Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Rink at Winter Village in Bryant Park


On the occasion of today's rink closing, here is my review.

Rink: The Rink at Winter Village in Bryant Park

Location: Bryant Park.  Entrance at the south end of the park (40th St.) near Sixth Ave.

When Visited: Many times this past winter. This has been my go-to place given the price and proximity to my office and home.



When to Go: Weekday mornings are the best time to visit, when the rink is practically empty.  Another great time to go: whenever the mercury falls (ie. during the Polar Vortex), keeping the tourists and novice skaters away. What they don't know is that once you get on the ice and start moving around, it doesn't feel that cold at all, except on your head (so wear a cap or hood). Busy times are during the holiday season (Thanksgiving-New Years), and on weekends and Valentine's Day (the worst), where there can be a 15+ min wait to get in and ice is gridlocked.

Price: Free admission (yay!). Skate rentals: $15-19.

Locker Room: Free lockers (bring a lock or buy one for $9).  The lockers are small - about 12" cube - so if you don't want to spend money to store your stuff, don't bring bulky items with you.  There is a bag check for $8-10.

The locker room


Size of Rink: 17,000 sq ft. (about the same size as Wollman Rink).

Crowd: A lot of tourists and first time skaters - at busy times, the entire rink is lined by novices hugging the walls.  There are many families with kids, contributing to a cheery, upbeat vibe.  Unfortunately, there are usually some regulars - skilled, teen-aged skaters who congregate in small groups - who make it rough on everyone else by skating aggressively around others to show off to their friends.  

Staff: Overall, the skate guards do a good job at patrolling the rink, and are fast to dash over to anyone who's fallen.  Beyond being rigorous about no cell phones on the ice, what rules get enforced varies wildly from guard to guard, with some forbidding backward skating or aggressive skating while others devoting most of their time talking to other guards, policemen or maintenance workers.

Music: Glorious standards and classics from the Great American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart) which impart a vintage, old time-y ambience.  I feel like I've heard about half the score of Anything Goes over the past few months.  Nothing written after the 50's.

The ice after an hour

The rink after resurfacing

Overall Impressions: This oasis in the center of Manhattan is my favorite thing about winter in New York.  And for it to be free (for those who have their own skates) is all the more remarkable.  Thanks to Citibank for sponsoring the rink for 7 years and Bank of America for sponsoring it this season (and hopefully many seasons to come).  But given that it's free, you will have to contend with the crowds, which during busy times means gridlock on the ice and avoiding beginners and children darting around.  The heavy usage takes a tool on the ice and at busy times, the surface is pretty cut up after 30 minutes. But if you can avoid the crowds, and you have your own skates, this rink is hard to beat.

More Facts:
Closing: March 2, 2014

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