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When the winter season blankets the earth in layers of snow and blows her frozen breath across lakes and ponds, like magic, they transform into sheets of ice, and ice skating becomes the sport “du jour.”
From the quaint outdoor ice rinks embraced in the glow of holiday lights to the manufactured indoor arenas where winter dreams come true no matter the weather outside, ice skating beckons enthusiasts across the globe.
Whether one finds themselves in the Pocono Mountains or in the heart of New York City, there’s a block of ice to suit every style and skill level.
So sharpen those blades and lace up those boots. Let’s glide through our favorite places for the ultimate ice skating adventure.
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New York City
In the Big Apple, the most famous sheet slab of ice is found at Rockefeller Center. There, beneath the iconic Christmas tree, a towering Norway spruce carefully selected by foresters each year since the early 1930s, families bundle up to fulfill their skating dreams.
This outdoor rink is an American tradition. New Yorkers and her enthusiastic visitors etch twirls and whirls upon her glassy surface every winter season.
For skaters who yearn for more space, leap over to Central Park’s Wollman Rink, whose ice presents stunning skyline views, especially at night.
Stay: Only a 6-minute walk from the Rockefeller Center is the recently renovated (August 2023) Tempo by Hilton. It’s an upscale hotel without the upscale price tag.
Lake Placid sits snug in New York’s Pocono Mountains. This two-time Winter Olympics host offers ice hockey and figure skating that continues to thrive at the Olympic Center. Here, aspiring Dylan Larkins and hopeful Kamila Valievas can ice skate on the same rinks where Olympians competed for gold.
Stay: The gorgeous AAA Four Diamond luxury hotel, the family-owned hotel, Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa, is the place to stay in order to be in the middle of all the winter fun that Lake Placid has to offer. It is a true respite from the snowy playscape outside its welcoming wooden front door.
In the center of Chicago’s towering skyscrapers and glimmering city lights, and thankfully sheltered from the notorious winds, is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. It is yet another popular city spot in the USA, which is famed for its public skate sessions, and free – after the cost of ice time and skate rental – figure skating and hockey skating lessons on most Saturday and Sunday mornings. Families also enjoy live music events.
For winter’s version of the lazy river, head over to the Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon. Follow the stream of skaters around Grant Park for an anything-but-lazy skating experience.
At any point, don’t be surprised when a pick up game of hockey commences. Warning: those pucks can fly!
Stay: In the middle of the Chicago loop, and across the street from Grant Park, is Hilton Chicago. The cozy fireplace in the lobby invites guests to snuggle up with a coffee from the onsite cafe after a day of ice skating.
The Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains turns into a dazzling winter scene reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Families will find warmth while basking in the glow of fire pits, roasting marshmallows, and drinking mulled cider. With snow tubing, ice fishing, winter hiking, and ice skating available, escaping to Skytop Lodge is a great way to spend a chilly winter weekend.
Evergreen Lake, Colorado
Evergreen Lake in Colorado (just a short 30 minutes from downtown Denver) holds North America’s largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor rinks. With over 8.5 acres of ice surrounded by captivating mountain views, it boasts 10 pond hockey rinks and one large public skating rink.
Stay: The Highland Haven Creekside Inn is a gorgeous bed and breakfast with 18 uniquely decorated rooms. It provides a luxurious resting place in between all of the outdoor winter activities.
A surprising winter destination is the Huntsville Ice Sports Center in North Alabama. Open year-round, this indoor rink offers general admission with free skate rental on certain days and hosts regular public events.
Pairing art with ice skating is a Huntsville specialty. The Huntsville Museum of Art hosts special events that blend the arts with Skating in the Park, an outdoor rink attached to the museum.
Stay: 106 Jefferson Huntsville, Curio Collection by Hilton, is the perfect place to relax after skating in the park. The hotel has features that make it our top choice, but the number one feature is its location- right in the heart of all downtown has to offer.
Sharpen those blades. Lace up those boots. Let’s glide through our favorite places for the ultimate ice skating experience.
Lake Louise, Banff National Park in Canada
The Village of Lake Louise, nestled within Canada’s first national park, Banff, is named after the sparkling Lake Louise, which attracts explorers all year long, but winter brings a different breed of adventurer. Across the frozen lake at the lap of the magnificent Canadian Rockies, one might find cross-country skiers, waterfall ice climbers, fat bikers, mushers, and, of course, ice skaters. With its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, families are guaranteed a winter adventure in one of the world’s most breathtaking settings.
Stay: Storm Mountain Lodge Cabins and Dining is composed of 16 uniquely decorated rooms, which include fireplaces and deep soaking tubs. It’s only a 5-minute drive to Banff, making it an excellent resting place for winter adventurers.
Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is known for its charming old town and historic ambiance. During the winter, the Plains of Abraham, a historic park, transforms into a massive outdoor skating rink. Visiting here provides the ultimate ice skating experience from which to enjoy the city’s history and scenic beauty in a winter wonderland.
Stay: in the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, an iconic hotel located within the walls of Old Quebec. It’s a historic château-style hotel with stunning architecture and views of the St. Lawrence River.
Ottawa’s Rideau Canal transforms into the world’s largest ice rink, Rideau Canal Skateway, every winter. This outdoor ribbon of ice, stretching to almost five miles, lets skaters explore the city from a novel perspective. With plenty of hot chocolate stops along the way, it’s a frosty fantasyland that will pull visitors back again and again.
Stay: Andaz Ottawa Byward Market – a concept by Hyatt – is an upscale hotel near Parliament Hill. The rooftop bar, ablaze with multiple fire pits and heaters, is a great place to enjoy a warm beverage while watching the city bloom with lights.
Across the Atlantic, in the middle of dreamy Vienna, is the largest outdoor rink in Europe – the Viennese Ice Dream. It offers a whimsical outdoor skating experience in front of the palatial City Hall. This European rink is a local favorite, known for its delicious food, winter market, and winding, romantic, and icy pathways. It’s a perfect place for figure skating or a leisurely glide across the ice.
Stay: The Hotel Imperial is a truly regal stay. Premium bedding, pillow top mattresses, and drapes for days all make this hotel fit for a queen.
From the historical skateway of Ottawa to the iconic rinks of New York City, an ice skating adventure is a whole lot of fun and an absolutely travel-worthy experience. From free skate rentals to pick-up games of hockey or broomball- a frozen pond can become the winning ticket to a winter paradise. This season, let the sparkle of holiday lights reflecting in the ice serve as an open invitation for everyone to partake in the slippery fun.
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