The New Year’s Day Polar Bear Skate at San Francisco's Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square, in which skaters dress in beach attire, is one of the rink's most popular events.
Whether the weather outside is frightful or unseasonably warm, this is a great time of year to go ice skating.
These ice rinks include sites that welcome both novice and seasoned skaters. Many rent skates, host special events and offer lessons. Some are open year-round; others will melt away in a few weeks. A few invite you to get out on the ice for free.
1. New York City
“From the iconic rinks such as Central Park’s Wollman Rink, The Rink at Rockefeller Center and The Rink at Bryant Park to lesser known but equally inviting rinks such as the new LeFrak Center Ice Rink in Prospect Park, ice skating rinks are a quintessential activity for any winter visit to New York City,” said Chris Heywood of NYCgo.com. Add to that list the rinks at the South Street Seaport and the Standard, High Line hotel in the Meatpacking District and New York City is indeed a skater’s paradise this time of year.
The edge: There’s free general admission and locker use for skaters at Bryant Park through March 2, 2014. Skate and helmet rental and bag check available.
The 13th season of outdoor ice skating is underway in downtown Chicago at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park. Ice skating is also offered at the Farm-in-the-Zoo at the Lincoln Park Zoo and at eight parks throughout the city, courtesy of the Chicago Park District.
The edge: Skating is free at Chicago’s Millennium Park through March 9, 2014. Skate rental, lockers, skate sharpening and skate lessons are available.
3. Lake Placid, N.Y.
Lake Placid, N.Y., hosted the Olympic Winter Games in 1932 and 1980 and today visitors to this storied village in the Adirondacks can go ice skating on the outdoor Speed Skating Oval where USA Men’s Speed Skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals in 1980.
The edge: Lake Placid’s Speed Skating Oval has a fire pit and sets aside time for both public and speed skating. $8 adults/teens; $5 seniors/children 12 and under. Rentals: $3.
4. San Francisco
Each winter, the multipurpose civic plaza at the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square is transformed into an ice skating rink popular with locals, families and many tourists who have booked stay-and-skate packages at five partner hotels.
In addition to the popular 90-minute public skating sessions ($11, $7 for children 8 and under, $5 skate rentals), the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square is a popular place for marriage proposals, with 17 — and counting — this season. The rink also hosts a myriad of wacky events. “Drag Queens on Ice, which takes place mid-December, is our most sensational event,” said rink manager Brian Klavano, “but the New Year’s Day Polar Bear Skate, when people skate in beach attire, boxer shorts and holiday outfits, is almost as popular.”
The edge: The Holiday Ice Rink at Union Square is open through Jan. 20, 2014. Public skating sessions often sell out, so consider reserving tickets online.
5. Las Vegas
Two hotels on the Las Vegas Strip have ice skating rinks this year.
Through Jan. 5, the Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas is transformed into a skating rink complete with fire pits, s’mores and holiday movies. The rink overlooks The Strip and will be open New Year’s Eve offering a great view of the fireworks and a live stream of Bruno Mars’ performance elsewhere at the hotel.
“It will be a festive experience that allows you to feel all the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip while at the same time offering a bit of respite from the crowds,” said hotel spokeswoman Lisa Marchese.
As part of its “Winter in Venice” holiday celebration, The Venetian Hotel’s outdoor ice rink will be open through Jan. 5 as well.
The edge:The Cosmopolitan: $15 all-day pass; $5 skate rental. The Venetian: hourly skate sessions: $14.95 with skate rental.
6. San Diego
Through Jan. 10, San Diego’s iconic Hotel del Coronado transforms its Windsor Lawn into an outdoor skating rink with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Two-hour skating sessions include skate rentals and are $23 for adults and $18 for children age 10 and under. $5 discount if you bring you own skates.
The edge: Sea & Skate packages at the Hotel del Coronado include a complimentary ice skating session; from Jan.1-9, the Extended Skate Date package includes unlimited skate sessions.
7. Washington, D.C.
How about some great art with your skate session? The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., offers that bonus. Open through mid-March and until 11 p.m. on the weekends, the rink offers two-hour skating sessions for $8 ($7 for seniors, students and kids age 12 and under).
The edge: Skate ($3) and locker ($.50) rentals are available, as are individual and group lessons, which include skate rental and an hour of pre- or post-lesson practice time.
The Depot Rink in downtown Minneapolis is a popular indoor seasonal skating center built inside the historic Milwaukee Road Depot. The train shed was first built in 1899 and now houses two hotels, a restaurant, bar and a variety of entertainment. Open through March, the ice rink’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows offer great views of the city skyline.
The edge: $9 adults, $6 for seniors 62 years and older and children 17 years and younger. Skate rentals: $7. Discounts available for hotels guests at The Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel or the Residence Inn at The Depot.
Visitors to Boston can skate at Frog Pond on the Boston Common, the country’s oldest public park ($5 adults; free for kids 13 and under. Skate rentals: $9 adults; $5 for kids). There’s also a 2,900-square-foot ice skating rink at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge and a variety of ice skating (and Monster Sled) activities at Fenway Park.
The edge:A family-oriented New Year’s Eve event at Fenway Park will include ice skating and sledding on a Monster Sled and free hot cocoa for kids. Frog Pond will host a free figure-skating show on New Year’s Eve.
10. Yosemite National Park
California’s Yosemite National Park has offered ice skating since the 1930s at the Curry Village Recreation Center located below Glacier Point, with great views of Half Dome. The outdoor rink is open daily this year through March 2 and has a large fire pit with adjacent bench seating that park officials describe as a perfect spot for “toasting s’mores, watching skaters on the ice, sipping hot cocoa or just admiring the natural winter beauty of Yosemite.”
The edge: 2.5-hour skate sessions at Yosemite National Park’s Curry Village Ice Rink are $10 for adults/seniors and $9.50 for children. Skate rentals are $4.
Harriet Baskas is the author of "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.
First published December 27 2013, 7:50 AM