Get your skates on!
If your plans for Christmas include getting your skates on twirling around on the ice, there are a couple of local rinks that you can visit — and some a bit further afield. And when I say ‘twirling around,’ that can also include clinging to the edge with your knees clamped together while your feet slide off in different directions. It’s all good.
Planet Ice, Hemel Hempstead
No need to wait for Christmas! The newly-reopened Planet Ice in Hemel Hempstead’s Jarman Park is open all year round. There are some Christmassy goings-on there, though, which might be fun. Friday 18 Dec is the Christmas Jumper Party, on Sunday 20 Dec there’s a Christmas show on ice, followed by an open skating session, and there’s even a FREE Christmas Day skating session (although you’ll need to book well in advance for that one).
The Big Skate, Watford, 28 Nov-10 Jan, 9am-11pm (not 25 Dec or 1 Jan)
Bigger rink in Watford this year, with real ice, lots of twinkly lights and a veritable forest (well, sort of) of Christmas trees. There’s a wooden ski-type lodge where you can warm up – hot drink, sweet treat, anyone? – and a German Christmas market for when you’ve had enough time on the ice. And Watford’s always good for a spot of shopping anyway.
Frosts Garden Centre, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes, 28 Nov-10 Jan
Not only can you skate at Frosts – how’s that for an appropriate name? – but you can also visit Santa in his magical wonderland, complete with elves and the chance to make some reindeer food ready for the big night. The rink is completely covered (which has to be a plus given how much it’s been raining recently).
Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink, Colchester, 27 Nov-3 Jan
Castle Park in Colchester is being transformed into a Winter Wonderland – with skating rink, a winter market, all sorts of delicious food and drink, and, of course, the big man in the red coat. There’s also a Princess and Pirate party or you can book in for a lesson if your triple salchow isn’t quite what it should be.
Windsor on Ice, 28 Nov-3 Jan
Combination covered rink and open-air skating track at Windsor, and what a great setting in the Alexandra Gardens. The Ice Bar and Grill (sounds promising…) is undercover, so you can keep warm while you’re taking a break, and there are also other bits and pieces to keep the kids happy – including dodgems, which my two both love and I can’t stand. You’re right near the centre of Windsor at the rink, too, and there’s a brand new bandstand to admire. Sounds like a fun day out.
The North Pole, Cambridge, 20 Nov-4 Jan
If you’re going to go anywhere for Christmas cheer, the North Pole sounds like a safe bet – especially if it’s just up the road in Cambridge. Lots of attractions as well as the ice rink, including fairground rides, an English Christmas market and Santa’s there in his Grotto (obvs). Lots of street food to keep you warm and full, too. Sounds great, and I’m always up for a trip to Cambridge myself.
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2, 18 Nov-10 Jan
You can take the family to this one – but be sure to book your sesson well in advance – or you can brave the club nights if you’re up for a skate from House to Hip Hop, via Reggae and R&B to disco and ice-cool funk . There’s a specially-created cocktail for you to try (oh, go on them) in the Botanical Bar in the Fortnum’s Lodge, or you can warm up over a mulled wine in the Skate Lounge with fab views over the rink. Watch family and friends fall over while you smile and wave?
The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7, 29 Oct-3 Jan
The ice rink at the Natural History Museum is becoming a bit of a tradition, and it is lovely just because of the amazing location. This year, the Swarovski Ice Rink looks as sparkly as ever, with everything you’d expect from an attraction like this – including the need to book your session well in advance.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London, 20 Nov-3 Jan
The Family C has done this one a couple of times, and it’s always busy but it’s great. The whole Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is a bustling, twinkling backdrop to a spot of skating, and there’s just so much going on. Come on: this is a rink that has you skating around the Victorian bandstand and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights (just like, er, my tree).