Roller skating and a record store: Is Rockefeller Plaza NYC’s new summer hot spot?

Mar 19, 2022

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For New Yorkers, Rockefeller Plaza is usually a place to avoid.

While it’s certainly on the top of every tourist’s must-see list in New York City, the reality is that it’s crowded, expensive and there’s just not that much to experience there that you can’t do for less somewhere else in the city.

Don’t even get me started on the tree.

But that’s all starting to change with the opening of cool new stores, as well as bars and outposts of popular Brooklyn restaurants. And an exciting announcement will make both tourists and locals happy: The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center will be transformed into a rollerskating rink for the first time since 1940.

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Roller rink details

Opening April 15 and running through October, Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace, the legendary roller rink from West Hollywood, will take over the space, bringing with it an entirely new way to experience one of the most iconic attractions in the city.

Originally opened in Los Angeles back in 1979 by Ian “Flipper” Ross, Flipper’s was a roller rink of legendary proportion during its heyday. During its time open in a former bowling alley, The New York Times reported, the rink attracted celebrities like Jane Fonda, a teenage Laura Dern and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. It even featured murals by John Kosh, the artist behind the Beatles music-changing album “Abbey Road.” The original Flipper’s closed in 1981.

“For three glittering years an entire generation of eccentrics, outsiders, punk rockers and disco queens came together to experience a unique kind of freedom on roller skates,” explained the ticketing page for Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace at Rockefeller Center.

Now, Ross’ daughter, Liberty Ross, brings that memorable era back to life in the Big Apple. Live DJs, concerts and other events will occur throughout the season allowing visitors a chance to harken back to the golden age of roller skating, whether you’re a newbie skater or have been rolling for years.

Designed by Bureau Betak, the temporary skating rink will be smaller than the winter ice skating rink, according to TimeOut New York. That extra space will be given back to the public in the form of tables and chairs where people can watch the action in comfort.

There will also be a Flipper’s pop-up shop located in Rockefeller Plaza where guests can peruse the brand’s “iconic roller wear,” including Flipper’s original ankle-high royal blue suede skates with red laces and wheels.

Tickets for the experience are currently on sale and cost $30 for adults, including skate rentals (the same you can buy in the store), or $20 if you bring your own. Children’s tickets cost $22, including skate rentals, or $12 without.

Even more to do at Rockefeller Center

Roller skating isn’t the only reason for city folk and visitors to hit up Rockefeller Plaza. In fact, it seems like the Plaza might soon be the place to go for a taste of Brooklyn without having to actually visit the borough (though you absolutely should if you really want to experience New York).

Last year, popular Rough Trade Records moved its store from Brooklyn, across the East River, and into the Plaza; Ace’s Perfect Pizza, a Detroit-style pizza place that’s wildly popular in Williamsburg, has set up shop (order the Buffalo, thank me later); and you can even grab a cup of coffee or a donut from Brooklyn favorites such as Cafe Grumpy or Dough Doughnuts. End your day with a beer from Other Half at Rockefeller Center.

All of this is by design, of course. Rockefeller Plaza recently underwent a year-and-a-half-long overhaul to modernize and “democratize” the area, according to the Times. Part of those changes included making the plaza fully accessible to the public; bringing more natural light into the sunken area of the plaza where the skating rinks are found; and adding takeout dining options in the underground corridors. Ultimately, the goal was to create much more of an indoor-outdoor space that belongs to the people.

I’ll be the first to say I never thought I’d willingly agree to make the journey from Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan just for fun. However, the thought of a night spent skating to “Boogie Oogie Woogie” in suede boots followed by sipping my favorite local beer with a greasy piece of pizza has me genuinely excited to visit 30 Rock.

Featured image by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images.

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