Holiday season skating returns to Union Square today, after a long, two-year hiatus.
It's comin' on Christmas, as Joni Mitchell sings, and while you won't find many frozen rivers you can skate away on in California, you can strap on some ice skates and do some twirls around Union Square, surrounded by holiday cheer — and just a few closed storefronts.
Wednesday morning there was a big opening celebration for the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, featuring performances by the acrobats from Dear San Francisco: A High-Flying Love Story, the new show in the Club Fugazi space in North Beach, as well as by Lexis Verhulst, star of Royal Caribbean Cruises's award-winning ice shows. There were also some remarks by newly seated SF City Attorney David Chiu, Safeway Director of Public and Government Affairs Wendy Gutshall, and Union Square Alliance Executive Director Marisa Rodriguez.
After the opening ceremony, the public was welcomed to take to the ice, and the rink will be open until 11 p.m. tonight and every night until January 17. (It will close early, at 9:30 p.m., on New Year's Eve.)
Unlike in previous years, there will be no on-site ticket sales for skating — everything happens online here. $19 gets you a 60-minute skate session and skate rental, and the sessions start every 90 minutes starting at 10 a.m. For $5 extra you can rent a locker for your stuff. A portion of the proceeds from the rink go to benefit SF Rec & Parks.
There are some special-event nights at the rink coming up, including Flashback Fridays on November 12 and December 10 featuring on-air personalities from 103.7 FM and 80s tunes from Madonna, Duran Duran and the like. (Leg warmers encouraged.) And the annual Drag Queens on Ice is happening December 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Despite it feeling like a long-standing holiday tradition, the annual ice rink in Union Square only dates back to 2008. San Francisco has had Christmas-season ice skating for much longer than that, about 30 years, down at Embarcadero Plaza — formerly Justin Herman Plaza — next to Embarcadero Center. The Embarcadero Center complex hasn't yet announced if that rink, sponsored the last few years by Hawaiian Airlines, will be returning this year or not (the website says it's not, but it's unclear if that was still last year's message).