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Outdoor skating rinks offer the chance to glide across the ice in some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet, from a spectacular, remote winter wonderland to the heart of a major city decked out in its holiday finest. During this classic winter activity, as you’re propelled across the ice, you can enjoy a sense of freedom, romance, and the joy of just being in the beautiful outdoors on a crisp winter day.
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New York City is home to what may be the most famous ice skating rink in the United States, the Rockefeller Center ice rink. Just 122 feet long, this intimate rink looks up to the city’s iconic annual Christmas tree while New Yorkers and tourists alike skate amid the watchful eye of the bronze gilded Prometheus statue and the urban backdrop of the city’s sparkling lights. This quintessential Big Apple experience offers the chance to make magical memories on ice that you’ll remember and cherish for a lifetime.
It doesn’t get much more romantic than skating atop this Paris landmark, gliding hand-in-hand 188 feet above the dazzling city on its first-level observation deck. After dark, the views are absolutely amazing, providing the opportunity to see firsthand why Paris is known as the City of Light while warming up with a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of mulled wine sprinkled with cinnamon at the rink’s bar. Your view includes the famed golden dome of Invalides, Napoleon’s final resting place, and is near some of the city’s most famous attractions.
Just in time for Christmas, Vienna transforms the front of its imposing city hall, Rathaus, into a 75,000-square-foot rink. The annual ice skating event organized by the city is called Wiener Eistraum, or Viennese Ice Dream. Skating here is almost a surreal experience – you’ll whiz past elaborate light displays while listening to music from live DJs, occasionally stopping to refuel at one of the mulled wine bars. In addition to the main skating ring, you can skate along a 1,361-foot ice skating trail through Rathauspark.
The world’s longest naturally frozen skating rink can be found in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Ontario at the 4.8-mile long Rideau Canal. During the summertime, the canal is filled with boats, but as soon as the temperature drops, the waterway is teeming with locals skating to work or school, along with tourists who want to give it a go. You can skate the entire frozen canal, enjoy snack stands along the way where you can sip hot chocolate, and indulge in “beaver tails,” delectable pastries topped with cinnamon and sugar. You’ll even find an outdoor art gallery to browse along the way.
Located in the heart of the spectacular Rocky Mountains at Keystone Resort, Keystone Lake Ice Rink is the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the entire U.S. and the largest Zamboni-maintained outdoor rink on the planet. You’ll glide across the ice to the beats of festive music and gaze at the soaring snow-covered mountains along with dazzling holiday lights. There are a ton of other fun winter experiences to take part in here too, including skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing and sleigh rides.
This renowned Chicago ice skating rink attracts more than 100,000 skaters each year. Enjoy views of the city’s famed skyscrapers as you practice your figure eights. Skating at night is especially stunning with Chicago’s skyline all lit up. If you start getting chilly, warm up with a hot chocolate at the Park Grill Restaurant. As this rink can get crowded, if you’d rather not bump elbows, go early or on a weekday.
A mountain-top pond rink, Grouse Mountain’s outdoor skating rink is an especially scenic spot to skate. A tram will swoop you up 3,700 feet, where you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Vancouver city lights and the Coast Range. At Christmastime, enjoy the “Peak of Christmas” celebration complete with a reindeer pen, sleigh rides, holiday movies, and Santa’s workshop along with the man himself. Take a break from the rink to warm up by the fire pit, savor the views, and fuel up again with some Poutine – French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.
Located in the southern part of New York City’s world-famous Central Park, this outdoor ice rink features a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline along with the picturesque park – and, it’s more than three times the size of the Rockefeller rink. The rink that’s been attracting skaters for over six decades, is gorgeous to look at and usually filled with both locals and tourists. Not surprisingly, it’s been featured in a number of films, including “Serendipity” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” During the off-season, the rink is transformed into Victorian Gardens.
Located in front of City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square is a city square in the center of Toronto that’s filled with all types of activities like concerts and dance performances during the summer. In the winter, it becomes one of the city’s most popular attractions when the reflecting pool is transformed into an ice skating rink. This quintessential Toronto experience offers the chance to skate among a unique urban backdrop of twinkling lights and a massive holiday tree.
It’s hard to imagine a better place to skate than in the magnificent snow-covered Swiss Alps. In the center of Zermatt, a picturesque Alpine village near the base of the Matterhorn, one of Europe’s highest peaks, you’ll find two natural ice rinks and one artificial rink set among impressive mountain views. As no gasoline-powered vehicles are allowed in the village, horse-drawn carriages are a popular form of transportation in this top Switzerland destination. In the wintertime, the bells of horse-drawn sleights can be heard around every corner, setting an especially stunning winter wonderland scene.
Believe it or not, in Sun Valley, Idaho you can even go skating across the ice in the summertime. This public outdoor ice rink is one of the few places on the continent where you can skate year-round. Olympic figure skaters often congregate here to perform their incredible stunts in the Sun Valley Summer Ice Shows. Of course, in the wintertime, the scenery is even more breathtaking, covered in glistening snow – and, if you’re looking for something else to do after twirling around on the ice, you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding or even celebrity spotting.
Yes, there really is an outdoor ice skating rink amid the blazing hot weather of the desert. Actually, there are two. During the holidays, the Venetian and Cosmopolitan hotels try to outdo each other with this unlikely spectacle. At the Venetian hotel, skate by rink-side bar kiosks and appropriately flashy decorations like massive sparkly snowflakes. A holiday-themed light show takes place every night and visitors can even select a package that combines a skating session with an outdoor gondola ride. The Cosmopolitan magically transforms the Boulevard Pool into an ice rink set in a winter wonderland, complete with fire pits and seasonal treats available for purchase.
A dazzling alpine bathing lake in the summer, in the winter months, Lake Weissensee freezes over providing the opportunity to skate across what feels like an endless expanse of ice in relative solitude. The lake has 2.5 square miles of slick, reliable ice as well as a special academy where you can take figure skating or speed skating lessons.
Somerset House, a magnificent Neoclassical building, offers an unforgettable skating experience on London’s favorite ice rink, a beautiful outdoor rink situated on the River Thames. During the daytime, visitors can skate in the spectacular setting of Somerset’s 18th-century courtyard, and after dark, the rink is transformed by flaming torches and sparkling lights that illuminate the classical facades of the building. DJs spin tunes that provide a fun soundtrack for an evening of dancing on the ice, and you’ll even have the chance to indulge in champagne and chocolates while you skate.
The Curry Village Rink was created nearly 90 years ago when the Yosemite Winter Club flooded an unused parking lot to create a makeshift skating rink. Ever since it’s become one of Yosemite’s most beloved traditions. Skate under the shadow of snow-dusted Half Dome and Glacier Point, stopping to take a break at the fire pit. Visitors can also take part in a number of other wintertime outdoor adventures like downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, sledding and sleigh rides.
Lake Louise in Banff National Park offers one of the most breathtaking scenes on the planet, and in the winter, it becomes even more impressive. Snow-capped mountains surround the brilliant glacier-fed lake, allowing skaters to take in incredible views of the Canadian Rockies and Victoria Glacier. An ice castle carved by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise chefs serves as the centerpiece for the lake’s skating rink. When you need to warm up, you can sip free hot chocolate around a big bonfire.
The United Kingdom’s biggest open-air ice rink can be found in November and December over Princes Street Gardens, below Edinburgh’s magnificent ancient castle as part of the city’s annual Winter Wonderland festivities. In addition to lacing up your skates and taking a turn around the glistening ice rink, you can take part in all types of other activities, including fairground rides, a magical Christmas market, theater, delicious foods and mulled wine to pair with it.