Gingerbread cookies, cackling warm fireplaces, mistletoe, the smell of fresh pine needles, snowmen, downhill sled races, red noses; all of these things embody the holiday spirit, and each are integral pieces of what makes winter time so great. But no winter is complete without a couple of good family ice skating sessions. And whether you live in festively frozen Vienna or in the sunny hills of southern California, we’ve found the best ice skating rinks to enjoy with your kids.
Written by Maxwell Barna
Eiffel Tower Ice Rink - Paris
The Eiffel Tower in Paris is the most visited paid tourist attraction in the entire world; it is the picture-perfect architectural cherry on France's cultural cake. And even though it didn't need to offer more incentives to get tourists to come come visit, it did so in 2004 with the introduction of its first-floor, family ice skating rink. While it's on the smaller side, allowing only for a maximum of 80 skaters at a time, the rink is absolutely worth the crowd (and lines). Suspended 60 meters above the ground on the tower's first level, the rink offers skaters a great opportunity to see one of the most beautiful centuries-old cities in Europe, while trying their hands -- well, feet -- at a perfect figure eight. Talk about memories to last a lifetime!
Every year, the square in front of Vienna"s city hall is transformed into an incredible 6,000-square-meter ice skating area. Aside from having the picturesque 18th century Rathaus building as its backdrop, the area is also immersed in a sea of bright and colorful lights and other decorations. The rinks (yes, there are two!) are absolutely gargantuan, each split by a walkway that's lined with vendors offering hot chocolate, tea, coffee and other snacks. There are also several connecting ice pathways that wind their way around the city hall's park.
The ice skating rink for kids at London's Natural History Museum is the epitome of family-friendly. Aside from the 1,000-square-meter rink (with a beautiful Christmas tree at its center), there's also a smaller rink, geared specifically to young children. The main rink is particularly festive, with trees covered in sparkling bright lights and a fairground-style carousel. The museum, which spans the length of the rink (and then some), serves as a beautiful background, accompanied by the lights, decorations, trees and other surrounding architecture. When the kids get tired or your session is over, take a walk over to one of the rink-side vendors and let the kids take in the beautiful scene over a cup of delicious hot cocoa.
In a country where ice hockey is the undisputed number one sport, it should shock no one that there are ice skating rinks for kids everywhere in Canada. In fact, there are almost a dozen in Quebec City alone. Among them, however, one stands out -- the annual ice rink at Place d'Youville. The rink is right next to/in front of the famous Palais Montcalm theater, and in the winter months, the view is spectacular. The kids' ice skating rink is lit up with lights from surrounding trees, monuments and, of course, the beautiful holiday light display of the theater. The castle-like architecture is interesting and is sure to play into children"s imaginations, and families love this location's unmistakable charm. Oh, and did we mention that admission is free?
A Philadelphia winter tradition for decades, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is an excellent way to spend an evening out with the family. This open-air, Olympic-sized ice skating rink for kids is located at Penn's Landing, right off of the Delaware River. Don't forget to take a look up from the ice every once in a while, as the views of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and mighty Delaware River are pretty unique. There's also a heated pavilion, where snacks and drinks are available. The Delaware River Waterfront's annual Winterfest includes a pop-up holiday village, complete with nightly events, activities, a 400-person warming tent, a beer garden, fire pits, restaurants and holiday music.
With its warmer climate, bright lights and unique electric charm in winter, Las Vegas is a family getaway hotspot. If you find yourself looking for a unique family-friendly experience in Sin City, take the kids over to The Cosmopolitan Hotel, which is transformed into a winter wonderland for the holidays.
The Cosmopolitan's famous Boulevard Pool is turned into a beautiful ice skating rink, surrounding guests with luscious palms and providing them with breathtaking views of The Strip. The rink is open from late November through early January. Keep an eye on the forecast, too, because on select dates, snow showers can be expected! When you're done skating, families are invited to enjoy some quality time around one of the arranged fire pits, where you can roast S'mores, enjoy warm drinks and cocktails, and take in all of the city's beauty.
We know we're bending the rules with this one, but New York City offers families so many wonderful ice skating spots for kids in the winter months that choosing just one would be criminal.
Rockefeller Center is the most idyllic of all of NYC's ice skating experiences, and children love skating around the 122-foot-long by 59-foot-wide rink. And with the breathtaking "30 Rock" building, international flags, world-famous Christmas tree, illuminated sculptures and all of Midtown Manhattan as your backdrop, who wouldn't? You're also right near a variety of other family-friendly attractions and restaurants. Be well warned, however, that the rink holds a maximum of 150 people, and lines can -- and will -- get very long, especially around Christmas.
If you're looking for more skating and less line-waiting, the Winter Village at Bryant Park ice skating rink is perfect. Admission is free, the rink is 170 feet by 100 feet, and there are onsite skate sharpening services, along with rentals, skate lessons, and hot snacks and beverages.
Along with a wonderful annual tree lighting ceremony, the South Street Seaport is home to another excellent ice skating rink for kids. Children age 5 and under skate free!
Last but not least, there's Wollman Skating Rink. Better known by its location -- smack dab in the middle of Central Park -- this rink first opened in 1949 and is another NYC classic. Kids and adults alike love skating in the middle of one of the city"s most popular attractions, complete with picturesque, panoramic views of Manhattan.
Skating by the Sea at Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego, Calif.
The beautiful beach, the smell of salt in the air, the sound of a gentle ocean breeze rustling through luscious palm tree leaves and... a family ice skating rink? One of the [only] drawbacks to southern California"s year-round beautiful weather is snow never falls on the beach, and ponds never freeze over. Luckily for San Deigns, the kind people from Hotel Del Coronado bring a winter wonderland to their slice of the western shoreline every year, with their Skating by the Sea experience. From late November through early January, the hotel constructs an open-air ice skating rink practically right on the sand, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.