By Terry Trucco
Ah, the crisp, chill days of December. They may not be here yet, but they’re coming. And with them our thoughts turn to salchows, toe loops and flips – or more realistically, trying to not to belly flop on the ice.
Each winter outdoor rinks sprout up throughout Manhattan. Never mind that we’re talking frozen concrete instead of frozen ponds; concrete is urban poetry. Though the rink at the W Downtown didn’t return for a second season, the Standard Hotel rink is back along with stalwarts like Bryant Park’s Citi Pond, the Rink at Rockefeller Center and Wollman and Lasker rinks in Central Park. So liberate your inner Evan Lysacek – or Johnny Weir. Here’s where to check in if you crave skating and the city – or just want a rink-side hotel that will warm you up with hot chocolate, or something stronger, après skate.
The Standard, 848 Washington Street at 13th Street; 212 645-4646.
Making every inch count in a space-starved city breeds cleverness. Witness the ice-skating rink on the plaza in front of the Standard hotel, the same square footage occupied by a fleet of tables and chairs in warmer weather. At 3,000 square feet, the rink is a beauty, as stylish as the hotel with strings of lights and big red snowflakes on the railings. Bonus: You get to skate under the High Line elevated park. We love the black and red Tyrolean-inspired haus, a hip riff on Heidi, were you check in (adults $12, kids $6) and rent skates if you need them ($3). A second haus abuts, serving up powdered sugar crepes, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, eggnog and capuccino as well as stronger stuff like bourbon, brandy or dark rum for spiking a toddy. If that won’t warm you up, hanging space heaters above the seating area will do the trick. One curiosity: no music; you move in silence, like Ashtanga yoga. Open daily from 10 am weekdays, noon weekends, until late.
Bryant Park Hotel, 40 West 40th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues; 212 869-0100.
Okay, it’s not the Hudson River at sunset. But not many hotels offer the the Bryant Park Hotel’s signature perk: a window view of an ice-skating rink. Select rooms overlook Bryant Park, the plucky urban green behind the New York Public Library. And through February 26, the park’s big attraction is Citi Pond, a 170’ by 100’ rink with free admission (skate rentals cost $14 but you can, of course, byo). Open 8 am to 10 pm Sundays through Thursdays, until midnight Fridays and Saturdays, the rink attracts a crowd, especially at lunch. You can check it out whenever you like on the web cam. But nothing beats seeing it in person – or from a room at the Bryant Park Hotel. Food abounds including Celsius, with outdoor rink-view terraces warmed by heat lamps, and ‘witchcraft, the stylish sandwich kiosks dotting the park. At the hotel, the adult, and atmospheric, Cellar Bar, whose tile ceiling rivals that of Grand Central Station’s Oyster Bar, serves up stylish post-skate drinks.
The New York Palace, 455 Madison Avenue at 50th Street; 212 888-7000.
It may not be the city’s biggest, but if you want a career with the Ice Capades – or just want your double lutz to get noticed – wouldn’t you skate at the Rink at Rockefeller Center? You’ll pay for the privilege, especially on weekends (adults $19, kids $10.50). But hey, how often do you get to skate under The Tree? Rockefeller Center food and snack haunts abound, including a Starbucks on the lower level. We swear by the hot – or iced – chocolate at the Charbonnel et Walker Chocolate Bar across the street at Saks Fifth Avenue. At the Palace, a mere two blocks from the ice, the festive Holiday Fantasy Brunch, available on weekends noon to 2:30 pm, serves up a la carte specialties for adults (lobster rigatoni, egg white frittata) and kids (ginger-scented pancakes, mac and cheese) and desserts like Prancer’s pumpkin cheesecake and North Pole ice cream. The rink, btw, is open Monday through Thursday 9 am to 10:30 pm, Friday and Saturday 8:30 am to midnight and Sunday 8:30 am to 10 pm.
The Pierre, 2 East 61st Street at Fifth Avenue; 212 838-8000.
You’ll fight your way through the crowds, but Wollman Rink at the southeast end of Central Park is a great place to skate. It’s big, more like a frozen lake than a pond. And the urban landscape of skyscrapers and trees will have you humming Gershwin – or Alicia Keys. The towering Pierre hotel, more or less across the street, was just 19 years old when Wollman opened in 1949. Wollman isn’t known for food, so the Pierre is an obvious choice if you crave a hot chocolate – or hot toddy — in stylish digs to celebrate a perfect triple toe loop. Besides seasonal drinks, the Pierre’s Two East lounge temps with a special chocolate menu this winter. Wollman is open daily from 10 am to 2:30 pm Monday-Tuesday, 10 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 11 p, Friday –Saturday at 11 pm and 9 pm Sunday. Adult admission ranges from $10.75 to $16, kids $5.75 to $6; skate rentals $6.75.
Aloft Harlem, 2296 Frederick Douglas Boulevard between 122nd and 123rd streets; 212 749-4000.
Compared to style demons like Rockefeller Center and the Standard, Lasker is a brute, a frill-free 1966 creation more pragmatic than poetic. Still, this plucky rink at the northeast corner of Central Park gets the job done. The ice is hard. The price is right ($6.75 adults, $3.75 kids). And the rink is rarely overcrowded (beginners can stumble without getting run over). It’s also versatile; in the summer it morphs into a swimming pool. And beauty is nearby, namely Harlem Meer, a gorgeous pond stocked with fish. The nearest hotel is a hike. Aloft Harlem is 12 blocks north, but it’s wxyz bar is welcoming after a day on the ice. And its grab-and-go serves up coffee, tea and cookies. Lasker opens daily from 10 am to 2:30 pm Monday- Tuesday, 10 pm Wednesday-Thursday, 11 pm Friday-Saturday and 9 pm Sunday.