An hour of vigorous ice skating burns a whopping 555 calories an hour, and in Connecticut, this exhilarating sport isn't relegated to the winter months. Sure, some of Connecticut's best places to ice skate are frozen ponds and outdoor rinks that, like Frosty the Snowman, only come to life for a brief winter spell. But most of the state's premier ice skating spots are year-round indoor arenas. Some are even the training homes for Olympic hopefuls.
Whether you're eager to introduce your kids to ice skating or hoping to work off those extra holiday desserts, here are Connecticut's top eight places to lace up your skates.
Designed with Victorian-era grace and planted with a variety of tree species, Hartford's Bushnell Park takes on a frosty wonderland look when it’s painted with a light glaze of snow. During the annual, multi-week Winterfest celebration, a spacious, walled, outdoor ice rink pops up in the midst of this beauty. Brace yourself … not just for the cold but for a jaw-dropping deal. Skating, skate rentals, lessons: They’re all free. For everyone. And if you want to treat your kids—or yourself—to a ride on the vintage Bushnell Park Carousel, enclosed in a warm pavilion, that will only set you back a dollar per person.
International Skating Center of Connecticut
Located in the Hartford suburb of Simsbury, the International Skating Center keeps a relatively low profile, yet it is a world-class training facility for those with Olympic dreams, as well as for children and adults who are new to figure skating. When you head here for a public skating session, you'll be in the same space where luminaries like Michelle Kwan. Viktor Petrenko, and Oksana Baiul have graced the ice. Open Hockey sessions are on the two-rink facility's calendar, too. Feeling intimidated? Dine rink-side at the Sk8ters Cafe, observe, and be inspired.
Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink
West Hartford's year-round indoor rink has Connecticut's most jam-packed schedule of public skates, and it amps up the fun on Friday and Saturday nights with DJ music and a laser light show. Some daytime public sessions are devoted to adults only or to adults with toddlers. You can also learn to play ice hockey or to figure skate here, or, for something unique, take speed-skating lessons.
Fairfield Ice Academy
Both a serious place to learn the fundamentals of hockey and figure skating and a fun place to take to the ice in your leisure time, Fairfield, Connecticut's best spot for year-round ice skating is part of the larger SPORTSPLEX@FAIRFIELD. That means you can build your own day of fitness that includes not only a public skating or open hockey session but a yoga or spin class, an elliptical workout, rock climbing, virtual golf, Pilates, and healthy vegan dining.
RoseGarden Ice Arena
Encouraging skating for fitness is a goal of this indoor ice rink in Norwich, Connecticut. At a glance, the arena's master schedule shows you all of the public skate sessions as well as times for adult pick-up hockey play. It doesn't get much cooler than Friday night Laser Skate sessions.
Wonderland of Ice
Owned by the city of Bridgeport and utilized as a practice facility by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (an American Hockey League team affiliated with the NHL's New York Islanders), Wonderland of Ice offers public skating opportunities most days of the week. Stick Time and adult pick-up hockey sessions are offered, too. There is currently an on-site snack bar, and future plans for the development of the arena include adding a restaurant and bar. Don't have any interest in balancing on thin blades? The Nutmeg Curling Club's Learn-To-Curl Open Houses are held here, too.
Bolton Ice Palace
A four-decades-old institution in Connecticut, this indoor rink in Bolton has public ice time almost every day year-round. It also serves as home base for Bolton Theatre on Ice, a unique performance training opportunity for kids and adults. These by-audition troupes compete and perform, so watch for chances to cheer Connecticut's own stars on ice.
Simsbury Farms Ice Rink
This open-air, covered rink in Simsbury, Connecticut, is a family-friendly and affordable place to skate in the wintertime. Sessions are available seven days a week from early November through early March. This is ice skating for purists: No hockey play is allowed, and you'll feel the brisk air in your face and a tingle in your soul as you look out at views of snow-dusted hills.