Sharpen your skates because Chicago’s two most popular public outdoor skating rinks are open for the season.
Although there are 10 public ice rinks operated by the Chicago Park District in the city, the two downtown rinks are popular choices. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink is operated by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
“Being able to do this in the shadow of The Bean and all the skyscrapers is something different,” Michael Shure, a 36-year-old father, said. “It’s not like going to an indoor rink.”
But being a popular choice means visitors have to deal with foot traffic and large crowds.
“It was nice being downtown right next to The Bean and in the heart of the city, but that also meant it was extremely crowded,” Loyola senior Shelby Foley said. “It wasn’t pleasant because it was freezing and as soon as the rink opened [after cleaning] it flooded with people. I wouldn’t completely say not to go, but I’d recommend not going at a popular time.”
The busiest times for the rinks are in the evenings, over the weekends and during holidays.
“It’ll be really busy until after Christmas, then it kind of slows down in January,” assistant manager Patrick Hanlon said. He added the average wait time to enter the rinks is about an hour to an hour and a half.
The rinks attract a lot of tourists, especially close to the holidays, according to Hanlon, but out-of-towners aren’t the only ones to go ice skating. Students and residents also take advantage of the popular outdoor venue.
“Sometimes I wonder. I see the same crowds of people here so I think it works for a specific group of Chicagoans,” Ryn Osbourne, a 24-year-old School of the Art Institute student, said. “I think if the city could find a way to get the word out into more neighborhoods, more people would come use it.”
People like Osbourne, who skates at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink twice a week, will have plenty of skate time left, as these rinks will remain open until March 4, 2018.
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and the Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon opened Nov. 17, the same day as the 104th annual tree lighting celebration. The tree is adjacent to the ice rink.
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, located steps off Michigan Avenue in Millennium Park, is in its 17th season of outdoor public ice skating. Admission to both the ice rink and ribbon is free. Skates can be rented for a weekday fee of $12 or a weekend fee of $14 at both rinks.