The winter season is upon us and with it comes the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. All three prophesize the same winter wonderlands: Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree Lighting, the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square and Tchaikovsky’s classically composed fairytale ballet “The Nutcracker.” These events have become the staple images of winter in New York, or more specifically, Manhattan. However, there is so much more to do and many places to explore during this upcoming holiday season. And, one of the best things about our list of places: You won’t have to fight the throngs of tourists and can even get some student discounts.
Wollman’s ice skating rink
Ice skating is a liberating experience where motion becomes meaningless as the world glides by resembling nothing more than a smear of colors and blur of stationary objects. It is also the ideal location to watch people humiliate themselves trying to make that happen.
Located in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, this rink is perfect for first dates and people-watching. Admission to the rink is $5 and skate rentals are $6.50.
Be sure to bring cash - credit and begging are not accepted. They are open from November 19 through March 15 with the hours of operation varying each day of the week. The park’s website lists the hours they are open and has directions to the rink.
Phone number: 718-287-6431
Become A Polar Bear
The World Wild Life Foundation has claimed for many years that polar bears are becoming extinct. Perhaps they should investigate polar bears of the human persuasion, which thrive near a very popular Brooklyn amusement park. Every Sunday at 1 p.m. from November to April, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club takes a dip in the Atlantic. The club was established in 1903 and has increased in popularity throughout the years. Droves of Polar Bears show up New Year’s Day to get their burr on. They meet at the New York Aquarium Education Hall on the Boardwalk near West Eighth Street. It is recommended that all bears show up by 12:30 p.m. The site is accessible via the D, Q, N or F subway line. The first two swims are free. A third visit will require the participant to fill out an application and pay a $25 membership fee among other requirements.
Phone number: 917-533-3568
Fort Totten Park hosts tours of the surrounding area after dark. The highlight of the exploration includes bats and other unusual creatures of the night. If the cold doesn’t make you shiver, the screeches sure will. The nature walk is free and takes place throughout the year.
Those wielding MetroCards can take the Q13 or Q16 to the very last stop.
Phone number: 718-352-4793
Play In The Snow
The closest, cheapest and most student-friendly summit is Mt. Peter. Located in Warwick, NY, it is only a little more than an hour drive from Queens.
The lift ticket prices range from $39 for a full day on a weekend, to $15 from 5 p.m. to closing on a weekend. They are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Skis, boots and poles cost $25. A snowboard and boots will cost $30.
Every Tuesday lift tickets are half price from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when customers present their college I.D. However, this offer is not available on holidays. Mt. Peter also has a 2-for-1 lift ticket special on Saturdays.
If you’re looking to make an overnight trip out of it, the local Holiday Inn Express might be an accommodating option for a college student’s thinning wallet. Shortline Coach USA provides transportation from Port Authority to Tuxedo, which is right next to Mt. Peter, for roughly $25. Detailed driving directions to Mt. Peter are available on their website.
Mt. Peter: 845-986-4940
Shortline Coach USA: 800-631-8405
Holiday Inn Express: 845-469-4000
Stalk Jazz Musicians
Practice makes perfect. If a person wants to become a skilled stalker or peeping tom, he or she is going to have to take this tour at some point. Queens Jazz Trail is a bus tour of legendary jazz musicians’ neighborhoods. Spectators will be able to see and explore the areas where notable jazz musicians called home. Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday may be six feet under, but death has never discouraged a loyal stalker from observing its subject. Students pay $18.
Phone number: 718-463-7700 ext. 222
Queens Botanical Garden
Those illiterate in the study of botany and horticulture may entertain the idea that flowers do not bloom in winter. Alas, there is helleborus niger and llex, or more commonly known as Christmas rose and holly, respectively. The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is no admission fee to view the garden. The Q44 and Q20 buses as well as the No. 7 train stop near the botanical garden. For those fortunate enough to drive, detailed directions and parking fees are available on the website.
Web site: www.queensbotanical.org
Phone number: 718-886-3800
Enter Toy Heaven
Toy Qube is a toy lover’s utopia. Located in Flushing Mall, it encompasses the basic essentials of a life worth living. Rare and mainstream toys can be found on their colorful, well-stocked shelves. Its selection is comparable to the United Nations with representation from every corner of the globe. In addition to toys, they have sneakers, shirts and other accessories. Do you smell something in the air? It’s probably a holiday sale with many of their items discounted and sure to make great gifts for the holidays. They are open from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week.
Phone number: 718-939-8605