The Buzz: The National Gallery's Sculpture Garden is one of the Mall's peaceful sanctuaries -- offering bench seating, lush landscaping and a view of 17 contemporary sculptures. A fountain marks the center of the garden for most of the year, but an outdoor skating rink takes its place from November until March.
The Collection: The garden's sculpture collection includes Sol LeWitt's "Four-Sided Pyramid," a blocky, geometric form, and Claes Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X," which playfully depicts the antiquated object. Perhaps most striking is Alexander Calder's bright red abstract work, "Cheval Rouge (Red Horse)."
Background: In his original design for Washington, architect Pierre L'Enfant envisioned an oasis where the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden now stands. But the garden as we know it didn't officially open until 1999.
The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation provided funds for the garden in 1996. A skating rink was incorporated into the design since one had been operating at the site since 1974.
Ice skating: This is the area's most picturesque place to skate: an open-air ice rink surrounded by museums, monuments and modern art. Music plays as you glide around, and the Pavilion Cafe is open for hot chocolate, coffee, wine and snacks. Two-hour skating sessions begin on the hour. $8; $7 for age 12 and younger, students with school ID or age 50 and older. $3 skate rental, 50 cent locker rental. Group and private lessons are available. Call 202-216-9397 for information on skating lessons. The museum and sculpture garden are closed on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. (Updated Dec. 15, 2011)