When you build your list of Things To Do in New York City, Cold Weather Edition, the top three are automatic but two are problematic. To watch the Macy’s Parade, you have to be there Thanksgiving Day. To celebrate New Year’s on Times Square, you have to be there on New Year’s Eve.
But if you can’t work those dates into your vacation, take heart. If you visit any time from Columbus Day weekend through early April, you won’t go 0 for 3. Just a short walk from your Midtown haven—or a short subway ride and even shorter walk—is the storied Rockefeller Center Ice Rink.
There’s no need to pack skates. You can rent them at the rink. There’s no need even to have skated before. Just give your ankles a little pep talk and take the beginner’s lessons offered there. Whether you’re a veteran or newbie, a modest admission fee gets you 90 minutes of ice time in one of America’s grandest outdoor skating settings—especially in November and December, when the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree towers overhead.
The rink is located 49th and 50th streets and between Avenue of the Americas and Fifth Avenue, in the expanse below the front entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza—“30 Rock,” home of NBC Studios. The rink and lower plaza are accessible from Fifth Avenue through the Channel Garden.
The rink opens early every day and some nights closes at midnight. It’s less crowded during the week and families with children might prefer daytime—although night skating while the spectacular Christmas lights are lit can be an unforgettable experience and a truly unique way to share happiness.
Rockefeller Center Ice Rink FAQs
Where is the rink located?
The address is 600 Fifth Avenue, NYC. Enter via Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th streets.
What’s the phone number?
Call 212.332.7654 during skating season, 212.332.7614 in the offseason.
Is there a website?
Yes. Visit www.therinkatrockcenter.com to learn about hours of operation, admission prices, skate rentals and private lesson fees, which all vary. If you’re visiting the site in the offseason, check regularly. Information isn’t posted year-round.
When is the rink open?
Check the website.
What’s the admission charge? What’s the skate rental charge? What’s the charge for lessons?
Check the website.
Are there any special packages?
Yes. One of the most popular combines ice skating with a trip to Top of the Rock®, the 70th-floor observation deck atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Or if you want to surprise your sweetie, ask about the Engagement on Ice package.
Are there any other incidental costs?
Locker rental is free, but tipping is accepted for shoe rental.
Will there be long lines?
It depends on the time of day and the month. Only 150 skaters are allowed on ice at any one time. Expect longer lines at night, from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting through the holidays.
When will the Christmas tree be lit? When will it be taken down?
This year, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit for the first time on December 2. The event will include live performances from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. It all takes place at Rockefeller Plaza between West 48th & West 51st streets and Fifth & Sixth avenues in Manhattan.
Where can I go nearby to get a coffee?
You have a few options. Try Blue Bottle Coffee, on concourse level around the corner from the rink, at the base of 1 Rockefeller Plaza.
Anything else I might want to know?
Two things come to mind. The rink is smaller than it might appear on television, so depending on crowds, temper your expectations of sailing down long patches of open ice. Also, from time to time skating is interrupted for ice resurfacing by a Zamboni.
Will I bump into a celebrity?
Yes if one of you isn’t watching what you’re doing. Serious answer: Yes, celebrities do skate there, but unless they’re not appearing on a segment of Today, Saturday Night Live or some other NBC program, they might not be easy to spot. Not only will they be trying to blend in anonymously, they might be bundled up beyond recognition. Still, several celebs were spotted in 2011-12, including Tom Cruise and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.