Ahh – there you go, gliding over fresh ice, wrapped up in scarf and hat, laughing with friends, sipping hot cocoa… It’s outdoor ice skating time – that’s outdoor ice rinks, of course, in the mild Pacific Northwest. But with two new rinks just opened in downtown Tacoma and Puyallup, along with favorites further north in Seattle and Bellevue, how to choose?
Here, we give you the scoop (or maybe the slush) on location, atmosphere, price, food and ice quality to help you choose where you’ll be skating this December.
Tacoma – Art and Skate
The upside: Another great use for Tollefson Plaza! The new and long-awaited rink in downtown Tacoma has a lot of atmosphere, thanks to the location: Where else can you skate and watch downtown shoppers, lightrail trains and museum goers? The rink is open to the plaza steps, making a great hot cocoa sipping spot, and on the way in you can admire a mural and installation art in the pools. Entry also comes with a discounted admission to Tacoma Art Museum, just opposite, plus a free Tacoma map and restaurant coupons. Painted benches cheer things up, and it’s very clean, with the cheapest drinks anywhere and face-painting for the kids.
The downside: It’s smallish (100×40 feet) and the ice is incredibly rough and corrugated. Entry and watching areas are heated but small.
The scoop: Despite the ice, this is a great little rink, especially for finding people you know. You can also buy a Christmas tree just outside.
Where: Franciscan Polar Plaza, Tollefson Plaza at S. 19th Street and Pacific Avenue, Tacoma
When: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 16; then 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 2 (til midnight on Dec. 31)
Prices: $8 entry, $2 skate rental (includes $5 admission cards to Tacoma Art Museum)
Concessions: coffee/cocoa/cider/water $2, cookies $1, face painting $3
Parking: $2 beneath TAM, metered street parking, free at the Dome with Polar Express bus
Location: **** (four out of five snowflakes)
Ice quality: **
The upside: Pioneer Park Pavilion is a wonderful place for a rink, with soaring roof, plenty of space and a park next door. Santa and Mrs. Claus are in attendance, there’s face painting and hot dogs, and lovely clean restrooms.
The downside: There’s no ice. Actual ice, that is. This is Puyallup’s first time to try a rink, and to save money they’ve opted for plastic squares that link together like a 50×50-foot kiddie playmat covered in wet silicone. The result? Something that’s pretty impossible to skate on, unless you’re seven years old and love dive-sliding (and getting white plastic flakes all over your clothes).
The scoop: Kids will probably love it. Grown-ups will too, as long as they don’t actually try to skate.
Where: Holiday on Ice, Pioneer Park Pavilion, 311 S. Meridian Ave., Puyallup
When: 3-11 p.m. today, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Dec. 3 (with 5 p.m. Santa parade), 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 4
Prices: $5.50 entry, $1.50 skate rental (noon-2:45 p.m. today $2.50 plus $1.50 rental)
Concessions: hot dogs $3.50-$7, fries $2.50-$4, hot chocolate $2.50, cider $1.50, plus cookies, brownies and chocolate kettle corn
Parking: free on street and behind library
Ice quality: *
Information: 253-840-2631, www.puyallupmainstreet.com
Seattle Center – Entertaining Ice Crush
The upside: The Seattle Center’s annual ice rink has a lot of good things going for it. You can combine skating with a show, museum visit, Monorail ride or Winterfest, which includes caroling, ice sculpting, the model train and more. You can look out the big glass windows to see the lighted carousel and ice sculptures, and because it’s indoor the plentiful sitting area is nice and warm. The entry is one of the cheapest. Good news for beginners: This is the only rink with gliding skate guides (arrive early to snag one).
The downside: It’s crowded. Really, really crowded, because the rink is small and everyone else thinks the location is pretty darn great, too. And while the concessions are varied, they aren’t cheap.
The scoop: A fun thing to do if you’re already there for something else.
Where: Winterfest Ice Rink, Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center (just south of big fountain), 305 Harrison St, Seattle
When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday through Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 25; open til 11:30 p.m. Dec. 31)
Prices: $7 adults/$5 ages 6-12/$2 ages five and under, includes skate rental
Concessions: espresso/hot chocolate/cider/soda $1.50-$3.79, snacks (pretzel, popcorn, chips) $1-$3, pizza/chili/hot dog/wraps $3.69-$6.99, salads $3.49-$7.99
Parking: around $10 in garage, $4-10 on street
Ice quality: ***
Information: 206-684-7200, www.seattlecenter.com/winterfest
Bellevue – Skate in the Park
The upside: Bellevue’s downtown park makes a beautiful skate setting, with trees behind and a holiday-lit tent overhead. The rink is, at 115×60 feet, the largest of these four, and it’s well-groomed. There are lessons offered and there’s even a stroller-skating session for those skaters who can’t walk yet. There’s also a skate-sharpening service, and a few helmets for loan.
The downside: It might only be a few blocks south from the snowflake glitz of the Bellevue mall, but you wouldn’t want to walk it in the dark. There’s not much in the immediate vicinity; you’ll have to drive there from shops and restaurants.
The scoop: One of the best for actual skating, though not too convenient.
What: Magic Season Ice Arena, NE 1st Street and 102nd Avenue NE, Bellevue
When: 3-9 p.m. Monday/Thursday, 3-7 p.m. Tuesday, 1-9 p.m. Wednesday,
3-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, 3-9 p.m. through Jan. 8 (open Christmas Day, stroller skating 2-3 p.m. Thursdays)
Prices: $7 entry plus $3 skate rental
Concessions: cappuccino/hot chocolate $2, cider $1.50, tea/coffee/water/soda $1, snacks (noodles, granola bars, popcorn etc) $0.50-$1.50, candy/cookies $1
Parking: free onsite
Ice quality: ****
Information: 425-453-3110, www.magicseason.com