When I was about 10 years old, my fourth-grade class took a wintertime field trip to an ice rink. My mom, who’s pretty good on the ol’ skates, chaperoned. I was, like, so excited. An afternoon with her, my friends and the chill of the rink—what could be better?
Well, what could’ve been better is if I didn’t fall flat on my back and get the wind knocked out of me for the first time in my life. For about eight seconds, I couldn’t speak, cry or breathe, so that pretty much turned me off to ice skating.
Even so, the beauty of the sport wasn’t lost on me. If anything, becoming one with the ice as a kid helped me respect the artistry of it even more. Now, one of my favorite activities in the winter months is to take my 8-year-old son to the rink. He’s wobbly, but not white-knuckling the rail the way I am, so I consider this a victory. Here are our favorite places to visit when a particularly icy mood strikes.
From public skating to ice skating to broomball (I love broomball!), this expansive facility contains a 200×85-foot main rink and a 90×60-foot instructional rink. Choose from a range of figure skating classes to suit any level, or just there head with the fam during a public skating session. My favorite: Friday Night Meltdowns from 8:15 to 10:15 p.m., complete with a DJ and disco lighting for just $8 a person.
1851 Landwehr Rd., Glenview
If it’s home to the Winnetka Hockey Club, Wilmette Hockey Association and New Trier Hockey Club, it’s gotta be legit. Try a lesson, toddler through adult, and don’t miss the birthday party package that includes one hour of skating, hockey or broomball on the rink, plus skate rentals, pizza and drinks for 10 kids. Plus, calling all dads: join the B league or rec league for the fall/winter season, with single elimination playoffs that result in a cash prize.
2111 Founders Dr., Northbrook
My favorite part of this premier facility is its Learn to Skate program, which teaches kids how to skate while growing their self-esteem and helping build a well-rounded athlete. Students learn a range of skills, from glides and swizzles to crossovers and edges. Also, take advantage of the rink’s public skating hours (you’ll find me there on Thanksgiving afternoon).
3100 Trail Way, Highland Park
Living on the North Shore, I wasn’t totally surprised when my son expressed interest in playing hockey. I’m staving that one off as long as possible while I augment my life savings, but to tide him over, we head to Pure Hockey. Otherwise known as a hockey player’s dream, this place is your go-to stop for sticks, skates, jerseys and apparel, bags, protective gear … you name it. The knowledgeable staff can help outfit your kids head to toe. Or, in my case, help you find tabletop hockey games to satiate the appetite for a couple more years.
2751 Pfingsten Rd., Glenview