experience - Ice skating, New York
Written by Brian Johnston
When winter comes to New York, take to your skates at the Rockefeller Center. You’re in for a real treat: a festive spin across an iconic ice rink beneath dazzling Christmas decorations.
Right in the heart of New York, the Rockefeller Center has been the classic grande dame of New York skyscrapers since its opening in the 1930s. It’s a classic spot in downtown Manhattan with its top-floor observation platform for views over the city and the magnificent art deco that enlivens its exteriors and adorns the lobby of its main GE Building.
However, perhaps the most quintessential experience at the Rockefeller Center – and one of the best winter experiences in New York – is a spin on its renowned sunken ice rink, which has appeared in many a Hollywood movie. Here you can skate overlooked by the gold-coloured statue of Prometheus and twinkling Christmas lights, just like a scene from some Bing Crosby Christmas song.
If you aren’t a skater, you can always book a private lesson to take your first slide on the ice. Otherwise, simply enjoy the spectacle from the Rock Center Café, which has a magical outlook over the rink. Watch others twirling on the ice, dwarfed by the soaring central tower of the Rockefeller complex, as you tuck into crab and risotto cakes or a pan-seared tuna steak. The café kitchen is tiny, but what comes out of it is big on taste, and a warming deep-dish apple pie might be just the thing you need before heading out into the cold again.
The famous plaza where the ice rink is sited is decorated with silver angels blowing elongated trumpets and presided over by a gigantic Christmas tree that carries a staggering 30,000 lights in a blaze of golden colour. The lighting of the tree on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving is a major New York event. A Tuba Concert held here (December 9) features 300 brass-band members trumpeting merry carols with impressive festive energy. Just another excuse to strap on the skates for a dance across the ice.
The Radio City Music Hall at the Rockefeller Center is home to the most spectacular Christmas show in the city. It runs throughout December and features the famous precision-dance company the Rockettes, as well as dancing rag dolls, marching ‘wooden’ soldiers, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer – a must-see for kids and the young at heart. Even if you don’t see the show, it’s worth visiting the Music Hall. America’s largest indoor theatre is a masterpiece of art deco design and a celebrated New York landmark.