This South Bend, Indiana, destination features a refrigerated ice trail — a continuous, 15-foot-wide, 650-foot-long loop that gradually dips and climbs.
Who wants to only skate in circles when you can glide along an undulating ribbon of ice and even coast across a bridge in a city park perched on the banks of the St. Joseph River?
“Howard Park is the only ice experience in the nation, and maybe the world, where skaters can go over a bridge while other people are actually walking beneath it,” says Jonathan Jones, director of recreational experiences for South Bend Venues Parks & Arts.
Because of that unique skating bridge, the refrigerated ice trail forms a continuous, 15-foot-wide, 650-foot-long loop that gradually dips and climbs as it curves around the park’s playground. Walls and railings bordering both sides of the ice trail help wobbling novices find their footing, and because Howard Park is ADA compliant, a skate sled is available for anyone needing assistance. The ice trail also connects to a level ice pond that is perfect for traditional-style skating as well as lively games of broomball, a fusion of ice hockey and soccer played in street shoes instead of skates.
The ice trail is usually open from late November through mid-March, and during the long winter evenings, thousands of lights turn on at dusk, illuminating trees as well as the ice and transforming the 13-acre park into a sparkling wonderland where folks enjoy sinking into Adirondack chairs and gathering around cozy gas fire pits to watch the skaters. On Friday nights, DJs also play various styles of music, creating a fun scene.
And when it’s time to take a break while a Zamboni smooths the ice, the park’s Chocolate Cafe To Go not only serves yummy hot chocolate from the South Bend Chocolate Co., but the full-service Howard Park Public House also offers homemade soups, hearty sandwiches, and ready-to-go s’mores kits. 219 S. St. Louis Blvd., South Bend, Indiana 46617, 574/299-4765, visithowardpark.com