Best ice-skating rinks in DC
DC’s version of NYC’s rink at Rockefeller Center sits encircled by monumental sculptures on the National Mall. Ringed with fairy lights, the outdoor venue is Insta-perfect, especially after dark when its commanding neighbor, the National Archives, is illuminated. Admission is good for a two-hour skate; sessions begin on the hour. The rink offers a wide range of lessons to help toddlers, would-be hockey heroes, wobbly adults and experienced jumpers master new skills. Private lessons are also on offer. Warm up post-skate with cocoa, beer, wine and nibbles ranging from pastries to pizzas at the Pavilion Café. Get them while you can—the café will be closed throughout January 2016 for renovations.
This outdoor set-up in Southeast DC has style to spare. Long and lean, the figure-eight-shaped track in Canal Park has two skating “paths,” a nice change from the usual rink roundabout. The four-month season is packed with special events like two-for-one admission on Tuesdays between 4 and 6pm; “Rock n Skate” on Friday nights and kid-friendly Saturday morning Cartoon Skates (11am–1pm). Afterward, cozy up at Park Tavern and watch skaters whiz by the windows.
At 11,800-square-feet, Georgetown’s riverside venue is the largest of DC’s three outdoor rinks. It’s a great place to play hooky during the work week; lines for ice time and skate rentals get long on weekends, but the views of the Potomac River, Kennedy Center and Roosevelt Island are worth the wait. There’s an army of penguin-shaped stabilizers to keep rookies upright as they learn. Themed weekly events include two-for-one admission on Tuesday between 4 and 6pm; a discounted Thursday College Night, and a Saturday-night Rock N Skate (8–10pm). Bars line the ice on three sides, so count on a post-session drink.
The only public indoor rink in the District is the place to come for skating and hockey lessons. As such, public skating hours are limited, but, the ice is kept in tip-top shape year round, and you just can’t beat the price. The menu at the small concession is limited on Friday, but come Saturday you’ll find chicken fingers, pretzel dogs and popcorn.
Nearby Virginia and Maryland rinks
The practice arena of the NHL’s Washington Capitals is also the highest rink above street-level in the nation. (It’s a beast.) The 137,000-square-foot complex above the Ballston Commons parking garage includes two NHL-size ice rinks, a pro-shop and seating for 1,200. Many area universities and pick-up league teams play here, but rarely a day goes by without public skate times. Check the calendar for Caps practices (free and open to the public), as well as meet-and-greets and broomball games, too.
This outdoor rink’s location in the heart of Pentagon City’s commercial district means that it’s packed with shoppers and their children on weekends. After a recent renovation, however, there’s more room to perfect your maneuvers. The rink has doubled in size and the rest area has a dual-sided fireplace for cozy lounging. Through January 1, artificial snow falls over the rink (6:30 and 8:30pm), a chilly novelty for Southerners.
There’s no need to wait for winter’s chill at this indoor facility in Reston, which offers twin rinks and a café known for its pizza. Recreational skaters share the center with hockey leagues and figure skaters. Each fall, the rink welcomes skaters of all levels to enroll in classes for its annual community performance of The Nutcracker on Ice (Dec 13, 5pm this year). If you have kids, take them to Skate with Santa on December 12 (1:10–3pm).
Even for non-residents, the trek to Laurel is worth it: There’s no better place to celebrate skating sports in the DMV. The facility has three indoor rinks, where public ice time, pick-up hockey, speed skating, broomball, curling and, twice a year, Zamboni classes occur. That’s right: You can learn to drive an ice-resurfacer. For old-school hockey fans, there’s Whitey’s Pond, an outdoor mini-rink open November through March, weather permitting.
The rink at Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring may be on the small side, but it’s covered by an awning so skaters can enjoy the ice, rain or shine. The roof is set with multicolored lights, so nighttime sessions feel like a dance party, and there are penguin-shaped balancers for unsteady kids. Between December 23 and January 3 this year, the rink is open daily from 10am to midnight (including Christmas and New Year’s Day), and you can make a night of it at a host of neighboring restaurants and bars.