Winter in Olympia just got cooler. Just look for the big white tent across from Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia, the home of the new Oly on Ice skating rink. It's Thurston County’s first seasonal ice rink.
On a recent afternoon, my kids and I went to check it out. The rink is covered, accomodates up to 125 people and the city of Olympia plans to make the rink an ongoing seasonal addition to its winter festivities. It's open this season through Jan. 6, 2019.
Designed for skaters of all ages, the rink’s motto is "if you can walk, you can skate." While my kids are bigger, the rink offers sturdy walkers and double-blade skates for young ones and beginners. You can even rent clip-on blades that allow toddlers to keep their shoes on while getting a feel for the ice.
My boys and I got our skates from the skate counter and gave it a go.
"It’s kind of like rollerskating, except colder and more slippery and fun," reported my 9-year-old. "If I could have thrown snowballs at my brother, it would have been perfect," he added.
I had to agree with the slippery and fun part. And to me, the rental skates were more comfortable than I expected, though I recommend wearing thick socks and lacing tightly. I saw staff helping kids get adjusted snugly into their skates, which was a nice touch.
Ice rink staff are on the ice at all times to help when little ones get stuck, or to give you a hand if you end up on your bottom, which I did many times. (Check out this adorable, one-minute Youtube video for tips on falling and getting back up, plus ParentMap's pro tips for teaching kids to ice skate.)
Taking a rest on the bleachers, it was lovely to watch the skaters cruise the rink and I found myself singing along to the pop music coming through the loudspeakers.
People of all ages seemed happy to be ice skating. Olympia isn’t known for its freezing winters. Growing up here, I can’t remember a single icy pond where families could lace up their skates. So while it's not a frozen pond in the woods, this rink is just right for families. Besides, what better way to celebrate the season, make memories and try something new, even if it means falling on your bottom.
Tips for parents:
- Oly on Ice holds weekly special events on Thursdays, including Pride Night (Dec. 6), Wizards on Ice (Dec. 13), Ugly Sweater Night (Dec. 20) and Fairy Tale Night (Dec. 27). On Fairy Tale Night your kids can take a photo with Anna, Elsa, Darth Vader and other fun characters.
- Tuesdays Dec. 11 and 18 are cheap skate nights, with $4 off the regular $12 admission (includes skates).
- Dress in warm layers, including hats, gloves and long johns or leg warmers as the ice rink can dip to a chilly 11 degrees.
- Most weekends you can warm up with onsite cocoa and espresso concessions.
- Skate rental sizes range from a toddler 9 to adult 14. For kids smaller than a size 4, the rink offers double runners but kids need to be wearing structured shoes to attach them to.
- Parents may not carry children while skating or on the ice.
- It's free to watch.
- Temporary restrooms are onsite.
- Birthday parties can be accommodated, with group discounts and designated tables and chairs.
More winter and holiday-season fun in Olympia
The Olympia Farmers Market is within walking distance of Oly on Ice and is decked out for gift-giving season. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the market while choosing the perfect artisan fudge for your co-worker and a cute onesie tie-dye for your baby niece. My kids always love stopping by the bakery stall for a fresh gingerbread cookie.
Visit Painted Plate for Winter Wonderland themes and enjoy some quality time painting... ornaments, anyone? Just keep in mind you’ll need to return in a few days to pick up your finished pieces.
Ballet Northwest presents "The Nutcracker" with performances on weekends in December. Harlequin productions presents a show called "1940s Radio Hour," with old-time singing, dancing and comedy.
If you go...
Find it: Oly on Ice is located at Isthmus Park, 529 4th Ave. W. in Olympia. From I-5, take exit 105 (A or B), then head west toward Capitol Lake. Look for the big white tent, across from Bayview Thriftway, at the bottom of the 4th Avenue Bridge.
Accessibility: Equipment is available for those who need accommodations. Please contact the rink at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your specific equipment needs.
Parking: Free parking is available at the two lots on either side of the ice rink. Free street parking can be found along Capitol Lake and during evening and weekend hours, metered parking is free in Olympia. Ice rink parking is prohibited at Bayview Thriftway or other private lots adjacent to the rink.
More ice skating!