Where’s the best place to go in Chicago during the winter with your kids?
Okay, I will explain more. Go. Outside!
You are from Chicago and as the handy chart below shows, the average temperatures in Chicago winter aren’t all that bad … for Chicago, in winter.
Granted, we have our fair share of days that are craptastic-ly cold and you shouldn’t go outside. Even the polar bear at the zoo shouldn’t be outside! But the rest of the time, there is plenty to do, from hiking, sledding, skiing and of course, skating.
There are plenty of outdoor rinks to check out, or if you have a yard and you are like DAD, then making your yard an easy to get to destination for fun is part of the winter plan. Yes, I am saying to put an ice rink in your back yard.
There are a few ways to accomplish this. Last year, I bought thick gage plastic sheeting from the hardware store, shoveled out a square patch in my yard, about 20×30 feet, used the snow to push up the sides of the plastic, filled the area with water, let it freeze and viola! Instant rink. Cheap and easy. Kind of.
With this plan, you are at the mercy of the weather. If the snow melts, the banks disappear, the water drains and you are left with plastic on the ground. Also if you have older kids who play hockey, it’s more difficult to bank a shot off of snow. You can do it, but it’s hard.
So this year DAD decided to up his game and work with NiceRink to build a proper skating rink that will not only hold up all winter long, but it grows as my kids do, and it’s durable and reuseable for many years to come.
In a nutshell, NiceRink is an ice rink in a box (or a few boxes). However, it’s a one stop shop for a real rink experience in just about any size yard. Whether you have a small city lot or a sprawling estate, NiceRink has a kit size to accommodate your needs.
The kits come with white, high impact, lightweight plastic boards (they link together like LEGO’s), padding that fits on top of the boards to soften collisions and a thick plastic liner and brackets. The brackets are the key to keeping everything together. They hold and support the boards that keeps the plastic in place, which in turn keeps the water in and makes the skating possible, all winter long.
The only other thing you have to worry about is making sure you have a mostly-level surface to put your rink on. I say mostly level because a certain degree of not-so-level surface is no big deal. The water will naturally level off in the rink. One side will end up being deeper than the other, but once it freezes, it doesn’t matter.
Then, that’s it. You are ready to skate, play hockey, get outside and enjoy winter in Chicago in a healthy, active way.
“WIFE” doesn’t do anything without a cost analysis. We have 183 kids and they all like to skate, play hockey and be outside etc. When you factor in paying for ice time, skate rentals, hot chocolate and all the other junk that goes along with going to an indoor rink, this option is the more affordable. And the best part is you don’t have to share it with that weird 40-year-old guy, with the mullet who is just a little too good at figure skating! It’s your rink, it’s private and you make the rules.
NiceRink did two things: Made my life easy and made me a hero to my kids. They also made the *&*%$* neighbor down the street jealous, but that’s just an added bonus.
We live in Chicago. It gets cold. We know this and it’s not going away anytime soon. You can either lock yourself in the house for six months, gorge on White Castle and work on your Angry Birds high score, or get out, enjoy and have fun. It’s truly that simple.
Check out the time lapse video I took of the guys from Supreme Sports Chicago setting up the rink in our yard. It took 35 minutes from beginning to end and two days later “the boy” had his first skate.