For those of us raised in California, we may not be familiar with winters in the North East or high Northern states. Winter for us are chilly winds – but for other people, winter equates to freezing winters, snow covered everything and slick layers of ice covering cars, streets, roofs, and whatever else may have been left outside in freezing temperatures. We have all seen movies of young families skating across the frozen over pond in the back yard and young athletes playing ice hockey on the frozen lake in the center of town. Many of us California natives grew up with idyllic visions of snow-white holidays and passing hours whimsically twirling on ice in bright white ice skates. Images from movies make you want to experience the magic of a white winter.
But, those white winters are not nearly as picturesque as you think they will be. Dark, cold days where everything is dank and the air bites. Winds that slap you and slushy ice that you have to trudge through to get anywhere. A white Christmas isn’t nearly as romantic as fun as the movies make it.
But the idea of ice-skating still holds a place of winter majesty. And luckily in California, we now have many options to live our most vivid ice-skating visions without having to survive harsh winter climates. We get the beauty of ice-skating outside in short-sleeves under a sun-filled winter day. And as winter break comes near, it is worth exploring the different holiday ice-rinks that are hidden in our local backroads. There are so many wonderful options that you could pick a different ice-rink every day for a week and have a unique, fun, holiday-filled experience without ever having to venture too far from home.
Brentwood on Ice: Small Town Charm
If you love Hallmark holiday movies, downtown charm and a perfect place for a family night out, Brentwood on Ice is exactly the ice-skating experience you are looking for. Located in the Historic, downtown Brentwood corridor, the ice-rink makes for a perfect afternoon or evening out. The ice-rink is set up across from City Park, which is lined with uniquely decorated Christmas trees. Oversized decorations, such as giant nutcracker, gives the ice-rink a childlike innocence. The blaring holiday music and warm mugs of hot chocolate are reminiscent of local, community holidays where family and friends alike, come together to celebrate. The quant size is perfect for novice skaters and there are ‘skate buddies’ available to rent for added support. Even better, for parents who do not want to skate, the rink is a perfect size to be able to sit down with a warm cup of coffee and watch your kids have the time of their lives zooming around the ice-rink. The safe, warm and community feeling of the ice-rink makes it the perfect addition to the downtown district. Plus, the location is set up to host birthday parties and events – making holiday get-togethers a bit more festive, and a little less work. With exceptional pricing and ultra-convenient location, Brentwood on Ice should be part of your ice-skating schedules this holiday season.
Brentwood on Ice is located at 729 Second Street. Standard hours of operation are 11am to 8:30 pm Monday – Thursday and 11am – 10:30pm on the weekend. Holiday hours do vary, so it is a good idea to call before you lace up your skates. Their last day will be Sunday January 6th so make your way there before they close!
Union Square Holiday Ice Rink: A Big City Christmas
Another favorite ice-rink is the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square in the heart of San Francisco’s Union Square. This ice rink brings the magic of a big city Christmas. The ice-rink sits below an oversized Christmas tree, under the open sky. Between the bright lights of Macy’s Christmas tree and the beautifully lit, and decorated façades of the various department stores, you are immersed in the energy of Christmas. What sets Union Square apart from other, smaller, ice rinks are there continuous events that are held at the rink. A Polar Bear Skate invited people to go for an early morning skate in their bathing suit while a silent skate party offers a silent disco party as party-goes wear Silent Storm headphones. You can even train to become an Olympian by learning how to Curl at a free class. Crowds do form early in the day and tickets for skating do sell out regularly. But, if you are looking to skate under the open sky surrounded by decadent Christmas decorations, the Union Square Holiday Ice Rink is the perfect place for you.
Union Square Holiday Ice Rink is located at 333 Post Street, near the corner of Geary and Powell Streets in San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased online. Hours of operation are 10am to 11:30pm daily.
Walnut Creek on Ice: The Coolest Place in the East Bay
We think that all the ice-rinks spanning across the East Bay are pretty cool, but Walnut Creek on Ice has claimed the tag and it seems to fit. Walnut Creek on Ice has an incredible variety of ways to get involved and skate. First, throughout the season, different theme days are set up and scheduled. Frosty and Friends means you can except a visit from Frosty or some of his princess pals out on the ice rink. Plus, they are always happy to stop for a picture or to chat about holiday wish lists. The ice-skating academy offers a formal ice-skating school. This is perfect for the young, and the young-at-heart ice-skaters. For students who show a bit more affinity for the sport can enroll in higher level classes to see if the competitive track of skating is something worth exploring. The large rink also offers event and birthday party packages. With the expansive size of the ice rink, and amenities, there is more than enough room to host a large party without feeling crowded. The ice rink in Walnut Creek does also share an energy of a winter wonderland. The cool air, the crisp music and the warm hot chocolate that is sold at the snack bar all feed into the feeling of fun winter days. As families head home in the evening hours, the ice-rink turns into a fun, safe place for our youth population to hang out and skate to popular music. Our visit had quite a few couples skating that just might have been enjoying a fun first date.
Visit Walnut Creek on Ice at 1365 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek, at Civic Park between the hours of 12pm and 8pm during the week and until 11pm on the weekend.
Visit One of Visit Them All!
Just became we are in the Bay Area and do not have to navigate through the snowy days of winter, we still get to enjoy the joyful aspects of winter, such as ice-skating. Skating under a warm California sky is a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season and get some crisp fresh air. There are many beautiful places to ice-skate on our local backroads. The biggest challenge is deciding which one to visit first.