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Ice skating for the holidays? It can happen even in sunny Florida

MusicUniversity of Central Florida ArenaCentral Park

I have a friend in Melbourne who already has her outdoor holiday lights up.

As she likes to say: "Yes, I'm that kind of neighbor."

While that seems a little premature — let's wait for Thanksgiving, at least — it is starting to feel like fall in Florida. Milder temperatures. Sundown at supper time, thanks to that ridiculous time change. All that means that it's time for my annual fall ritual: The fruitless search for someone willing to go ice skating with me.

My history on the ice is about as extensive as one might expect of a guy raised amid the palm trees of South Florida. As the holidays approached, my friends and I would bundle up and head to the Polar Palace in Hialeah, a venue more like a converted warehouse than a palace. The main attraction, other than the ice, was the giant stuffed polar bear watching over us as we stumbled around the rink.

Ice skating in the Sunshine State is an exotic treat, like wearing shorts in November must be to Midwesterners.

Yet there are options for conjuring seasonal charm — if you're equipped with a lively imagination and a pair of sturdy ankles.

Outside the UCF Arena at the University of Central Florida, an outdoor rink is the centerpiece of the annual Light Up UCF, "50 Nights of Music, Lights and Ice," that runs through Jan. 1.

It's billed as Orlando's largest outdoor ice rink, and really, how much competition could there be? In addition to daily public skating times, Light Up UCF also includes outdoor screenings of holiday movies such as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday) and a pair of "Veggie Tales" flicks (7 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 3), nightly light shows and musical performances by the UCF marching band, local choirs and others. It's all free, expect for the skating, and details are at lightupucf.com.

In Winter Park, the Central Park West Meadow along Park Avenue has been transformed into an outdoor rink. You can glide daily through Jan. 8. Hours: 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 3-10 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Sundays. The $10 cost includes skate rental. Visit cityofwinterpark.org for details.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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