I made the rookie mistake of telling my kids 30 days in advance that we were going ice skating. (I know, I know – take my “savvy mom card” away if you want. I deserve it).

For the past month that I’ve had “Oly on Ice, ice skating” on our family calendar, my daughter has subjected me to the incessant, “Mom. Mom. Mom. How many more days until we go ice-skating?! What do you think I should wear? Will there be hot cocoa there? Will my friends be there?” This list goes on and on…

I’m grateful that my child reserves this type of behavior for things she is whole-heartedly excited about, and I adore her enthusiasm. But what I am much more grateful for is that the City of Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department, Propel Construction, Small to Tall Pediatric Dentistry, and the rest of the more than 70 generous sponsors give my daughter the option to annoy me in this way. I’ll gladly trade a few (hundred) questions for a bit of winter magic!

Oly on Ice
Two young skaters get an assist. Skate aids are available for rent, but it’s BYOH (bring your own helmet) if you choose. Photo courtesy: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation

The promised day finally arrived, and magical it was. Isthmus Park, the versatile space that the rink is located upon downtown, was lit up in its winter finery. Giant snowflake holiday lights twinkled through the evening fog, and the brilliant tree of lights atop the adjacent Views on 5th building reached into the sky in seasonal proclamation.

“Mom, this is one of the coolest things we’ve ever done,” whispered my 5-year-old son as we entered the building. He has no idea how punny he actually is…

Thankfully, we dressed warmly for the big event. It was a chilly 36 degrees outside, and perhaps not much warmer inside. I guess it is ice, after all… As we donned our skates, it was lovely to watch children and adults dressed up in hats and gloves and scarves whizzing by like a scene from a frosty picture book.

Oly on Ice Gazebo
Winter recreation at its finest: taking a break on a bench with your friend, watching the town skate by. Photo courtesy: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation

I was surprised at the prowess of many of the skaters. With the nearest ice rink a half-an-hour drive away at best, their skills showed real dedication. My family thoroughly enjoyed seeing two gentlemen on the ice who were showing off their turns and tricks. From the looks on my children’s faces, (and probably mine too, if I’m being honest), you’d have thought the Ice Capades had come to town! The two skaters artfully danced across the ice, twirling themselves and one another, unafraid of gravity. For a minute there, I almost forgot I was in Olympia.

In addition to the figure skaters, there were lots of “ankle-biters” on the ice with their grown-ups. The red skate-aids available for rent were great for the kids, but they are a bit heavy to be pushed across the ice by the littlest ones. Myself and many other parents took the opportunity to get behind our children and push for a little extra locomotion – making us all look like awesome skaters and superheroes to our children. (Thanks for that, Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department!)

For a pop-up ice rink, the skates were exactly what I had expected. They’re not going to be as comfortable as your favorite slippers or your own personal skates, but as you plan your trip, check out this video the City put together to optimize the comfort of the rental skates.

At least for my bony ankles, it takes some finessing to get the fit right. Next time I’ll be sure to wear two, maybe even three, pairs of the thickest socks (that I can find the mate to and that are clean). I’m certainly NOT complaining. I’m quite happy to be able to rent something that gets me out on the ice. The skates didn’t turn me into one of those Olympia Ice Capaders, but they did get my get my body moving – and faster than my kids for once.

Oly on Ice Zamboni
The rink even has its own Zamboni! A big shout out to Propel Construction and Small to Tall Pediatric Dentistry for keeping the ice shining and smooth. Photo courtesy: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation

For most people, the rental skates are a non-issue, but, if you’re looking for a way to get your hands on your own pair of legit ice skates, Oly on Ice is planning to host a pop-up skate shop in mid-December. There will likely also be a mobile skate-sharpening unit on hand for those of you that already have your own skates and need to get them rink ready. The date is still being frozen, but watch the department’s social media or the Oly on Ice website for the info.

And speaking of pop-ups, new this year will be an occasional food-truck on-site called Honeycuspe offering up two of winter’s best foods: artisan waffles and hot drinks. Downtown chocolatier, Bittersweet Chocolates will also be on-site from time-to-time giving away free hot cocoa (the real kind!), in a cozy compliment to the ice-skating experience. More yummy food vendors will likely join as the season goes on.

Thurston Countians, (and beyond), get this new winter tradition on your calendar!  Well, maybe don’t put it front-and-center like I did, unless you want to be “Mommed” so hard. My kids were right though, ice-skating in downtown Olympia truly was something to look forward to.

When I asked my children about their experiences, my 7-year-old said, “I loved the ice skating itself! (That’s saying a lot amid the hot cocoa and cookies she was given). “At first I was a little bit scared,” she continued, “but then I was happy and excited. The most important thing is that it was fun!”

Oly on Ice
Keep up on social media to stay up-to-date on all of the special events at Oly on Ice. Photo courtesy: Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation

My 5-year-old was more succinct. “It made me feel brave,” he said, and for me, that was the unexpected gift of the evening.

Do we all want to go again? “Yes! Definitely!” my child exclaimed. “I don’t think I’ll need one of those red things anymore though. But, I could use some hot cocoa…”

See the Oly on Ice website for full schedule of hours of operation, events, and admission prices. To reserve space for your private event or birthday party, contact Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation.

Oly on Ice

Isthmus Park – 529 4th Avenue W, Olympia

November 22 – January 19

Open Daily (Closed Thanksgiving Day)

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