This year, the Gentleman Caller and I hosted a sedate New Year’s Eve party that featured off-key carolling and kindergarten-style readings of Dr. Seuss books (#nerdlife) that nonetheless lasted until 5 a.m. When we awoke seven hours later, we decided it would be a good day to skate. He was all for a visit to Rennie Park, having been in Ottawa during that outing, but I want to skate at as many different rinks – and trails! and lakes! and rivers! – as possible this year, and pushed for heading elsewhere. We settled on Dufferin Grove Park in Bloordale, which is right across from Dufferin Mall and its miles of empty parking lots, at least on New Year’s Day.
The rinks themselves are nothing too special. One is reserved for hockey and the other for leisure skating. They’re both big enough, are Zamboni-ed regularly enough, and blessedly have rails to grip when stepping on and off the ice, but that’s not the main attraction. The highlight is actually their clubhouse, which boasts a heated change room with lockers, as well as a café. And what a café it is! Sure, you can buy run-of-the-mill pizza and soda, but the real treats were at the bottom of the menu: a vegan chili feat. black beans and tempeh, and a carrot coconut soup, each just $2.50 a bowl. We also bought two slices of bread (made on site!) for $0.25 each, and the light meal for two was less than a single grande soy tazo chai.
The community feel is also boosted by the rental system. Unlike the ever-popular Nathan Phillips Square and Harbourfront rinks, where skate rentals are upwards of $10, they cost just $2 here, and you can also rent helmets, hockey sticks and pucks.
In terms of the actual skating, the rink – as per usual, during the winter break – was crowded with small children pushing chairs or other supports, small children racing each other and completely ignoring the unspoken always-move-clockwise rule, and small children falling over right in front of you. The Gentleman Caller expertly wove around them, showing off fancy side-stops and crossovers, while I just tried to not vocalize my terror of causing a human pile-up. One day, one day…
Pros: Cafe, cheap rentals, community feel, heated change room
Cons: Rectangular rink is a bit boring, it gets quite busy