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On the Road with Nancy Brown: Gliding on Ice

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown skates around the bay

Photo courtesy of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the ice skating rink that used to be housed in Concord’s Sun Valley Shopping Center. I remember lacing up my ice skates, patiently waiting for the Zamboni machine to finish resurfacing the ice. Some girls wore colorful skating outfits, while others, like me, were clad in jeans with a cowl neck sweater, topped with a rainbow colored down vest. Remember, this was the 1970s.

East Bay

While ice skating at Sun Valley is but a memory, the East Bay’s coolest winter tradition is back for a sixth season: Walnut Creek on Ice returns to Civic Park on Thursday, November 11 and continues through January 17. A Learn to Skate program will be offered for groups and individuals, and the rink can even be rented for private parties.

If You Go: Parking is located near Civic Park, and there are also drop-off and pick-up zones on Civic Drive in front of the ice rink. Look for the white picket fence. Non-peak pricing Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. is $11 with skate rentals. Peak hours Friday evening through Sunday is $15 with skate rentals. Discounted rates are available for school field trips and scout troops.1375 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7669, www.IceSkateWalnutCreek.com.

San Francisco

Photo courtesy of The Holiday Ice Rink at the Embarcadero CenterPlanning a day trip to the city for shopping and skating? The Holiday Ice Rink at Embarcadero Center has been delighting families and friends for over twenty years. This holiday season, skate under the stars next to the waterfront, and park for free at the Embarcadero Center November 11 through January 3.

If You Go: Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Ninety-minute sessions start on every even hour. Private party booking is available, and the rink closes to the public if it’s booked. Admission is $9 for adults and $5.50 for seniors and children 10 and under Monday through Friday until 6 p.m. The costs is $9.50 for adults and $6 for seniors and children Friday evening through Sunday. Skate rentals cost $3.50. 1 Market St. San Francisco, (415) 837-1931, embarcaderocenter.com/ec/holidays.

Where else can you skate under palm trees and go shopping in the same afternoon? The Holiday Ice Rink at Union Square is one place, and this California experience runs from November 10 through January 17.

Jenna McCrery and Jessie Cahill skate around Union SquareIf You Go: Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Ninety-minutes sessions start on every even hour. Note: The rink closes at 9:30 p.m. on December 31. Admission is $9 for adults and $4.50 for children eight and under Monday through Friday until 6 p.m. and $9.50 for adults and $5 for children Friday evening through Sunday. Skate rental costs $4 with a $1 surcharge for hockey skates. 114 Powell St., San Francisco, (415) 781-2688, unionsquareicerink.com.

Napa & Sonoma

For those of us who like a sure thing—like holiday skating without the threat of rain—trek over the Benicia bridge and motor up to Yountville. You’ll be able to spin into the season by skating under the stars in a clear-top tent infused with holiday music and festive décor at V Marketplace. After 6 p.m., the Hot Toddy and Holiday cocktail menu appears, making for a warm treat while you rest your legs.

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Fitzsimmons.If You Go: Open 11a.m. to 11 p.m. daily December 11 through January 2. $12 for adults, $8 children 8 and under, 6525 Washington Street, Yountville, (707) 944-8008, vmarketplace.com.

Getting into the holiday spirit? What’s not to like about “A Charlie Brown Christmas?” I can’t think of a better way to skate into the holiday season than at Snoopy’s Home Ice in Santa Rosa.

If You Go: See website for hours. $9 for adults and juniors, $7 for children 11 and under. Skate rentals are $3. All ages skate for $5 during the midday special 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursdays. 1667 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, (707) 546-7147, snoopyshomeice.com.

Have I forgotten to include your favorite ice skating rink? Let me know in the comments below.


A lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, Nancy D. Brown grew up in Moraga. When she’s not traveling, she lives in Lafayette with her husband and teens. Nancy is the Uptake.com Travel Editor, writes the What a Trip blog and is a Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun columnist. Horse lovers will find her at www.writinghorseback.com. Follow Nancy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Nancydbrown.