On a sunny, cool day last
winter, my daughter Grace and I dug our skates out of the garage,
threw on scarves and mittens, and headed to a little park district
outdoor ice rink in Downers Grove.
For an hour, we skated around
the free rink, which was empty, save for a few young boys playing
ice hockey on the other side. It was a great way to spend an
afternoon-we got some exercise, it didn't cost us anything, and it
was an opportunity to get outside after weeks of being cooped
If you're ready to try some
outdoor skating, Chicago and the suburbs offer numerous rinks. Some
are regularly smoothed out with zambonis and are similar to skating
indoors, while others are pretty much like the ponds we skated on
as kids, bumps and all.
If you're looking for some
outdoor skating that veers a bit from the typical pond or small
rink, here are three rinks we recommend.
Wonderland. Touted as the world's largest outdoor
synthetic ice rink, this rink lets skaters do the usual loop around
an oval rink or follow a skating trail that winds around the rink.
Starting the day after Thanksgiving, the rink is open each weekend
through the end of January on Friday nights 6-10 p.m.; Saturday
nights 6-10 p.m.; and Sundays 2-6 p.m. When school is out for two
weeks during the holidays, it is also open 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
$3 admission, $2 skate rental. Rockford, rockfordpark
district.org, (815) 987-8800.
Park. Located in the heart of downtown, skaters can admire
The Bean or the shoppers on Michigan Avenue while gliding around
this free rink. It can get very crowded, though; and with all those
people, the Zamboni needs to come out every hour and a half for
20-minute stretches, leaving a lot of people standing around. Bring
your own skates if possible-skate rentals here can get pricey at
$10. You can also easily stand in line for over an hour to rent
skates - which might not be in the best condition after thousands
of people have used them. The skating itself is free. 201 E.
Randolph St., between Michigan and Columbus avenues in Chicago, millenniumpark.org.
The Rink at
Wrigley. This rink is a relative newcomer to the Chicago
skating scene-this will be its third year. It's not nearly as
crowded as Millenium Park, though having your own skates is a good
idea. Wrigley charges for both admission and skate rental (the same
amount for rental - $10 - as Millennium Park), so it could end up
costing almost 70 bucks for a family of four. The full-sized
skating rink is set up in the Cubs parking lot at the corner of
Clark and Waveland. It functions in warmer weather. Call (312)
617-7017 or visit rinkatwrigley.com for cost
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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