New York, New York. I have spent many a holiday in this fair city they call the Big Apple. Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? And by sweet, I mean the musty scent of slow-melting snow tainted with exhaust fumes gently swirled with the sugary aroma of roasted cashews wafting from the corner Nuts 4 Nuts vendor. But it’s New York and it’s magnificent. Though I begrudge the added crowds filling our streets – be it tourists hustling from their hotel to Radio City or simply fellow New Yorkers rushing form store to store trying to find the perfect gift – I can’t help but love this time of year. And there is a reason people from all over the country, nay the world, descend upon our little island of Manhattan during the holidays. It’s a considered by many to be the Mecca of culture, food, shopping, and everything in between. After all, this is the time of year when the Union Square holiday market busts out its red and white tents, the tree at Rockefeller Center is lit, and the Metropolitan Opera puts up a breathtaking staging of La Boheme. But perhaps most importantly, it’s the time of year when I can drink all the soupy deliciousness that is the hot chocolate at The City Bakery that I want. Homemade marshmallows are optional.
But as much as I can wax poetic about said hot chocolate, I am here to disclose to you a different type of holiday activity for you to squeeze in between bouts of shopping and fake smiling at work parties: skating at the Pond at Bryant Park. I know, I know. I am not exactly reinventing the wheel by proposing ice skating in New York this winter season. And while this little midtown gem adjacent to the likes of the New York Public Library isn’t much of a secret anymore, it doesn’t take anything away from its allure. The only free admission skating rink in New York City (that’s worth repeating again – free admission!), this rink offers a skating space larger than Rockefeller Center with lines that are far less intimidating. With the panoramic backdrop of the city’s surrounding skyscrapers and the park’s Holiday tree, it’s hard for even the most cynical among us not to be charmed by this skating experience. Cold hands and feet included. Forgot your skates? The Pond offers skate rentals at $13 and lockers are available to keep your belongings safe while you test out your skating skills. And after you have exhausted your legs on the ice where, if you are anything like me, you will have some wicked aching arches and maybe a bruise (or two), you can rest up and warm up in Celsius. A recently completed two-story glass structure overlooking the skating pond, Celsius is a restaurant and lounge that offers comfort food and (comfort) drinks. Here you can defrost your toes and fill your belly before venturing back out into the holiday shopping crowds.
Like most holiday activities worth doing in *New York, lines can be long to get onto the ice. So if your schedule is tight, try to get to the pond before school (and work) gets out on weekdays and before noon on Saturday and Sunday. Otherwise, normal operating hours for the pond are 8 am – 10 pm Sunday thru Thursday and 8 am – midnight Friday thru Saturday. But regardless of how long you stand in line, you will be thankful for the postcard memories from the ice and the respite from shopping crowds on Fifth Avenue. Plus you will have worked off enough calories to justify another hot chocolate, be it at The City Bakery downtown or the nearby Max Brenner at Bryant Park’s own holiday market. Yum.
The Pond at Bryant Park is conveniently located in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues. It is a short walk from Times Square. For more information on the Pond at Byrant Park, please visit their official website.