Blast from the Past: The Best Roller Skating Rinks in America

Bring out those pom-pom socks

If you're anything like me, the last time you went to a roller skating rink was when you were still sleeping with stuffed animals and thought chocolate milk was humanity's greatest invention. (Full disclosure: I still love chocolate Yoo-hoo.) I figured skating rinks had gone the way of landlines and scrunchies. But as it turns out, roller skating is alive and well—there's even a Roller Skating Association chock full of information on how to start your own rink. Established in 1937 and still going strong today, they pride themselves on being the "voice of the roller skating industry." Mind=blown.

But just because you haven't been roller skating since you were a kid doesn't mean you can't have a terrific time at a rink today. Slap on some hot pants and get ready to boogie at America's top roller skating rinks!

Oldies but goodies

Northridge Skateland, California – this LA-area roller skating icon has entertained over seven million visitors throughout its 60-year history, including celebrities. Several television shows have been filmed here, including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Parks and Recreation, and The Office. It was even the backdrop for a Jay-Z music video. Northridge Skateland's family ownership, loyal fans, and commitment to change with the times has allowed it to prosper, even as other local business slowly vanish. Their song library boasts over 7,000 songs, and DJ requests are usually honored unless it's incredibly busy. The experience can be a bit of sensory overload, with giant televisions screens displaying special effects and music videos sprinkled throughout the rink, so just keep your eyes on the person in front of you. If this is your idea of a dream wedding, you're in luck—Northridge hosts every event you can think of, including birthday and anniversary parties, fundraisers, corporate training events, and anything else you can imagine.

Oaks Park, Oregon – one of the oldest and largest skating rinks in America and home to a competitive skating club (yes, it's true), this rink has hosted thousands of happy skaters since its grand opening in 1905. It's part of the Oak Parks Amusement Park in Portland, a park which also includes miniature golf, carnival games, and enough amusement park rides to make you wish you hadn't wolfed down that second chili dog. Not to be outdone by newer skating rinks, Oaks Park actually hosts an organ player who sits overlooking the rink (visible through a glass window), playing live music on the last Wurlitzer pipe organ in a roller rink in the United States. Apparently, organs in skating rinks were all the rage in the 1940s and '50s. Who knew? You'll whizz around on Oak Park's polished maple floor, and with this 100'x200' space, there's enough room for you to practice your best moves without fear of a hockey-style pileup.

SkateDaze, Nebraska – The Cernik family started opening roller skating rinks in 1947, and eventually came to own and operate a total of eight. This particular location––which came to be known as SkateDaze––was a relatively recent addition, having opened in 1982. The interior would not be out of place in Saturday Night Fever. Hundreds of multi-colored lights reflect off the maple hardwood floor. If you get bored with roller skating, there are plenty of other entertainment options to choose from, including laser tag, bumper cars, and arcade games. Like many other rinks, it also offers ample room for celebratory gatherings of all ages. With a full-service bar available, you risk some serious injury if you opt to imbibe, but at least you'll have a legendary story to tell the day after.

Modern madness

Pier 2 Roller Rink, New York – Considering you can now drop $18 on a cup of coffee in New York City, this open-air skating rink in the heart of its finest borough may well be the best bargain you'll encounter. Located at Brooklyn Bridge Park, on a clear day you'll have the iconic Manhattan skyline winking at you from across the East River. In springtime it offers free public skating from 10 am – 12 pm, then from 12 pm to 7 pm it costs just $9.00 for entry. Tots and balance challenged individuals (no shame!) can rent Skate Mates to help them maneuver across the floor without incurring serious injury or crashing into a more graceful participant. If you're looking to up your party game for your kid's birthday, Pier 2 offers party packages starting at $275 for ten attendees. This lofty price tag may raise some eyebrows amongst people living outside of New York's high-priced world, but for NYC it can almost be considered a deal.

United Skates of America, Florida – In 2015 Money Magazine ranked Tampa as one of the 5 Best Big Cities in the United States. No doubt this was primarily due to its low cost of living and anticipated job growth, but perhaps United Skates of America also factored in? (Okay, probably not, but it's still a pretty sweet rink.) Not only can you skate to your heart's content, but you'll also get schooled: USOA offers educational STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) field trip adventures for kids and teenagers. The instructors teach scientific concepts using roller skating, acoustics, and rink design as real-life examples. The outing includes one hour of STEM education and two hours of skating. This beats the pants off of a stuffy visit to the state capital. If that wasn't enough, USOA also offers skating camp for kids during the summer, a café serving fried everything (Chicken tenders! Mozzarella sticks! Churros!), and an arcade for the less athletically inclined.

For those who scoff at the idea of rhythmically gliding across polished floors with top 40 hits reverberating through your body, take note that roller skating torches almost 600 calories per hour. And it's way more fun than having someone scream in your face to feel the burn as you sweat through yet another spin session. Roller skating may be retro, but it's also a hell of a lot of fun!

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).


You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker