I would like to give some gold stars to the Dolder Kunsteisbahn for a few extras that make it even more fun for kids. This ice rink is on the east side of Zurich lake, near the zoo.
First up: hockey! Next to the main free-skating rink, there is a hockey rink with goals that is usually open to the public during the afternoons. Here your young skaters can practice hitting the puck around and into the goals. The rink has a bucket full of hockey sticks that are free to use. You can rent a puck or bring your own. This has really motivated my 7YO to step up his skating skills. Every time we’ve gone, there were some serious hockey players practicing in the rink. But there was plenty of room for our kids to play too.
Another plus, the icewalkers for little kids come with a rope so you can pull it around instead of pushing it while skating behind your kid. This is a major improvement! I actually had fun pulling my four year old around the rink instead of developing a back ache as I hunched over the short handles. I even taught myself to skate backwards so I could look at my kid while skating.
I love that they put up a big tree at Christmas time and have festive lights at night. It’s like a big party. My kids loved to play tag skating around the tree.
And extra points for free/cheap parking. There is a lot of metered parking (1/2 franc per hour) all around the rink and some free spots along the road. Heuried ice rink is closer to my house, but there are so few metered parking spots that I usually find myself in a one hour blue spot.
A few tips…
– It is very quiet in the early weekday afternoons, getting noticeably more crowded by 4pm after school lets out. If you have little beginners, try to go early so they don’t have to compete for space with the super fast crazy hockey skaters. Here’s one busy Friday afternoon at 16:30…
– Bring your own snacks and drinks. There is a cafe, but the prices are outrageous as most Swiss cafes are. I brought my own thermos of hot water so I could make hot chocolate, saving me 4CHF per kid. There are a lot of tables and chairs (with fluffy seat pads) around the rink that you can use for picniking.
– They have lockers, but not coin-operated. So bring your own lock if you want to secure your valuables.
– Buy skates for your kids, secondhand if you can. Skate rental is 7CHF, so it quickly adds up. Migros Sport XX is selling an adjustable multi-size hockey-style skate for 50CHF. You can probably squeeze 2-3 years per kid out of this skate, so it’s definitely worth it. I bought mine secondhand for 20CHF at a Brockenhaus (secondhand store).
– Child helmets are provided free of charge and they have a large selection of sizes.
– Kids quickly get hot and start sweating while ice skating, so use layers. Instead of snow gear, I usually put my kids in rain pants and jackets with sweaters and tights underneath. Gloves are a must as they fall a lot and their hands are frequently on the ice.
– I’ve seen moms pushing strollers on the ice, but I don’t know if this is actually allowed. Leave a comment if you know more than I do.
– Ice skating is fun even when it’s snowing (rain not so much), so don’t let the weather keep you home.