When people in the Bay Area say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, chances are pretty good they’re not talking about the presence of snow and ice, given our mild climate. But the opportunity to enjoy a slice of winter wonderland is not too far away. Outdoor rinks with real, frozen ice can be found throughout the region, namely, in Martinez, Walnut Creek, Oakland, Alameda, Vacaville and San Francisco. Seasonal (and permanent) ice skating rinks can help to kindle a holiday mood, and offer a chance to establish new traditions.
DC Solar Downtown Holiday Ice in downtown Martinez is closest to Benicia, and open every day, even Christmas and New Year’s Day, through Jan. 8. This is the rink’s second year. “The first year was fabulous so we’re going to do it all again,” said Leanne Peterson, Main Street Martinez executive director. “It’s unique. … and it’s good for all ages. Families really enjoy coming together. The holidays are all about traditions and this gives people a chance to set new ones.” Admission prices range from $10 to $14 per person, depending on hours, days and size of group. Ice skates are also available to rent. Piped in holiday music and theme nights, such as Ugly Holiday Sweater Night, add to the fun. Peterson said the downtown ice rink is something the city has been working toward for at least a decade. A firm called DC Solar, formerly of Martinez and now set up in the Benicia Industrial Park, provided the bulk of the start-up money and is now a key sponsor. PG&E helps subsidize the energy costs. The 50- by 80-foot rink is at the corner of Marina Vista Avenue and Ferry Street.
Walnut Creek on Ice is another Contra Costa County rink set up right downtown. Located at Civic Center Drive and Broadway, Walnut Creek on Ice is in its 12th season and open daily through Jan. 16. Prices vary depending on hours and days, with skate rentals available. In Alameda, The Little Ice Rink operates at the Alameda South Shore Center, and can be used by skaters of all levels and skills. It runs through Jan. 8, and like other rinks, prices and hours vary. Skates can also be rented.
If skating in a big city setting is preferred, two urban holiday skating rinks can be found in downtown San Francisco, both near public transportation. In the heart of Union Square is the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, open daily through Jan. 16. The Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center is one of the largest outdoor ice rinks in the Bay Area. The setting is the Justin Herman Plaza, adjacent to Four Embarcadero Center across from the Ferry Building; an easy walk to the rink after disembarking from the Vallejo ferry. The rink is open through Jan. 8; prices and hours vary. Skate rentals are available at both. Another NHL-sized facility, the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center is San Francisco’s only year round, full service ice skating facility. It’s open daily, including holidays, with public skating available almost every day. Prices vary with skate rentals available.
Heading east, Vacaville Ice Sports offers two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks that host skating and events year round. Public ice skating is available, as is figure skating and hockey in addition to other programs, including special holiday programs.
Oakland Ice is a year-round ice center and offers ice hockey, figure skating, broomball, curling, speed skating and ice dancing, as well as a schedule for public skating. Located between San Pablo Ave. and Telegraph, Oakland Ice is operated by Sharks Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the San Jose Sharks NHL team. The facility provides two rinks—one is NHL-size, the other, Olympic size.
Other Bay Area ice rinks will be available this season in Napa and Marin counties, but were not open as of our print deadline. They are listed below. Regardless of their size or the location, ice rinks offer a less typical kind of family fun than we are used to, and the opportunity to glide through the holidays enjoying a “real” winter experience, if only temporarily.
Bay Area Ice Rinks
Martinez, Downtown Holiday Ice
Corner of Marina Vista Ave. and Ferry St.
Walnut Creek, Walnut Creek on Ice
1365 Civic Drive Walnut Creek, CA
Alameda, The Little Ice Rink
523 South Shore Center West
San Francisco, Safeway Holiday Ice Rink
333 Post Street, Union Square
San Francisco, Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center
4 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center
750 Folsom Street
Vacaville, Vacaville Ice Sports
551 Davis St., Vacaville
Oakland, Oakland Ice Center
519 18th Street, Oakland
Ice Rinks opening in November
San Rafael, Marin on Ice
Napa, Napa on Ice
San Mateo, San Mateo on Ice