NY snow is unlike any other.  There is something so magical about them.  The usually gray city suddenly sparkles.  The parks are pristine, and then the dogs, the cars, and the soot arrive to sully it all.

But right now, after last night’s big storm, it’s a winter wonderland here in NY.  And one of the best ways to enjoy it with your family this time of year is to go ice skating.  Think about it – no matter what their age, your kids will love it.  Plus, it’s not a museum, nor something “educational” so your kids will be glad to go.  Where to?  Read on.

Most people know about the Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center. There you can skate in the shadow of the famous Rock Center Christmas Tree, while tourists watch you twirl and jump. (or if you’re me, wobble and grab for the side).  You can enjoy a drink at the Igloo Bar, take a lesson, enjoy Breakfast with Santa, and basically be a part of a huge tourist bonanza. Don’t get me wrong — skating at Rockefeller Center while the gilded statue of Prometheus looks on is beautiful — in a New York experience for mostly non-New Yorkers kind of way.  But there are other options.

Uptown, in Central Park at 107th street, is Lasker Rink (a pool in the summertime.)  I think that most tourists (wrongly) assume that they can’t go north of 96th Street. I’d even go so far as to say that most don’t even venture north of 57th Street and the Disney/Nike/Abercrombie and Fitch empire there.  But Lasker is in a particularly lovely part of the Park. It was constructed in the late 1960’s, made possible by a contribution by the extremely philanthropic (and wealthy) Lasker sisters.

If you go to Lasker, you’ll see real New Yorkers, not tourists, out to have a good time.  The very reasonable $4 adult/$2 child (rental fee extra) means that the crowd has a cross section of New Yorkers.  And it also means that if you are a tourist you’ll have plenty of money leftover to spend at one of the many new restaurants that have recently opened in the quickly gentrifying stretch of Harlem near the rink.

Further downtown (Central Park at about E62nd street, enter at 59th) is Wollman Rink. (Officially, it’s Trump Wollman Rink — but I can’t bring myself to invoke that man’s name more than once…so I won’t.) Wollman is quintessential NY.  At $10.25 for adults during the week, and $5.50 for children (more on the weekends, rentals extra) it’s still an affordable way to spend an afternoon.  Beware: they don’t allow any outside food or drink, and the snack bar there – with the usual snack bar fare – is expensive, and tempting.  Wollman is a fine choice if you have a short time in Manhattan,  since it’s nearer to just about everything else you’d plan to do, but still not so touristy that you’ll feel like a cliche.

My personal favorite, though, is the rink at Bryant Park on 6th Avenue and 42nd Street, called The Pond. Underwritten by Citi, the pond boasts free admission, (rentals $12.00) and an extremely friendly vibe. (Maybe because it’s free, people are just plain happier.)  Skate, have some hot chocolate, and shop one of the 120 pop-up holiday boutiques surrounding the rink in the park itself. The Pond can get crowded, but get there early (it opens at 8a.m.) and enjoy skating in the middle of rush hour, gloating over the fact that you’re on vacation, while the rest of the people (anyone not on the rink, yet still in the neighborhood at that time of day) is still stuck going to work!

New York in the Holidays isn’t only about shopping, or staring at windows, or even the Rockettes.  Go skating this trip.

You’ll glide into the spirit of the city.