The History of Ice Skating in Central Park


Nothing embodies the essence of winter in New York City quite like gliding across the ice in Central Park. But did you know that this timeless tradition has a rich history within the Park?

In the winter of 1858, the Lake was the first landscape in Central Park to open to the public. On that memorable Christmas morning, an estimated 8,000 people flocked to the ice. In fact, skating was such a popular pastime that the Lake was originally called the “Skating Pond” in Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s Greensward Plan.

165 years ago, the Lake opened to the first ice skaters in Central Park. Learn how ice skating was the hottest hobby in 19th-century New York City and follow @CentralParkNYC for insight into more Park history. View with audio-description.

This introduction of recreational skating was met with great enthusiasm by New Yorkers, as it was growing in popularity but not yet widely accessible.

An estimated 30,000 people visited the Park daily to take part in New York’s new cold-weather hobby. Ice skating brought together New Yorkers from all walks of life, eager to explore the allure of the new green space and find a moment of peace in the rapidly growing City.

While the Lake no longer freezes sufficiently for ice skating, the spirit of winter lives on in Central Park. Since its establishment in 1950, Wollman Rink has stood as the quintessential destination for NYC ice-skating enthusiasts from October through April. Today, it is one of the most iconic ice rinks in the United States.

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Ice skaters on Wollman Rink in 1986

Central Park will gain another premier skating destination with the opening of the new Harlem Meer Center, currently under construction. The Central Park Conservancy’s ambitious project will transform the former Lasker Rink and Pool into a new state-of-the-art facility. This multi-year project is a complete restoration of the landscape to more thoughtfully integrate a swimming pool and ice rink—to accommodate both ice skating and ice hockey—while better reconnecting the north end of the Park to nature.

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When the new Harlem Meer Center opens, it will offer a robust lineup of family-friendly and low-cost programming and feature a state-of-the-art ice rink for skating and hockey.

We look forward to welcoming our friends and neighbors in the Harlem and East Harlem communities for an exciting slate of family-friendly and low-cost programming—both during the ice season and throughout the year.

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