Free Ice Skating in Downtown Vancouver: Robson Square Rink Opens Dec 1

Photo credit: JWPhotowerks | Flickr

Photo credit: JWPhotowerks | Flickr

Time to lace up those skates. The Robson Square Ice Rink reopens for its 2015-2016 season on Dec. 1. Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the rink offers covered ice skating, complete with holiday music and a concession stand with hot chocolate and other warm drinks.

The best part: It’s free if you bring your own skates. Skate rentals will set you back just $4. How’s that for a holiday entertainment deal.

Just how much of a bargain is that? Consider that rates at New York’s famous Rockefeller Plaza ice rink start at $25 a person, plus another $12 for skate rentals. 

Photo credit: Province of British Columbia | Flickr

Photo credit: Province of British Columbia | Flickr

Not only is the price right at Robson Square, but the setting really can’t be topped. The rink is sunk below street level right in the middle of the city.  It’s open-air, but partially covered by a geodesic dome that lets in light and keeps it cold when temperatures outside are above freezing. You’re just a stone’s throw from the Vancouver Art Gallery and the new Nordstrom, as well as all the shopping on Robson Street and the excitement of Granville Street.

The rink is usually filled with skaters of all skill levels – some showing off fancy footwork and pirouettes, others hobbling along on those special walkers for ice-skating newbies. (If you don’t want to skate at all, you can also rent ice cleats for $2 and just walk on the ice.) Coloured lights add to the enchanted feel, while vendors keep skaters warm with hot drinks and other snacks.

Photo credit: Province of British Columbia | Flickr

Photo credit: Province of British Columbia | Flickr

The ice gets lots of use but, except on weekends and holidays, the rink is rarely crowded. Every so often, skaters clear off and a Zamboni does the rounds, cruising out onto the ice and leaving it mirror-perfect.

Some interesting history: the ice rink was opened in the 1980s but then closed in 2001 because of budget restrictions. It finally reopened in 2009 after $2 million in repairs and upgrades. And, despite the fact that it’s free to use, it costs the city approximately $500,000 to operate every year.

The Robson Square Ice Rink is open seven days a week from Dec. 1-Feb. 29 (even on Christmas and New Year’s Day). Hours of operation are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday (except Christmas, when the rink closes at 5 p.m.) and 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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