Ice skating is a year-round activity for budding enthusiasts, fun-loving families and professional athletes alike, used for entertainment, exercise, as a competitive sport and, in some chilly parts of the world, to get people from A to B. But it gains extra appeal to Joe Public around the holiday season, which is why we decided to bring together in one comprehensive list the 15 best ice skating rinks in San Francisco – both seasonal and year-round.
Ice skating can be done on thick ice on ponds, lakes, and rivers, but we are sticking to the human-made ice surfaces (both indoors and out) here, primarily for your safety. It may mean you have to pay to enter, but it also means you can glide off onto the ice knowing you’ll be making it home for hot chocolate by the fire at the end of your skating adventure!
If you’re considering setting up your own ice rink, it’s important to research the cost of synthetic ice rink to ensure it fits within your budget and preferences for a year-round ice skating experience. Synthetic ice rinks offer a convenient alternative, often requiring a one-time investment for long-term use, and they can be an excellent option for avid skaters or business owners looking to create a unique attraction.
Before we go into that list, let’s go through the gear you’re going to need.
What Do I Need When I Go Ice Skating In San Francisco?
- Ice skates. You can buy your own or rent them on location (sometimes it’s included in the admission charge). Make sure the laces are done up so the fit is snug but comfortable. Don’t be shy to ask an ice rink employee for help! Some rinks these days offer less comfortable plastic buckle skates, in which case you may need extra socks for comfort.
- Warm, lightweight clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement. Gloves and a hat are good added extras. Wear layers so you can shed a jacket or sweater if you get warm – the temperature on the ice may range from chilly to warm, depending on the time of day, the number of skaters and the amount of energy you burn, and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor rink.
- Long sports (not thick) socks that extend above your skate boot. Bring an extra pair to put on after your session to avoid heading home in soggy socks!
- If you are worried about falling, or are taking little ones along, consider investing in a hockey helmet to protect heads from bumps.
- Most rinks rent out skating helpers (also called aids, buddies or gliders), which kids can use to build their confidence on the ice. See more about these in our How To Ice Skate For Those Who’ve Never Tried section below.
Whether you want to take skating up as a year-round hobby, or are just looking for some seasonal fun in San Francisco this Christmas, we’ve got you covered. Check out our picks for the 15 best ice skating rinks in San Francisco, then get your skates oiled up and sharpened and join us on the ice. And if the Bay Area doesn’t scratch that itch, why not check out what Boise, Idaho has on offer for the best holiday ice skating?
1. Union Square Ice Rink (SEASONAL)
The gorgeous outdoor Union Square ice rink, with its twinkling lights, theme nights and view of the Union Square giant Christmas tree, has become everyone’s favorite go-to to celebrate the season’s joy with family and friends. This, of course, means it will be busy, especially in the late afternoon and evening – a disadvantage and slightly frightening prospect for beginners, but a fun, sociable experience for those who’ve done it before. They have plenty of employees around to help, some of whom are kitted up and on the rink to help get you up if you take a tumble.
Tickets are NOT sold on site – you must buy them online, in advance.
“From singles to tots, Olympians to drag queens, we love creating magical memories and sharing the spirit of the holidays with you.”
Their theme nights are a must if you can grab a ticket (online purchases only) – in the past, they’ve had Silent Skates, with music played through headphones, Drag Queens On Ice (brilliant fun, don’t feel we need to explain further!), Flashback Fridays, and Let It Go Wednesdays, when you’ll get the chance to skate around the rink to the Frozen soundtrack. On New Year’s Day they offer the “Polar Bear Skate,” where everyone comes dressed for the beach!
The Union Square ice rink usually offers nine skating sessions a day. Check the details on their webpage (details below). Not only is there general skating, but you can also take lessons.
Good To Know
Classes are available.
Skating aids are available for rent.
Hungry? Try John’s Grill two blocks from the ice rink.
