Christmas Visit

Day-trip: Outdoor Ice Skating

Ice skating is a family friendly outdoor activity you can do together during the Christmas holiday.

When we were young, my mother insisted we learn to skate. Every one of us took lessons, some of us longer than others. I remember taking lessons in Yonkers at Murray Rink when I was 6 years old on cold Saturday mornings. I had weak ankles and she could never get the laces on the skate boots tight enough. After my lesson, my mother would give me hot cocoa out of an old school Thermos to warm me up. (just like in Shawn’s amazing thermos collection). Sometimes we would even go for ice cream at Carvel or get a sundae at Friendly’s after my class.

Melissa ice skating at age 6 in a class performance

When I was a little older I was able to skate with my friends at Sugar Pond. Sugar Pond was a local pond behind our elementary school that looked very much like the picture above. It was a very small and it was always bring-your-own-skates. There was also a tiny warming hut with a wood stove. If you were cold you could head to the hut and warm up for a few minutes.

Mostly we went to socialize. We would skate for about an hour, and then walk back to someone’s house for more warm cocoa and a snack. Looking back, it was always too warm to skate at Christmas and often Sugar Pond would not freeze over until January.

Today there are plenty of year round rinks, pop-up skating areas and parks with ice rinks. In NYC at the holidays there are three very famous outdoor rinks. Rockefeller Center (the grand daddy of them all), Wollman Rink in Central Park and the one in Bryant Park which is attached to a lovely holiday shopping village.

Ice skating is great a cardovascular activity. But even if you are not a great skater it’s fun to go slowly around the rink in lazy ovals. However, ice skating is also an activity that you can do with your boyfriend, posse, kids and the whole family.

Hi Everyone, its Liz! I was fortunate to grow up in what many Americans would call a Norman Rockwell childhood. Everyone knew everyone in my hometown of Chilton, Wisconsin. You would see the same families and kids on the ice skating rink, the sled hills and parks.

My mother was a Campfire Girls leader, and my sister and I were exposed to all sorts of outdoor winter fun. We loved ice skating, and we also loved both cross country and downhill skiing. Our Dad loved to take us sledding down the hills at the high school, which luckily for us were right across the street.

Liz, her sister Kris, and their dad, Joe taking the girls out for some winter fun, circa 1973.

Growing up in Wisconsin meant that you had to learn to adapt to the cold and live in it! We embraced it and enjoyed making igloos, forts and all sorts of things in the snow. My ice skating rink growing up was Leahy Lion’s Park. It is a city park, and became absolutely gorgeous with snow and ice. It was always fun skating over the holidays when everyone was home- kids, high schoolers and college kids would all go skating. We would play crack the whip and race up and down the river all day long.

Now that I live in Chicago, I have come to embrace all of the great outdoors. My husband and I hike daily regardless of the weather in all of the nature preserves near us. I also enjoy a skate every now and then at Centennial Park in Naperville, just down the street from where I live. If I want to get fancy, I may go to Millennium Park (Maggie Daley Park) right in downtown Chicago.

Liz’s favorites. Top left, Centennial Park, snow tubing at Calumet County Park, a city skate at Millennium Park and the beautiful Leahy Lion’s Park in Chilton, Wisconsin where Liz grew up skating up and down the river.

Since we are still in the throws of a pandemic and many of us will be off the week between Christmas and New Year’s; we wanted to provide some ideas and places for you to participate and get outside safely.

Here’s our La Soeurette Guide to where you can skate outdoors in 2020/2021.

Chicago and Suburbs:

Maggie Daley Park – Skate right next to the Bean (aka Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor) When friends and family visit, this is definitely something special to do. Ice skating aside, take an outdoor twirl in one of the greatest cities on earth- Chicago. Admire the giant skyscrapers, holiday lights, sculpture and diversity around you. Enjoy delicious food and drink from the gourmet restaurants right at the park!

Centennial Park – The Chicago suburbs are full of great places to skate. Centennial Park is a special place in downtown Naperville, full of families who enjoy the park and beach in the summer and skating rink in the winter.

Watts Center skate rink in Glencoe, Illinois. – Live in the northern suburbs? Watts Center is open for the 2020-2021 season! Enjoy two outdoor lit skating rinks and sledding hills! Call first to find out if you need a pass or instructions.


Rockefeller Center Ice Rink – This year due to the pandemic you need to get tickets. They want to control the amount of people on the ice. The rink will also only be open until the end of January. For more information visit their website.

Wollman Rink in Central Park – The beauty of this rink is the view of the park, the sky and Manhattan’s tall skyline. Based in the south end of the park it’s close to Fifth Avenue. Skate rentals are available. You may also bring your own. Find more information on their website.

The Rink at the Winter Village, Bryant Park – There is something for everyone; ice skating, holiday shopping, snacks and drinks. If you want to skate you will also need to make a reservation. You can rent or bring your own skates. The rink and winter village are open until March 2021. Tickets and information on the park’s website.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park Ice Rink – Nestled far inside the majestic and wonderful Prospect Park is a beautiful ice rink with rentals, a restaurant and upscale snack bar. There are few indoor warm seats and mostly outdoor seating. Skate rentals are available. More information can be found the website for Prospect Park.

Make sure to wear warm clothing like cute hats and gloves. See our favorite recycled versions here.