There are few things that can get a person more into the holiday spirit than gliding across the ice while Bing Crosby croons in the background, the winter sky turns orange and purple as the sun sets, and little white lights illuminate everything. Ice skating outside just feels different than in indoor rinks.
It might sound impossible in South Carolina, where December temperatures are almost never cold enough to freeze a puddle all the way, let alone a pond. But take a walk down Main Street in three South Carolina cities and you'll see it's true. Columbia, Spartanburg, Rock Hill and Greenville have set up temporary outdoor skating rinks, complete with skate rentals, music and twinkling lights, right in the midst of their bustling downtowns for the holiday season.
So grab the kids and go for a twirl. Or, if you're a new skater, hang on to the boards as you tiptoe your way around. You'll get the hang of it faster than you might think. One of the best parts of going skating is watching how everyone - from young to old - improves in just a few minutes.
A few important tips: Make sure you bring a pair of gloves for each member of the family - the ice is cold on little hands during the inevitable tumbles. Your skates (and your kids') should be tightly laced. Really, really, really tightly. After your children put their skates on, make sure you pull hard on each and every lace crossing up the boot. It will make all the difference in their ability to stay upright. And finally, take lots of breaks. Your legs and ankles will probably get oddly fatigued, but after a few minutes of sitting, you'll feel good as new again.
- Columbia: Main Street Ice at Boyd Plaza, right in front of the Columbia Museum of Art, offers a 50- by 63-foot ice rink and skate rentals. It's open 7 days a week until Jan. 18 but will be closed on Christmas Day. Skate for as long as you want (or as long as your ankles hold out) for $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and younger. Skate rental is included. Hours vary by day; check their website.Bring cash. Though they do accept cards, their machine was down the day we visited.
- Spartanburg: Skating on the Square takes place in Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg every day through Jan. 18. Admission and skate rental is $10 per person. Tuesdays, however, are two-for-one admissions. Check the website for hours, which vary depending on the day. There are skate walkers available for rent, which is absolutely awesome for beginner skaters. (It's just like it sounds - a walker you push in front of you for balance.)
- Greenville: United Community Bank Ice on Main is right in the middle of Greenville's bustling and jolly downtown, on the Village Green next to City Hall. It's open every day through Jan. 19. Hours vary greatly, and the rink is sometimes closed for private functions. Be sure to check the website for detailed hours. There also will be lots of special events and concerts happening at the rink, which are listed on their calendar. Skate all day, including skate rentals, for $10 per adult and $8 per child.
- Rock Hill: The Founders Holiday Ice Rink is next to Fountain Park on Old Town's Saluda Street. The park is open daily, including Christmas. Skate rentals are $10 and are cash only on-site, but you can reserve skates and pay online at the website.