Rink roundup: Here's the lowdown on area outdoor ice rinks

Rink roundup: Tacoma, Seattle or Bellevue? Here’s the lowdown on winter’s outdoor ice rinks

rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.comDecember 6, 2013 

Christina Winch, who is a little unsteady on her skates, receives helping hands from her dad, Austin, while skating at Franciscan Polar Plaza at Tollefson Plaza in downtown Tacoma.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

For the third year, three outdoor ice rinks are offering seasonal skating from Tacoma to Seattle to Bellevue.

Yes, there are the indoor rinks such as Sprinker, open year-round with high-quality ice and lessons. But for those of us wanting a bit of outdoor ambience while we skate, we have a tough choice: Tacoma, with live music, an art museum nearby and a downtown vibe? Seattle, with theaters, museums, real espresso and cheap rates? Or the glitzy atmosphere and smooth ice of Bellevue?

Grab your skates and read on for the official Olympian snowflake ratings, with the highest rating of 5 snowflakes.

TACOMA POLAR PLAZA

The scoop: There won’t be camels this year, but the Tollefson Plaza locale offers a photo booth, live music, museum discounts and a bigger rink at 1700 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. The rates are the same as last year, and so’s the vibe: streetside-Tacoma and family friendly.

Rink:

Bigger than last year, and not crowded, with an open-air feel.

Ice:

Skateable, but choppy on the edges for rail-hugging beginners.

Ambience:

You get a view onto Pacific Avenue and out to the docks, but inside it’s bleachers and benches. Get there from 7-9 p.m. Saturdays for live music, or from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. this Sunday for a free festival in the Tacoma Art Museum.

Kid-friendly:

Double-bladed kiddie skates that fit over shoes to let toddlers fly, lockable rink gates so no one escapes and a face painter on weekends. When the kids get bored, there’s the art museum across the street, the Children’s Museum (1501 Pacific Ave.) and Tinkertopia (1914 Pacific Ave.) all within two blocks.

Food/Drink:

It’s candy, drip coffee and packet tea/cider/cocoa, but at least it’s cheap ($1-$2). For more substantial fare, try nearby TwoKoi or Pacific Avenue restaurants.

Price: $8 adults; $7 seniors, military; $4 ages 5 and younger. Skate rental $2. Discount tickets at Costco. Admission gets you $5 entry to Tacoma Art Museum. Cash or credit.

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Friday plus Dec. 13, 20 and Jan. 10; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, plus Dec. 14, 21, 23-28, 30 and Jan. 1-4 and 11; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, plus Dec. 15, 22, 29 and Jan. 5, 12; 4-9 p.m. Dec. 9-12, 16-19 and Jan. 6-9; 10 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Dec. 31.

Parking: Street parking isn’t hard to find, and costs 75 cents per hour. Lot parking beneath Tacoma Art Museum costs $2 per hour.

Information: polarplaza.com

SEATTLE CENTER WINTERFEST ICE RINK

The scoop: The Winterfest Ice Rink in the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center can feel like the smallest and slushiest rink around. But it’s also the cheapest, and it’s in the middle of a wealth of entertainment, from circus shows to ice sculpting to museums and IMAX. It’s worth a skate if you’re already going somewhere at the center. Otherwise, skip it.

Rink:

Small and crowded, but it opens onto the center’s fountain area.

Ice:

Wet and corrugated. Cleaned old school-style, with an army of brooms and shovels.

Ambience:

Again, a bit old school, with hanging lights, a Christmas tree and jazzy 1940s carols. But add in the magic of everything that’s happening for free just outside and you’ve got some excitement. Here’s what’s on: ice sculpting Saturdays noon-2 p.m., model trains in the Armory building 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, performers in the Armory 12:30-1:30 p.m. weekends.

Kid-friendly:

This is the only rink with “walkers” that kids 4 feet and shorter can push around to steady themselves. It’s also got big clean bathrooms and water fountains, unlike the other two, and plenty of off-rink lounging room.

Food/Drinks:

Here’s where the Winterfest Ice Rink gets good. Real espresso ($3 for an 8-ounce latte), real cider ($2.50), fresh popcorn and pretzels ($3), plus hot dogs, nachos, fresh pastries and candied nuts. Plus the Armory notches up food court offerings with Seattle specials such as Mod Pizza and the luscious Pie. Watch out for long lines, though.

Price: $5 adults; $3 for ages 6-12; $2 ages 5 and younger. Skate rental $2. Free day Dec. 22. Cash only.

Hours: Generally 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through Jan. 5. Closes 4 p.m. Dec. 24; closed Dec. 25; closes 11:30 p.m. Dec. 31.

Parking: Street parking can be difficult to find, and costs $1.50 per hour except on Sundays, when it’s free. Garage parking at the Pacific Science Center is $8 for three hours.

Information: 206-684-7200, seattlecenter.com

BELLEVUE SUBARU ICE ARENA

The scoop: Bellevue’s Subaru Ice Arena in Downtown Park (Northeast First Street and 102nd Avenue Northeast, Bellevue) is more expensive this year than ever. But if you’re looking for a glitzy experience that includes a nice meal out, high-class shopping and nightly Nutcracker street performers, then this is the place to be – with extras like patio seating and lockers added to the large, smooth rink.

Rink:

This is definitely the biggest, up 350 square feet from last year, with patio seating overlooking the park and waterfall. It does get a bit cold, so wrap up.

Ice:

A new Zamboni keeps it smooth and dry.

Ambience:

Elegant park view and glitzy surrounds. It’s a short one-block walk to Old Bellevue restaurants such as Ginza and Monsoon; a longer, darker walk (or a drive) uptown to the mall, Bellevue Arts Museum and the free nightly events of Snowflake Lane (7 p.m.).

Kid-friendly:

Double-bladed skates and helmets, plus one hour of stroller skating every Thursday, free Wednesday lessons and group lessons Thursdays and Sundays. (iceangelsinfo@ aol.com). You can also skate with the Thunderbirds from 3-5 p.m. Dec. 15.

Food/Drink:

More drip coffee and instant hot drinks ($3). But there’s also pizza ($5), pretzels or soup ($3), dippin’ dots ice cream ($5) and cute cake pops. Also socks and mittens ($3). Cash only.

Price: $9 adults; $5 for those younger than 6. Skate rental $3. Locker locks $3. Bank of America cardholders skate free Mondays. Free lessons 6:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and Jan. 8; 1-4 p.m. Dec. 18.

Hours: 3-9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays; 1-9 p.m. Wednesdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 20 and Jan. 5-12. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily Dec. 21-Jan. 4. Open Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

Parking: Free in lots either side of the rink or on the street.

Information: 425-453-1223, magicseason.com

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.com

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