In Canada, winter is the longest season, and we need something to keep us warm while getting our dose of frigid fresh air and sunshine – winter sports! I’m not much of a skier, but skating has been part of my life since I was a child, and while I’m not great, it’s so much fun. One of the perks of living in Toronto was easy access to free public skating rinks. The larger ones have skate rentals, but most rinks in city parks don’t, so you bring your own skates. In Canada, if you have skating gear, you gain access to lots of free winter fun.
When we moved to NYC we brought our skates, our son’s skating helmet (with cage) and skate assist with us despite moving into an apartment with limited storage space. Once it got cold we started looking forward to family skate time. I had only heard of the rinks at Rockefeller Centre and Central Park, and they both charge admission fees even if you have skates! Skate rentals are available as well. Rockefeller looks gorgeous, but with wait times, session times and an adult admission price of $32 before January 1st, and $25 afterwards (children 11 and under are $15) it was too expensive for my liking. We decided to try the Wollman rink in Central Park instead, which, with it being a weekend, set us back $44 ($19 adult, $6 youth). If you bring your own lock, like we did, you can use the lockers for free. We also found out they don’t allow skate assists on the ice, so we had to stash ours in a corner while we held our son up and skated very slowly. I have to say that skating at the Wollman rink is an unforgettable experience, we even witnessed a marriage proposal, but for regular skating sessions I have recently found a rink at Bryant Park and it’s my new go-to!
Bryant Park’s Winter Village has FREE admission and FREE lockers if you bring your own lock. Rentals are more expensive than other places, but it’s perfect for us. They allow skate assists and rent theirs out for $20/hour. It is a scenic park located a few minute walk from the Times Square subway station. The Winter Village has an upstairs warming area with tables and board games (Checkers, Connect Four, Guess Who?, etc.) which is great for taking a break or watching the skaters below). There are refreshments for sale and the set up is really nice. What I learned the hard way is that if your stuff doesn’t fit into a small locker they charge $10 for small bag storage (my backpack has a hard back, so didn’t fit – will bring a tote next time). Regardless, I am so happy I found this skating rink that I have been a few mornings on my own, even on a warm day where I skated in a tank top (crazy for February, but I’ll take it!). For you Torontonians, it’s like Nathan Philips Square but with more amenities. A taste of home in New York….