How to explain the growing number of outdoor ice-skating rinks showing up in San Diego in December? A collective case of frost envy? A smug display that we can pick and choose among the most likable of winter pastimes — while still enjoying our perennial t-shirt weather?
Whatever the motive of their organizers, no less than four such rinks will be open for some part of the coming weeks. The oldest venue with the longest season is the Ice Rink at Horton Square, adjoining Horton Plaza downtown. Open through January 4 daily (see http://www.sdice.com/horton/index.htm for exact times), it costs $12 for adults and $10 for kids.
The second-oldest and priciest also boasts the most ironic venue – on the “Windsor Lawn” of the Hotel del Coronado, overlooking the hotel’s fabulous beachfront. Three hours on the ice here costs $20 for adults and $15 for kids, with a 2-hour matinee session on weekends and holidays for a bit less.
The prize for Most Unlikely Place to Erect an Outdoor Skating Rink has to go to the 39- by 86-foot “Central Park West” skatery created this year by the Shadow Mountain Community Church in often-broiling El Cajon (2100 Greenfield Drive, 4-10 weekdays, 2-10 weekends, $10 adults, $5 kids, (619) 440-1802 ). And finally, fleeting but cheap, will be the rink to be set up for the first time at this coming weekend’s December Nights celebration in Balboa Park. That will happen in the parking lot of the Air and Space Museum, Friday and Saturday evenings only, with access to the rink and skate rental costing only $5 per person, regardless of age.
The park’s December Nights celebration is a far more traditional and well-established holiday tradition — 31 years old this season. Getting to it tends to be one daunting challenge (though there are parking and shuttle options). Another is negotiating the crowds, expected to range between 100,000 and 200,000 each evening, many intent upon jamming into the museums, which will all be open with free admission. But the holiday lighting, music and dance performances, and ethnic food offerings in the House of Pacific Relations cottages outweigh the hassles for many. Amazingly, the event has become a money-maker since the city took over managing it in 2004, according to Jeanette Steele’s recent Union-Tribune article, earning $135,000 for the park to date.