Soar in the Open Air at These Scenic Ice-Skating Rinks Around the Country
Go for a glide, then embrace a cozy après-skate hangout.
Plummeting temps and snowy weather this time of year may make huddling up inside with a mug of steaming herbal tea your most-wanted activity. But if you're willing to bundle up and brave the chill—or perhaps, you're on the verge of cabin fever—you might just discover that winter boasts just as many outdoor thrills as the warmer seasons.
Case in point: Open-air ice-skating arenas, which offer up far more beautiful, au naturel settings to embrace your inner Michelle Kwan than many of their commercial indoor counterparts. And while several of the nation's top ski resorts are home to breathtaking ones (like the glistening arena at the heart of Beaver Creek's winter village in Colorado), you can find equally stunning outdoor rinks in places unexpected. Just take Long Beach, California, for example, where you can skate around a 26-foot Christmas tree erected near the entrance to the historic Queen Mary cruise ship, or New York City, where a rink on the rooftop at Pier 17 serves up unparalleled views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines from its location on the East River.
And at many of these picturesque locales, going for a spin on the ice is just one part of the experience. Après-skate, you'll be greeted by any number of warming treats—from hot glasses of mulled wine to marshmallows turned into s'mores over an open fire—and, of course, you'll find infinite photo ops amid glowing yuletide décor.
If we haven't changed your mind yet on the perks of bracing the cold, read on for the details about our favorite open-air rinks, all privy to gorgeous surroundings. Each one serves up ample rewards for leaving the warmth of your home, whether you're just getting into the holiday spirit or ringing in 2020.
Hotel del Coronado
Palm trees may surround the beachside rink at this San Diego hotel, but in the adjacent cocktail lounge, Frostbite, festive greenery and libations—like the vanilla-vodka-based Snow Bunny or the Yule Mule made with Woodinville bourbon—conjure up a far wintrier scene. Make a reservation and skating is included. As a bonus, you'll have access to unlimited hot chocolate and coffee.
The rink itself offers no shortage of photo ops: It's decked out with ornament-flecked pine garlands, six double-ball LED-lit topiaries, and a towering white-foliage pine tree in honor of this year's White Christmas décor theme. The yuletide spirit extends indoors, too, to the hotel's decorated lobby, which will be illuminated by 100,000 twinkling lights, many of them strung across a two-story frosted tree.
Open: November 22 to January 5; tickets are $30 online or $35 at the rink.
Dazzling décor turns midtown Atlanta shopping hub, Atlantic Station, into a veritable North Pole this time of year, anchored by Santa's Cottage (stop by for a photo with the jolly man himself) and the Southeast's largest ice arena: ten thousand sparkling square feet. From any of its corners, you'll get to soak in uninterrupted views of the city's skyline, while nightly "snow shows" timed to classic carols amp up the winter vibes (no below-freezing temps required).
Near the rink you'll find a snack shop offering up hot chocolate, boozy beverages, and snacks, and just across the street is the entrance to Cirque du Soleil's Volta, a touring show all about extreme sports by the esteemed acrobatic troupe.
Open: November 18 to January 20; tickets are $15.
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
The regulation-sized rink at Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest offers up far more than space to finesse your figure-eight. Located just off the Delaware River, it's home to knockout views of the Ben Franklin Bridge—and an endless supply of cozy ski chalet-inspired hangouts for kicking up your feet post-skate.
Perhaps the most unique are the warming cabins designed for rental by intimate groups and outfitted with soft blankets, holiday greens, heaters, fireplaces, and games. A larger central lodge also provides lots of comfy seating in addition to craft beers from regional distilleries, hot cocktails, and food from local spots like Chickie's and Pete's, Garces, and Portside Pizza. After you're sufficiently sated, head over to the neighboring Franklin Fountain Confectionary Cabin to indulge a sweet tooth: Beyond house-made hot chocolate and fudge sundaes, you'll find s'mores kits perfect for getting toasty around outdoor firepits.
On New Year's Eve, the event hosts two "Parties on Ice" including fireworks set off on the River and accompanied by music and skate access for the best waterfront views.
Open: November 29 to March 8; tickets are $4 (plus a $10 fee for renting skates).
