Every Ice Rink You Must See Before You Die
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
It's the place where all the magic happens, and all the blood, sweat, and tears give way to something amazing. Or, for some people, it's a place to go once a year to get into the holiday spirit. No matter what your skating life is like, there are a few places that we can all agree need to be added to the bucket list (in no particular order).
It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an ice rink- what more could you want? At nearly 5 miles long, it boasts the title of "world's largest natural rink". Who knows what metrics they used to decide that (because apparently a lot of these are the "world's largest"). But the most magical part of all of it is the fact that the rink is open 24/7, even lit up by lights at night. Imagine a brisk skate to work in the morning? Or, more likely, a gorgeous photo-op!
From around October to January of every year, London gets even more magical as this rink, with the museum as the perfect city backdrop, transforms the town into a skating paradise. From usually 11am to 10pm each day, skaters can catch some open air and adorable photo-ops. With that many hours of skating, there's sure to be a minimal crowd at some point during the day.
This is the stuff that Instagram dream posts are made of. Seriously, just look up #twojacklake and you'll see just what I mean. The lakes aren't monitored by the park safety rangers, so it's important to measure the ice and ensure its thickness. Over 20 centimeters is what is recommended for groups of skaters- possibly even more for those planning on doing jumps. But skating in nature's monitored beauty might just be worth the risk.
Just a little ways away, Lake Louise rests in Canada also- and offers another sweeping vista of Banff's endless mountain views. This rink is a little safer for those who might be more apprehensive about trusting their instincts on ice depth- the nearby Chateau Hotel crew measures the ice every year; and as soon as the conditions permit, it becomes a winter wonderland for families. Complete with fire pits, free rental skates, and even an ice castle, it offers a far more civilized skating experience.
Talk about civilized? How about a Palace? The Grand Palais of Paris has been a venue for many a thing. Housing some of the great artistic events of the city since the late 1800s, circuses, sporting competitions, and world exhibitions on automobiles, aviation, and household appliances have all taken place there. During the world wars, it served as both a museum and a military hospital; and more recently, the venue of the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. With its impressive resume and plethora of open space, it's the perfect place for Parisians and tourists alike to skate while staring up at one of the great feats of French architecture, and enjoy refreshments and quality time together at the cafes surrounding the surface.
Be forewarned- it doesn't happen every year, so check the site linked above to find out if it'll be happening the year that you go. When it does, though, this is one of the most magical places in the world to skate. While the ice surface may not be large or particularly smooth, getting to skate on one of the most iconic structures in the world amid breathtaking views of the city of Paris is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Paris just keeps bringing the heat (well...ice...) with their stunning options for wintertime skating. This rink, set in front of a gorgeous city hall that was being constructed as early as 1533. Throughout Paris' history (and many reconstructions) the building has only become more beautiful and more central to the city's history. When night rolls around and the sun sets, the lights on the facade of the building make it just an absolute fairytale. Your likelihood of being the only one on the ice, though? Not great.
A three-rink outdoor powerhouse, Vienna's literal "ice world" is nothing to balk at. The city hall (surprisingly popular skating destinations) offers in-and-out (or rather, on-and-off) privileges with just one ticket any time during the same day. The professional lighting setups turn the building into a magical destination, and in close proximity to all of Vienna's other amazing attractions, there's no reason to miss it. When you consider that and the availability of reasonable food and drinks nearby, it can be an all-day family activity or simply a quick session to check off your list: you decide.
Some might call it the premier holiday skating destination- and there's plenty of reasons why. Without the crowds and cramming of the Rockefeller Rink in New York City, London's Somerset House offers a yearly 40-foot Christmas tree, music, food, shopping, and live DJs in the shadow of some of London's finest neo-classical architecture.
Leave it to Chicago to make a gorgeous, modern skating ribbon for people to enjoy during the city's endless winters. A walking and rollerskating path during the warmer months, this is the perfect place to take a groomed skating path with no fear of breaking through. With stunning views of the city skyline, its a metropolitan skating dream.
This Swiss lake is set in the middle of one of the most picturesque parts of the country. The region is actually most famous for its role in the watchmaking industry. The buildings adorning the shore are absolutely adorable, and look even better lit up at night. It boasts the largest free skating surface in all of Europe. And while the entire lake doesn't freeze over every year, when it does, it's an experience. Vendors will even set up booths on the ice to sell different foods, drinks, and desserts, and hot air balloons have even been reported to make the surface their launch area.
This one appears to be a toughie. Obviously, to get as crystal clear and reflective as the ice surface is in the picture above, you need optimal conditions- which aren't very frequent. The other part of it is that it would appear that skating on Lake Vanern is almost exclusively cross-country Nordic skating. So if you're looking for a multiple-day skating trip this looks to be the place.
Because we don't live in an arctic tundra, United States dwellers don't have quite as many options for natural rinks- and as beautiful as indoor rinks can be, there's just something magical about doing the thing you love most in nature, surrounded by the most breathtaking beauty our world has to offer. Sure, it's cold, but winter sure is stunning- and in Colorado, its almost year round (60 degrees to me is freezing). Keystone Lake, in the heart of Colorado's winter wonderland of mountain ranges, is one of the best-known outdoor rinks in the continental U.S.. Because it is heavily monitored and regulated, it can be comforting to know that the ice has been drilled and deemed perfectly safe by a professional. Peace of mind for younger families or those who don't fancy taking a dip if they get it wrong.
One exception to the U.S.' lack of outdoor rinks is this frozen lagoon near downtown Anchorage. Sure, there are countless jaw-dropping indoor venues, but this one offers a family-friendly atmosphere with all the goodies: sleds, bonfires, food, games, and fun family surprises. Just take a peek at the sunrise shot above, and imagine the solitude of being able to skate with the morning sun. That's enough to make the plane ticket worth it.
This one is the rink that inspired it all- the first rink on my bucket list- but sadly, it was closed down to make room for a venue for private events. Guess I really don't have a reason to visit Minnesota after all!
There are countless gorgeous rinks around the globe. Getting them all in one list just isn't possible- plus, it's a matter of opinion. But whether you're a city fan or a country lover, domestic of international, there's something beautiful for everyone on the ice. Have on you think should be added to the list? Shoot me an email and let me know!