Best outdoor ice skating rinks near Marin

Ice skating always marks a turning point from warmer fall weather to the cold winter and the beginning of the holiday season. I reviewed three outdoor ice skating rinks within 16 miles of Redwood based on customer service, atmosphere, comfort of skates and cost.

 

EMBARCADERO ICE RINK: 3.5/5

Skating in Justin Herman Plaza, children overtook the rink.

Skating in Justin Herman Plaza, children overtook the rink.

 

Located near the San Francisco ferry building in Justin Herman Plaza, the Embarcadero ice rink provides convenience and yummy restaurants close by to indulge in once finishing the activity. Even though the ice skates were uncomfortable, the big rink made up for it and was not as crowded as other locations. There are long benches to put your skates on, but they aren’t placed close to the lockers. This results in people leaving their shoes on the ground, so make sure to watch out for your belongings. Having a small entrance and exit into the rink made for an unpleasant experience and caused lots of congestion when it was time to get off the ice. The rink attendants dressed up as snowmen that mimic bigger blow-up ones used as decoration, and the constant chimes of Christmas music attract many families to this location; be attentive of the younger skaters who can zoom past you at any moment. Tickets into the rink are $12 and the skate rental is an additional $5. The rink is open daily from Nov. 3 to Jan. 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday to Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

 

UNION SQUARE: 5/5

The humungous Christmas tree illuminated the night.

The humungous Christmas tree illuminated the night.

After catching a glimpse of the giant iridescent Christmas tree in the background and the holiday decorations in the Union Square area, I felt as if this ice skating rink was the perfect introduction to the holiday season. The comfy skates, the lively atmosphere created by the top-40 pop music and the colorful lights are ideal for creating great laughs and memories with friends and family. Being in the heart of San Francisco, it could get a little loud and overwhelming at times but this added to the joy of being in the middle of a city. Just an Uber ride from the ferry building, the Union Square ice rink is open from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. with tickets at $18 dollars including skate rentals. Additionally, skating sessions last 90 minutes, though many struggle at being able to stay on the ice that long because of the workout. Buying tickets ahead of time online is highly recommended, especially on weekends when the rink tends to get crowded and tickets are sold out hours in advance. It’s also a good idea to invest in the $3 locker to keep your shoes and other belongings from getting wet. The rink is open from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15.

 

Marin on Ice (NORTHGATE MALL): 2.5/5

The nearly empty rink provided lots of room for skaters.

The nearly empty rink provided lots of room for skaters.

With tickets priced at $15 (including the skate rental) for all day in and out privileges, “Marin on Ice” is the most convenient and cheapest for Marin residents. The rink is on the smaller side and is square shaped, making it a little harder to move around for those who like to hug the wall. A plus is not having to worry about shoes getting lost because they will take them in exchange for a pair of skates. For novice skaters or small children who are learning how to skate, plastic helpers are offered for $5, which is worth the investment. However, the quaint location lacked pizzaz and the lively atmosphere of the other rinks. Despite the chatty, unhelpful sales associates and rink attendants, bringing a fun group of friends will help make up for it. “Marin on Ice” is open from Nov. 8 to Jan. 7. Its hours are from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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