Currier and Ives hand-drawn prints from the 19th Century presented idealized scenes from pre-industrial city and town life in America. Nattily dressed people riding in horse-drawn sleighs. A family building a snowman. Children skating on a frozen pond. Just like a scene from one of those prints, a few Tennessee cities have resurrected outdoor ice-skating.
In Northern states, outdoor skating is a given, as the nearby pond freezes over most years, attracting kids of all ages (even 40). While it snows in Tennessee, the temperatures rarely stay low enough long enough for standing water to turn to ice that’s safe to skate on. So some cities have taken it on themselves to start a new winter tradition.
Knoxville’s Holidays on Ice
Tennessee isn’t known for its frigid winters, but Knoxville’s 10th Annual Holidays on Ice creates an outdoor ice rink in the heart of downtown on Market Square. For a small admission fee that includes the cost of renting skates ($10 for adults, $7 for kids), anyone can strut their stuff or take their jumps in the brisk winter air.
This year, the rink opens on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving. So after you’ve filled up on turkey, you can shed a few pounds taking laps around the rink. It’s healthier for you than fighting the crowds on Black Friday. But even if you made other plans, you’ll have until January 4, 2015, to catch the fun. Most days, the rink stays open, under the holiday lights, until 9:00 or 10:00 o’clock at night.
Chattanooga’s Ice on the Landing
Chattanooga gets into the act this year with its first Ice on the Landing. A temporary 50x70-foot outdoor rink is coming to the Chattanooga Green at the 21st Century Waterfront, and like Knoxville’s rink, it stay open from November 28 until January 4, 2015.
Chattanooga’s last ice rink (indoor or outdoor) closed in 2002, so the city is braced for an enthusiastic response from ice-skating residents. Admission is $10/$8 and also includes skate rentals. This outdoor rink will keep Chattangoogans active in the winter, although skating may be a foreign language to some natives.
Pigeon Forge’s Christmas Festival
The Christmas Festival in Pigeon Forge features an outdoor skating rink amidst the rides, concessions, events and shopping of the grand holiday event. Located in front of the new Smoky Mountain Opry — which is holding its own indoor extravaganza — the festival runs from November 1 until the end of the year.
Pigeon Forge is not known for its restraint, especially at Christmastime. Besides the large outdoor rink, you’ll find a synchronized light show, a Ferris wheel and other family-friendly rides, train rides, horse-drawn carriage rides, and live reindeer.
Other Outdoor Ice Rinks
Stepping onto an outdoor ice rink is like stepping back in time. Surrounded by flowing scarves and rosy cheeks, you’ll swear you’re in a Currier and Ives drawing. To capture that feeling, other Southern Appalachian cities are setting up their own outdoor ice skating rinks.
This year, you can find them in Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; and even Huntsville, Alabama! If they catch on, it will be the start of a new winter tradition for Southern families. May yours be one of them. Happy holidays!