Admission: Adults $20, Children $15 for a 60-minute session (includes skate rental – get $5 back if you bring your own). Buy tickets online. Lockers, skate aids, socks and gloves can also be rented. NOTE: Skate Helpers cannot be rented to anyone taller than 48″.
Open: November 1 – January 15.
- November 1 – December 17, Daily 10am – 11pm
- December 18 – December 29, Monday – Friday 8.30am – 11pm, Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 11pm
- December 30 – January 15, Daily 10am – 11pm (closing at 9:30pm on December 31, 2023).
Address: 333 Post Street, Union Square, San Francisco, CA.
2. Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center (YEAR-ROUND)
Yerba Buena is a NHL-sized, year-round, indoor rink perfect for all- from those looking to learn how to skate, professional skaters and hockey players, to couples, friends and family wanting to celebrate Valentines, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in style. There are also public sessions throughout the week, year-round – check their website (see below) for details. During the holidays, the rink offers an extended schedule for public skating. We suggest you get there earlier if you want a quieter skate, later if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of lots of people on the ice.
Note for parents – during the daily public sessions, there is usually a cordoned-off slow skate zone to keep little skaters safe. Stackable buckets can be used as skate helpers for kids up to 42”.
Good To Know
Classes are available.
Skate aids are available.
Lockers are available for rent.
Hungry? There are vending machines on site offering hot chocolate, coffee, snacks and drinks.
Admission: Ages 6 plus – $14 (skate rental not included +$5), Unders 5s – $8 (skate rental included). Try a “Cheap Skate” session on Mondays 7.30pm – 9pm, where adults get skates included in their admission charge. Seasonal skating passes are available. Check online for details.
Open: Year-round, check on their site for the latest hours, as the schedule varies week-to-week. Try Adult Hour on Wednesdays 11am – 12pm for a kid-free skate, or bring your little ones to a fun Skater Tot session.
Address: 750 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA.
3. Winter Lodge (SEASONAL)
Twinkling lights and Christmas trees combine with heated lounge areas, fireplaces, and, at night, the stars above to make a brilliant festive vibe that you can enjoy seven months a year with friends and family.
Palo Alto has offered the annual Winter Lodge skating rink since 1956, to get locals and guests visiting San Francisco well and truly into (and prolonging) the holiday spirit – starting in October and going right through to April. It is also one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the USA according to Outdoor Magazine – what better recommendation could we give to get your skates on and book a ticket?!
The rink is not huge but it is definitely popular, so be sure to book ahead and choose your session according to your crowd-loving barometer (earlier in the day is quieter). There’s a smaller rink indoors for beginners to find their skating feet.
Good To Know
Classes are available.
“Little Bear” skating aids are available for very young skaters on Saturday 3-5pm, Sunday 3-5pm and Sunday 5:30-7:30pm. “Little Bears” are meant to be shared and may be used for up to 15 minutes.
You can reserve tables and cozy seating areas if you’re heading there with a group.
Hungry? There’s nowhere on-site to buy food or drink, but if you’ve booked a table, you’re welcome to bring your own.
Admission: All ages $17, skate rental +$5. Book online in advance – you will have to set up a Family Account to do so.
Open: October 9 – April 8, from around 8am to 10pm. Check the latest hours on their website. Closed November 24, December 24 and 25, December 31 (at 5pm), January 1, and January 15.
Address: 3009 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA
4. Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink (SEASONAL)
This extremely popular outdoor ice rink, named after Olympic Gold Medal winner Kristi Yamaguchi, offers brilliant views and sparkling holiday magic as you skate. Plus, it’s located in a shopping center, so you can combine a workout with retail therapy (or ice fun with Christmas shopping!).
An added extra this season is the possibility to rent cabanas on the ice for a relaxing time with friends between skating laps.
Note that evenings are the most popular skating times (no-one wants to miss those twinkling Christmas lights and stars above!), so be ready to have to line up for an hour or more. Head there in the early afternoon or before sunset for faster entry.
