Brooklyn skate-off: Aviator vs. Prospect Park

skatesGoing to one of Brooklyn’s public ice-sating rinks over Christmas is like driving down I-95 in an ice storm, accompanied on the highway only by student drivers with bald tires. It’s treacherous going, with wipeouts at every turn and skates flailing in every direction, including faceward (you only hope they’re the maddeningly dull rentals.) That said, it’s a tradition to get out on the corrugated surface that passes for ice at least once a year, and over break we not only did several days at Prospect Park’s Wollman Rink but slogged out to Aviator Sports next to Floyd Bennett Field to find out if this indoor rink is really so much better than Wollman, as some folks—generally those with kids and cars—claim. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in various categories, with the winner of each round in blue:

The cost
Prospect Park:
Admission: Adults, $5; children 14 and under and seniors, $3. Skate rentals: $6.50
Aviator: Admission: Adults $8, children under 12 $6. Skate rentals, $5

The music
Prospect Park: Spot-on classic disco and funk
Aviator: Nondescript teenybopper rock

For non-skaters
Prospect Park: There’s… the park.
Aviator: A climbing wall, video games, some kind of nauseating flight-simulating ride and a blissfully empty second rink where you can watch future Michelle Kwans practice, basketball courts, a bungee jump over a trampoline.

Prospect Park: Appropriately gestapo-like monitoring of cell phones, handbags, concealed weapons
Aviator: Too busy showing off to notice anyone breaking the rules

Prospect Park: A long entrance line, but once you’re in the door, the skate-rental line moves pretty quickly
Aviator: Long entrance line, plus renters have to endure a second equally lengthy wait for skates.

Rental skates
Prospect Park:
Aviator: Horrible

Prospect Park:
No frills
Has a full-service restaurant, Winnie Mae’s, and an impressively curated snack bar that even has a kosher section

For now, we’re sticking with Prospect Park. A tip: Even if you’re not a pro by anyone’s definition, owning your own skates is the difference between having fun and cursing the entire time. Be prepared to spend at least $70 for new ones but you’ll pay off your investment in 10 to 12 visits (and maybe even be motivated to skate more). Bonus: they don’t glide sideways. Good Footing in Park Slope buys and sells used skates and has a decent selection of new ones too. Wonderland Sports has a bigger selection of new skates, but it’s at 11th Avenue and 66th Street. For pre-broken-in skates, Craigslist is always worth a look.


  1. Does Aviator really even count as being in Brooklyn? It takes less time to get to the rinks in Central Park or the new one in Queens than it does to get all the way out to Floyd Bennett Field.

  2. Aardvark

    I skate at Prospect Park regularly. Its Kate Wollman Rink is the roomiest rink in town, and the most democratic public recreation place imaginable. Everyone can afford it and we all have a common enemy: the ice. Sadly, Parks and Recreation and the Prospect Park Alliance are going to replace it with smaller, more conventional (and, probably, more expensive) rinks, instead of restoring it.

  3. Roberta

    The Kate Wollman Rink is the only outdoor rink in the city on which you can’t see cars. And it’s in such a beautiful part of the park.

    The new city rink in Flushing Meadow is really nice for an indoor rink and it takes less time to get there from northern (Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Bushwick, etc.) than Aviator.

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