All Articles The 17 best ice skating rinks in the U.S.

The 17 best ice skating rinks in the U.S.

A golden statue is in the foreground, with ice skaters in motion at the Rockefeller Center skating rink
Colleen Stinchcombe
By Colleen StinchcombeDec 16, 2021

Few things say “yippie winter!” like ice skating. Whether you’re able to knock out an Olympic-level pirouette or you’re still hanging on to the side railing, there’s a joyful freedom to gliding around on icy surfaces. And while the U.S. is full of rinks where you can get your fix, the ones we list below are absolutely iconic, pairing this magical activity with a city’s landmark, often decked out in festive decor. Some even let you do a little sightseeing while you skate. So get your beanie on standby, these are the best ice skating rinks in the U.S.

1. Rockefeller Center, New York City

Probably the U.S.’s most famous ice skating rink, Rockefeller Center plays a role in holiday movies like Elf and Home Alone 2. What makes this cinematic rink so special? For one, it’s right in the middle of Rockefeller Center, which is Christmas cheer central with its ginormous tree. Then there’s the strings of holiday lights, the border of flags, and the golden statue of Prometheus as a backdrop. Lines are typical here, since the rink can only hold around 150 skaters. But hey—that just gives more time for prime people-watching.

2. Bryant Park, New York City

Rockefeller Center might get all the hype, but Bryant Park has its own massive rink that’s open all day, and here’s the real kicker: It’s totally free. (Just keep in mind, you’ll need to reserve a ticket ahead of time, and there’s a fee to rent skates.) With the extra money you save, you can reserve your own private heated igloo with VIP snack and drink service, covering both kid-friendly options or the adult stuff, depending on which option you choose.

3. Central Park, New York City

Nighttime skaters enjoy Wollman Rink with the city skyline illuminated in the background

If there was any doubt that New York City is an ice skater’s dream, consider that Central Park has not one, not two, but three rinks here, depending on the weather. Wollman Rink is the most popular, located by the Central Park Zoo. (Swing by to say hi to the sea lions.) In the middle of the park is Lasker Rink, which is typically less crowded than Wollman, although it’s closed for renovations until 2024. Finally, if weather conditions permit, you can check out the seasonal free rink at Conservatory Water, which is also on the east side of the park.

4. Millennium Park, Chicago

Sightseeing on skates—that’s what Millennium Park's McCormick Tribune Ice Rink offers. In the winter, you can glide by some of the city’s most iconic attractions, like the Bean sculpture and the ornate Chicago Cultural Center. Reservations are required, but the skating is free—if you B.Y.O. skates. Don’t have any? No worries—you can rent a pair on-site. And if you’re feeling a little rusty out on the ice, sign up for the park’s free lessons.

5. Maggie Daley Skate Ribbon, Chicago

Several skaters round a corner at the Maggie Daley ice skating rink

As you might have guessed from the name, this outdoor ice-skating spot has a unique shape—it squiggles in a winding loop for a quarter-mile giving loads more room for skating compared to your typical rink. (The ribbon has capacity for an astonishing 700 skaters.) Another special feature: The ice here actually goes up and down in terms of elevation—so be ready for extra speed when the ground slopes downhill. But be sure to look up from your feet from time to time, since the park has quite pretty views of the city’s skyline.

6. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Los Angeles may be more closely associated with beaches and nonstop sunshine. But there’s a time and a place to escape L.A.’s year-round sun—and that time and place is winter at Dodger Stadium. Specifically its 80-by-60 foot open-air rink. Expect nightly entertainment, light tunnels, an immersive Northern Lights experience, and snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels high. (Hey, all that skating requires fuel!) Plus an appearance from Santa himself.

7. Union Square, San Francisco

Ritzy Union Square has a bit of sparkle year-round, with its grand dame hotels, department stores, and historical touches. But starting in November, it transforms into a wintery tableau with a skating rink at its center. If you want a holiday selfie, a lovely photo-op is the dazzling Christmas tree right next to the rink. You’ll need to book your skating tickets in advance, but the price includes skate rentals. And lockers are available to hold your stuff (like your shoes) for a small fee.

8. St. Pete Pier, St. Petersburg

A new contender on the “best rinks” list—and maybe the most surprising. St. Petersburg pier has created this rink as the showstopper for the city’s “Winter Beach” experience. We’re not going to pretend to know the kind of magic required to create an outdoor skating rink in a Florida beach town, but definitely the feeling of gliding around on real ice while looking at 180-degree views of Tampa Bay is a you-have-to-try-this experience.