Sun Valley Resort
No matter how frigid the temps get in Idaho's Sun Valley, the outdoor rink (one of two at the area's namesake resort, which also has an indoor one) remains open. And that's to everyone's benefit because the picturesque views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains are just about unbeatable. If you're a total ice-skating novice, this spot is also a great choice because local instructors offer lessons year-round. And since it's a common practicing rink for Olympic skaters, too, you might even get to glimpse a few pro moves up-close. After dusk, festive lights will brighten up the arena so the skating party can keep on going—and once you're all skated out, duck into the nearby Duchin Lounge for a glass of wine and some live music every night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
On Christmas Eve, head to the rink to watch world-class figure skaters and members of the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club perform. Post-show, they'll parade down Dollar Mountain with glowing torches in hand, and a massive fireworks display will mark their arrival at the bottom. Stick around for the full event and enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies.
Open: year-round; tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6 to 12 (plus a $6 fee for renting skates).
Beaver Creek Mountain Resort
Nestled in the center of the alpine village at this upscale Colorado ski resort is a scenic outdoor rink. It's surrounded on all sides by the charming shops, art galleries, and restaurants of the village with the area's towering mountains visible in the distance. Take a spin and then take a load off on one of the plush couches lining the rink—and at 3 p.m. daily, look out for complimentary chocolate-chip cookies available throughout the village (a longstanding Beaver Creek tradition).
Open: November 21 to April 14; tickets are $5 (plus skate rental fees of $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 12 and under).
Speed Skating Oval
Instead of a traditional rink, this skating spot is in the shape of a hollowed-out oval, with fire pits located in its center for gathering with a group and warming up amid the Adirondacks' freezing temps.
Because it was built for speedskating, this 400-meter track is often reserved for those training in the sport—but when it opens to the public, it's a unique opportunity to experience a piece of U.S. Olympics history first-hand. In 1980, the Oval was the very spot where American speedskater Eric Heiden won a record five Olympic gold medals, and it's also adjacent to the famed Olympic Center where the "Miracle on Ice" took place in the same Olympic Games: The U.S. hockey team defeated the then Soviet Union and landed a gold medal, too.
Open: mid-December to mid-March, weather-dependent; tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children and seniors (plus an $8 fee for renting skates).
The National Gallery of Art Ice Rink
A destination to behold no matter what time of year, the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art, in DC, is more than 6 acres large, located on the monument-dotted National Mall, and home to 21 awesome, larger-than-life pieces of art by the likes of Chagall and Lichtenstein. But come winter, it's particularly magical given that the fountain at its center is transformed into an ice-skating rink adorned with twinkling lights.
Because the rink itself is smaller than a few of the others on this list, it works well for date night or a more intimate group outing; given the size, it's also smart to arrive at least 30 minutes before you'd like to skate, to allow for longer wait times. During the day, instructors from the Washington Elite Skating School—including international ice-dancing competitors—offer skating lessons tailored to different ages and abilities through Learn to Skate USA (register in advance).
If you work up an appetite during your time on the rink, you're in luck. Next-door Pavilion Café serves up a full food menu (flatbreads, soups, and the like) in addition to a festive selection of seasonal sips like mulled wine, hot cider, and pumpkin spice lattes—all ideal for taking the edge off the chill.
Open: November 15 to March 15; tickets are $9 for adults and $8 for seniors (over 50) and children (12 and under), plus a $4 skate rental fee. (Also note that tickets include two 45-minute sessions beginning on the hour.)
There's nothing that says "holiday season in the Big Apple" quite like Rock Center. Home to the Radio City Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular and the massive Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (this year, 77 feet tall and crowned with a Swarovski star containing 3 million crystals), it's undoubtedly where the city hits peak merry.
The Center's ice rink—which occupies the iconic "sunken plaza" and will celebrate its 83rd season this year—is a prime example. Although anyone is welcome to drop in for a spin, the lines are notoriously long for day-of tickets and operate only on a first-come, first-served basis; VIP packages available for $60 to $175 per person include line-skipping privileges and other amenities like access to a heated igloo stocked with hot cocoa, coffee, and cookies. Or, plan ahead and pair a skate with drinks and apps, afternoon tea, or even breakfast with Santa by making a reservation.
Before leaving, take a stroll through the rest of the Plaza, and soak in the vast abundance of holiday décor. If you're looking for a last-minute gift, stop by the Vend, a new retail experience featuring vending machines that dish out one-of-a-kind items—like a terrarium kit or a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure, for starters. Or go the more traditional route and secure a piece of Rock Center history at the Holiday Truck: Its "Share the Light" ornaments each include a light bulb used to illuminate a previous Rock Center Christmas tree.
Open: October 12 through April 12; tickets are $17 for seniors and children (under 11) and range from $25 to $35 for adults depending on the date, plus an $18 fee for renting skates.