We had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of the Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink at City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon and it was the perfect start to our holiday season. Open from November 17 – January 2, the Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink, a 30-minute drive from Oakland, was a fabulous rink for beginners like us and it was a huge bonus to be able to walk to the wide variety of dining and shopping options at the outdoor City Center.
What makes this activity even more special is that a portion of the proceeds from the rink goes to Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation — whose mission it is to ensure underserved children have access to high-quality books in the home and extensive family engagement support. It doesn’t get any better than partaking in a great holiday activity that also supports a good cause.
After the grand opening ceremony, the rink opened for open skate and we headed to the rental booth to rent our ice skates. I was impressed at the sizing options they had, even for little toddler feet. They also have a few animal themed ice skating aids for rent. My daughter was eyeing the seals all evening so I knew I wasn’t getting out of that one. They also gave us a numbered lanyard that matched the number on the seal so we didn’t get it mixed up with the other look-a-likes on the rink.
Pro tip: Rentals for the ice skating aids like the seal and reindeer are an extra $8 and need to be purchased at the window to the left of the rental booth. It’ll save some time to pay for those rentals at the window upfront before heading to the rental booth.
Typically rental sessions are in 90-minute blocks which I think is an adequate amount of time to ice skate— especially if you are pushing a child on a plastic seal for most of the time. This was my daughter’s first time ice skating and although she was excited for it all day, she got scared and cried with her first steps on the ice. Once we got her on that seal though there was no turning back.
Everyone else on the ice rink also seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was a good mix of beginners and intermediate ice skaters that day and some fabulous music to jam to along the way.
Towards the end of our evening, we finally convinced my daughter to get off the seal and push it around the rink. She was so proud of herself and had such a positive experience that she has asked us to take her back for another session.
Can’t get enough of ice-skating this holiday season? Check out our guide on Where to Take Kids Ice Skating in the Bay Area.
Grand Opening Ceremony Highlights
The grand opening kicked off with a spectacular ceremony featuring a lovely poem from San Ramon poet laureate, Jenyth Jo Gearhart-Utchen, beautiful figure skating performances from local figure skaters, a singing performance by Sophia Percora, and grand opening remarks from Olympic gold medalist figure skater and founder of the Always Dream Foundation, Kristi Yamaguchi— all hosted by former local weather reporter, Roberta Gonzales.
While I loved something about every aspect of each performance, all of us were in awe of the amazing local figure skating talent.
This was the first time my daughter had seen figure skating live and she loved how graceful they were and their gorgeous costumes. I thought it was a wonderful ceremony to celebrate the opening of the rink and appreciated how the ceremony highlighted local talent.
Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation
The Always Dream Foundation is celebrating its 25th Anniversary and the Foundation has made quite an impact over that span of time. I had the pleasure to ask Yamaguchi a few questions about some of the highlights over those 25 years and a few of them include the Always Dream Play Park, an all-abilities playground in Fremont, and the Foundation’s main focus on improving early childhood literacy in underserved communities. “We are all about ensuring that children from low income families have access to high quality books in the home environment along with family engagement and support . . . we really want to give the kindergarteners the support and opportunity to thrive and succeed in school and ultimately in life,” Yamaguchi expressed during her grand opening remarks.
Looking for similar all-abilities playgrounds in the East Bay? Check out Mia’s Dreams Come True: All-Abilities Playground in Hayward.
When I asked Yamaguchi if she had any favorite children books, she shared that she enjoys Rainbow Weaver and Today I Feel Silly, the latter book she loves because it helps children learn how it handle “big emotions like feeling frustrated or sad.” Yamaguchi also has authored her own children books including Cara’s Kindness. These sound like lovely suggestions to add to our bookshelves for in-home reading.
Plan your Visit to the Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink
- Days and Hours: Open daily November 17 – January 2 from noon to 9:30 pm. Open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
- Location: 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon at City Center Bishop Ranch. The rink is in the outdoor parking lot on the southeast corner of City Center (the corner of Bollinger Canyon and Camino Ramon). Or if you are terrible at directions like I am it’s on the side that has the Joe and the Juice and Philz Coffee.
- Price: General admission including skate rental ($19); children 3-5 years including skate rental ($15); skating aid rentals ($8). There is an “early bird” special of $2 for any sessions before 4:00 pm Mondays – Fridays (does not apply on certain days). At the rink, all transactions are cashless so be sure to bring a credit card.
- Reservations: Advance online ticket sales are highly recommended, but same-day tickets are subject to availability at the ice rink ticket window on a first come, first serve basis.
- Family Skate: Families with young children are encouraged to come from Monday-Friday from noon to 1:30 pm.
- Parking: Free at City Center Bishop Ranch’s parking garage. Or you can use the valet service.
- Same-Day Offers: A ticket will also get you some same-day offers/discounts from City Center tenants which are listed on their website.
- Special Event Days: There are a few special event days listed on their website. I’m eying “Salt and Straw BOGO Day” on November 26 where the first 500 skaters get a buy one get one free card for your favorite scoop of ice cream at Salt and Straw.
The Bottom Line
There’s something special about ice skating during the holidays and the Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink at City Center Bishop Ranch is a great option for some family-friendly holiday fun. Since it was her first time, I wasn’t sure if my daughter would enjoy ice skating, but I felt supported by Kristi Yamaguchi’s advice when it comes to recreational activities and sports to “let kids try everything” and most of all, have fun. We all most certainly did and are looking forward to another trip to the ice soon.