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As winter arrives, outdoor ice skating rinks appear in London. They open from mid-November to mid-January and many have special events happening throughout the season.

The skating ring at Somerset House. photo by Michael Pead, creative commons

I love the idea that these skating spots pop up throughout the city for the season.  There’s advantages to being in a very cold country. The rink at Somerset House is open until January 22nd this year. They even have a New Year’s Eve party. The one at the Natural History Museum is only open until January 8th.

One of the ice rinks set up over the Christmas period was this one at the Natural History Museum, London. photo by Christine Matthews, creative commons

They materialize like magic, some in small corners, some in a space much more grand. The space at the Royal Naval College looks spectacular from past years.

The Xmas Ice Skating Rink, Old Royal Naval College The Ice Skating Rink at the Old Royal Naval College has become a regular feature in Greenwich during December/January. Canary Wharf and the other office blocks on the Isle of Dogs, just across the River Thames, can be seen in the background. photo by Katherine Tyrrell, Creative Commons

I grew up on Long Island in New York, and loved escaping down to the local pond to go ice skating when I was a child. It was always a fight for space on the slick surface between the boys trying to play hockey and the girls practicing their twirls.

But when I got older, I had the joy of having an apartment for a decade in New York City.  It was a wonderful time of year when my sister and I could head over to Central Park and see the rink being readied for skaters.

Heading over to skate in Central Park years ago in New York City. Photo by my sister and skating companion.

It was a small circle to go round and round in, but fun none the less. And there was hot chocolate to be had at the end of the day.

The Central Park skating rink in New York City getting ready for visitors

We couldn’t wait to get out there.  It was definitely a city rite of winter.

My sister skating in Central Park. Photo by me.

For pure crowd watching nothing was better than the ice skaters at Rockefeller Plaza.  I never skated there, but spent hours standing at the elevated railing watching the show below. There was such a variety of people swirling around on the ice.

There was one particular man that did almost a slow motion dance on the ice.  For years when I returned he would be there, doing his dreamy, Tai Chi like moves on the ice.  I wondered if he ever left.  Often my sister and I would stand above the rink and watch him do his moves.  And then one day we returned and he was not there, and we never saw him again.  We often comment on him when we see the rink, and wonder where our mystery skater has disappeared to.

Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center, photo by Andy C, creative commons

A new favorite rink is the one at Bryant Park behind the NYC Public Library. This one is open well into February this year. One more place to pass the winter season with swirls and twirls, and maybe a few bruises. But the hot chocolate is always available.

Skating at Bryant Park NYC. photo by Beyond my Ken, creative commons

I love that both cities, London and New York, have their own traditions of winter skating that are so similar and yet distinct to the individual city.  I’m not sure which is my favorite spot, but I think it must be Central Park because of the memories.