Where to twirl in the shadow of palm trees, city skyscrapers, or dramatic stone cliffs.
Boston: Boston Common Frog Pond
The nation's oldest public park transforms its reflecting pool into an outdoor rink each winter. Chefs from the local restaurants Cheers and Hampshire House oversee the kid-friendly menu at the snack bar. Nov. 15 to Mar. 17; $4, free for kids under 14, $8 skate rental.
Chicago: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park
The Windy City's newest downtown park is a feat of landscaping that encompasses a Frank Gehry-designed concert space, an interactive fountain, a garden, a restaurant--even room for art exhibitions, picnics, and, yes, outdoor skating. Nov. 14 to Mar. 16; free, $9 skate rental.
Houston: Polar Ice Galleria
Beneath a glass atrium inside Houston's sprawling, high-end mall, this bi-level rink provides a well-deserved break from that other holiday sport--shopping. Year-round; $8, $7 for children under 13, $3 skate rental.
Los Angeles: Downtown on Ice
At the Pershing Square rink, surrounded by palm trees, skaters can join periodic hockey clinics run by the L.A. Kings or glide along to live swing, jazz, or country music during free concerts held Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Nov. 15 to Jan. 21; $6, $2 skate rental.
Minneapolis: Depot Skating Rink
Housed in a former train shed at the historic Depot, the rink has an iron-truss canopy ceiling and giant glass walls looking out at downtown Minneapolis. Thursday to Sunday, Nov. 21 to Mar. 16; $8, $6 for children under 18, $6 skate rental.
New York City: The Pond at Bryant Park There's no shortage of Manhattan rinks, but the pond ringed by trees and gleaming skyscrapers gets kudos for its free admission and park perks: an old-fashioned carousel, a flower kiosk, and a holiday market. The rink shuts down early to make way for the white tents of Fashion Week, held each February. Oct. 26 to mid-Jan.; free, $10 skate rental.
Philadelphia: Blue Cross River Rink
On the banks of the Delaware River, the rink hosts a free event each month: the crowd-pleaser Skate with Santa (Dec. 16), a New Year's Eve Party on Ice (Dec. 31), a Healthy Kids Fest (Jan. 12), and a Sweet Treats weekend (Feb. 2-3). Nov. 23 to Mar. 2; $6, $3 skate rental, $1 discount coupons available online.
Sun Valley: The Sun Valley Ice Rink Cool mountain nights and a sun shade keep this outdoor rink open even in the dog days of summer. A part of the ritzy Sun Valley Lodge, the rink mounts annual ice shows with Olympic medalist headliners and sells gear and frilly skating costumes. Year-round; $10, $8.50 children under 13, $4 skate rental.
Washington, D.C.: Sculpture Garden Ice-Skating Rink
The rink is strung with festive lights and set amid the National Gallery of Art's outdoor sculpture collection, graced by the works of Joan Miró, Sol LeWitt, and Ellsworth Kelly. Nov. 17 to mid-Mar.; $7; $6 for children under 13, seniors, and students with ID; $3 skate rental.
Yosemite National Park: Curry Village Ice Rink Half Dome and Glacier Point make a spectacular backdrop for skating, one of Yosemite's many winter activities (snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, tubing) for hearty souls. Refuel with hot apple cider and s'mores by the outdoor fire pit. Nov. 16 to mid-Mar.; $8, $6 for children under 12, $3 skate rental. E-mail to a friend
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