported from Canada and rise naturally from the landscape. The covered rink is topped with a cerulean-blue ceiling decorated by silvery squiggles mirroring the ice below. The update reestablishes the original Music Island as a nature preserve and adds new walking and jogging paths, picnic areas, and a boat dock.
The crowd: South Slope stroller-ites entertaining the kids out for the afternoon; Airbnb-ers from London exploring Brooklyn’s Hyde Park; Gretzkys-in-training capitalizing on the hockey-friendly rink; city-planning students on “How About We” dates intrigued by Olmsted’s, Moses’, and Bloomberg’s now-linked visions for urban ice-skating.
Know before you go: Prepare for a mass release of after-school energy on Mondays from three to six when kids skate for free. The roller-derby renaissance will come this spring when the covered rink will open to roller-skaters. Nearby, the open rink will become a water fountain for kids.
Après-skate: Take in hearty fare like chili and burgers at the new on-site Bluestone café, or head up to Saul (200 Eastern Pkwy., at Washington Ave., Prospect Heights; 718-935-9842)—the Smith Street favorite newly relocated to the Brooklyn Museum—for a whiskey cocktail like a Highland Sage—Macallen 12, Drambuie, and chestnut honey—and a warm snack like sunchoke soup.
Where: Prospect Park, entrance nr. Parkside and Ocean Aves., Lefferts Gardens; 212-661-6640
Open: Monday–Thursday 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.–8 p.m.
Entrance fee: $6 weekdays, $8 weekends and holidays; skate rentals for $5
Private lessons: From $55 per half-hour
Size: 32,000 square feet
The McCarren Park Pool … on Ice:
McCarren Park Rink
The setting: Accommodating about 300 skaters, this outdoor rink operated by the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn is adjacent to McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg and just as popular. (It’s seen nearly 12,000 visitors since opening.) By early evening, the Christmas-light-rimmed rink is filled with attractive couples and scraggly millennials who’ve traveled from across the borough for one of the more happening cold nights around.
The crowd: Locals celebrating their 27th birthdays; stylish toddlers learning to skate with the help of equally stylish parents; figure skaters training for competition on high-quality ice; marketing assistants on slightly awkward Tinder dates.
Know before you go: Arrive early to dodge the families and post-brunch crowds learning to skate to Ke$ha, Miley, and Taylor Swift. And don’t wait—the rink is currently slated to close at some point in January.
Après-skate: Grab a hot chocolate with maple marshmallows or a pressed Philly cheesesteak sandwich at the Slap Shot–inspired Hanson Bros. café, which eschews the rubbery public-park hot dogs for litchi-topped wieners. Those with more sophisticated tastes should order the lobster cassoulet at chef Paul Liebrandt’s the Elm (160 N. 12th St., nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg; 718-218-1088), recently opened nearby in the King & Grove Williamsburg.
Where: 776 Lorimer St., nr. Driggs Ave., Williamsburg; 347-482-7798
Open: Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Entrance fee: $8 for adults, $4 for children; skate rentals for $5
Private lessons: From $70 per hour
Size: 7,200 square feet
The New Rock Center:
The South Street Seaport See/Change Ice Skating Rink
The setting: This open-air rink accommodating approximately 200 skaters is located at the historic Fulton and Front Streets. Officials hope to draw locals to the tourist-heavy museum and shopping district with winter-themed ice-skating shows, ice-carving exhibitions, and D.J. nights.
The crowd: Europeans exploring the sights and shops; college hockey players turned Wall Street traders.
Know before you go: Half-price discounts on admission and rentals are available for residents living within qualifying Zip Codes, and season passes go for $200. The rink is operated by the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is working to redevelop the Hurricane Sandy–battered South Street Seaport and build a 50-story hotel-condo and marina.
Après-skate: Check out the rink-side Skate Shop café serving assorted empanadas, truffle-Cheddar pretzels, and Nutella-filled churros. For a historic hot toddy, head to the Paris Café (119 South St., at Peck Slip; 212-240-9797), newly reopened after Hurricane Sandy and dating to 1873.
Where: At Fulton and Front Sts.; no phone.
Open: Monday–Thursday 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
Entrance fee: $10, free for kids under 5; skate rentals for $6
Private lessons: From $60 per hour
Size: 4,950 square feet
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez has allocated $1.2 million for a new rink in Washington Heights set in Highbridge Park, and inspired by Lasker Rink in Central Park. The community board was supportive of the proposal, and the city is asking for bids from operators; organizers hope to have the rink open by next winter.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza
Neighborhood advocates in Bed-Stuy hope to reopen an ice rink at Restoration Plaza that’s been closed for nearly twenty years. Dating to the sixties, the rink was the site of a popular Christmas celebration where celebrities—including the Kennedy children—skated alongside local residents. The city awarded $50,000 to the $300,000 project, and it’ll likely be ready for next winter.
The Kingsbridge Armory
Built in the 1910s to house the National Guard, this empty fortress in the Bronx is slated to be the country’s largest ice-sports center by 2017. The 750,000-square-foot plan includes nine regulation-size ice rinks on two separate levels, designed for hockey games and ice shows, with a feature rink seating 5,000 people. New York Rangers captain Mark Messier and gold-medalist skater Sarah Hughes are involved in the project, set to cost $275 million.
So Why All the New Rinks?
“It’s the suburbanization of New York City,” explains urban-planning strategist James Lima, who likens the surge to other “suburban experiences” that have ramped up here in the past decade, like big-box retailers (“We love our Target”) and the family-friendly everything in Brooklyn. The rink trend also speaks to “our embracing of public spaces,” adds Lima, whether it’s outdoor seating in Times Square or the winter village in Bryant Park or the High Line. Plus there are the technological advances, says mayoral spokesperson Amanda Konstam, which enable spots like McCarren Park to be multiuse: “Many rinks are now portable and can be set up and taken down at a fairly moderate cost.”