Central Park is skating heaven. The internal "loop" (known officially as Park Drive) is approximately 6 miles around, with plenty of hills to challenge even the most seasoned skater. During the spring and summer, the road is closed to cars weekdays from 10am-3pm and 7pm - 10pm, and from Friday night at 7pm until Monday morning at 6am. From the day before Thanksgiving until the first business day of the new year, the drives are still closed on weekends, but are open 24 hours a day on weekdays.
This has become quite a skater hangout. People come here to learn all kinds of moves, from skating backwards to practicing T-stops. There's often a pickup game of roller hockey, complete with goals and pads. Watch out for the kids doing stunts -- there's a wooden ramp, with people doing 180 degree spins in the air. Don't miss the people doing the stairs here backwards... This place also makes a great "rest stop" on your way around the park -- the water fountain and benches help out on hot summer days.
This hill, which you must climb right before passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a real trial for beginners. It may not look like much, but you'll be cursing its existence all the way up. If you feel like you could make it up the hill faster on foot, it's because you can. The speed-walkers will be passing you by.
On the other hand, making it up this hill at night brings you to a sight which must be seen to be believed. The back of the Met, with glass walls, is lit beautifully. If only they let skaters in...
After a great downhill (try it at night when no one's around -- feels like you're flying), you come to a flat stretch of road in the 90's, between 92nd and 90th Streets, at the top of an uphill. Look to the east, and you're given a view across the Central Park reservoir, to the trees and buildings of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Look to the south, and you have a view of the skyscrapers of Midtown beyond the trees of the park. Gives you an idea of how small Manhattan really is -- and a sense of how its neighborhoods differ within the stretch of a few small blocks.
This is the downhill to beat all downhills in central park. It's a steep, twisting downhill, scary to beginners, but exhilarating to the more experienced. As you twist down the hill, past Lasker Ice Rink (newly rebuilt), make sure you keep enough speed to make it up the equally steep uphill which you'll hit right afterwards.
Check out Central Park Skate for more information and a map of great places to skate in the park.
Thanks to Leo Lozada, Jr., Captain of the Central Park Skate Patrol: http://www.skatepatrol.org, and President of the Empire Skate Club of New York: http://www.empireskate.org for contributing to this page.