SM Ice: The Westside’s Only Skating Rink


While the Westside may never get a white Christmas, Ice at Santa Monica brings the holiday spirit to the City. Photo: Courtesy Downtown Santa Monica.

Holiday favorite returns to Downtown SM until January 21.


By Keldine Hull

It may not ever look like Christmas in Southern California, but it can still feel like it. As the only slice of ice skating heaven on the Westside, Ice captures the holiday spirit for locals and visitors alike, from the Scrooges and the Grinches to those of us who may or may not have our tree and lights up already. It’s the perfect place where kids can be kids and adults can remember what it was like to be a kid.

Mackenzie Carter, Director of Marketing and Communication at Downtown Santa Monica Inc. explains why Ice has become such a unique and valuable part of the Westside experience. “It’s a festive community gathering space for residents and visitors to experience skating on real ice while still enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather. It also provides local youth the opportunity to learn how to skate,” Carter continues. “There are only a handful of rinks in the Los Angeles region, and they can be difficult to access from the Westside. We also offer private skate lessons and classes on the weekends. Our coaches offer a comfortable introduction to ice skating. This is now our 12th season and we have had the opportunity to watch kids grow up at the rink. It’s a fun and safe space for families and friends to have some holiday fun under the sun.”

Randy Gardner created the Randy Gardner School of Skating and has been giving skating lessons at Ice since it opened. “It’s so unique.  I have so many friends, both in skating and out, that come there almost all season long. They’ll skate, walk to Third Street, have lunch or dinner, even get to the beach or the Santa Monica Pier.  I installed the Randy Gardner School of Skating six years ago at Ice.  It’s really the only Westside ice rink. I love providing the community with skating lessons, exposing them to the sport, or even just having them as spectators standing on the sidewalks of Fifth and Arizona. There’s nothing better than the 70- degree weather!”

Gardner has worked with ice skaters from all different levels of ability but has great advice for anyone new to the sport. “First steps on the ice can be intimidating,” he explains. “I always suggest stepping onto the ice, holding the railing, and getting a feel for the skates and the ice you’re standing on. You can ‘shuffle’ your feet, or if you want to start moving, pretend you’re walking on the ice.  If you’re comfortable, use both hands on the railing and push yourself so you are gliding forward- easy, small steps, at first.” Gardner enjoys watching children explore, grow, and live their best lives in the rink. “There’s nothing better than watching a child take their first steps on the ice in November. Then, as the season goes on, I can see them get stronger, improve their skating skills, go faster and even do a jump or two.”

If you still can’t muster the impulse to get in the rink yourself, you’re not alone. “Not everyone at Ice at Santa Monica comes to skate,” Carter explains. “In fact, many of our visitors are there to watch their kids or other family members take a spin on the ice.” Carter, much like Gardner, enjoys watching families create new holiday memories. “I love watching kids drag their parents into the rink, their eyes wide with wonder, and just so excited to get on that ice.” With an average of 200,000 skaters and spectators each year, everyone can find different ways to enjoy their experience.

Whether you’ve made it a point to visit Ice every year or just haven’t had the time to visit in a while, Ice brings family and friends together, combining the past and present to create new memories to hold onto. It’s a Southern Californian staple and so perfectly captures the holiday spirit in the most wonderfully Westside way possible.

The Ice season comes to an end at the Plaza at Santa Monica on January 21, 2019. To learn more about Ice, including hours of operation, and book your tickets or private lessons, visit

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