Even when the weather outside is frightful, braving the great outdoors is an essential part of the Christmas season — whether you’re choosing a Christmas tree, doing some last-minute shopping, or warming up with hot chocolate as you lace up your ice skates. Ice-skating rinks are among the first signs of the holidays, since they usually open even before a city’s Christmas tree and garlands go up. Kids in colorful mittens learning to let go of rink walls, and adults, frankly trying to do the same, make for a sweet, fun, and seasonal experience. Some rinks are classic, some are impressive, and some are fancy and new, but they all offer the same kind of yuletide romance.
The City of Lights may be dreamy enough, but try climbing 187 feet in the air for an icy spin atop the Eiffel Tower. Take in an unparalleled view of Paris as you circle the rink, and become part of the tower’s unforgettable light show. Or, if you’re more comfortable when your skates are on the ground, the rink in Yosemite National Park is stunning, with up-close mountain views and country fresh air. Plus, you can cozy up next to the campfire with hot cocoa and s’mores. That’s the thing — ice-skating rinks always come with the coziest and most warming snacks, from roasted chestnuts and hot cocoa to mulled wine and shots of vodka.
The Rideau Canal in Canada, with a skate way of nearly five miles, is the largest naturally frozen rink in the world and even boasts rink-side shops and eats as you skate along. We’d go for a classic Canadian beavertail every time. And in Vienna, the local eats are just as easily accessed, and just as delicious. The city’s skating maze, the Wiener Eistraum, is surrounded by holiday booths selling apple strudel, warm waffles with chocolate sauce, and hot cider.
With options from national parks and country landmarks to city squares full of local bites, you’ll want to truly savor the season. But as soon as the skating rinks are closed, you’re allowed to whine for summer again.