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Humans have been gliding across frozen ponds and rivers for more than 4,000 years, but in Texas, most folks rarely get to skate outdoors on real ice. Their best chances arrive around the holidays, when ice rinks start popping up in towns and cities across the state.
One such place is Eishbahn Skating Rink in Fredericksburg. Parents from the Heritage School, a private Christian school, founded the rink in 2008, and every year since they have transformed the open-air Kinderhalle Pavilion at the Marktplatz into a glistening rink open to the public.
Josh Kramer, a fencing contractor and a parent of a student at the school, leads a volunteer crew made up of other parents, school staff, and kids who construct a temporary wall around the pavilion. Then coils laid on the concrete are pumped full of refrigerant. This frame is flooded with about 2 inches of water, and once that freezes, more water is added until a sheet 4 inches thick forms.
“It’s a little bit like raising a barn,” says volunteer Jenny Wieser, who helps with the process.
Two fathers are in charge of sharpening skates, and a couple of students make sure the ice stays smooth. “Our Zambonis are actually students who skate along and scrape the ice down,” Wieser says. “After everyone has left, we might put another little layer of water on top to smooth it out so it’s ready for the next day.”
Like other rinks, Eisbahn is enacting safety protocols this year to try to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19. Skaters must get their temperature checked and wear masks. Capacity will be limited, and only pre-packaged refreshments are being sold. Admission is $15, which includes skates, and the rink is open from Nov. 27 until Jan. 3 (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
Here are other pop-up holiday ice rinks around the Lone Star State.
This 45-by-75-foot rink goes up in downtown Frisco as part of the city’s annual Christmas in the Square celebration featuring choreographed holiday lights and music. The rink is open from Nov. 27 until Jan. 4. Admission is $15 and includes skate rentals. Guests must reserve time slots in advance, and capacity will be limited. “It’s one of the only outdoor skating rinks set up in North Texas,” says Wesley Lucas with Visit Frisco. “It’s fun because you’re right there on the street, under the lights on the square, listening to music.”
Starting Nov. 13, the ice rink at Discovery Green, a 12-acre urban park in downtown Houston, is welcoming skaters. Visitors must pre-purchase tickets for designated time slots, and skaters must wear a mask. Capacity is limited. Admission is $15 and includes skates ($8 on Cheap Skate Monday). The rink is operating until Jan. 31.
In Fort Worth, ice skaters can pirouette around a rink at the Coyote Drive-In complex on Fourth Street. Skaters are required to wear masks and purchase tickets ahead of time, and capacity is limited. Open Nov. 20-Jan. 18, the rink offers a full menu, including beer and wine. Admission is $13 for a 75-minute session.
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands will be transformed into an ice rink from Nov. 20 to Jan. 18. Guests must have their temperatures checked and wear masks upon entry (masks are allowed to be removed while skating). Admission, which includes skates, is $12.50 for adults or $6 for children ages 5 and under.
Santa’s Wonderland in College Station is a holiday event that features hayride tours, carriage rides, holiday lights, a live nativity scene, a petting zoo, a toboggan chute, a gingerbread village, and a Santa who wears a cowboy hat and boots. This year, they’re adding an outdoor ice skating rink. Reservations are required, and admission to the rink is $14.95. The park is open from Nov. 13-Dec. 30. Social distancing measures will be in place.