Is Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center Worth it?

The iconic gold statue at Rockefeller Center

Photos of the Rockefeller Center skating rink can’t get any more festive: light-adorned trees line the rink all while the iconic Christmas tree towers over the skaters. I wanted to experience this magic myself, so I went with a friend in 2021, and was actually disappointed.

Here’s what it’s like to skate at Rockefeller Center, and why I wouldn’t recommend it (plus where else to go instead).

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Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Review

To skate at Rockefeller Center, you can book your tickets online for a specific hour-long time slot. You could also buy tickets at the rink, but you may need to wait in line for a long time.

Prices vary based on the day and time, with weekends and evenings costing the most. If you want a weekend evening slot, that will set you back $100+ total for two people, if you need to rent skates as well.

At the time, I paid $30 for a weekend morning including skate rentals, and even then, I didn’t think it was worth it.

Me ice skating at Rockefeller Center

Because I booked a time slot, I didn’t have to wait too long to be checked in and get my skates. I then got a sticker with my time slot on it, which everyone needs to wear while skating.

I found the rink pretty crowded and small, and the ice was scratched up when my slot started. The Zamboni seemed to run every half hour or so to smooth over the ice, and even then, the sheer volume of people meant it was scratched up again quickly.

The crowds at Rockefeller Center ice skating rink

I was also disappointed that the Christmas tree wasn’t up at the time (early November). I sort of assumed that if there was ice skating available, the tree would be there, but that’s not the case. It seems that the tree doesn’t appear until close to the day of the lighting, which is usually end of November (November 29 in 2023).

The rink just didn’t seem very festive overall, and I think it was just too early in the season. If you go, I would definitely recommend waiting until December to have more of the “winter magic” you see in the photos. You can also consider going at night to see more holiday lights, even though it’s a lot pricier (and probably isn’t worth it at that point).

Here are a few things that were nice about the experience, however:

  • You’re allowed to take photos on the ice (they’re not allowed at Bryant Park).
  • There are free day lockers (bags aren’t allowed on the ice and some places, like Bryant Park, charge for bag storage).
  • If you needed to take a break, you could always step back into the shoe-changing area, or there was also a cafe by the rink.
  • The skates were also easy to adjust since they were the type that you snap in place, rather than lacing up.
Rockefeller Center ice skating cafe

Where Else to Ice Skate in NYC

Wollman Rink in Central Park and The Winter Village at Bryant Park both offer ice skating in larger rinks, and at lower prices. You can even skate for free at Bryant Park if you bring your own skates! Just make sure to reserve a time slot regardless.

And, you’ll still be in pretty iconic NYC locations. In fact, Bryant Park also has a holiday market. Here’s my review of skating at the Bryant Park Winter Village, which I enjoyed more than Rockefeller Center (here’s my comparison of skating at both).

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.

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