Add a little cocoa and some twinkly lights, and the frigid fun of outdoor ice skating stirs up feelings of warm, winter nostalgia. At locations throughout the Twin Cities, this winter tradition is beloved by generations of hardy Minnesotans eager to embrace the cold. From an enchanting candlelit lake with panoramic views of snow-laden trees to an LED-lit ice loop that pipes in classic holiday music, here are our picks for the most festive and whimsical outdoor skating spots in the metro area.
Central Park Ice Skate Loop
If you’re more like Bambi than Scott Hamilton on ice, this is the spot for you. The 20-foot-wide, LED-lit refrigerated ice loop is designed for leisure skating. Hockey sticks and pucks aren’t allowed, making this an ideal spot for little ones learning to skate. A railing encompasses almost all of the 810-feet curvy path and there are plenty of places to sit down. Warm up by the indoor and outdoor fireplaces, or inside the pavilion, which offers concessions, boot cubbies and restrooms. Skate with Santa and listen to holiday music Dec. 15. The event is free; skate rentals are $6.
12000 Central Park Way, Maple Grove; maplegrovemn.gov.
Attend the “Midwest’s largest skating party” on New Year’s Eve at one of the nation’s premier outdoor skating centers. Skate indoors or outdoors on Roseville’s 110,000-square-foot refrigerated skating surface, which has four hockey rinks, or skate leisurely on the Olympic-size Oval rink. In addition to skating, there will be a fire pit, inflatable bounce houses, face-painting and a magic show. Admission is $8. Skate rentals are $4.
2661 Civic Center Dr., Roseville; skatetheoval.com.
An oasis in the heart of Minneapolis, Loring Park is home to the Wells Fargo Mpls WinterSkate. (St. Paul has its version at Landmark Center.) When the cold sets in, Loring becomes a haven for skaters in search of a vibrant urban setting to practice their spirals under the downtown Minneapolis skyline. The refrigerated rink is open through March, but merriest at the holidays during Holidazzle. Skating on the rink is free, and complimentary skates are available during warming-house hours on a first-come, first-served basis.
1382 Willow St., Mpls.; mplsdowntown.com/winterskate.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Most people think of this park as a cross-country ski destination, but there’s also a pond that’s perfect for ice skating, old-school style. Skaters in search of a peaceful getaway during the hectic holidays can glide back in time under moonlight and snow-laden trees. On New Year’s Eve, skate the frozen lake by candlelight, then sip cocoa in the A-frame warming house. Thaw out by the fire, roast s’mores (s’mores and cocoa provided). The cost is $5 per person, free for ages 3 and younger. Hot food is available for purchase from food trucks. Call the visitor center at 651-554-6530 or check the park’s Facebook page to find out when the lake is open for skating.
860 Cliff Rd., Eagan; www.co.dakota.mn.us/parks/parksTrails/LebanonHills.
Once the temperature drops, the ice at Centennial Lakes heats up. Skate from pond-to-pond along narrow, meandering paths, and glide under lit bridges while listening to holiday music. The 10-acre lake in Edina is groomed daily. A large warming house offers indoor and outdoor fireplaces, concessions, sharpening and rentals ($6 a pair) of ice and hockey skates. Guests can use the ice for free for skating or try their hand at Norwegian ice sleds available for rent at $8 an hour. Who could ask for more? Skating is expected to open Dec. 15. Check the park’s Facebook page for information or call 952-833-9580.
7499 France Av. S., Edina; edinamn.gov/700/Ice-Skating.
Lake of the Isles
While there’s no music, fireplace or concessions, this large oval rink is in the shadow of Kenwood, the toniest neighborhood in Minneapolis. Not only are skaters surrounded by mansions dressed up for the holidays, but they can also see the lights of downtown. On one section of the lake, there might be a high-caliber pickup hockey game taking place. On the other side, couples skate hand-in-hand, kids take the ice for the first time and figure skaters twirl in the middle of it all. This quiet, romantic haven is fit for a Currier and Ives print. There are no skate rentals, but there are ample loaner skates (mostly kid sizes) in the warming house. Check the city website to see when the rink is open.
2500 E. Lake of the Isles Pkwy., Mpls.; minneapolisparks.org.
Mall of America
Tonya Harding famously figure-skated at a mall and now you can, too. The megamall got a lot cooler this winter with the addition of a 12,000-square-foot refrigerated skating rink. Located at the mall’s north entrance, “Skate the Star” is open through Jan. 27. Skating is free and open to the public during select mall hours. Guests can use their own skates or rent a pair for $5. All proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.
2131 Lindau Lane, Bloomington; www.mallofamerica.com.