Bryant Park is an oasis in the middle of Midtown Manhattan, a peaceful postage stamp of tree-lined grass carved out behind the beautiful New York Public Library and just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. The park recently spent October getting its annual makeover to reopen on November 6th as The Pond – a winter wonderland guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit, and maybe help you get a little shopping done too.
The Pond's main feature is, of course, its large ice skating pond, and this one prides itself on being the only free skating rink in Manhattan. That means no entrance fee and, if you have your own skates, you pretty much have it made. However, while there are free shoe lockers available, you have to provide your own lock, or buy one ($9). You can also check your shoes with a staff member (also $9). Hint #1: If at all possible, bring your own lock and it's free sailing (or rather, free skating) from there. For those of us without our own blades, skate rentals are $12. And don't worry if you're new to this; private and group skating lessons are available.
This popular and cheap skating option, however, also means that you should prepare to stand in line for a bit to get in, especially on weekends, as they control the numbers on the rink. Hint #2: You can make online reservations for groups and individuals and thereby skip said line. Or, they recommend that the least crowded time to go is on weekday mornings, at which point you also get to see who comes out to skate on their lunch break (there's nothing like a businessman in a suit speedskating).
But a rink isn't the only change to the park. Surrounding the Pond are the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, small huts containing over 125 artisan boutiques from around the world. It's one-stop shopping for a wide array of unique presents and the shops are open late the closer it gets to Christmas to accommodate those last minute gift needs (every day from 10am – 10pm from Dec. 14 – 23). The Holiday Shops are set up like a European open air market, and the atmosphere is full of bright lights and holiday cheer. And Rockefeller Center doesn't have a monopoly on large pines; at 55' tall, Bryant Park's own glistening Holiday Tree overlooks the Pond and the shops, attracting passersby from all of midtown.
Tired out from exploring the park? You can relax from your day of skating and shopping at Ice Bites in the skating center, or at Celsius, the two-story, glass-enclosed restaurant and lounge overlooking the rink. The newly expanded (and well-heated) space is also open to host private parties and events, or simply for a cool Happy Hour drink after work.
And that's still not all. Each year the Pond hosts free promotional events and performances, including ice skating shows by world champions, games, and giveaways. Coming up, on December 4th at 7:00 pm, check out the Fêtes de Noël Holiday Celebration on Ice, with live music, performances from Smuckers Stars on Ice, and the official lighting of the Holiday Tree. Hint #3: Check back with the Bryant Park Calendar and the Pond Events page for more information – or just pop by on a coffee break and see what's happening.
The Pond will be open until January 24th – Sun-Th: 8am – 10pm, Fri & Sat: 8am – midnight.
The Holiday Shops will be open until January 3rd – M-F: 11am – 8pm, Sat: 10am – 9pm, Sun: 10am – 6pm.