Bryant Park turns into a festive winter village each year, filled with holiday market stalls, a massive Christmas tree, and of course, an ice skating rink.
After a pretty disappointing time skating at Rockefeller Center in 2021, I got curious and wanted to compare some other NYC ice skating experiences, so I bought tickets for Bryant Park in November 2023. Here’s my honest review of skating there and why I prefer it over Rockefeller Center.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission on any purchases through those links.
Bryant Park Winter Village Ice Skating Review
To ice skate at Bryant Park, you’ll want to book a time slot online. Skating at Bryant Park is actually free—what you pay for are the skate rentals, which can range from $18-55, depending on the popularity of the time slot you pick. If you bring your own skates, you can skate for free, but you’ll still need to reserve a time slot.
I went on a Saturday evening in November and the cost of my ticket was $32.50 after a 10% Bank of America card discount (they’re the sponsors of the winter village). The original cost of the ticket after fees was around $36.
My friend and I arrived pretty much when my time slot started, and there was a bit of a line to get checked in. After getting our rentals, changing our shoes, and storing our shoes, we probably didn’t start skating until 10 minutes after our time slot.
The rink was pretty crowded, but there was a little more room to skate at the beginning and end of the time slot, when one group had left and the new one hadn’t trickled in fully yet. Of course, with all the people there, the ice got scratched up pretty quickly; they seemed to be running the Zamboni every hour.
Still, I found skating at Bryant Park more pleasant overall. Here are the reasons I enjoyed it:
- The winter village was extremely festive and iconic, between the Christmas tree and the holiday market. The area just felt really bustling and full of energy due to all the people gathered there. (Of course, if you’re self-conscious, you may prefer another rink, as there are tons of people seated around the rink watching, chatting, and eating).
- The price for a weekend evening in November (~$36) was reasonable compared to Rockefeller Center ($50+). Keep in mind that both these prices tend to rise as you get closer to Christmas/as demand rises.
- Because phones and headphones aren’t allowed on the ice, there’s less likelihood of accidents (but no phones is also a con, as I’ll cover next).
And here are some aspects of the experience that I think could be improved:
- They’re pretty strict with the rules against bags on the ice. I had a fanny pack I was wearing as a side body bag (which wouldn’t be a danger or take up any extra space), and the attendant at the entrance told me to check the bag. Checking bags costs $5, and I thought that was silly for a fanny pack, so I just put the fanny pack under my jacket and zipped it up.
- As I mentioned, phones aren’t allowed, so you can’t take photos on the ice. This wasn’t super strictly enforced; I didn’t even realize this until after I’d snapped a few photos and heard the timed announcement about it. That said, I did see attendants stopping people if it was obvious they were taking photos. I totally get the safety aspect of this rule, but it’s also too bad to not get photos from an iconic and expensive experience. To get around this, you could ask a friend waiting for you off the ice to snap a quick photo with their phone if you’re by the edge.
- You have to “check” your shoes, which is free, but that means there’s a line to pick them back up. I prefer a locker system where you can do this yourself.
Overall, I found skating at Bryant Park better value than Rockefeller Center and I’m glad I had a chance to go. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a festive and iconic winter experience in NYC, but just be aware that there are more rules than other rinks.
Where Else to Ice Skate in NYC
There are plenty of other iconic places to ice skate in the city. You may also like skating at:
- Brooklyn Bridge Park (new for 2023!)
- Rockefeller Center (see my comparison of Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center skating)
- Central Park
- Brookfield Place
Let us know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these, and what you thought!
You may also like my other NYC travel reviews.