What we like here is that part of the proceeds from ticket sales go to Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation, which ensures that underserved children have access to high-quality books at home, as well as family support. A good cause to help toward this holiday season of goodwill!
Good To Know
Skating aids are available for an extra charge.
There are no bathrooms near the rink, so hold off on the hot chocolate until you’re done skating, because they don’t allow you to come-and-go.
Hungry? The shopping center has tons of food options – everything from cupcakes to burgers!
Admission: Adults (ages 9+) – $21, Children (ages 3 – 8) – $15 for a 90-minute session (price includes skate rentals). There is a $2 early bird discount Mondays – Thursdays if you get there before 4pm (except November 21 – 25 and December 23 – January 6).
Open: November 10 – January 8. Weekdays 12pm – 9.30pm. Weekends 10am – 9.30pm.
Address: City Center Bishop Ranch shopping center, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA.
5. Oakland Ice Center (YEAR-ROUND)
This indoor NHL-sized ice rink is open year-round and offers daily public skating sessions, alongside figure skating, ice dancing, curling, and other ice sports. The company that runs the rink is the one that runs the San Jose Sharks hockey team, and they sometimes pay a visit to meet fans! Also enjoy birthdays on ice here.
Good To Know
Classes are available for ages 3 to adult.
Skating aids are available for 30-minute sessions for an extra charge.
Bathrooms and lockers are available.
Hungry? There is a snack bar with a full menu. Check before you go for opening hours.
Admission: Adult (13-64) – $15.00 (+$7 skate rental), Children (under 12s) – $14.00 Admission (+$7 skate rental).
Open: Year-round. Check online for the latest schedule.
Address: 519 18th Street, Oakland, CA.
6. Winter Lights Skating On The Square (SEASONAL)
Every year, in Santa Rosa’s historic Old Courthouse Square, Winter Lights opens a pre-New Year ice rink for drought conscious holiday fun! Drought conscious, you ask? Why, yes! Using no water or power, so releasing no carbon emissions or wasted water energy, the Winter Lights Rink is Wine Country’s environmentally friendly answer to sustainable winter fun combined with care for our planet. How do they do it? With a seamless synthetic ice surface that is actually easier to skate on than the real stuff (sharp skates a must!).
Enjoy twinkling holiday lights and decorated Christmas trees while you skate. On the festive weekends, there are holiday markets selling food, gifts, and upping the good vibes with music.
There is a maximum capacity of 44 people per ice skating session, so be sure to grab your tickets in advance.
What Is Synthetic Ice?
Synthetic ice is a substitute for real ice, which allows you to ice skate and enjoy ice sports like hockey, figure skating and curling without the planet-damaging energy costs of conventional ice skating rinks. The engineered plastic comes in seamless sheets for uninterrupted glideability.
NOTE – If you’re a figure skater, all jumps are permitted except toe-pick jumps (salchow, the flip, the lutz, toe loop), which can damage the skating surface.
Good To Know
Skate aids are available for all ages.
There are no lockers.
Bringing your own skates? Make sure they’re sharp, so as to better glide you across that amazing artificial surface.
Hungry? There is a snack shack offering popcorn, candy and hot chocolate. There are also great restaurants and bars nearby.
Admission: $8.50 (includes skate rental) for a 45-minute session. Buy online through EventBrite. Note – this price does not include transaction fees.
Open: November 25 – December 31. Thursdays and Fridays 4pm – 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays 12pm – 8pm.
Address: Old Courthouse Square at Fourth Street and Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA.
7. San Mateo On Ice (SEASONAL)
At some 10,000 square feet, this is San Francisco’s biggest outdoor ice rink, perfect to head to for a festive spin on the ice with family and friends – and you can stay all day!
“Experience the sheer joy of swirling and twirling on the glistening ice as you create unforgettable memories with family and friends. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, our state-of-the-art rink offers a welcoming atmosphere, top-notch ice conditions, and a delightful ambiance to make your skating adventure truly magical.”
