For a long time, I’ve dreamed of visiting New York City in early December. I’ve never been there, but I long to ice skate at the Rockefeller Center’s outdoor rink in front of the grand Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. To glide and twirl on the ice set among the surrounding tall buildings of Rockefeller Center while the Christmas lights cast a holiday glow upon the smooth surface of the rink – for some reason that scenario just calls to me.
There’s something magical about Christmas in the city, whichever city that just so happens to be. Over the years, I’ve found myself in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul for various and sundry holiday events. The coldness and heavy air of the Minnesota winter descend upon the city in a different way, giving it an altogether different feel than being out in the openness of the winter countryside. But I like it. The holiday decorations, lights, red velvet bows, greenery and spruce tops nestled into pots and planters with lights and birch branches… it all serves as a festive show of solidarity to both celebrate the holiday season AND make the best of our cold Midwest winters.
Bundled up shoppers make their way, bags in hand, around downtown in a brisk hustle. Christmas music streams from shops and outdoor speakers. Cozy restaurant patrons can be seen through windows, warming up as they clutch mugs of hot coffee in their chilled hands.
Each year my brother Dave and I take our kids and spouses into downtown for some holiday event or other. Typically, it’s the Holidazzle Parade, a nighttime spectacle of floats and characters aglow with strands and strands of holiday lights. Hearty Minnesota children bundle up in snow gear to sit on curbs in downtown Minneapolis, braving the cold to watch the merry glowing floats pass by. Mittens? Check. Tissues? Check. Hot cocoa in a Thermos? Check.
This year, the kids asked to change things up a bit. Rice Park in downtown St. Paul (with the help of some corporate sponsors) hosts a free outdoor skating rink. Aha! Situated right in front of the historic Landmark Center, this venue is nestled in a beautiful little piece of St. Paul. I was secretly excited about this outing. While it wasn’t gliding and twirling under the looming heights of skyscrapers in New York City, it was amida backdrop of historic Eurpoean-inspired architecture. I still love ice skating at an indoor rink or on a makeshift city party rink, but there’s something magical about donning skates and gliding on ice set among beautiful, old, majestic buildings on downtown streets. Even the kids felt a little awe-struck gazing up at the stone buildings. Spectators stopped, shopping bags in hand, to smile at the children (and adults) taking advantage of the experience of downtown skating. Park trees twinkled with white lights. Holiday music streamed through the air. The smell of cocoa wafted from the warming house.
It wasn’t quite how I imagined New York will be someday. But it’ll certainly do for now!