Jim Abbott on Travel
Postcards from Florida
December 25, 2010
It's the holidays, the time of the year I search fruitlessly for someone — anyone — willing to accompany me on an ice-skating expedition.
This wasn't always such a problem.
When I was in high school, in a suburb of Miami, the gang always loved to bundle up and go to the Polar Palace, the somewhat dank-smelling but utterly charming rink in Hialeah. Compared with the digital music and other bells and whistles of today, the Polar Palace was really more of a converted warehouse with ice on the floor.
In keeping with its name, the main calling card was an enormous stuffed polar bear on one end of the rink, next to the gate where the Zamboni emerged, a contraption that might as well have been the spaceship of an extraterrestrial in the eyes of tropical suburban teens.
There's still an element of the exotic in ice-skating in the sunny South. The chilly rink climate alone ought to be a big attraction in a place with temperatures in the 90s pretty much all the time.
It's only during the holidays that the novelty of ice-skating gets its due. In Central Florida, there are plenty of festive options, starting with the annual Light Up UCF event in the plaza in front of the UCF Arena at the University of Central Florida.
The event, which runs through Jan. 2, includes a holiday light show (featuring 75,000 synchronized lights), occasional films ("How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at 7 and 9:30 p.m. tonight), a carousel, Ferris wheel and holiday train for kids of all ages. The centerpiece, though, is an outdoor skating rink, touted as the largest in Central Florida. Visit ucfarena.com for hours and admission details.
There's also outdoor skating in the west meadow of Central Park along Park Avenue in Winter Park. It operates daily through Jan. 9, with carolers and other seasonal entertainment included in the mix. Admission: $10. Call 407-599-3203 or visit cityofwinterpark.org for details.
There's skating year-round at the RDV Sports Complex in Maitland (mvpsportsclubs.com) and the Ice Factory of Central Florida (icefactory.com). The latter, in Kissimmee, is good for would-be-skaters on the theme-park side of Orlando.
If you go, don't forget to invite me.
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