Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center in New York: A Wanderlust Experience

There’s something dreamy about gliding across the ice with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop.

 

Each year from Columbus Day weekend through April, an enormous ice rink pops up in the middle of the infamous Rockefeller Center complex between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan. This likely isn’t news to you—you’ve probably seen the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony on TV at least once or twice in your lifetime. The ice rink typically features prominently as part of the production.

As a little girl, I would dream about lacing up a pair of skates and going for a whirl around the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Finally, a few years ago, my dream came true. And it was worth the wait. If you’re one of the privileged travelers who will be spending some time in New York this holiday season, this wanderlust experience should be high on your list of things to do.

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Here are a few things you need to know about ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City.



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1. Be Prepared to Wait

Believe it or not, you’re not the only visitor to New York who wants to skate at Rockefeller. Shocking, I know. Entry to the rink is on a first come, first serve basis. And it’s almost inevitable that there will be a line up to get into the rink. Expect especially long lines over the holidays, which run from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. I was there on January 1, and the line was at least a full city block long when I arrived. But it moved fairly quickly—we only had to wait about 45 minutes.

2. It’ll Cost You

You’ll have to fork out the big bucks for this premium experience. Admission is $25 per adult for a 90-minute session. But that’s not all, unless you managed to pack a pair of skates in your suitcase, you’ll need to rent them. That’ll set you back another $12. But you’re in New York and on vacation, so who cares about the cost. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, after all.

3. Get the VIP Experience

Truth be told, I didn’t know mere mortals like myself could actually go skating at Rockefeller Center. I thought it was only open to the elite. It wasn’t until my friend and I were on our flight to New York that I learned otherwise. Had I known in advance, I would have done more research and learned about the slew of VIP experiences available at the ice rink. Not only do you get to reserve your skating session in advance so you can skip the line, you can pair it with some sort of awesome extra, like breakfast with Santa, afternoon tea, or even an engagement celebration.

4. It’s Magical

I come from a cold part of the country and grew up on a pair of skates. But no rink I’ve ever skated on felt quite as special as the one at Rockefeller Center. When I put my first blade down on the ice, it was like I stepped out of reality and into another dimension.

Sure, it was crowded and cold, but all of that melted away as I looked up at the Manhattan skyline enveloping the ice like a cashmere sweater. My bff and I have been friends a long time—forever, in fact—and this was by far one of the most special experiences we’ve ever shared…and we’ve done a lot of cool things over the years. We laughed so hard we nearly cried as we stumbled awkwardly around the rink for our first few laps. We enjoyed every second of our 90-minute session, soaking in the atmosphere of that majestic place at the most magical time of year.

If you’re traveling to New York, take a few hours out of your day to enjoy this special seasonal experience. I promise you won’t regret it. Be sure to share your pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #wanderlustwayfarer.

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Rockefeller Center

 

One Day in New York: Chelsea Market to Broadway

You’ve got just one day in New York, and you don’t want to squander it. But how can you possibly see all the Big Apple has to offer? This itinerary has a little bit of everything, from Tiffany to Times Square.

Morning

One Day in New York Morning

Start your day in New York with a bit of a lie-in. Relax—it’s city that never sleeps after all, so you’ve got plenty of time to see the sights. (This from the girl who never sleeps past 6 a.m.) As long as you’re up and at ‘em by 10 a.m., you can really pack in a lot of activity. But be prepared to spend the entire day and night on the go. Unless you’re staying someplace super central like the reasonably priced Row NYC, you may not make it back to your hotel to prep for your evening plans. Make sure your outfit can go from day to night just in case.

To make the most of your morning, head toward Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District. Here, you’ll find plenty of ultra-cool eateries serving up delicious and hearty breakfast fare. Whether you have an appetite for a big bowl of porridge, eggs over easy, or a stack of pancakes, you’ll find something that will more than satisfy your every craving.

After you eat, spend some time walking through the market’s indie boutiques and upscale chain stores like my fave, Anthropologie. You can kill two or three hours checking out all of the unique offerings at Chelsea Market alone, but there is still plenty of the city left to see. And you do only have one day in New York.



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Mid-day

One Day in New York Afternoon

The next stop on the itinerary is Avenue of the Americas or there abouts. I recommend walking if you can. Simply head northeast on 9th Avenue and make a right onto the nearest street. Just a few blocks up, and you’ll reach your destination.

Here, you’ll find everything from major chain stores to two-bit pop ups and upscale boutiques. Be sure to turn down the side streets, too. I once found a little shop selling $20 shoes that looked like $200 Fluevogs. No, seriously—a woman at the airport insisted I take them off and show her my insole to prove they weren’t.

In this general area, you’ll find the flagship Tiffany and Co., Macy’s, Bryant Park, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Rockefeller Center, and so much more. Depending on how fast you can walk, you can take in a goodly amount of sights. You may have to double back to take them all in, but you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even notice.

Despite your big breakfast, by now your stomach is probably growling. To save time, grab a bite from a street vendor. They’re a dime a dozen, and you can eat on the go. Not to mention it helps keep down your daily food costs. I like fresh roasted peanuts or a salted pretzel, which you can usually find on every street corner and will cost you just a few dollars. You can use your savings for a nice dinner later on.

While you’re meandering through the city streets, you’ll catch glimpses of some of the most infamous sites. The Chrysler, Empire State, and Flatiron Buildings are just a few examples. Take your time to look around. Don’t forget to turn your eyes to the sky to see some of the world’s tallest towers.

Evening

One day in New York Evening

When night falls, it’s time to head toward Times Square. Depending on which direction you walked on Avenue of the Americas, you may find yourself amid the flashing lights of this famous street or a fair jaunt away. Hop in a taxi if your feet could use a break.

For solo travelers, Times Square is just about the safest place you can be since you’re constantly surrounded by people. The shops here stay open late—so late, in fact, that I’ve never seen them close. Grab a bite to eat from one of the countless restaurants lining the main and side streets. A budget-friendly option with great atmosphere is John’s of Times Square. The made-to-order pizzas are cooked to perfection inside a wood-fired stove. After you’ve grabbed some grub, head over to the TKTS booth to pick up discounted tickets for a Broadway show. What good is having one day in New York if you don’t take in some of the world-class entertainment?

Late Night

Have a hankering for something sweet after the show? It’s a bit of a jaunt, but a trip to Serendipity 3 for a glass of its infamous frrrozen hot chocolate is well worth the cab fare. And because you’re still in the heart of Manhattan, the streets will be busy with people even at this late hour. This is great news since you’ll likely need to stand outside while waiting for a seat at this hot spot. From the outside, this cozy diner doesn’t look like much more than another New York boutique. Step inside, and you’re transported into an eclectic mix of kitsch and quirk. The full-service restaurant has been featured in a number of well-known movies and is notorious for its distinct decor, including Tiffany lampshades and white bistro tables. Trust me when I tell you, order one frrrozen hot chocolate for every two people in your group. You’ll still have plenty more than you can consume. And if you’re up for it, add a dash of peanut butter—after all, calories don’t count when you’re on vacation.

If you’re staying nearby, a walk back to your hotel may be in order to cap off your night. But at this late hour, there’s no shame in hailing a big yellow taxi cab to whisk you away.

I could create 10 different itineraries for one day in New York—and I probably will—but I started here because of all the days I’ve spent in this fine city, this was my favorite. Now, head on over to Facebook or Twitter and share your favorite way to spend one day in New York.

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