Kathryn Sarkis | FamilyVacationist.com
With COVID casting a shadow on yet another winter, families are still looking for fun and safe activities to enjoy together or with friends. Outdoor ice rinks are a festive way to celebrate the season, and they can be found in just about any climate. Reservations are often required (especially this year), but tickets and skate rentals can usually be purchased ahead of time, leaving more time to get out on the ice.
These outdoor skating rinks dial up the winter vibes, offering skating fun for all ages, plus the sort of extras that elevate ice skating from pure exercise to a properly fun day out. Think decadent hot chocolate served rinkside, bumper car action, and even ice skating at the beach.
Whether you’re looking for something close to home or want to add a trip around the rink to a planned vacation, here are our top picks for outdoor ice skating this winter.
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Napa Valley’s Holiday Ice Rink at Vista Collina
Open through Jan. 2
A session of skating at The Meritage and Vista Collina resorts’ Holiday Ice Rink in the Napa Valley just might convince you that wine isn’t the drink Napa should be best known for. Deliciously decadent hot chocolate from the lawn bar is the perfect way to kick back after skating to your heart’s content.
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While the hot chocolate alone is enough to inspire you to lace up your skates, the ice rink also offers fun events each night of the week. Want to dial up the fun? Check out the rink’s available winter experiences, including a VIP igloos and s’mores at a rinkside fire pit.
Chicago’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Open through March 6
Celebrating its 20th season, Chicago’s McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park doubles its fun with the reflection of the rink in the famed Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) sculpture. Offering one of the best deals in town, skating is free if you bring your own skates (though a reservation is still required). Or, for a nominal fee, you can rent skates.
Every weekend, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) hosts free skating lessons (reservations required) for beginner and intermediate ice skating and hockey skills. Skaters can warm up after skating with hot drinks and snacks from Momentum Coffee, located right next to the outdoor rink.
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Skating by the Sea at The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego
Open through Jan. 2
The Hotel del Coronado’s Skating by the Sea ice rink lets you experience the best of the beach and winter. Head out for a festive day on the ice with a sandy beach backdrop complete with swaying palm trees. Upgrade the experience by booking a private rinkside lounge with a roaring fire pit and full food and drink service. Your $35 ticket benefits Make-A-Wish San Diego.
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The Providence Rink in Providence, Rhode Island
There is truly something for everyone at the Providence Rink. In addition to ice skating, you can buckle up and take to the ice in bumper cars, which you can reserve for partial-rink use during select public skate periods or full-rink use during non-public skate time. The Providence Rink is the first outdoor rink to host these cars, which move in all directions and have a 360-degree turn radius.
Novice skaters can enlist the help of instructors with the Learn-to-Skate program. And for both little and big kids, there are skate aids in the form of penguins or snowmen. The rink also offers a season pass for individuals and families looking to make ice skating into the kind of fun that lasts all winter long.
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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas’ Ice Rink at Boulevard Pool
Open through Jan. 2
If a guaranteed gentle snowfall is what you need to create a magical skating experience, then the Ice Rink at Boulevard Pool in Las Vegas is the rink for you. The Cosmopolitan turns its pool into a veritable winter wonderland – picture fire pits surrounding the ice rink and comfortable Adirondack chairs perfect for taking a break and enjoying the season.
Evenings turn up the fun with themed nights, movies playing on an outdoor screen, and Throwback Thursdays with music from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Bonus: reservations grant you all-day access to the rink.
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Ice on the Landing in the Garden at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Open through Jan. 30
Skate on what was the platform of the historic Terminal Station in the heart of downtown Chattanooga at Ice on the Landing in the Garden at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. Set among vintage train cars and engines, this rink offers plenty for both skaters and those looking to just kick back rinkside.
After you hang-up your skates, make time to enjoy the Beaux-Arts terminal, which is now the lobby to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. The rink is also home to a Cast Iron Skillet Curling League, which is described as a good humored Southern take on Bavarian curling.