Be it free ice-skating at Robson Square in Vancouver to naturally frozen lakes in Whistler, going skating on an outdoor rink is one of the Canada's best winter activities.
Below are the main outdoor skating rinks in Vancouver and Whistler, although you can also go skating on indoor ice sheets at some community centers.
In downtown Vancouver, the covered outdoor ice-skating rink at Robson Square is one of the city's best and cheapest winter activities. Skating is free at the rink, although if you don't bring skates you'll have to rent them. The glass dome over the rink makes for neat photos. Weekends are busiest so try to head there during a weekday for the most room to skate.
If you don't skate, consider renting ice cleats. The grips clip onto regular shoes allowing you to walk on the ice.
Season: Nov. 15, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014
Hours: Sun-Thurs, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fri-Sat, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Address: Robson Square, 800 Robson St.
Skate rentals: $4 for skaters 13 and over (cash only)
Helmet rentals: $2 for skaters 13 and over
Ice cleat rentals: $2
A mountain-top pond rink, Grouse Mountain's outdoor skating rink is the prettiest spot to skate -- but it is also the most susceptible to poor weather conditions due to the high altitude. During the Christmas season on the ski hill, Santa's workshop and a reindeer pen are set-up alongside the skating rink, and year-round there's the indoor restaurant The Observatory. The firepit beside the skating rink is a nice touch, adding a soft smell of wood smoke to the winter-wonderland atmosphere. To enjoy the views of Vancouver, save this activity for a clear day.
The price to skate on Grouse Mountain isn't cheap, although if you have young children, there is no admission charge for those 4 and under. Everyone else pays an admission fee to take the Skyride gondola up to the main skiing base. Skate rentals cost extra. If you're bringing your own skates, note that the rental shop doesn't offer sharpening services.
Hours: Daily during winter, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Cost: $40 adults, $36 seniors, $24 teens 13-18, $14 children 5-12, free for children under 5
Skate rentals: about $8
Opened in December 2011, the ice-skating rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza is close to the heart of the village and one of the few free activities. The rink has mountain views and rents skates on-site. The plaza is also a venue for concerts and celebrations.
The resort is primarily a downhill ski destination, but other winter activities in Whistler include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
Season: Dec. 14, 2013 to March 31, 2014
Hours: Daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (closed 2 to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.)
Address: Whistler Olympic Plaza
Skate rentals: $5
4. Outdoor Skating on Whistler Lakes
Vancouver doesn't have the long cold spells needed for local lakes to freeze over for ice-skating. But Whistler, which sits at a higher altitude, does. Depending on weather conditions, there can be natural ice rinks on Alta and Green lakes.
The Whistler Visitor Information Centre can provide information on ice thickness and where to skate. But lake skating is risky, so if you're just learning to skate or not with someone who has some experience with lake skating and measuring ice thickness, it is best to stick to the free rink at Whistler Olympic Plaza.
Check with the Whistler Visitor Information Centre about ice thickness: 4230 Gateway Drive, Whistler, 604-935-3357