My best first date involved skating at The Robson Square Ice Rink. I arrived at the rink with my skates and a picture on my phone of the guy I was supposed to be meeting. Ah yes, the joys of on-line dating! When he finally did arrive, I was blown away by the immediate chemistry. We were holding hands, skating side-by-side on the ice, within five minutes.
Ice skating is a lovely date since it’s inexpensive, more active and inventive than your usual chatting over coffee, and invites G-rated physical contact. If you’re feeling wobbly (or just pretending to be so), you can reach for your partner’s gloved hand and, suddenly, you’re a unit gliding along frozen water. And if you’re like me and manage to spectacularly fall at one point during the date, you can laugh at yourself with good grace.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner (hint hint), you might consider lacing up. Fortunately, Vancouver has tons of rinks, each offering a unique way of enjoying this classic winter sport together.
The Robson Square Ice Rink (800 Robson Street) is one of my favourites since it’s completely free, save for skate rentals ($4). It was closed for the longest time but fortunately, was renovated in time for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. And since then, it opens every year from December to the end of February. Expect the wonder of a covered outdoor rink in the heart of downtown where families, friends, visitors, and couples whiz around and around. The rink is relatively small but tons of fun. Plus, there are plenty of nearby restaurants and cafes if you want to extend the date. The Vancouver Art Gallery Café and Thierry, for example, would be perfect for a pastry and a drink.
The City of Vancouver operates eight rinks around the city, such as Britannia Rink (1601 Parker Street, open year-round) and Kitsilano Rink (2690 Larch Street, open until March), with a variety of times and options for public skating (eg family skate, older adult skate, public skate). Rink attendants are attentive and helpful for those skating newbies who may need a pointer or two. I have fond memories of the Kerrisdale Cyclone Taylor Arena (5670 East Boulevard, open until March) where I took lessons as a kid and skated with family and friends. Admissions fees are nominal (adult $5.86, youth – 13-18 $4.19), as are rentals ($2.90). Flexipasses are accepted, and all rinks participate in the Leisure Access Program. As well, the rinks are wheelchair accessible, with free ice sledges available.
Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (University of British Columbia, 6066 Thunderbird Boulevard) is operated by UBC Recreation and offers public skating times. Rates are reasonable (adult $5.75, rental $4.50), with UBC students skating for free. Expect a friendly student crowd, along with members of the public – all out to have a good time on the ice. The new AMS Student Nest (6133 University Boulevard) is less than a fifteen walk away, where you can grab a drink and/or a bite at their many cafés and eateries, such as the Pit pub, or Perch Restaurant, a sit-down establishment with excellent west coast fare.
Richmond Olympic Oval (6111 River Road, Richmond) filled with me awe the first time I visited it during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I was there to watch the final of the men’s 1500 metre speed skating event, and I was filled with anticipation and the overall heady spirit of the Games. Since then, the facility has been transformed into an impressive all-in-one sports centre, which boasts two Olympic-sized ice rinks with drop-in sessions. You and your date can pay the single day admission rate (adult $16.50, skate rentals $3) and also get access to the Oval’s many other facilities, including its strength and cardio equipment, table tennis tables, and basketball, volleyball, and badminton courts.
Grouse Mountain’s Ice Skating Pond is a truly magical experience. Together, you and your sweetie will ride up the Skyride to the Peak of Vancouver where you can skate on an 8000 square foot outdoor skating rink (open until April, check current conditions before going). Take in the winter wonderland around you as you breathe in crisp mountain air. In order to get up there, you’ll need to purchase Alpine Experience tickets (adult $43.95, rentals $8), which includes movies in the Theatre in the Sky, and access to the snowshoe trails and the Chalet. Skating is also complimentary for those with Membership, Winter Passes, or Lift Tickets (adult $58 for a full day, $48 for 4pm-10pm). This skating date is more expensive than the others but well worth the price. I’d suggest a meal at Altitudes Bistro after, where you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Lower Mainland. You can also book ahead at their fine dining restaurant, The Observatory, which also gets you access to the mountaintop activities.
Happy skating and dating!