Skating into the holidays

Union Square transforms into a center for holiday celebration.


Josie Rozzelle

Attendees skate around the annual Ice Rink in Union Square. Holiday music is played throughout the day and color-changing neon lights illuminate the rink at night.

The tourist hotspot Union Square is adorned with holiday wreaths and garlands during the winter months, but locals are also attracted to the annual outdoor ice rink and 83-foot Christmas tree.

“[The rink] is a fun, outdoor holiday experience that is beloved by all ages because it is something that you do not get to do year-round,” Kristi Yim, marketing representative for the Union Square ice rink, said. “It is a unique holiday experience to be able to skate outdoors and in Union Square.”

The rink draws an average of 80,000 visitors, both tourist and local, over a 10-week period. Senior Mackenzie Maly attends the ice rink with friends or family as part of an annual tradition that started when she was 6.

“I really like the vibe of Union Square,” Maly said. “It’s very Christmas-sy with the big Christmas tree right next to you, and then there is Macy’s all decked out in wreaths,” she said, referring to the 104 wreaths adorning each department store window facing Geary Boulevard.

White tents decorated with holiday garlands surrounding the rink, creating space to put on skates as well as lounge areas for non-skaters. Although the location of the rink is a major attribute to its success, it also can take away from the experience, according to sophomore Elizabeth Worthington.

“It was a little hard just because the ice rink is in downtown San Francisco and there are a lot of tourists, so it is always really busy,” Worthington said, “but I still think is it fun.”

Maly says she enjoys celebrating holidays around others at the ice rink, but notices another issue.

“I think that they could be more inclusive of other holidays around Christmas,” Maly said. “[Last year there was] a menorah but, in comparison to the tree, it is very small.”

The Safeway Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square is open daily until Jan. 16, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., but will close at 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. General admission is $12, and children 8 years or younger are $7. Skate rental is $6.

“I went [to the rink] because Christmas time makes me really happy and I feel like going to an ice skating rink is an important part of Christmas,” Worthington said.