Outdoor skating is a fickle friend, even during frozen Maine winters.
Ponds freeze quickly, it’s true, but just a little wintry mix or snow can ruin the skating for weeks. Or all winter.
So what fans of outdoor skating need is a list of convenient, well-maintained – and free – public skating places. Places where you’re almost always certain the ice is smooth and the snow is gone.
It doesn’t hurt if the place has some amenities too, like a warming hut, a fireplace, a snack shack or even a roof.
Here is a list of six free outdoor skating venues in southern Maine. Better go to them soon, because even though Maine winters feel like they last forever, they don’t.
196 Main St., Yarmouth. Open daily, conditions permitting, lighted until 11 p.m. yarmouthcommunityservices.org
This is a picturesque skating marsh just off Main Street, behind the town’s Log Cabin municipal meeting space. The highlight is the beautiful warming hut, which looks like a little Victorian-era train depot. Inside there’s a stone fireplace to warm frozen toes by. The town website says that hockey play is restricted to the rear of the pond when figure skaters and children are there. But be warned, when the ice is crowded you’ll see people with pucks all over.
51 Main St., Kennebunk. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday. kennebunkmaine.us
This covered, open-sided ice rink is in the middle of Kennebunk’s quaint downtown. The cover should help keep the ice in good shape, plus the rink has its own Zamboni resurfacing machine run by community members. You can also check to see if it’s crowded by going to the website and checking a webcam picture. There are no skate rentals and no hockey sticks or pucks allowed.
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High and Marshall streets, Bath. Dawn to 9 p.m. daily, warming hut 3 to 9 p.m. weekdays, noon to 9 p.m. weekends. cityofbath.com
This skating pond has a warming hut, concession stand and bathroom and is lighted for night skating. Not to mention, it’s close to the shops and restaurants in Bath’s charming downtown. Since it’s a pond, there are times when the ice is not safe. Look for a green sign to mark safe conditions or a red sign if the ice is not safe.
20 Municipal Drive, Scarborough. 2 to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends, holidays and school vacations. scarboroughmaine.org
This big, well-maintained rink behind the Wentworth School is divided into two areas, one for folks with pucks and sticks and one for just skating. That makes it a nice place to bring young kids or inexperienced skaters, without having to worry about flying pucks. There’s a nice indoor space for putting on your skates, as well as a concession stand with hot cocoa, hot dogs and other goodies. Another nice feature is the ice condition hot line, 883-7645. You can call any day to make sure the ice is ready for skaters.
125 Gary L. Maietta Parkway (off Highland Avenue), South Portland. 7 a.m. to dusk Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. On Facebook or southportland.org
Wainwright Recreation Complex is a winter sports haven. There are cross-country skiing trails on the property, which is an old farm, and also an outdoor skating rink. There’s a covered skate-changing area, but mostly this is a simple rink with a nice view of open fields. There will also be free skate rentals Friday to Sunday, when the rinks will be starting at 4 p.m. You can check ice conditions by calling 767-7650.
1158 Riverside Street, Portland. Open 24 hours. riversidegolfcourseme.com
These are two side-by-side maintained rinks at the city-owned Riverside Golf Course. One is about 12,000 square feet, while the other is about 20,000 square feet. Neither has boards or a wall around it, giving them both a pond feel. The smaller rink is lit all night. Just about 300 yards away is the Riverside Grill restaurant, with bathrooms. So you can make a day of skating combined with breakfast, lunch or dinner, though it’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter.