These outdoor rinks turn the simple, breezy joy of skating in circles into an experience to cherish.
By Kim Knox Beckius
Jan 19 2022
Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond | Best 5 Ice Skating Spots in New EnglandPhoto Credit : Kim Knox Beckius
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have closed, temporarily closed, or may be operating under modified conditions in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please travel responsibly, and check with state guidelines and individual businesses before making travel plans.
On ice skates, you’re an artist and an athlete: etching your own fingerprint-like swirls as you burn calories and treat your lungs to invigorating air. It’s an old-fashioned winter pastime, and yet here in the land of perpetual ingenuity, the best ice skating places offer that extra bit of pizazz that makes gliding on ice feel fresh and new. If atmospheric surroundings aren’t enough to excite you, New England even has ice rinks where you’re encouraged to careen into others or cozy up inside your own igloo.
Antique skates, a bonneted cloak, and a fur muff would look so fashionably right for a skating date on this amoeba-shaped rink. As you trace patterns on the frozen surface, you’ll be looking at scenes etched in memories for centuries. Puddle Dock Pond is at Strawbery Banke Museum, the living history complex that preserves the structures and stories of New Hampshire’s oldest neighborhood. It’s this exhilarating little city’s wintertime hot spot — there’s a fire pit right on the ice. Rentals are available during public skating sessions and pick-up pond hockey games. Northeast Passage, a nonprofit affiliated with the University of New Hampshire, is on-site once a week with adaptive equipment that allows individuals with disabilities to experience the thrill of gliding on ice.
In one of the windiest cities in the nation, at the heart of America’s oldest park, the Frog Pond is transformed each winter into an ice rink that is unparalleled for nostalgia and sheer heartwarming sparkle. Couples glide mitten-in-mitten. You’ll hear an encouraging parent holler, “That’s bettah!” (Ah, yes … that authentic Boston accent.) Some daredevils attempt to shoot selfies as they skate, and you can’t really blame them — especially after twilight, when the city’s lights add a festive backdrop and make the professionally polished ice gleam. Skate rentals, lockers, hot chocolate, Bobby the Seal skating aids for the littlest learners … everything you need for a family day or a romantic date on ice is right here.
Leave it to Rhode Island’s “Creative Capital” to one-up every other ice rink in the region with a zany added enticement. Not only is this a well-lit, beautifully situated spot to lace up your own or rental skates any day or night, but it’s also New England’s only place to drive ice bumper cars. Reservations are advised, since these 20-minute collision sessions often sell out. That’s just the right amount of time to spin yourself silly and smash into all the other tropical-hued, bouncy-bumpered cars that have become the city’s fun wintertime signature. Don’t think of the bumper cars as an alternative to skating, though, even if you’re an adult who’s never attempted the sport. Providence’s rink offers private lessons and skating aid rentals for grown-ups.
New England’s newest family-friendly outdoor rink twinkles with overhead snowflake lights, and it has some pretty dazzling features you won’t find anywhere else. Not only can you rent skates and skate assists, but you also can reserve a heated igloo for your group — and even have drinks and warm cookies delivered to your inflated bubble of warmth. There’s pop-up entertainment all winter to add to the fun. Plus, you’re steps away from this shiny new resort’s attractions and restaurants, including Tap Sports Bar. Kringle Emporium is rinkside, too, with baked treats, coffee, boozy milkshakes, and a candle-perfumed atmosphere to tingle your nose. For figure skating fans, bragging that you’ve skated on ice graced by two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan is a cool bonus.
Preservation and progress coexist beautifully in Newport, so it’s not surprising that when construction of a new harborfront hotel spelled an end for the Newport Skating Center, this winter tradition was quickly rescued. The rink has been relocated to an even more scenic waterfront spot: Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina on Goat Island, where nighttime skaters enjoy quite a light show. The island’s own lighthouse flashes white and green, and the Claiborne Pell Bridge’s cable lights sparkle like strands of diamonds. Warm up by a fire pit when you start to feel the chill of salt air, or duck inside the resort for a drink or a bite. If sailing along on skates is your favorite winter pastime, you can even book Gurney’s “Stay & Skate” package and enjoy unlimited ice time.
This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.