PHOTO: Skaters enjoy the Tribune McCormick Ice Rink in Millennium Park. (Photo courtesy of the City of Chicago)
November in Chicago unveils a sparkling, holiday-focused city where even the iconic Art Institute lions are bedecked in big red bows. But sometimes all the shopping and holiday festivals overshadow a Midwestern tradition that lasts well beyond the holidays. Chicago’s frigid temps make ice skating the winter spot of choice for many locals and most ice rinks are open from November through March. Most neighborhoods have an ice rink but downtown Chicago boasts several to choose from. Consider these icy escapades for a winter workout.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
This small Millennium Park rink is the go-to for holiday shoppers as well as after work twirlers. It’s a family-friendly affair with kids, teens and adults gliding around and sweeping views of the park and “The Bean.” Free skating lessons are offered an hour before opening every weekend and hot chocolate is available at the nearby Park Grill. Admission is free, but skate rentals are $12 and this rink attracts heavy crowds (100,000 skaters annually) so go early. Open Nov. 10-March 5, weather permitting.
Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
This is the newest rink in the area and its long, elevated and twirling path makes Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon a treat to view as well as skate. Located just down the street from Millennium Park, this rink supplies an unusual skating experience with an ice ribbon that weaves over the landscape, between trees and over hills. The length is twice the distance of a typical rink and is not recommended for unsteady skaters. Admission is free with $12 skate rentals. Open late November -March.
Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Skating Rink at Wonderfest, Navy Pier
This indoor rink is a favorite for families and cold-weather chickens like me. The fest features an arena dotted with Christmas trees, lights, rides and enough warmth so that you don’t need to skate in a coat. The Chicago Blackhawks Indoor Skating Rink is a medium-sized rink and it doesn’t tend to get too crowded since there are other activities nearby. It's the perfect choice for low key fun. Wonder Fest includes a general admission fee of either $23 for all rides and activities or $10 for select rides and activities. Open Dec. 2-Jan. 8.