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Top 5 places to skate outdoors in Toronto and the GTA

A quick walk down Queen Street West on any given winter day and one can spot families and friends skating at arguably Toronto's most famous rink, Nathan Phillips Square. But did you know in Toronto alone there are 56 outdoor ice skating rinks? Most are free and many offer a departure from your typical ice rink environment. 
So grab a friend or a date and find yourself in the middle of nature, sipping hot cocoa at one of the top five outdoor skating rinks in Toronto and the GTA as selected by Yonge Street. Make sure you do it soon though as most outdoor rinks close February 24. 
Col. Sam is a bit of a hidden gem in the city. This figure eight shaped skating trail wraps around trees, thrusting skaters into the grasp of nature. The park's unique unfenced location at the foot of Etobicoke makes skating by moonlight and starlight ideal.
Where: 3131 Lake Shore Blvd W, Etobicoke
When: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free skate
Facilities: Change room, washroom, no rentals
Harbourfront is no doubt one of the most beautiful places to spend a snowy winter evening. Enjoy free skating while overlooking the waterfront. A special valentine's day Dance night and regular DJ nights make it a fun and scenic alternative to your regular rink. One of the best places to see the stars. 
Where: Waterfront Trail, Toronto
When: Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free skate, $5 sharpening, $5 helmet rentals, $6-$26 skate rentals
Facilities: Change rooms, washroom, lockers, skating lessons, rink-side restaurant
This gorgeous park in downtown Brampton is a popular destination for weddings in the summer and skating in the winter. A plethora of trees decorated in Christmas lights add to the magic of this old fashioned outdoor rink. Online reviews indicate it's a popular choice for couples due to its affordability and undeniable beauty. 
Where: Intersection of Main St. S. and Wellington St. West, Brampton
When: Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Cost: Free skate, rentals $5-$10
Facilities: parking, rentals
A newer edition on the GTA skating scene, this outdoor rink is extremely family friendly and open on weekends. It's a community environmental centre that donates 100 per cent of its rental fees back into its free skate program. Surrounded by trees, it's truly an escape from the city without straying far from downtown.  
Where: 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto
When: Saturdays, Sundays and Family Day 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free skate, $5 or pay-what-you-can rentals
Facilities: farmer's markets, café, change rooms, lockers
For a more rustic skating adventure, take the DVP to Unionville. This classic skating pond sits on a 33-hectre park that is a popular spot for both skaters and hockey players alike. This rink is the manifestation of traditional Canadian skating. 
Where: Main Street & Carlton road, Unionville
When: weather permitting
Cost: free
Facilities: none
For a full list of Toronto's outdoor skating rinks and closing dates, check out www.toronto.ca/parks/skating/outdoor-rinks.htm
Did we miss your favourite rink? Let us know in the comments below!

Sheena Lyonnais is Yonge Street's managing editor. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.
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