This winter, for the first time in recent history, it’s possible to ice skate underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
Since November, when Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park opened, almost 300 people have packed onto it at any given time, according to organizers. With the Manhattan skyline in the background, patrons skate on real ice under twinkling lights and past digital art. When finished skating, they can retire to a glass-walled cafe and drink hot chocolate and beer while snacking on charcuterie and table-side s’mores.
Just across the East River, there is another new rink on the rooftop of Pier 17 in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport neighborhood. This one was made of synthetic ice: a plastic, spongy material that parents can easily walk on as children master skates.
2023 was the first year that people could ice skate 100 stories above ground at the Edge, the observation deck at a skyscraper in Hudson Yards, or roller skate on synthetic ice inside the vast Oculus at the World Trade Center. And until Jan. 7, there was another new rink at Luna Park, an amusement park in Coney Island that has typically been a summer destination. (These are in addition to the classics: the Rink at Rockefeller Center and Wollman Rink in Central Park.)
Ice skating, a cold-weather pastime for thousands of years, is happening in even more places this winter. New rinks have not just popped in New York, but all over America, offering proficient and aspirational skaters alike a nostalgic seasonal activity that doesn’t require snow, which has been in short supply after the hottest year in a century and a half.
These are not the indoor shopping mall rinks of yesteryear. Many have sweeping views and décor ideal for documenting on social media, as well as food and drink options. Those involving synthetic ice, like the rink at Pier 17, can be set up almost anywhere because making the material requires no water or energy. Ice skating is also relatively affordable. At Glide, for example, tickets start at $10 for children and at $15 for adults, and there are discounts for New Yorkers. (Skate rentals are about $12.)
In December, a new outdoor rink opened in Portland, Ore. — the city’s first in 24 years. “Winter in Portland is dark and cold,” said Amanda Park, a senior project manager at the city of Portland’s economic and urban development agency, who spearheaded development of the rink. “We need more opportunities for families and folks to get out and enjoy themselves.”
That was particularly true this year, since many of the local ski resorts opened late because of a lack of snow. Ms. Park said that all pre-sale tickets for the Portland rink sold out in December. The rink is scheduled to close Jan. 28, but organizers are considering extending it to meet demand, she added.
Like many of the rinks that have recently popped up, the one in Portland is attempting to create a whole vibe: It’s surrounded by a winter village with fire pits, dining tables and 100 trees. Every Wednesday, an ice-rink-related movie like “The Mighty Ducks” or “Cutting Edge” is shown in the village and the film’s soundtrack is played for skaters on the ice. Fridays are “Ladies of Pop” nights: Music by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift plays while tweens and teens skate and take selfies.
Some new rinks are giving people a chance to try skating for the first time. Morgan Mosley, 30, a content creator in Indianapolis, was excited that a rink opened this winter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the arena where the Indiana Pacers play. “I have seen ice skating a lot in the movies, and on social media,” she said. “But I had never got a chance to go.”
She bought tickets for the rink’s opening weekend. “It was a lot harder than it looked,” Ms. Mosley said, adding that she plans to keep at it.
Organizers of the rink at Gainbridge Fieldhouse said they had hoped to attract 20,000 skaters throughout the six weeks it is open. They recently hit that goal, they added, with three weekends and two full weeks of the season left.
U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body for the sport, said more beginners are getting involved across the country. Its program Learn to Skate USA reported a 10 percent increase in the 2022-23 season compared to the prior year.
But not all the rinks have been a hit, especially among those looking for an authentic experience.
Before Christmas, Lynette Bedoya, a 27-year-old nail technician in Coral Springs, Fla., visited a new 4,000-square-foot rink made of synthetic ice at Las Olas Oceanside Park, on the beach in Fort Lauderdale.
“I really wanted to have a winter holiday experience,” she said. “Ice skating feels like the closest we can get.”
But the second she stepped on the fake ice, she was disappointed. “It was awful,” she said. “You could actually walk on it. There was no gliding or spinning. It was a waste of money.”
The absurdity of the setting also struck her. “It was like, ‘What are we doing ice skating here?’”