Things to know if you want to ice skate at Union Square

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This holiday season, Steven and I made sure to do the one San Francisco holiday tradition that we missed out on last December: Ice skating at the Union Square ice rink. I was a bit nervous about going as I'm a horrible ice skater and I saw all the awful Yelp review for both this location and the Embarcadero one. But after some more consideration, I decided that it would be a good thing to knock off my bucketlist. So we attended, and the following is what you should know if you're planning on checking it out yourself!

 

BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE

Steven and I made the rookie mistake of assuming we could get in on the action just by lining up at Union Square, only to find that most time slots were sold out for the day. We don't go ice skating at temporary rinks too often, so we weren't sure how the ticketing process would go down. But the way it works is that you must reserve a space ahead of time for an hour and a half long time slot. There are plenty throughout the day every day, and we were lucky enough to find one while visiting their website, that went along with our work schedule on a weekday (you know, where we could get there after 5, but not stay until ungodly hours.) We chose the 8-9:30 slot. And purchased tickets online. Click here to buy tickets. The price when I purchased was $18 plus a small skate fee for adults and $13 plus a small skate fee for children. 

 

WHAT TO PACK WITH YOU

Remember to wear and pack warm winter accessories such as gloves, hats, scarves and SOCKS. REMEMBER SOCKS. Do not make the mistake I did by not wearing socks. Luckily for those of you who do end up attending impromptu, or having forgot like me, they do sell winter accessories including decent socks for only a few dollars.

Which brings me to my next point: Do not forget to bring cash. They take card when buying winter accessories or renting lockers, but it's easier to hand the vendors cash as their registers aren't always easily accessible to them as they help guests.

And lastly, don't pack too much! While there are lockers, they are tiny. And while  I would honestly bet no one in my time slot would ever steal my belongings,  these days you can never be too careful. Do not bring a million shopping bags with you or a huge backpack with your laptop in it. This may require a bit more planning on your part, but it's totally worth it to not have to worry about anyone touching or taking your things. 

 

SHOWING UP / CHECKING IN

If you purchase tickets ahead of time, it's important to check in at the podium labeled ONLINE TICKETS to retrieve your wristband, which will let you into the rink area. You cannot simply take your mobile ticket to the guy who lets everyone into the skate pick-up area. 

And it would be best to do your checking in about a half an hour before your appointment. I say that because there may or may not be a small line, and fifteen minutes before your appointment is when they let everyone into the venue to start getting their skates on.

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WHAT TO EXPECT

  • You have exactly an hour and a half to skate after they give you time to put on your skates. Which is a great amount of time in my opinion to get your footing if you're a newbie, and really enjoy yourself
  • You are going to see a ton of families celebrating the holidays. That means a lot of inexperienced skaters and children. So if you're an experienced skater who will be annoyed by slow-moving or clumsy fellow patrons, maybe avoid this place. There will be people like me holding onto the rails all over the place
  • Your skates WILL hurt you. Just as any other place where you can rent skates, the ones here are quite painful even when you get them in the correct size. I know this because I'm still in pain a couple of days later. But I wouldn't say that the skates are so bad that they're a deal-breaker. I'd still do it again.

 

DO I RECOMMEND IT?

Overall, while my foot is still recovering from those uncomfortable skates, I would say I recommend this ice skating rink. Despite its low scores on Yelp, I had a pretty decent experience. The ticketing system was reliable, the staff was friendly and competent and the rink was festive and clean. Plus the vibe is exactly what I wanted: A mixture of first time and experienced skaters spending time with loved ones by either trying something new, or taking part in an old tradition. And that's what truly made this an enjoyable experience. Check it out for yourself if you live in the area or are visiting before Christmas. Happy holidays!

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