The San Mateo on Ice entry fee includes unlimited skate times so you can skate all day long if you want, and if you buy the $5 add-on (see below), you can come out, sit at a table, drink a hot chocolate, chill, and then head back onto the rink again. Afternoons tend to be busy with teenage skaters, and on hot days, puddles can form on the ice – so try to get there early, or late afternoon for the best skating experience.
Good To Know
Public skating sessions for ages 4+.
Skating aids are available for an extra charge.
Porta-potties are available, as are hand-washing areas.
There is plenty of seating to change into your skates, and there are large tables, and shoe-cubbies that you can see from the rink.
Complete your waiver online before getting in line to pay/get your wristband – they will ask you for your details.
Hungry? Buy snacks and hot chocolate at the concession stand.
Admission: $18 all ages (includes skate rental) for a 90-minute to 2-hour session. +$5 same day re-entry fee for unlimited skating. $21 on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day and New Year.
Open: November 10 – January 7. Check the schedule online.
Address: Central Park, 50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA.
8. Merry Meritage Holiday Ice Rink & Winter Village (SEASONAL)
If you’re looking for full festive immersion, then the Meritage Resort and Spa’s annual ice rink is the place to head to. Spend all day (or weekend) skating, shopping, eating and drinking wine at this luxurious outdoor rink, surrounded by a Winter Village and artisan market decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas trees.
Reserve a heated Meritage “igloo” and enjoy a bottle of bubbly while the kids try out their skates. Fall to temptation and treat yourself to a beer or wine tasting at the rink-side tasting rooms. Fire pits can also be booked so you can all get together to roast s’mores and warm up chilly fingers and toes.
For extra magic, your hosts offer guaranteed snow every day at 6pm, weekend visits from Santa, and a plethora of special offers, dinners, family events and accommodation discounts – check out their website for details.
Good To Know
Admission: $25 for a 90-minute session (includes skate rental).
Open: November 17 – January 7, daily 11am – 10pm.
Address: 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa, CA.
9. Enchant San Jose Ice Skating (SEASONAL)
This Hallmark Channel-sponsored ice rink offers an explosion of festive magic, from a decorated forest of Christmas trees to skate through and twinkling lights all around, to an unbeatable illuminated maze – Santa’s Magic Timepiece – which includes tunnels and sculptures to wow all ages, as well as an adventure to find Santa’s missing star fragments. We could say it’s topped off by the 100-foot Christmas tree, but that wouldn’t do justice to the winter village of artisan shops and numerous kids activities constantly on the go, and not just for kids – book your spot in the ugly jumper or holiday song competition, or head there for college night, military night, or to the meet the elves and santa events.
“Lace up your skates and hit the trail on real ice! We’ll provide the skates, you’ll create the memories.”
Good To Know
Hungry? There is plenty of festive food and drink to try at the winter village stands.
Admission: Adults – $33, Children (ages 3-17) – $25.
Open: November 24 – December 31. Daily, 4:30pm – 10:30 pm. January 1 – open until 11.30pm, December 22 to 25.
Address: 1123 Coleman Ave., San Francisco, CA.
10. Embarcadero Ice Skating (SEASONAL)
Enjoy a view of San Francisco Bay, the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge as you skate on this beautiful big rink this Christmas, surrounded by warm glowing lights and accompanied by the sound of festive music. It gets busy, but it’s got plenty of space for everyone to be able to make the most of their time there.
Good To Know
Lockers are available (0.75 cents) to store shoes and valuables in.
There are Porta Potty restrooms.
Note – the skates here are buckle skates, not lace-ups, so you might want to double up on sock layers for comfort.
Admission: Adults $12, Children (under 7s) $7 for a 90-minute session. Skate rental: $5.
Open: Sunday – Thursday 10am – 9.30pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 11.30pm. New sessions start every 2 hours, on the hour – you get 1.5 hours to skate, then they need 30 minutes to clean the ice.