A hundred years ago, during Warren G. Harding’s presidency, Washingtonians could grab their scarves and mittens and skate on the Lincoln Memorial’s reflection pool. While those days are long gone, you can still skate on the National Mall, if you know where to go. Head to the National Gallery of Art, where a section of its Sculpture Garden turns into a rink every winter. You can skate for a 45-minute window, get lessons, or even spring for a season pass. Because really, the joy of gliding around in the nation’s capital never gets old.

10. Boston Common Frog Pond, Boston

Ice skaters enjoy the sunshine at Boston Common Frog Pond

If you dream of old-fashioned ice skating in a lovely tree-filled park, this sweet circular rink will do the trick. Even better, there’s a giant, lit-up Christmas tree right next door. And don’t worry about the frogs. Despite the name, this pond-turned-skating-rink doesn’t actually hold any amphibians. Once you hang up your skates, it’s only a few steps to some of the city’s best-loved restaurants.

11. Cosmopolitan Ice Rink, Las Vegas

Ice skating? In the desert? Yes, Las Vegas, the city of “more is more,” has figured out a way to do it. Each winter, The Cosmopolitan hotel turns their massive swimming pool into a 4,200 square-foot ice skating rink complete with s’more-roasting stations and seasonal drinks. For 2021, they’re even adding a chalet experience where you can warm up in comfy seats with hand-crafted cocktails. Think of this as another version of poolside drinks.

12. Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

Turns out, Florida isn’t the only place to experience beachfront ice skating. San Diego has its own so-called “Skating by the Sea.” Here, the Hotel del Coronado resort turns a palm-tree-lined patch of grass that overlooks the water into their own icy paradise. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy it, but you’ll want to book your tickets early to reserve a spot. Bonus points for an early evening slot where you can also catch a coastal sunset.

13. Sun Valley Ice Rink, Sun Valley

You don’t have to be a pro to come skate where the Olympians train. During the holidays, this mountain-flanked year-round outdoor rink is filled with families and casual skaters. Skate rentals are available, as are skating lessons—and what better place to perfect your triple axle. (Or just stay upright, if you’re mortal like the rest of us.) Check the calendar, too, since you might be able to catch a star skater carve up the ice.

14. Curry Village, Yosemite National Park

It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque skating scene than in the middle of Yosemite Valley. Evergreens encircle the rink, but a break in the trees offers views of Half Dome’s iconic granite face and a peek at the Glacier Point lookout, often snow-covered this time of year. But you’ll need to strategize a bit, since the hour-and-a-half skate sessions are first come first serve—there’s no advanced booking. Also note that weekdays usually have fewer skating hours. Luckily, winter is Yosemite’s low season, which translates to fewer crowds.

15. Blue Cross RiverRink, Philadelphia

A crowd skates at night at the BlueCross River Rink in Philadelphia, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge lit up in the background

Christmas music, light shows, and a massive tree adorned with thousands of twinkling lights make this rink one of the most festive spots in the city. You’ll get views of Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River while you skate, and when the weather turns too chilly, warming cabins and flickering fire pits are on standby. There’s even a chalet-style lodge with food and drinks available. And yes, hot cocoa is on the menu.

16. Beaver Creek Ice Rink, Beaver Creek

If you’re coming to Beaver Creek chances are you’re here for the top-notch skiing and snowboarding. Its sweet outdoor rink in the middle of Beaver Creek Village tends to fly under the radar. But this is an excellent stop when you’re not on the mountain, and the ski-resort backdrop makes it feel like a rink somewhere in the Alps. Got kids in tow? They can skate their hearts out while you relax in one of the plush couches on the rink’s perimeter.

17. Ice at the Galleria, Houston

Ice skating and Texas probably seem like opposites, but this icy indoor rink, located right in the middle of the swanky Galleria Mall, feels more like Connecticut than cattle-ranching country. It stays open late—later than some of the stores—and on weekends DJs crank up the tunes for on-ice dance parties.

Colleen Stinchcombe
Colleen Stinchcombe writes about outdoor recreation, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared in Outside, Sierra Magazine, and The Seattle Times, among others. When not on assignment or crouched over a laptop, she's likely hiking, biking, or curling up in any available sunbeam at her home near Seattle, WA.