We all know about Rockefeller Center. We’ve seen it in the movies, and if you live in the Tri-State area, you’ve probably seen it in real life. But there are plenty of lesser-known (and less crowded) places in the New York City area to enjoy one of the season’s trademark activities. To make for a perfect winter day, bring your skating partners and grab one of these hot drinks after your ice rink excursion.
By Shari Simpson-Cabelin. (Photo by Getty Images).

The Pond in Bryant Park

West 42nd Street and 6th Ave
New York, NY 10036
(212) 661-6640

I will start with an absolute family favorite. First of all, it’s FREE (Okay, not quite as perfect as it sounds, because it’s only free if you have your own skates – rental is $13), it’s very well maintained, and it’s just as much fun to people-watch as it is to skate. Kids will love everything about The Pond, including the Christmas shops surrounding the rink that give the whole place an air of magic and that you can leave the rink and take a (chilly) ride on the Carousel (but the outdoor café next to the rink has space heaters!) The lines can be long on evenings and weekends, but if you’re worried about antsy children, you can buy a Pond FastPass. The Pond has a very friendly atmosphere, even an “I don’t mind tripping over your child” air.

City Ice Pavilion

47-32 32nd Place
Long Island City, NY
(718) 505-6230

We like City Ice Pavilion in Long Island City because it’s indoors and pretty cheap ($5 on weekdays, $8 on weekends). It’s enormous (but people are still pretty friendly about tripping over your kids) and it’s nearly brand-new, so the ice is great. The staff is great; the skates are new and comfortable and it’s still a little bit of a secret to Manhattan. Oh, and did I mention that they offer free parking? Where else in the NY area can you drive to a skating rink and park? Their extensive Learn to Skate program is also another added plus.

Pershing Field Ice Rink

Summit and Pershing, Just South Of Manhattan Avenue
Jersey City
(201) 547-4392

Pershing Ice Rink was renamed the Charlie Heger Ice Rink this past June as a tribute to the man who has coached the youth hockey league for the past 30 years. An outdoor rink, it is super cheap ($5 for non-residents, $3 for residents and only $2.50 for skate rental). It is no frills, but just great old-fashioned skating. It’s kind of indoors, kind of outdoors (it has a roof but no sides), so it’s properly cold but you won’t get rained or snowed on. Pershing is a great rink for spontaneous, “gather up the kids and friends for a few hours of fun” skating.

Westchester Skating Academy

91 Fairview Park Drive
Elmsford, NY 10523

Here’s the big family-friendly draw: WSA has a regular public session and an Adults Only public session for skater ages 18 and older, which helps draw the “big kids” away from the “little kids”’ skating time. WSA is a mite pricey ($10.25 adults, $9.25 kids), but it’s very well maintained; the staff is helpful; and it offers “Broom Ball” a fun, hockey-ish game that the young ones really love.

Lasker Rink

110th Street & Lenox Avenue
New York, NY
(917) 492-3857

One more NYC option is the Lasker Rink, which  offers a double rink, (one public, and one for hockey). As far as atmosphere goes – you can’t beat the north end of Central Park. Also to be appreciated is the price.  It’s $6.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids under the age of 12. Lasker also has pretty decent public skating hours and Learn to Skate holiday camps.

Shari Simpson-Cabelin is a blogger at earth Mother just means I’m dusty (www.dustyearthmother.com).