Address: Justin Herman Plaza, next to Four Embarcadero Center across from the Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA.
11. Nazareth Ice Oasis (YEAR-ROUND)
While it may look a little shabby around the edges, Nazareth Ice Oasis is a popular community rink, particularly with figure skaters and ice hockey players. Located in the Bridgepointe Shopping Center, this indoor skating rink offers figure skating, hockey, and public skating sessions – year round.
Good To Know
Skating classes are available.
There are no skating aids here.
Bathrooms and free parking are available.
Hungry? Check out the Ice Oasis Grill upstairs, which not only has a great menu, but beer and wine too!
Admission: $20 for a 105 – 120-minute session.
Open: Year-round. Daily, 6am – 11pm, with one or two public sessions per day.
Address: 2202 Bridgepointe Pkwy, San Mateo, CA.
12. Walnut Creek On Ice (SEASONAL)
Walnut Creek’s 80 x 80 foot partially covered outdoor ice rink is an annual family favorite, set in the park outside a mall (for all your Christmas shopping and dining needs), and a great destination to head to this holiday season, rain or shine.
Our top tip is to rent a private cabana, with seating, your own entrance to the ice, and heating to warm you up while you drink hot chocolate and munch on snacks.
Don’t miss out on their theme nights- Book in advance for Family Skate Night, Funsie in Your Onesie, Frosty and Friends, Grinch, Frozen, Ugly Jumper, and more!
Good To Know
Ice-skating classes are available.
Skating aids can be rented.
Hungry? Head to the Snowflake Cafe.
Admission: $20, all ages for a 90-minute skating session (includes skate rental).
Open: December 15 – January 15. Mondays – Thursdays 11am – 8.30pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11.30am – 11pm, Sundays 11.30am – 9pm. Check online for special holiday opening times.
Address: 1365 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA.
13. Ice At The Veranda (SEASONAL)
At Ice at the Veranda, you can check both family fun and Christmas shopping off your “to do” list in one easy strike, as the Concord shopping center offers an annual outdoor ice rink to head to before or after making your needed purchases. Popular with families, this is one you should definitely try to book in advance.
Good To Know
When you book online, you’ll get an email link to fill out waivers for each guest going with you, which they must sign (unless under 18 – then it’s on the parent/guardian to sign).
Wheelchairs are allowed on the ice rink.
There aren’t any lockers, so bring only what you need and leave valuables in your car.
Hungry? There are restaurants nearby and a wine bar for some tasting before or after you set out on the ice.
Admission: $17 all ages for a 75-minute session (includes skate rental – you can bring your own, but there is no discount).
Open: Mondays to Thursdays 4pm – 9pm, Fridays 4pm – 11pm, Saturdays 11am – 11pm, and Sundays from 11am – 9pm through February 14. Check their online schedule for special holiday hours.
Address: 2001 – 2003 Diamond Blvd, Concord, CA.
14. Bay Area Discovery Museum Iceless Skating (SEASONAL)
The Bay Area Discovery Museum’s iceless skating rink is a great novelty for little ones on a visit to the museum. Added bonus: The museum is right in front of the Golden Gate Bridge!
Help your child put on their “skates” (double edged Velcro clip-ons that go over their shoes), slip-on some shoe covers yourself, and go gliding together around the small rink – a great and very safe way for them to practice their balance and gliding technique.
Also worth checking out is their “Learn how to design a snowflake and make your own snow” experience.
“Iceless Skating includes all of the fun of an outdoor ice skating rink – no cold ice required!”
Iceless Skating is included in the price of general museum admission. You must book in advance.
Good To Know
Hungry? Check out Bean Sprouts Café.
Open: From December 1. Wednesdays to Sundays, 9am to 4pm.
Address: 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, CA.
