Our first sign we were headed in the right direction was a soft glow seemingly pulsing from the middle of the darkened park. As our car drove closer around the loop past the Cleveland Museum of Art and then the Cleveland Botanical Garden, I noticed the glimmer came from large, illuminated snowflakes draped from tree branches, along with lights crisscrossing the ice rink below it.
As we walked closer to The Rink at Wade Oval, we could hear classic holiday tunes and people chatting, laughing among the sound of blades hitting ice.
Looking around at the assortment of folks in puffy jackets and mittens circling the ice my fears began to wane. It had been years since I’d laced up a pair of ice skates so I was more than a little skittish to get out on the ice.
After paying the admission fee I went over to the booth for skates. The man behind the counter must have sensed my unease – he gave me a set with a smile and said, “You’ll have fun out there.”
I noticed the skates had latches, instead of laces – it had been awhile! Clicking the latches into place, I stood up hesitantly and then started to make my way to the rink.
Going out onto the ice, I clung at first to the sides. And I wasn’t alone. Or the only adult making my way along the rink’s wall. Moving in one direction, skaters of all abilities were circling around. A few skaters glided across the interior of the rink circling me three or four times before I’d even made it half way. But those gifted skaters were few.
Most, were like me, hesitantly putting one skate out, then another, and every once in awhile catching just the right angle to glide a few paces across the ice. Perhaps because it was early in the ice skating season, or maybe I happened to be there on just the right night, but the collective sense of trying something new, together, was heartening.
I gained confidence enough to travel away from the railing by my third or fourth time around. And then I started to ease into the music and look at my surroundings. Couples were going across the ice hand in hand. Whole families were making their way in clumps, many clinging to the side so their progress was slow, but the laughs contagious.
One little family included a youngster who was using the directional cones to keep himself upright.
Despite the cold, it felt warm on the ice as I kept wobbling my way around and around, my husband nearby to catch me if I fell.
I felt like a kid again with that mixture of elation at finally finding a rhythm on the ice, interjected with that occasional panic that I might fall flat on my face — I didn’t.
Afterwards, I sat in the glow of the heaters placed next to the seating on the porch near the rink’s entrance, watching skaters still going by. While there is hot chocolate and other drinks available at the rink, my husband and I decided to head to Little Italy for something instead.
Just a few minutes away, Little Italy packs plenty of quaint restaurants, where you can take your pick from flash-fried calamari and fresh-made ravioli, but I had just one thing of my mind – cannoli. I wasn’t the only one. Presti’s Bakery, a Little Italy landmark, had lines nearly to the door. But the wait was worth the assortment of goodies we piled on our plates to nibble on while our hands warmed.
Wade Oval isn’t the only outdoor skating spot around Cleveland, here are some other finds to visit before the sunny temps return. Make sure to call before you go, since the rinks sometimes aren’t open – even during their published operating hours – if the weather is too warm or other conditions aren’t ideal for skating.
The Rink at Wade Oval, University Circle – open through March 4th
Cleveland Foundation Skating Rink in Public Square, Cleveland – open through February 28th
Lock 3’s Huntington Bank Ice Skating Rink, Akron – open through February 19th
For more adventures Find It Here at Ohio.org.