The Best Cities for Outdoor Ice Skating in December
December 26, 2023 | Travel Destinations
From New York City’s glittering skyline to the heartwarming traditions of Chicago, the best places for ice skating offer unforgettable experiences. If gliding through the Windy City’s towering skyscrapers is on your bucket list, don’t miss the Maggie Daley Park Skating Ribbon. Unique to Chicago, the ribbon is a winding ice-covered path twice the length of a lap around a traditional rink providing more space between skaters and making it ideal for beginners.
Every year, a quarter of a million people glide through the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, which can make getting tickets a challenge but certainly possible as long as you plan ahead. In Wisconsin, as lakes and ponds begin to freeze throughout the countryside, natural skating rinks start popping up in their place, in addition to beautiful ice rinks in cities like Milwaukee. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time skater, join us as we glide through snowy destinations that promise one-of-a-kind experiences for ice skating enthusiasts of all levels.
UPMC Rink at PPG Place – Pittsburgh, PA
Address: PPG Place | 4, PPG Place, Third Avenue Suite 100, Pittsburgh, PA
Ticket info: Admission tickets can be purchased on the website.
The UPMC Rink is located at PPG Place, an iconic complex in downtown Pittsburgh known for its striking, modern glass buildings. The rink is set up in the outdoor plaza of PPG Place, providing skaters with city views while skating ice around the beautifully decorated 66-foot illuminated Christmas tree. The ice skating rink hosts special events and activities throughout the holiday season, including Tuesday Family Nights, Wednesday 1/2 Price Student Nights, and Princess Skate Nights.
Whether you live in Pittsburgh or are traveling from a nearby suburb, don’t miss the spectacular Spirits of Giving Around The World Exhibit running through January 1, 2024, located in One PPG and Two PPG Place lobbies. The UPMC Rink is open from November through late February or early March.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink – Chicago, Illinois
Address: McCormick Tribune | 1 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
Ticket Info: Skating is free, but online skating tickets are required.
Embraced as a beloved tradition in Chicago, ice skating in Millennium Park has become a quintessential part of the city’s winter experience. Skaters on the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink are treated to a winter wonderland featuring iconic views of Chicago, highlighting the city’s downtown skyline. One of two rinks within the park, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink stands out as a free public outdoor skating haven, welcoming locals and tourists alike for four months each year, from November through March.
Adjacent to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is Maggie Daley Park, which transforms every winter into a picturesque pathway winding its way through snow-dusted pine trees and providing an extended skating experience. Maggie Daley Park is a year-round destination offering a climbing wall and award-winning play garden during spring and summer.
The Edgewater Ice Rink – Madison, Wisconsin
Address: Edgewater | 1001 Wisconsin Pl, Madison
Ticket Info: A waiver must be signed in advance before purchasing tickets online.
Nestled by the picturesque Lake Mendota, the Edgewater is a renovated historic hotel located down the street from Capitol Square in the heart of downtown Madison. Starting in December, the Grand Plaza transforms into a public ice rink. Friends and families enjoy skating under the stars on the lakeside rink, surrounded by warming zones equipped with heaters and fire pits.
Children can skate with the Grinch in December, and the Icehouse hosts a New Year’s Eve party for people of all ages. For those who don’t ice skate, there are still plenty of activities to choose from, such as booking a spa day, renting a fire pit, or dining at one of several restaurants while enjoying views of the lake.
The Ice at Discovery Green – Houston, Texas
Address: Discovery Green | 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX
Ticket Info: Tickets must be purchased online to reserve a timed 75-minute spot.
Texas is known for many things, but ice skating is not one of them. In regions like Houston, with typically warmer weather, having an outdoor ice rink is both a novelty and a great way to bring families and friends together. Discovery Green is a 12-acre urban park in Downtown Houston, Texas. Every winter, from November through January, the park’s lake is transformed into a holiday skating destination using equipment that runs on renewable energy.
Green Mountain Energy runs the ice rink and charges for skating tickets, unlike some of the other parks on our list. Houstonians enjoy special events at Discovery Green throughout the holiday season, including Music Through the Decades, We Love Houston Wednesdays – BOGO, Skate with Santa, and other holiday celebrations. On Skaters Sunday Nights, the rink is reserved for skaters with disabilities and specific support needs to enjoy the rink.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center – New York City
Address: Rockefeller Ice Rink | 600 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center, New York
Ticket Info: Tickets are available for purchase for general admission skating, VIP skating, photos with Santa, and many other holiday-themed events.
The holiday season in New York City is not complete without experiencing the magical ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. People from all over the world come to skate and celebrate the holidays at this iconic winter wonderland. New York’s favorite ice rink is set against the backdrop of the famous Prometheus sculpture and an equally famous towering Christmas tree, magical with its sparkling lights and decorations. Opening and closing dates change each year depending on the weather, so be sure to check the website (above) before you go.
About a quarter-million people skate at the Rink at Rockefeller Center every year! The rink’s intimate setting hosts 150 skaters at once, each getting between 40-60 minutes on the ice. Whether it’s capturing the skyline, the Christmas tree, or candid shots of friends and family on the ice, you’ll have plenty of chances to take your favorite Instagram photos. For anyone seeking a truly magical and unforgettable holiday experience, ice skating at Rockefeller Center is an absolute must.
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