Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

When I was living in New York City in my 20s, my friends and I loved to go skating in the winter. Our favorite was Wollman Rink in Central Park. At that time, it was a little known ice skating gem in Manhattan. If I were still living in NYC, I would consider ice skating at Bryant Park, too.

However, occasionally we would hit the ice at Rockefeller Center, but never during the holiday season. That’s when crowds descend on Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree. The only time I would get close to that ice skating rink in December was when my mother and I would share a birthday brunch at one of the rink-level restaurants.

We would always try to time our visit with Tuba Christmas, an outdoor concert in and around the rink of, you guessed it, tubas. Tuba Christmas celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023.

Annual Tuba Christmas Concert in New York City
Tuba Christmas concert on the rink at Rockefeller Center. Photo credit: Adobe Photos.

Skating at Rockefeller Center

One of our family’s annual holiday traditions is to watch the movie “Elf.” Other people might watch “Die Hard” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But each year, we laugh at “Elf” like it is the first time we’ve seen it.

And if you love “Elf” as much as I do, then you know it includes scenes filmed at the Rink at Rockefeller Center, when Will Ferrell and Zoe Deschanel’s characters go ice skating. Many other movies and TV shows includes scenes filmed with people skating here. It’s one of the reasons that On Location Tours has a specific NYC tour of Rockefeller Center filming locations. And, yes, that includes the rink.

Best times to skate at Rockefeller Center

If you’re planning a day in NYC and want to hit the ice at Rockefeller Center, do what my friends and I would do: educate yourselves on the best times to go. Just don’t decide at the last minute. Unless you’re going first thing in the morning or super late at night, you’re going to be dealing with crowds.

ice skaters crowded rockefeller center Depositphotos low res
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

The rink operates daily from morning until late night throughout the winter. Official hours are 9 a.m. to midnight. The skating season officially starts in mid to late October. Then, the rink is open through about mid-March, depending on the weather.

Remember that weekends, holidays and school vacations can be popular periods for ice skating enthusiasts. During these time slots, the rink may see increased foot traffic and longer lines. However, you may find the people watching worth the wait.

“I remember visiting New York City one Christmas and one of the highlights was seeing the ice skating at Rockefeller,” recalls Mandy Applegate who writes the Splash of Taste blog. “There’s something magical about watching everyone skate in their Christmas hats while surrounded by all the festive trees and decorations. It’s well worth the visit, even if you don’t skate.”

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If you prefer a less bustling atmosphere, planning your visit on a weekday might be best when there are typically fewer people around. Midweek afternoons often present an excellent opportunity for unlimited skating fun, especially if you’re in New York with kids. With many people occupied with work or school commitments during this time, availability tends to be better. You’ll have greater flexibility in choosing your preferred time slot without worrying about overcrowding.

Skating prices

There are different choices for tickets. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can opt for general admission or VIP packages.

The cost of tickets fluctuates based on whether it’s a peak or off-peak period. Prices may be higher during busier times like weekends or holidays than weekdays or non-holiday periods.

As of this writing, these were the skating prices:

  • General admission: $11 to $79
  • VIP admission: $47 to $125

To ensure you secure your preferred ice skating time slot, make online reservations. This way, you can choose a date and time that suits you without hassle.

Also, keep in mind that duration of your ticket — meaning how long you’ll get to skate. With a general admission ticket, you have 60 minutes total in the facility. VIP gets you extended skating time, up to 90 minutes. However, the clock starts the minute they scan your ticket.

So, if you need to rent skates ($11), that will cut into your time on the ice. Best bet is to bring your own skates so you can lace up and get out onto the ice right away.

A group of people ice skating in front of a fountain.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Tips for a memorable experience

To make the most of your time on the ice, be sure to dress warmly and wear comfortable socks to stay cozy on the ice. Bundle up in warm layers that will keep you comfortable on the ice. Don’t forget to wear appropriate socks to protect your feet from the cold and ensure a snug fit in your skates.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been on the ice, consider taking a lesson from a professional instructor. These lessons are 30-minutes long. You can book a lesson for one skater ($60) up to four skaters ($120). Note: these prices do not include tickets to a general skating session.

Since 1936, millions of New Yorkers have skated here at the Rockefeller Ice skating Rink
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Reasons to visit the rink at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center offers a magical ice skating experience in the heart of New York City during the holiday season. But there is much more than just ice skating; it creates an enchanting atmosphere that captivates you. Even if you aren’t a skater, just stopping by to watch the skaters is a great free thing to do in New York City.

One of my other favorite, free things to do in NYC? Walking the High Line.

Not only does the rink provide a memorable setting, but it also ensures a convenient visit. With nearby dining options available like Nino’s Restaurant NYC, you can quickly grab a bite before or after your skating session. Whether you’re craving a quick snack or a sit-down meal, there are plenty of choices to satisfy any palate.

Skating at the iconic Rockefeller Center rink creates lasting memories for families, couples, friends and even those traveling alone. Whether holding hands with a loved one or watching children take their first wobbly steps on the ice, these moments become cherished memories. Speaking of wobbly steps, penguin skate aids are available to rent for $25 and are available on a first come, first-served basis when you skate at Rockefeller Center.

Get engaged on the ice at Rockefeller Center

love, holidays and relationships concept - happy couple with engagement ring at outdoor skating rink over christmas lights background
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

You can even plan a marriage proposal on the ice at Rockefeller Center. To do that, you book a Special Moments package. It includes:

  • VIP skate ticket, with an extended skate time
  • Free skate rentals

Plus, you can choose the song you want to be playing while you skate and then stop, get on bended knee and ask your beloved to marry you, perhaps with a lab-grown diamond.

Questions about ice skating at Rockefeller Center

Here are some common questions people ask me about skating at Rockefeller Center. If I don’t answer yours, please post a comment and I’ll try to find the answer.

Do you need tickets to ice skate at Rockefeller Center?

Yes and you should buy them online in advance.

How much is it to skate at Rockefeller Center?

  • General admission: $11 to $79
  • VIP admission: $47 to $125

Can you rent ice skates at Rockefeller Center?

Yes. They are $11 per pair.

How long do you get to skate?

If you get a general admission ticket, then you can be there for 60 minutes. With the VIP ticket, you can be there for 90 minutes.

I say there because the time attached to your ticket starts the minute you enter the facility. So your time on the ice is less than 60 or 90 minutes, based on crowds or waiting to rent skates.

What are the dates for ice skating at Rockefeller Center?

To give you an answer, I have to preface it to say that it’s more about the weather than dates on a calendar. That is, if it is cold enough in mid-October, then the rink opens. If it doesn’t get cold until later in October, then the ice probably won’t open until then. Last year, opening day was October 21.

On the flipside, if it stays cold through all of March, then you can skate longer. Most years, by mid-March, you’re coming to the end of the skating season. However, I just checked. This year, they’re selling ice skating tickets for through March 31, 2024.

When is the Rockefeller Center ice rink open?

Officially, the skate hours are 9 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Hotels near Rockefeller Center

If your trip to New York includes an overnight, here are some of the nicer hotels located near Rockefeller Center. Many of these are included in my roundup of NYC hotels with Peloton bikes.

Rockefeller Center is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues — Sixth Avenue is also known as the Avenue of the Americas — and 49th and 50th Streets. Therefore, these are all hotels in the same general area of Midtown Manhattan. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Daily Life Travels.

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