Students skate, frolic and play the Eskimo way

by Beacon Staff • December 5, 2007

Go to the Little Building or Piano Row. Walk to the nearest elevator. Push the up button for floor 12. Now go into the common room and look out the window. The view is a miniature winter wonderland of lights, snow-covered branches and bundled passersby bustling just like the holiday villages made in department store windows every year-but without the train or little children tugging at their parents' sleeves. From the 12th floor, the mini ice skaters and evening strollers appear so distant, but fear not; becoming a part of this seasonal serenity is a mere step outside of the building.

It is easy to get lost in the seemingly endless work leading up to finals and the semester's close, and forget about the fun festivities that the city has to offer. It is time to take a step outside and enjoy Boston at its best before it's time to head home for winter break. Here are a few ideas to remind you why this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Frog Pond ice skating

Nothing says it is the holiday season quite like a pair of skates and a couple of bruises from falling on the ice. So forget studying for a couple of hours and head over to the Frog Pond Ice Skating Rink for a fun but slippery time.

Straight off the sleek surface of the ice, rosy-cheeked freshman, Cara McKeown, a media studies major, described the pleasant atmosphere of the rink.

"The whole feel put me in the holiday spirit," she said. "It was almost like a Christmas card."

For those who have never experienced the wintry ambiance of a New England snowfall, ice-skating may seem a bit of a gamble-at least for your backside. But to freshman Cory Southwell, who traveled north from Georgia at the semester's start, that white fluffy stuff is most certainly something of a spectacle.

"I have never been in a Christmas that is colder than 60 degrees," the theatre education major said. "When it snowed last week I was in the airplane and I didn't get to enjoy it, so I'm looking forward to the ice skating because I haven't done that since I was four."

The Pond is free for ages 13 and under and four dollars for ages 14 and over. An additional fee is tacked on for skate rental-eight dollars for 14 and over -bringing the total to $12.

Worries about looking lame on the ice can be fixed since the rink offers public, private and semi-private lessons. Open from now until mid-March, there are at least 100 days of seasonal skating available, so hit the ice.

The Pond is open Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.(except Monday when the rink closes at 5 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (781) 267-6870 or visit www.bostoncommonfrogpond.org.

Harvard Square Holiday Crafts Fair

When it comes to holiday shopping, maybe it's time to stop fighting the crowds at Macy's and put a little heart into your gift.

From now until Dec. 24, the Harvard Square Holiday Crafts Fair will boast unique gift items from New England craftspeople to world traveling importers. Avoid getting wrapped up in holiday rush of the malls and the wallet-wilting prices of Newbury Street by taking a look at this alternative marketplace for the gift that your mother will talk about until next winter break.

Located in the basement of First Parish Unitarian Church on the corner of Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, this festive, high-energy atmosphere allows the disgruntled shopper to interact with the creators of their one-of-a-kind purchases rather than fight over the same blouse that is sold in every department store in the city. Not only does the fair keep its shoppers toasty indoors, the on-going event includes a holiday choir, caroling, a mitten tree and a candlelight ceremony on Christmas Eve. In its 22nd season, this fair helps to highlight the old-fashioned charm of Harvard Square while simultaneously shrinking your holiday shopping list.

The fair is open Dec. 9-11, 16-18 and 20-24. Fair hours: Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m., weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Elegant Touch Carriage Company

The holiday season is infamous for its traditions: trimming the tree, lighting the menorah, singing carols with the little ones or perhaps extinguishing the fire your mother has caused from leaving the turkey in the oven too long. All of these activities can be fun, but if you haven't experienced the enchantment of a horse-drawn carriage ride with friends or a significant other, there is no better time to jump on the wagon-or in it.

The Elegant Touch Carriage Company is one of the many horse-and-buggy rides that Beantown has to offer. Their rides cover the Faneuil Hall area, Old State House, Kings Chapel, the Public Garden, Newbury Street, Trinity Church, Copley Square, the Theater District and the Common, all of which can be considered Emerson territory.

Freshman Brady Frome said he plans to get into the holiday spirit by embracing tourist attractions like the horse and carriage tours that the city has to offer.

"It's a very nice time of year," the theatre education major said. "It's kind of like Valentine's Day where it's just a good opportunity to go out, be romantic, and have an excuse."

This romantic ride can also prevent those awkward post-hook up moments before you go your separate ways for the next five weeks. Make it up to him or her with a carriage ride complete with a bottle of champagne soda, glasses and one long stem red rose, all of which are included in the one-hour getaways.

Elegant Touch Carriage Company is open Monday through Friday 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. To reserve your own ride call (781) 767-5819.