I visited 4 of New York City's seasonal ice-skating rinks, and the most iconic was my least favorite

rockefeller center ice skating
The author at Rockefeller Center.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider
  • I visited Manhattan's four seasonal ice-skating rinks over the course of two weeks.
  • My favorite was at Bryant Park's Winter Village due to its atmosphere, cost, and safety.
  • My least favorite rink was at Rockefeller Center, a famed — and expensive — tourist trap.

Holiday season in New York City is one of the most magical places in the world, and ice-skating is one of its best winter activities.

central park ice skating rink
The Wollman Rink in Central Park.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

By no means am I a particularly good skater, though I did take lessons for two years when I was a kid — all that means is that I know how to stop, skate, and keep my balance, which is really all you need to know to have a good time ice-skating.

I decided to try Manhattan's seasonal, outdoor ice-skating rinks to decide which one is the overall best, rated by price, rentals, lines, crowds, and general vibes.

I visited four rinks: Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, and Brookfield Place.

Here's how each rink stacked up.

My least favorite ice-skating rink, unfortunately, was the rink at Rockefeller Center, which is beneath the city's famous Christmas tree.

rockefeller center ice skating rink
Rockefeller Center.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Unfortunately, the most famous rink was also my least favorite. I found my visit expensive, crowded, and full of falling people.

On a Thursday afternoon, it cost $35 per ticket just to skate, and there was an added $10 skate rental fee. If you don't want to go alone, you and another person will pay around $90 for an hour of skating, unless you go at an off-peak time.

There are slots that are even more expensive in the evenings.

People were snapping selfies left and right, which led to some unfortunate collisions ... including someone skating directly into me from behind.

rockefeller center ice skating
Me at Rockefeller Center, pre-someone smashing into me.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Some of the other rinks I visited had a no phone policy, which could be annoying if you're skating for a photo op, but it was definitely helpful in regards to safety. I'll admit that I hypocritically also participated in taking photos, including the one above ... just before someone smashed into me.

People were weaving in and out of couples trying to take pictures, which led to at least a couple of falls and crashes when I was there.

But of course, you're at Rockefeller Center — why wouldn't you try and get a picture of you and the tree?

Some pros: It is a romantic place — my friend and I even watched a couple get engaged.

a couple getting engaged at rockefeller center
The newly engaged couple.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Unfortunately, this did mean we were kicked off the ice for a good 10 minutes, cutting into everyone's skate time. It also set them back $450, according to the website.

Another bonus at this rink: They offered free lockers.

As it is an outdoor activity, masks are not required. However, masks must be worn when you're inside.

The skates were my favorite compared to those offered at other rinks, as they didn't need to be laced up.

rental skates rockefeller center
Rockefeller Center rental skates.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

It's much easier to adjust these skates than all of the other ones I was given, which were poorer-quality lace-up skates.

But overall, the small size of the rink, the crowds, lack of rules regarding phones or masks, and the lack of any other activities puts this at the bottom of my list.

rockefeller center ice skating
My friend and I trying our best not to stop traffic.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

In my opinion, you're better off just visiting the tree and watching the skaters — and any proposals — for free.

If you're still committed to visiting, the rink is open daily from 7 a.m. to midnight until January 2. It then has reduced hours through April, though the tree comes down in January.

In third place on my ranking: the Wollman Rink at Central Park. While it's huge, I found it very disorganized.

wollman rink ice skating
Wollman Rink.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

I visited Wollman Rink on a Sunday afternoon, which set me back $23 for a ticket plus $11 to rent skates. I also could've rented a locker for $7, but I luckily had my dad with me, who decided to skip skating and held on to my shoes and bag.

Like Rockefeller Center, there are staggered ticket prices depending on the time of day. If you're not about skating, you can also purchase spectator tickets.

Walking up to the rink, I had a feeling it was going to be a rough wait — the line snaked around the rink and up a hill, making it the longest line I encountered by far.

central park ice skating line
Part of the line.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

This is just the first part of the line ...

The line continued up the stairs. Here's where I was able to finally join it.

second part of the central park line
More of the Central Park line.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Fortunately, I got to Central Park around half an hour before my scheduled time, which was lucky. I got to the front right at the beginning of my time slot. So I'd recommend getting there early, even if you've booked a time.

People in the line speculated that there was such a back-up because there was no predetermined end time to skating sessions, which led some people to stay at the rink for hours.