15. Snoopy’s Home Ice (YEAR-ROUND)
This Snoopy-themed ice rink in Santa Rosa was founded by Charles Schulz and is totally dedicated to everything Peanuts – and as the holidays approach, it all goes Christmassy too! People head here year-round for public skate sessions, ice dancing shows, hockey, figure skating, and ice dancing.
“Snoopy’s Home Ice is the coolest place in town for sports and fun. Whether you enjoy Figure Skating or Ice Hockey or just hanging out, there is something for everyone.”
Said by many to be among the world’s most beautiful ice arenas, it boasts the charm of a Swiss Alpine village, with tall Redwoods outside and friendly, welcoming staff within.
Good To Know
Ice skating classes are available.
There are skating aids for beginners.
There is a sectioned off area of the rink for young beginners to build up their skating confidence.
There is a Peanuts gift shop.
The Charles M. Schulz Museum is right across the street.
Hungry? Settle by the fireplace in the Warm Puppy Cafe for a hot chocolate or filling meal. There are also vending machines for snacks and drinks.
Admission: Weekdays $8, Weekends $14 (skate rental +$2).
Open: Year-round. Check their skating schedule online.
Address: 1667 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, CA.
How To Ice Skate, For Those Who’ve Never Tried
Ice skating is something you can learn at almost any age. Not only is it fun, it gives you a good aerobic workout too, and can improve your balance and coordination. Given time, you’ll also get stronger leg muscles, more flexible joints and have improved endurance. What’s not to love about that? Read on for our tips on how to get the best out of your first steps onto the ice.
- Put on your long (not too thick) socks and your personal or rented ice skates. The blades should be sharp so as to give you good grip on the ice. Make sure they are laced up right and the fit is snug. Ask an ice rink employee to help you, if needed.
- Go to the entrance gate. Most ice rinks have a carpet or mat to make it safe and easy to walk to the gate while wearing your skates.
- Hold the railing on the side of the rink to help you get used to the feel of your skates sliding on the ice. Don’t be shy to do a few circles while holding on to the edge to build up your confidence.
- When you’re ready, move further out onto the ice. Bend your knees a little and lean a tiny bit forwards while keeping your arms and shoulders relaxed. Don’t be afraid of falling, but accept it will happen at some point. Try to fall on your butt – it’s a safer and slightly softer landing, and it means you’re less likely to hurt your hands, knees or wrists!
- If you fall, you’ll need to get back up again! Roll onto your hands and knees. Put one foot between your hands, then the other, and push up until you’re standing, holding your arms out for balance.
- From a stationary position, to get moving, try marching gently on the spot, then pushing forward as you “march.” Now picture yourself riding a scooter – one foot needs to push the “scooter” (in this case your other foot) forwards. Hold onto those imaginary “scooter bars” to help you balance. Next, alternate which foot is the scooter and which is propelling you forwards. You’ll be gliding like a pro before you know it! But how to stop?
- Stopping a glide on ice skates is just like skiing – you need to point your toes slightly inwards to create friction on the ice. One foot should do the trick. Or you can aim yourself for that railing and grab on for dear life. The first option will look far more impressive, though.
NOTE: Most ice rinks rent out skate helpers/aids/buddies/buckets/gliders – plastic forms which slide along the ice to boost beginner confidence and help with balance. To be eligible to use one, your child must be able to stand on their own and push the helper by themselves. There is usually a height limit (they are designed for kids, as adults can usually hold on to the rail), and in any case should only be used for around the first 15 minutes of skating, after which the child should be encouraged to skate without the helper. Like training wheels on a bike, they have to try it “grown-up style” as soon as possible, or they might never feel able to live without the helper!
San Francisco has plenty of ice rinks to go skate at, whether you’re looking for some seasonal movie-magic vibes or want to take it up as a year-round hobby. Grab your friends and family, and enjoy!
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the most up-to-date information, we always recommend you do your own research before you travel to a particular area or visit a specific destination, and check conditions with relevant official authorities. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!