Winter in Olympia is about to get cooler with the return of the city's seasonal ice skating rink, Oly on Ice. Just look for the big white tent across from Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia. Oly on Ice is open for its second season Nov. 22, 2019–Jan. 20, 2020.
Last season, my kids and I went to try it out and here's what we found. The rink is covered, accomodates up to 155 people — it has expanded a bit this year — and the city plans to make it an ongoing seasonal addition to local winter festivities.
Designed for skaters of all ages, the rink’s motto is “If you can walk, you can skate.” 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 them tightly. I saw staff helping kids get adjusted snugly into their skates, which was a nice touch.
Ice rink staff members 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.)
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 skate. 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. Check the Oly on Ice calendar for cheap skate days (most Tuesdays) and Sensory Skate sessions (Sunday mornings).
- Scan the calendar for one-time special events as well, such as Nutcracker on Ice (Dec. 5), a Capital High School Chamber Choir performance (Dec. 13) and Pride Night (Jan. 16).
- 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 cocoa and espresso from the onsite concessions.
- Skate rental sizes range from a toddler size 9 to adult size 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 located 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, open weekends, is within walking distance of Oly on Ice and is decked out for the 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 tie-dye onesie for your baby niece. My kids always love stopping by the bakery stall for a freshly baked 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.
If the kids aren't too tuckered out from skating, visit the terrific Hands On Children's Museum and play on its awesome outdoor play structure that doubles as an exhibit of local maritime history.
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 email@example.com 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. Evening and weekend hours, metered street parking is free in Olympia. Ice rink parking is prohibited at Bayview Thriftway or other private lots adjacent to the rink.
More ice skating!
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated for 2019.