Winter in Olympia is cooler than ever with the return of the city’s seasonal ice rink, Oly on Ice. After a pandemic-induced hiatus last season, Oly on Ice is back for its third season, Nov. 19, 2021–Jan. 17, 2022. To find Oly on Ice, just look for the big white tent across from Capitol Lake in downtown Olympia!
My kids and I tried it out a couple of years ago, and here’s what we found.
The outdoor rink is covered and accommodates up to 155 people at a time. Designed for skaters of all ages, the rink’s motto is “If you can walk, you can skate.” The rink offers both hockey skates and figure skates, in little-kid sizes 8–13, and big-kid/adult sizes 1–15. A limited number of skate aids help young skaters stay upright. Skate aids are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
My boys and I got our skates from the skate counter and gave it a go.
“It’s kind of like roller skating, 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:
- Dress warmly — jackets, long johns, mittens, hats. The rink is outdoors and you're skating on ice! Rink staff recommend wearing a hat or rain jacket as condensation occasionally drips down from the tent ceiling.
- A few cubbies are available for stashing your shoes, but do not bring anything valuable.
- Busiest times tend to be on weekends, school holidays and nightly 5–8 p.m.
- Masks are required for all guests ages 5 and older. Proof of vaccination is not required to skate or watch.
- Parents may not carry children while skating or on the ice.
- It’s free to watch.
- Temporary restrooms are located on-site.
- Birthday parties can be accommodated, with group discounts and designated tables and chairs.
- Snack time: Food vendors may be stationed on site, but not during every skate session.
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 coworker 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 ship that also serves up local maritime history.
If you go ...
Find it: Oly on Ice is located at Isthmus Park, 529 4th Ave. W. in Olympia. From Interstate 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 Fourth Avenue Bridge.
Hours: Hours vary over the course of the week and during school breaks and holidays, so buy tickets online or check the calendar carefully before heading out.
Tickets: Walk-up tickets will be sold if space permits. To ensure entry for your preferred skate session, book tickets online. Skate sessions last one hour and 15 minutes from the time you check in.
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 in the lot located east 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 skating fun:
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018 and updated for 2021.