Whether your ice-skating skills are sharp or a bit rusty, these Chicago-area locations will help you get your fill of the spirit of the season (which hopefully will not include too many bruises). Head outdoors to experience the full effect of the season, or stay comfortable at one of the many indoor rinks.
McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink
Millennium Park offers much more than Cloud Gate and the Pritzker Pavilion. Its sizable rink has a great location, offering prime views of Michigan Avenue. Skating is free, and skate rental is available for $10. And if you get cold, grab a mug of hot chocolate (or a great meal) at the Park Grill restaurant.
Homewood-Flossmoor Ice Arena
South Suburbanites worried about the chill, but still searching for that family-oriented feeling, will love this cozy rink. Advanced skaters can glide on the larger rink, while beginners are welcome to practice on the smaller one. Public skating sessions (Friday-Sunday) are a main attraction throughout the year with a $6 entry ($20 for a family of 4) and a $4 rental fee. But if you just want to watch, the adult and youth ice hockey leagues are additional perks. The arena also hosts parties and private sessions.
With nearly 90 acres of parkland, Warren Park is one of the region's largest green areas. Do enough exploring and you'll find an outdoor ice rink (open skate runs Wednesdays through Sundays at various times); it's adjacent to a sled hill appropriate for all ages, so the winter fun can continue all day. Skate rental is $5; admission is free.
Daley Bicentennial Park (Grant Park's North End)
A nice view, great lights and a big skating space add up to a winterful experience here. Open annually from December to March, the 80-by-135-foot outdoor rink offers free admission (skate rental is $6).
McFetridge Sports Center, California Park
Not interested in being outdoors? Head inside to California Park's NHL-size ice rink and avoid the freezing cold, if not the crowds. How much does this indoor fun cost? Skate rental is $3; admission is $4 for children 12 and younger, $5 for adults and $2 for seniors 60 and older. The Center also offers skating lessons for all ages.
Midway Plaisance Park
Like a scene from a romantic movie, this park is great for long walks under clear skies and perfect for groups desiring a quaint environment. Located near the border of Washington Park at its west end and Jackson Park at its east end, the Midway is a popular location for University of Chicago students and area residents alike. Skate rental is $5; admission is free.
Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier
An annual holiday tradition, Navy Pier's Winter WonderFest includes an indoor rink surrounded by sparkling lights, holiday music, ornaments, decorated trees and all sorts of games, music and entertainment. One could easily turn a visit here into a day-long family outing. Admission is $19, which gives you access to the rink and other WonderFest activities.
Robert Crown Community Center & Ice Complex
Head up to Evanston for some frosty fun: take advantage of ice skating (daily), figure skating, hockey, speed skating and broomball at the Crown Center. Not interested in joining someone else's game? Just bring a group of friends and rent the smaller studio rink. Admission is $5 and skate rental is $2.
Lagoon Dawes Park
If you're a North Suburbanite interested in reliving your childhood through an outdoor rink, this Lagoon has all the nostalgia you crave - not to mention panoramic views and occasional glimpses of wildlife. Admission is free if you bring your own skates.
Keep warm at the indoor rink at Rowan Park, which doubles as a roller rink in the spring and summer. Admission to the rink is free, but you'll pay $5 for rentals. Don't forget to taste the hot cocoa, which is available at the park's concession stands.
While it won't be on the field itself (as it was on New Year's Day 2009), this semi-permanent rink in an adjacent parking lot will be around much longer, offering a fun wintertime activity for Wrigleyville residents in the shadow of the legendary stadium. It opens Saturday, December 19 at 11 a.m., and remains open daily through February. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for kids, with an additional cost for skate rental. The fee is half-price on Mondays and Tuesdays.