If you're after more than just re-hashed Christmas carols and cheesy '80s songs during your next foray onto the ice, then pack up your blades and glide around the globe to seven of the world's best public rinks.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (www.nga.gov/ginfo/skating.shtm) turns on a spectacle in its Sculpture Garden with an ice-skating rink which is open through mid-March, 2009. Skate to music from what they term a state-of-the-art sound system, but more importantly see magnificent works of art at the same time and from various angles. Two-hour sessions begin every hour and cost $7 for adults, $6 for those over 50, students and children. Skate rental is an additional $3 and an extra $0.50 will get you locker rental. Although the Sculpture Garden is only open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. and on Sunday from 11am to 6pm, you can skate into the evening hours, until 9pm Sunday to Thursday and until 11pm Friday and Saturday.
You may not be able to see the crown jewels from the ice, but the rink at the Tower of London (www.toweroflondonicerink.com) can still pack a punch when it comes to a historic setting. You may however have to sell your crown jewels to pay for a day of skating here: An hour of afternoon or evening of frivolity will set you back some £12 for adults or £8 for children under 16. There is a slight discount for weekday mornings and afternoons up to 4pm, costing £10 for adults and £7.50 for children. These prices include skate hire and one hour on the ice. The rink is pen daily from 10am to 10pm but only until January 11, 2009.
If your winter vacation happens to take you to Copenhagen, visit the square at Kongens Nytorv, and you will find locals ice skating at a romantic outdoor rink with a view of the Royal Theatre and the historic (and former red-light) Nyhavn district. The Kongens Nytorv rink (www.sport.kk.dk/kgsnytorv/abningstider-for-skojeudlejning) is open from 11am to 9pm on weekdays and 10am to 9pm on weekends until February 1, 2008. Unfortunately their website is only in Danish but the cost is Kr 40 to skate and Kr 40 for skate rental.
The Japanese don't do anything by half measures and their skating rinks are a perfect example. The Fujikyu (or Fuji-Q) Highland Amusement Park (www.fujikyu.co.jp, Japanese only) becomes home to the world's largest designated skating area (four individual outdoor rinks) each winter. The park also boasts the world's tallest complete-circuit roller coaster which you get to look at while skating -- but that isn't what is impressive. It's the view of stunning Mt Fuji in the background that is visible on clear days that really sets this location apart. Located approximately 100 miles from Tokyo and easily accessible by train (Kyuko Train from JR Chuo Line Otsuki station to Fuji-kyu Highland station), the park and ice skating rinks are open weekdays from 9am to 5pm and from 9am to 8pm weekend sand holidays. Admission is $11 for adults and $5.50 for children, but a one-day pass including all attractions is $41 for big kids (adults) and $30 for little kids.
Winter in medieval Bruges, with its cobbled streets, winding canals, historic buildings and horses and carts is a magical experience and its Christmas market on the main square forms a ring around an open-air ice rink (www.brugesinfo.com/christmas-and-new-year.php). Colorful lights illuminate festive stalls selling seasonal treats like intricately packaged Belgian chocolates, traditional candies and artisan decorations. The ice skating rink itself is more than picturesque surrounded by postcard worthy architecture. Skating here will cost €6 including skates and the rink is open daily until January 4, 2008 from 11am to 7:30pm.
The last place you would imagine you could ice skate would be at a Summer Palace, but as the weather turns cold in Beijing, Kunming Lake at the historic Imperial Summer Palace becomes a sheet of ice and the best place to go ice skating. The cost to skate at this UNESCO World Heritage site is around $1.50. With an area of just under one square mile, Kunming Lake covers three quarters of the Summer Palace grounds and provides breathtaking views towards Yu Quan Hill and the Yu Feng Pagoda as well as the vast landscaped gardens.
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