Sock skating on a wooden floor might be fun, but there’s nothing like feeling the cool breeze on your face as you glide across a real ice rink. It’s time to lace up your skates for an essential winter activity. Keep reading to find great places to skate outside. Some of them are new — and many are free!

photo: Maria Chambers

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Millennium Park

Whirl and twirl with the skyline at your side. The Crown Fountain might be closed for the winter, but you’ll feel like Princess Elsa as you cast your ice spells over this local favorite. For newbies, they conveniently offer free ice skating lessons on weekends. 

Bonus: You'll skate in the shadow of Cloud Gate and can grab a bite at the nearby Park Grill.

Open through March 8. Admission is free. Skate rental is $13+. 201 E. Randolph St., The Loop. More info

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photo: Helene S. via Yelp

Maggie Daley Park

The Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon is one of the best spots in the city to skate a figure eight. The railing that lines the loop is the perfect pick-me-up for wobbly skaters. Make the family skate date extra special with a Skate with Santa on Dec. 14. 

Good to know: A skate assist sled is available for use by skaters with physical disabilities and their companion skater. 

Open thru early March. Admission is free. Skate rental is $13+. 337 E. Randolph St., Loop. More Info

Midway Plaisance Park

Get your glide on where the first-ever Ferris wheel once stood. The 1893 World Colombian Exposition’s answer to the Eiffel Tower was 264 feet tall. Today, the “midway” point between Jackson and Washington Parks is the perfect place to take the kids for lessons or Family Skate. Or, leave them at home for adult-only Rat Hockey.

Bonus: The warming center offers seats and reprieve from the cold and is also a great spot to check out your fellow skaters.

Keep up-to-date on the status of city rinks on their website.

November 20-end of February. Admission is free; skate rental is $7. 1130 Midway Plaisance North, Hyde Park. More info.

photo: Chicago Park District

Warren Park

The north side’s largest park is home to the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Rink. You may not find professional hockey players, but you will find a warming hut, and — essential for parents bringing kids — bathrooms!

Bonus: Free parking.

Keep up-to-date on the status of city rinks on their website.

Open through the end of February. Admission is free; skate rental is $7. 6601 N. Western Ave., Rogers Park. More info.

photo: Parkway Bank Park

Parkway Bank Park in Rosemont

In the wintertime, Parkway Bank Park in Rosemont offers skating in the park, where The Chicago Wolves ice rink takes center stage with the perfect ticket price: free. Easy parking and plenty of dining options round out the seasonal fun. Sundays in December are made extra special with weekly character skates

After untying your skates, head over to the Sugar Factory and warm up with over-the-top hot cocoas.

Opens Nov. 29. Admission is free. Skate rental is $8. 5501 Park Pl., Rosemont. More info.

photo: Chicago Park District

McKinley Park

McKinley Park, named after our 25th president, was the first of the South Side neighborhood parks. It offers everything from lessons to family skate to pond hockey. There’s free parking galore, and it’s close to Orange Line.

Bonus: Warm up with a cup of chili at nearby Lindy's Chili (3685 South Archer Avenue), a South Side favorite.

Keep up-to-date on the status of city rinks on their website.

Nov. 29-end of Feb. Admission is free; skate rental is $7. 2210 W. Pershing Rd., McKinley Park. More info

Watts Center at Watts Park

Double the fun! Watts Center boasts not one but two outdoor ice rinks. Tucked away in north suburban Glencoe, this gem offers plenty of free parking. Warm up in the rec room and grab a snack from the concession stand.

Bonus: Adjacent to the ice rinks is a sledding hill.

Early Dec. thru mid-March. Admission is $8/adults, $6/ages 3-17, skate rental is $4. 305 Randolph St., Glencoe. More info.

WickerICE

The 60-foot-wide by 120-foot-long non-refrigerated "WickerICE" rink puts you in the middle of this hip neighborhood's action. They also offer free ice skating lessons for ages 5-12, Saturdays in December-March, 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Best of all: it's all free!

Open Dec.-Feb., when the temps are below freezing. Admission is free. Bring your own skates. 1425 N. Damen, Wicker Park. More info.

— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri

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