Travel

Where to Go Ice Skating in DC This Winter

From an epic ice maze to open-air rinks near the monuments.

Enchant Christmas DC
Enchant Christmas DC
Enchant Christmas DC

If there’s a quintessential winter activity, it is undoubtedly ice skating. After all, there are few more humbling experiences than taking a few spills on a frozen surface, and if you’re an expert, no better way to showcase your grace than by gliding your way around a rink. While there is something quaint about frozen pond skating, here in our nation’s capital, it can be a little difficult to find an iced-over body of water. But luckily, there are places aplenty that temporarily turn fountains and walkways into skating rinks for the winter season.

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to go ice skating in DC, as well as a few fabulous food and drink options in the vicinity that can fuel (or re-fuel) after hitting the ice this winter.

Enchant Christmas DC
Enchant Christmas DC
Enchant Christmas DC

Enchant Christmas

Navy Yard
The flashiest ice skating spot in the District is totally worth the trip this holiday season. The main destination at Enchant Christmas is a 90,000-square-foot maze decked out in twinkling lights. You can skate through the trail, following the winding path, then skate right off to find yourself a food or beverage vendor to keep you warm from the Enchant Village, which features holiday gifts and treats from local vendors and artisans, including favorites like Arepa Zone and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Tickets for the rink range from $29 to $39 based on time of day and skate rentals are $10.

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink

National Mall
One of the most beautiful ice rinks in the city is undoubtedly located in the NGA’s sculpture garden. With a backdrop of towering sculptures, skating in this rink is somewhat akin to gliding through a museum, and at night, a string of lights provides romantic mood lighting that makes this rink an ideal date spot. The Pavillion Cafe is always a good option for some light bites, and if that doesn’t quite do it for you, there are plenty of food trucks in the vicinity as well.
Note that tickets are sold for 45-minute sessions at the top of the hour, and are available every day. You can buy tickets on-site, which cost $10 for adults, and $9 for children, students, and those over 50. Skate rentals are $4.

The Wharf
The Wharf
The Wharf

The Wharf Ice Rink

Southwest Waterfront
The Southwest Waterfront is always buzzy-unexpectedly, this is especially true in the winter. With Christmas lights, trees, and even a pyramid of rum barrels decorated with Christmas wreaths, The Wharf Ice Rink is a special experience, overlooking the water and lit up by Edison lightbulbs overhead. The rink is open daily, and you can purchase tickets on-site at $12 for adults and $9 for kids 12 and under, plus skate rentals for $6. Post-skating snack options abound at the Wharf, and some favorites in the area include The Grill, Mi Vida, Kaliwa, and newly opened Du Jour. If you’re feeling a bit fancier and want to reward yourself for a job well done, check out Kevin Tien’s incomparable Moon Rabbit or the perennially popular fine dining scene at Del Mar or Officina.

Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating Plaza
Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating Plaza
Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating Plaza

Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating

Pentagon Row
If you’re looking to capitalize on size, check out the Pentagon Row outdoor ice skating rink, the very largest in the area at 6,840 square feet. The rink is open every day, and as an added bonus, group and private lessons are available for folks looking to up the ante and improve their skating skills. The rink area also features an outdoor stone fireplace for lounging during skating breaks. Purchase tickets and make reservations online; admission is $11 for adults and $10 for children, and skates cost $5. After skating, check out restaurants including Asia Bistro, Saigon Saigon, and Siné Irish Pub & Lounge.

The Washington Harbour
The Washington Harbour
The Washington Harbour

Washington Harbour Ice Rink

Georgetown
For another waterfront ice skating experience open every day, head over to Georgetown where the famous fountain is replaced by an ice skating rink. This is certainly one of the buzzier options in the area, which comes as little surprise given the wealth of other attractions to be found in Georgetown. You can reserve tickets online, with prices starting at $9 for children, seniors, and members of the military, and $10 for adults. Skate rentals are $6. There’s also plenty of food to be had in the immediate vicinity, including Farmers Fishers Bakers and Nick’s Riverside Grill, as well as treats to be found further into Georgetown. If you’re looking for something sweet, be sure to check out Levain for the shop’s famous cookies, or Baked and Wired for the best cupcakes in town.

Silver Spring Ice Skating at Veterans Plaza
Silver Spring Ice Skating at Veterans Plaza
Silver Spring Ice Skating at Veterans Plaza

Silver Spring Ice Skating

Downtown Silver Spring
Surrounded by great food and great shopping, this ice rink also features a great skating school for youngsters (and adults) interested in refining their skills. Reservations are required (and can be made online), and the rink is open daily. Tickets are $11 for adults and $10 for children and seniors; skate rentals are available for $5.

Rockville Town Square Outdoor Ice Skating
Rockville Town Square Outdoor Ice Skating
Rockville Town Square Outdoor Ice Skating

Rockville Ice Skating

Veterans Plaza
Rockville Ice Skating’s rink is open daily for public skating. After making an advance reservation (which can be made up to two weeks in advance), you’ll have 80 minutes of ice time, and lessons are also available for hockey, figure skating, and everything in between. Tickets are $11 for adults and $10 for children and seniors; skate rentals are $5.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Elsie Yang is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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