I woke up a few days ago, looked out the window and thought, “What a lovely day to go ice skating in Bryant Park.” So, that’s what I did. The problem was, so did everyone else.
Bryant Park, for those of you non-New Yorkers, encompasses the blocks between 40th and 42nd and 5th and 6th Avenues. Basically, it’s right in the center of the island. In the winter, New York sets up a huge rink, restaurant, and general winter safe-distance-idling areas in the center of the park and New Yorkers of every shape, color, and age converge there to get their skate on (or enjoy watching others do so).
I had been to the park many times and had even been to the rink to sing a little concert last year, but I had never actually ice skated on the rink. In fact, I had not been ice skating since I was somewhere around my Punky Brewster phase. And, ladies and gentlemen, that was a LONG time ago.
I met my fabulous friends at the south end of the park and we walked toward the entrance of the rink. Oy. There was, literally, a line about a block long to enter. I sighed, reminded myself it was a beautiful day, and traipsed to the end of the line to survey the situation. Apparently, I had missed the memo that it was wear-your-black-puffy-north-face-jacket day at the rink.
I wrestled with a moment’s insecurity in my beige rabbit lined BCBG jacket. Then I got over it. Punky Brewster would have liked my outfit. Here’s the thing about the skating in the park. It’s free. That is, if you own your skates and are willing to bring your own padlock for a locker the size of a breadbox.
Otherwise, you pay $26 for skate rental, $10 for a bag to put your stuff in for the coat/bag check, and more for the VIP pass (skate rental and you don’t have to wait in the line). Not to mention extra money for snacks, “ice pix”, lessons, etc. Just like most things, I thought, free rarely ever really means free.
When we finally got into the skate rental area, it was mobbed. Like, worse than Macy’s on Christmas Eve mobbed. And it was about 65 percent teenagers. A light went on in my head. This was the New York equivalent of the roller rink or the bowling alley. There were a group of lanky boys in the corner telling a very animated story to a group of giggling teenage girls. Ah, this was the hookup place. And it was Saturday to boot.
I waxed a little nostalgic for the roller rink and couples’ skate, focused on putting on my tacky plastic rental skates, and headed out to the ice. Luckily there were two skaters and two non-skaters in our party (me being of the non-skater persuasion). I clung to the side of the ice while Rachael (who, incidentally can do things on the ice like double lutzes) taught me how to push off from one skate to another.
I started to clumsily move as a four-year-old in a snowsuit passed me. Ugh. I focused a bit harder and by the time we made it around the rink once (with Brittany shielding me from the other skaters), I was successfully separated from the wall. I started to look around. The ice was packed with people. It was impossible to go more than ten yards without having to dodge someone or without being pushed by someone behind you that “didn’t know how to stop”.
Groups of teenage boys zipped dangerously past my wobbling skates. Kids flew periodically from different directions and became giggling human hurdles. It really should have been infuriating (if not at least annoying). It wasn’t. It was fun. Silly and refreshing and fun. We passed an ice skating nun in full habit with her rosary blowing behind her and started giggling ourselves.
After over an hour of skating, I had blisters and cramping arches and Erin declared herself peckish, so we returned our skates and headed to Celsius, the restaurant that overlooked the rink. It sported an ice-like décor with crystal chandeliers and glass walls with views of the city in every direction.
We proceeded to sit inside (there were tables outside with individual heat lamps over each table) and have a lovely late lunch/early dinner of chicken pot pie, sliders, veggie chili, and (yes, I did actually eat some) chili cheese fries. The menu was thoughtfully centered around warm comfort foods that one would crave after a long day of skating.
It was well-done comfort food, too. I made a mental note that I would highly recommend a trip to the restaurant to friends even if they didn’t want to skate first.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable winter day in the park with friends. Incidentally, if you’re going to check out the rink or Celsius, you should absolutely go. Just bring your patience pants. And a few extra bucks.