I watched multiple people give up on the line because, regardless of their ticket time, they were forced to wait, and they didn't have time due to other plans.

Wollman Rink offered the lace-up skates that all the other rinks (besides Rockefeller Center) had.

central park ice skates
The skates at Wollman Rink.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

This type of skate, for me personally, is annoying to use — it took me a couple of tries to lace them up tight enough.

Central Park itself has great views, but something else that put it above Rockefeller Center was the concessions area and a Four Five Coffee stand.

concessions area central park
The concessions area at Central Park.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The coffee stand, not pictured, was outside where all the spectators could sit.

Checking off the Wollman Rink was definitely important to me as a New Yorker, but I don't think I'll be compelled to come back and skate.

central park ice skating selfies
A selfie at Wollman Rink.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Like Rockefeller Center, there were no specific rules about using phones, but I noticed way fewer photos in the middle of the rink — people confined their use to the wall, like I did.

Proof of vaccination is required if you wish to go inside and eat, and masks should be worn at all times, except while you're eating.

Wollman Rink is open daily with various hours (Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.,;and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.). It's open through April, weather permitting.

My second favorite was the Rink at Brookfield Place, which is next to the mall of the same name in downtown Manhattan.

the rink at brookfield place
The Rink at Brookfield Place.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

It easily had my favorite view of the rinks I visited, as it's right next to the Hudson River on one side, and though it seemed smaller, it's larger than the similarly teeny Rockefeller Center, according to Time Out.

To visit on a Tuesday afternoon cost $17 for the skate slot, plus $5 for skate rentals, making it the cheapest option (by $1).

This is the view from the other side of the rink.

the rink at brookfield place
The Rink at Brookfield Place.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

It looked onto Brookfield Place, which is packed with shops and dining options.

Either way you turned, it was a great view.

It was also the least crowded of the rinks I visited.

brookfield place rink
The Rink at Brookfield Place.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

As I visited on a Tuesday, I would expect the rink to be less busy than the Sunday slot I had for Wollman Rink. However, it was also less busy than the rink at Rockefeller Center, which I had also visited on a weekday.

The skaters were also mainly little kids, which was sweet.

The rental skates were the same as Central Park's, which was annoying, but at this point I was used to it.

Right next to the rink indoors was The Lodge, which is Brookfield Place's version of a mini-holiday market.

the lodge brookfield place
One of the stands at The Lodge.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The Lodge is open daily through January 16, with rotating merchants and photo opportunities.

Due to the overall atmosphere, the Rink at Brookfield Place comes in second on my list.

inside of brookfield place
The inside of Brookfield Place.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The Rink at Brookfield Place is open Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.

To my surprise, my favorite place to skate in Manhattan was at the Winter Village in Bryant Park.

bryant park ice skating rink
The rink at Bryant Park.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

My ticket for a Wednesday afternoon skate was $23 due to the skate rental — if you have your own skates, it's free. The skate rental fee, like the other rinks, changes depending on your time slot, and it can go up to $45.

Instead of lockers, they offered clear rental backpacks that were free with a skate rental.

sneaker bag
My sneaker bag.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The sneaker bag was free with a skate rental. If you brought your own skates, you could also purchase one for $5.

Other options for storage included a bag check, which varied depending on the size of the bag, or you could bring your own backpack if it was smaller than 16 inches by 18 inches.

These skates, admittedly, were the most beat up.

bryant park ice skates
My rental skates at Bryant Park.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

They were actually two different skates paired together.

But once I got on the ice, it was easily my favorite. Everyone had to wear masks and there was no one whipping our their phones and potentially endangering people.

bryant park skating
Bryant Park.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Yes, my skating buddy (aka my dad) took this photo for me from off the ice.

Once you were off the ice, you had an entire holiday market to browse, and a full bar.

rinkside bar bryant park
The Rinkside Bar.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

This is just one of the stands at your disposal.

After skating, I secured myself a mulled wine.

my mulled mine
My mulled wine.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

My skating buddy (again, my dad) got a Bailey's hot chocolate.

There are also igloos available to rent.

With the atmosphere, cheap skates, safety of the rink, and, crucially, alcohol, the Bryant Park rink won by a mile.

bryant park ice skating rink
The view.
Gabbi Shaw/Insider

It also has a view of the Empire State Building that can't be beat.

From December 10 to January 2, the rink is open daily from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The rink will stay open with reduced hours through March 6.

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